15 Pioneering Ways to Add Extra Flavor to Your Next Coffee
Have you ever found yourself paralyzed in the office breakroom, stuck between your thirst for a fresh brew and your apprehension towards the sad excuse of a coffee machine hulking over the countertop?
Whether in the community break area or at the in-laws’ for the holidays, one way or another we’ve all faced this fear.
So you don’t have to endure this terrifying situation again, I’ve found 15 pioneering ways to add extra flavor to your next coffee.
Some of these are strange, and others are so obvious you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of them first, but each will transform a suspect cup of auto-drip into a tasty joyride.
#1 - Cocoa Nibs
Chocolate with coffee is a pairing so perfect that it can be found in almost every corner of the world. However, I’m not talking about the type of chocolate your drizzle over ice cream or make brownies with, I’m talking about cocoa nibs.
These chewy chunks, which are more black than brown, are 100% cocoa bean. They have a rich and intense chocolatey flavor but without the added sweetness found in processed chocolate.
Grind some of these nibs along with your beans and brew like normal for an added layer of soothing flavor in your next coffee.
#2 - Ginger
This one may lean more into the “I’m not so sure about that” category, but if you’ve ever tried ginger tea, then you can see how unexpectedly brilliant this combo could be.
Ginger has a citrusy spice that sort of crackles in the back of your throat. It works well paired with a dark, nutty roast, as the spice gives it a crisp bite that is both refreshing and soothing.
#3 - Star Anise
Like ginger, this additive isn’t for everyone, but it is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Star anise has a flavor similar to liquorice though a little sweeter and more floral.
Even if you’re not a big fan of liquorice, you may be surprised by how well it complements the flavor of coffee, but be careful not to overdo it. Use only half a clove at most, as any more will completely hijack your cup.
It may take a little experimentation to find the perfect amount, but simply grind it along with your beans and brew like normal.
#4 - Lavender
Although I may be placing credit in the wrong hands, I’d like to formally thank the French for opening my eyes to lavender. Before I tasted my first lavender ice cream in France, I thought it was something found only in soap and couldn’t imagine eating it.
However, I’m glad I was wrong because lavender goes great with many things, especially coffee. It pairs best with a fruitier roast, giving it a bright and floral facelift that is particularly delicious in the spring.
You can sprinkle ground lavender in before your brew, or you can add a couple drops of lavender oil once your coffee is ready, but just remember that a little goes a long way.
#5 - Clove
If you are a current or has-been smoker, then this pairing should spark a lightbulb above your head. These nail-shaped seeds are packed full of intense sweetness and are found in many luxury cigarette brands.
For all you non-smokers, clove is a common kitchen spice you may know best from gingerbread. It is sweet and aromatic, but it is also very strong. Use this spice sparingly, as it will easily overpower your brew if you’re not careful.
Grind it along with your beans or sprinkle it in just before brewing, and it will take your office coffee from boring to exciting.
#6 - Peppermint Oil
What would winter be without peppermint? And how could we endure the cold without hot coffee? These two winter essentials are so perfect for each other they are practically begging to be mixed together.
To really infuse your coffee with that uniquely inviting flavor, it is best to use peppermint oil, whose minty flavor works well with a dark, chocolatey roast. Additionally, peppermint oil can help with headaches and a number of other pains.
Because peppermint oil is so concentrated, it comes in a small vial and is easy to carry with you anywhere. Simply mix in a few drops with a freshly brewed cup of joe to give your spirits a spark.
#7 - Rice Milk
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of getting stuck in line behind the standard Barbie mom at the coffee shop, you’ve no doubt heard of coconut milk or almond milk or some other nut milk. These healthy dairy alternatives are tasty, but they are also typical, and we can do better than typical.
On that note, have you ever heard of rice milk? It is slightly sweeter than most nut milks but has a neutral, non-creamy texture allowing it to be more versatile. You can pair rice milk with just about any type of roast, and the sweetness will brighten the overall flavor without taking over.
#8 - Butter and Coconut Oil
With the recent boom in popularity of Bulletproof Coffee, many people are now well acquainted with the deliciousness that is coffee with butter.
This uncommon pairing traces its roots back to Asia, which is home to many strange coffee recipes (that we’ll get to in just a minute). Though it may be hard to imagine something typically reserved for cooking would also go well in a drink, butter is just one of those ingredients that can go with anything.
