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Coffee By The beans

Beans / March 12, 2022

Sugar and syrups are a pretty standard way to add flavor to your coffee, but if you’re looking to add flavor and complexity without upping the sweetness, take a gander at your spice rack.

One of my least favorite habits is my tendency to buy a bottle of spices, use them once, and then let them sit on a shelf until they lose their flavor, potency, and dignity. Luckily, one of my favorite habits can help with this problem, as those “extra” spices are just begging to be brewed with coffee.

The process is super easy and requires no extra work on your part. (Which is great, because no one wants extra work in the morning.) Instead of grinding the spices and sprinkling them over your cup of caffeine, just grind them along with the beans and brew as usual. To find out which spices, seasonings, and flowers (yes, flowers!) would be good candidates, I raided my own semi-neglected spice rack and experimented.

Cocoa Nibs Add Rich, Chocolatey Flavor

Cocoa nibs are what chocolate exists as before it’s processed into the sweet, rich bars you’re used to chomping on. These dried, fermented bits of bean are crunchy with a slight chew and taste like a nuttier, less creamy version of a piece of dark chocolate. They’re delicious on top of ice cream or alongside red meats, but I absolutely love them in my coffee.

To get cocoa-y goodness in your morning brew, throw ½ of a teaspoon (for every two cups) of the little guys into your coffee grinder along with your coffee beans. Do your brew (I use an AeroPress) and enjoy. The result is a delicate chocolate flavor that won’t overshadow or compete with your coffee; it’s almost like a super subtle mocha.

Cardamom Adds Warmth and Fragrance

You guys know how I feel about cardamom and coffee. (If you don’t, let me clarify: I feel very good about it). The aromatic, unique aroma and flavor of cardamom gives a slightly chai characteristic to a cup of coffee and feels extra warm and nurturing on a cold morning.

The other afternoon I was struck by “that 2:30 feeling” and a hankering for something sweet at the…

A pod or two ground with your beans imparts plenty of flavor to two servings of joe, so it’s a perfect way to use up any extra cardamom you don’t want to waste. (And I’m sure you don’t want to waste any; that stuff is expensive.)

Nutmeg Adds Depth and Aroma

Freshly grated nutmeg adds depth and a touch of earthy sweetness to almost everything it touches, and any leftover bits and pieces belong in a cup of coffee. The contribution is mostly by way of smell, which is warm, inviting, and just a little sweet. It’s kind of hard for me to tell you how to measure this one out, but I found this little shard to be plenty for my single 8-ounce cup.

So, like an eighth, I guess.

Star Anise Adds a Licorice-Like Boost

Your enjoyment of this one hinges on your affinity for licorice-like flavors. Half a pod is plenty for a single cup, and the combination of the anise with good beans creates a flavor that is almost root beer like.

I’m not a huge fan of licorice, but even I found this to be pretty pleasant, and I think it would do particularly well with a cardamom pod or two.

Lavender Is a Dash of Spring in Your Cup

If you want your coffee to change with the seasons, consider giving it a springtime makeover by sprinkling some dried lavender flowers in your grinder. I’ll level with you: I wasn’t sure this would be such a good idea, but I had a lot of them leftover from the Great Gin Experiment of 2016, and I was curious.

Like all infused spirits, gin is something you can infuse on your own. As long as the predominant…

The result was, as you would expect, a pleasantly floral tasting brew. The flavor is awkward in darker coffees, but really nice in bright, citrusy brews, and would be particularly nice iced. You have to be careful though, add too much and the flavor can turn soapy. I found five small flowers to be plenty for a cup.