9 Best Flavored Coffee Beans (Popular and Unique Flavors)
While flavored coffee might get a bad rap from coffee geeks, there are plenty of coffee brands giving flavored beans the same care and attention they give single origins. And with no added calories or sugars, flavored coffee is a healthier option than the syrup-filled chocolate raspberry latte you might otherwise crave.
Read on to find the best flavored coffee we recommend, whether you’re looking for a classic flavor or a unique coffee drinking experience. We’ve already covered non-flavored whole bean coffee here, so now lets look at the best flavored options.
Lifeboost Smoky Butterscotch
Every bag of Lifeboost coffee, flavored or otherwise, starts with top-quality single-origin beans grown organically in Nicaragua mountains. The Smoky Butterscotch flavor uses natural extracts from Irish cream butter and brown sugar oil, which is perfectly balanced by the medium roast’s smokiness.
How to Choose the Right Flavored Coffee
While flavored coffee doesn’t always have the nicest reputation, there is nothing inherently wrong about the flavoring process (1).
Flavored coffee beans may seem like a relatively new trend in the West, but coffee lovers have been adding flavors to their coffee for centuries.
In the past, flavors were often added to stale or sub-par beans to mask their naturally poor tastes and aromas. While some low-end brands still take advantage of this strategy, the marketplace is now equally full of companies offering flavored premium beans.
||Lifeboost Smoky Butterscotch||
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||Nature’s Flavors Organic Black Walnut||
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||New England Coffee French Vanilla||
||Boca Java Double Dark||
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||Lion Coffee Toasted Coconut||
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||The Roasterie Hazelnut||
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||Cooper’s Coffee Thomas Tew Rum||
||Cameron’s Coffee Sea Salt Caramel||
||Volcanica Coffee Cinnalicious Decaf||
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Is there a better way of flavoring coffee?
The most common way to make a flavored coffee is to add flavor compounds to the beans while they are still warm from the roaster. These can be either natural or synthetic, depending upon the flavor desired, but neither is healthier than the other.
Generally, we extract natural flavors from vanilla, chocolate, nuts, berries, and spices. Whereas you’re more likely to find synthetic oils in play if your preference is for more modern flavors like maple bacon or banana cream pie. In either case, the flavor additives tend to be stronger in aroma than taste, so your nose will be reaping a lot of the benefit (2).
Though consumers tend to shy away from chemical names, there is nothing inherently unhealthy about flavoring coffee.
Indeed, with no added sugars or calories, flavored coffee may be a healthy alternative to adding spoonfuls of sweetener or shots of flavored syrup to your brew (3).
But, if you’re concerned about chemical additives or following a Kosher diet, you can always flavor your coffee beans naturally by storing them with aromatics like cinnamon sticks or vanilla beans, but this won’t yield as strong of a flavor.
Another great option is to seek out the best coffee beans in which your favorite flavors are inherently present. If you love a fruit-forward coffee, consider naturally processed Ethiopian beans. If you’re more of a chocolate fan, a dark roasted Brazilian bean might be right up your alley.
The roast level is important
The roast level of coffee has a dramatic effect on its taste and aroma, and different types of coffee roasts better highlight different flavors (4). Although we’re talking about coffee with added flavors, there still is a difference between the types of flavoring of lighter and darker roasted coffees.
The depth to which we roast the coffee has some to do with our perception of acidity, but more to do with the balance of sweetness and bitterness that exist within the coffee.
The best light roast coffees tend to have a bright acidity and mild body. They showcase the bean’s flavors, so when it comes to flavored coffees, they will put the added flavor at the forefront. As a result, light roasts work particularly well with subtle fruity and floral flavors.
As the roasts get darker, more flavors impart from the roasting process, including notes of toastiness and caramelization. Therefore, darker roast coffees (like these) have a more substantial body and richer mouthfeel. They are well suited to more robust flavors like chocolate and nuts.
So, when looking for your favorite flavor, bear in mind what type of roast goes better with which type of added flavor. By the way, here’s a list of our favorite flavored beans.
If you ever decide to roast your own beans, watch our video on home roasting. It might come as handy.
Bean origins matter less.
Where coffee is grown can have a considerable impact on flavor, with different regions of the globe known for their dominant flavor notes. But this effect can be masked in a flavored coffee bean. Basically, for choosing flavored coffee it doesn’t matter if you go for the single-origin or the blend.
However, many roasters will opt to use a blend for flavored coffee. Though blends don’t have the bright and unique flavors of single origins, they tend to offer more balance in both flavor and acidity. This makes them perfect neutral starting points on which to layer flavor.