Just a teaspoon will give your coffee a silky texture with a surprising depth of buttery flavor that works well with sweeter roasts.
#9 - A Raw Egg
Adding an egg to coffee is another creative idea from the East, but this one is sure to scare off a few of you. I’ve experienced first hand how unpalatable Asian delicacies can be, but I also know they don’t play no games when it comes to coffee.
Hot coffee with a raw egg mixed in is a flavor so unique that you just have to try it. It may not be for everyone, but it’s not as gross as you might expect.
The egg gives the coffee a heavy yet creamy body without disrupting the natural coffee flavors and aromas.
#10 - Rum
I know you’re no stranger to mixing booze with coffee — who hasn’t at least heard of Irish coffee — but I’ll bet you didn’t realize that it’s actually quite a difficult match to pull off. There are only a few spirits that pair well with coffee, and Rum is one of the best.
Considering that most Irish coffee recipes have to work hard (i.e. lots of sugar) to fight off their near-overwhelming bitterness, I’m not sure why it’s more popular than rum coffee. It’s just as sweet and just as boozy, yet rum coffee also comes with an interesting origin story.
Stir in a shot of rum with an evening cup of coffee and enjoy the undertones of exotic sweetness with the signature crisp bite to warm your throat.
#11 - Cheese
Mixing coffee with a little milk is a recipe so well known it’s practically timeless. So why is it so hard to imagine coffee with cheese; after all, milk and cheese are both dairy products.
I’m not saying that every type of cheese goes well with any type of coffee (could you imagine pairing a sharp cheddar with espresso?) but there are a few near-brilliant pairings.
A fruity, more acidic roast is going to taste great with young and creamy cheese, while a darker, more chocolatey roast should go with a slightly tangy cheese. Once you’ve found the perfect balance, just dip and enjoy!
#12 - Ice Cream
If you’ve got any Italian in your blood then this combination may seem like a no-brainer; after all, it is the Italians we have to thank for bringing us the affogato.
A cup of coffee along with your ice cream dessert is obvious, but have you ever considered pouring that coffee right on top of your ice cream? That’s what an affogato is: sweet ice cream bathing in hot espresso.
This union is all about contrast: hot vs. cold, bitter vs. sweet, nutty vs. creamy. Despite the differences, the overall combination harmonizes well, making each bite feel like a roller coaster of flavor.
#13 - Whole Cinnamon
Now I know that adding cinnamon to coffee is nothing new, but how you do it can make a huge difference.
Many people stir it into their coffee, which isn’t the best way to infuse the flavors. If you really want to give your coffee a deep cinnamon kick, grind whole sticks of cinnamon along with your beans, or sprinkle in some ground cinnamon with your ground coffee just before brewing.
Making the cinnamon part of the brew process from start to finish will allow it to more fully blend with the coffee, creating a cup that tastes like cinnamon and not just smells like it.
#14 - Sweetened Condensed Milk
Another stroke of genius you can thank the East for is adding sweetened condensed milk to hot coffee.
This recipe hails from Vietnam, where a fresh pour over is brewed directly atop a cup with sweetened condensed milk and then stirred together. Unlike a coffee with milk and sugar, this drink benefits from the condensed milk’s unique, almost nutty sweetness and velvety texture.
Unless you have a strong sweet tooth, this isn’t an everyday beverage, but it is a great complement to a savory breakfast or after-dinner drink.
#15 - Neutral Water
So this tip isn’t exactly an additive, but it can drastically improve the flavor of your coffee. Though it may seem minute, water quality plays a major role in coffee quality.
If you want the natural aromas and flavors in your coffee to shine then you should use water that it odorless, flavorless, and has a neutral pH balance. Tap water, for example, is full of minerals that will dull your brew.
Using a filter will help to ensure that your water is as neutral as possible, allowing your coffee beans to take center stage. If you give your brew the proper start, then you may find you don’t need any other additives to improve the flavor.
Coffee is something meant to be enjoyed, not endured. With all the unique additives available, you should never have to suffer the unbearable break-room coffee again.
I hope you enjoyed this list and found it helpful. Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let me know of any uncommon coffee-boosters you’ve got stashed away in your own arsenal.