The 9 Best Flavored Coffee Beans in 2020
While many companies use flavor additives to mask sub-par beans, that is not the case with any of our top nine picks. Whether you’re a chocoholic or nutty about hazelnuts, one of these top-quality flavored coffees is guaranteed to please.
Founded by a nutrition expert, Lifeboost aims to deliver delicious coffee with a nutritional boost, and they achieve this with a commitment to buy only the top quality coffee, even for their flavored line-up. They source their beans from a small plantation on the slopes of Mt. Kilambe in Nicaragua’s mountains, where they are organically grown in the shade of guava trees.
The fan-favorite Smoky Butterscotch features natural flavors extracted from real Irish cream butter and brown sugar oils.
This rich combination is reminiscent of butterscotch candy, while the medium roast provides a hint of smokiness that keeps it from veering towards cloyingly sweet. The result is a coffee with a creamy mouthfeel, even when consumed black, and it’s the perfect pairing for a pancake breakfast.
Check out our video review of Lifeboost coffees and their tasting notes below:
Our favorite low-budget coffee comes from Nature’s Flavors, which is a flavor company rather than a coffee company. While this may sound like a red flag, their mastery of flavors coupled with a commitment to using only high-end beans allows them to offer more unique characteristics at a lower cost and, importantly, with no sacrifice to quality.
Though not typical, Black Walnut is an ideal flavor for coffee. It features bold earthy and bittersweet tastes, with underlying subtle grassy and lightly floral notes, much like coffee beans themselves.
When it comes to vanilla flavor, French vanilla is the undeniable king. It refers to the French way of making ice cream, which incorporates more egg yolks. The result is a richer, more custard-like flavor with caramelized undertones and a creamier mouthfeel (5).
New England Coffee’s French vanilla beans start with their signature blend, a mix of arabica beans from across South and Central America. They source only the top tier beans, with just 10% of beans meeting their rigorous standards. The beans are medium roasted, which keeps the vanilla at the forefront but enhances the French vanilla’s caramelized flavors.
Boca Java, an online retailer of specialty coffee, selects only the top 2% of arabica beans grown worldwide to form the basis of their products. This standard applies to their flavored coffees, just as it does to their single origins. The beans making up their popular double dark chocolate flavor can be traced directly to their sources.
They were chosen precisely for their inherent character and the way it interacts with the chocolate flavoring.
Boca Java is not a stale blend of leftovers. Instead, it’s a carefully selected combination of just two origins: wet-processed beans from the Jinotega region of Nicaragua and naturally processed beans from Brazil, all grown at high altitudes between 4,600 and 5,300 feet.
The makers roast these beans to a perfect dark roast, which adds smokiness to balance the chocolatey sweetness. The result is a decadent and sweet coffee drinking experience, with the dominant flavor being a vibrant, Swiss dark chocolate.
If you want your morning to have a bit of island flair, Lion Coffee’s Toasted Coconut light roast is a delicious option. Lion Coffee hails from Toledo, Ohio, where they started over 150 years ago. In the 1970s, they moved to Hawaii to focus on American grown beans.
Their relationship with the islands has only grown in the intervening years, and now they offer a series of island-inspired flavors, of which toasted coconut is the fan-favorite. As a bonus, the coconut flavor additives are rich in health-promoting antioxidant polyphenols.
This light roast is mild and mellow, with moderate acidity. The coconut flavor predominates, but some subtle toasted and nutty notes keep it from feeling too sweet, and the coffee comes through strongly in the aroma.
If you want to sip your coffee, close your eyes, and pretend you’re nestled down on a tropical beach somewhere, this is the coffee for you.
The Roasterie is based in Kansas City and specializes in direct trade coffee. By paying above-market prices for their beans, they ensure they’re getting the highest quality coffee from around the world. Approximately 80% of their coffee comes from small farmers and producers with which they have a long term mutually beneficial arrangement.
Hazelnuts are one of the sweetest nuts, making them an ideal flavor addition to Brazilian coffee beans, which feature naturally bittersweet flavors.
The Roasterie’s hazelnut flavored coffee is rich and aromatic, with the medium roast providing the perfect toasted notes to counteract the sweetness. The body of the coffee is creamy and buttery, much like a hazelnut itself, making it equally delicious as a solo or accompanying dessert.
Cooper’s coffee is a unique roaster that was impossible to ignore as we sought out the top flavored coffees this year. Based in New England, they impose flavors to their beans through artificial or natural additives, but by aging the beans in vintage rum, whiskey, and bourbon barrels. This strategy provides distinct yet subtle flavors. So they can use it with single-origin beans without masking any of the inherent bean qualities. The results are unparalleled.
The Thomas Tew Rum beans feature single-origin Rwandan beans aged in an oak rum barrel to yield flavors of caramelized sugar, red raisins, molasses, rich cocoa, baking spices, vanilla, and oak, with a slight spiciness from the rum.
The Tew Rum is one of few flavored coffees that you can brew as a shot of espresso. The espresso shot intensifies the sweet toffee and spice notes with a rich cocoa and oak structure.
Cameron’s Coffee is a discount coffee brand. Yet their commitment to selecting only the best coffees and roasting them with top of the line equipment ensures that their quality far surpasses their price.
The company prides itself on its focus. Rather than diversifying, Cameron’s Coffee has chosen to specialize in a single thing, delivering exceptional coffee to the home brewer, to good effect.
If you love the salty and sweet combination, this coffee is going to have precisely the balance you crave. Not only do the salty flavors balance the sweetness of the caramel, but they also enhance the bittersweet flavor notes of the Colombian beans themselves. The result is a cravable cup that is hard to stop drinking, whether as a bright morning pick me up or a dessert beverage.
Cameron’s Coffee uses a light roast for all their flavored beans, which certainly benefits the salted caramel flavor. The higher acidity contributes to the overall flavor complexity, while the mild body keeps it from being overwhelming.
If there is any coffee that top-end roasters tend to scorn more than flavored coffee, it’s decaf coffee. So a high-quality flavored decaf is like a unicorn. This is unfortunate because flavored coffees can be excellent dessert pairings, and not everyone wants a hit of caffeine before bed.
Luckily, Volcanica Coffee offers an entire line of decaf flavored brews. They’re all on par with their caffeinated counterparts.
Volcanica decaffeinates their coffee via the Swiss water process. A taste-driven, chemical-free decaffeination process removes 99.9% of caffeine while protecting the unique origin characteristics and flavors of the bean. Each bag of beans is roasted and flavored to order so that you can experience it at the peak of freshness.
We love the decaf Cinnalicious, which pairs cinnamon and French vanilla flavors for a creamy, spicy cup that recalls a pumpkin spice latte. Cinnalicious is an ideal dessert coffee, whether consumed solo as a digestif or paired with a slice of pie.
Whether you’re looking for a new flavor to start your day, the perfect dessert pairing, or just a way to cut back on the sugar in your morning brew, flavored coffee is a great option. And with this list, you can rest assured you’re buying from a brand that prioritizes great coffee beans as the backbone of their flavored offerings.
Our overall favorite in this best flavored coffee list is Lifeboost Coffee’s Smoky Butterscotch flavor, which pairs high-end single-origin beans with perfectly balanced natural flavor extracts.
Yes, you can put vanilla extract in your coffee. In fact, it’s a common coffee flavor. Start with about ¼ teaspoon per cup of coffee. Another natural way of adding vanilla flavor to your coffee is to store a vanilla bean along with your coffee.
Yes, flavored Coffee is Keto friendly because it contains no added sugars.
The difference between naturally and artificially flavored coffees is that we extract the former from its natural source while the latter comes from a lab. But in most cases, the aromatic chemical compound added to your coffee is identical (6). On a related note, here’s where you can learn how to flavor coffee.
- Johnson, J. (n.d.). Flavored Coffee Beans. Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/295586-do-flavored-coffee-beans-have-calories/
- Clayton, L. (2013, February 20). The Dark Side of Flavored Coffee. Retrieved from https://drinks.seriouseats.com/2013/02/the-dark-side-of-flavored-coffee-how-flavored-coffee-is-made.html
- Beck, L. (2018, May 3). Flavored coffee beans: Are they unhealthy? Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/flavoured-coffee-beans-are-they-unhealthy/article557714/
- Hoos, R. (2017, March 17). The Impact of Roasting on Coffee’s Flavor. Retrieved from https://scanews.coffee/2017/03/17/the-impact-of-roasting-on-coffees-flavor/
- Daley, B. (2011, March 8). What’s the difference between vanilla and French vanilla? Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/whats-the-difference-between-vanilla-and-french-vanilla/
- Kennedy, C.R. (2015, September 21). The Flavor Rundown: Natural vs. Artificial Flavors. Retrieved from https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/the-flavor-rundown-natural-vs-artificial-flavors/