Chances are, you've dabbled in drinking spiced coffee in the past—shaking a jar of cinnamon over an already-made oat milk latte or americano is quite the common practice. But according to coffee experts, this is not the optimal way to infuse the taste of your favorite spice into your morning mug. When you add spices to coffee grounds before you brew them, an entirely new flavor profile presents itself: The result is balanced, uniform, and (perhaps most importantly) free from any weird chunks of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves floating around.
- Brian Dessaix, Brian Dessaix is the VP of Coffee at Bluestone Lane.
Ready to learn how to nail your next spiced coffee? Keep reading to discover how to spice up your life—ahem, your morning brew—with expert-approved tips and insights.
First, what are the best spices to add to coffee?
When it comes to infusing your coffee with spices, pantry staples that work well include the likes of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, ginger, turmeric, and allspice. However, Brian Dessaix, VP of Coffee at Bluestone Lane, says the best options ultimately come down to personal preference. “There’s no absolute rule, and I encourage experimentation,” he says, so opt for one or mix and match your favorites.
Palate considerations aside, you may be just as interested in adding spices to your coffee to yield certain health benefits. While coffee itself is chock-full of antioxidants (which help to combat inflammation, reduce the risk of serious illness, and even help stave off early mortality) and rich in essential nutrients (including vitamins B3 and B5, as well as the minerals manganese, potassium, and magnesium), it won’t hurt to upgrade your cup of joe even further.
Among the many spice options you have at hand, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to choosing one that promotes well-being. For instance, cinnamon offers anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant benefits (among others); ginger is renowned for its anti-inflammatory, digestion-boosting perks; and turmeric is among the most-studied spices for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anticancer properties.
How to add spices to your coffee, according to an expert
Again, if you want to prepare the best cup of spiced coffee possible, it’s not as simple as throwing a few dashes into your mug before sipping away. Luckily, we’re spilling the beans on how to spice up your coffee like a seasoned pro (puns very much intended).
1. Choose your roasts and blends wisely
To start, Dessaix says that it’s essential to choose the right type of coffee based on your spices of choice. "Once you know which spices you’d like to use, use the characteristics of coffee and make sure it pairs well,” he says. “If the mix is wrong, the spices can overpower the coffee.”
Aside from buying high-quality beans, be sure to keep flavor profiles in mind. For instance, Bluestone Lane’s Maverick Signature Espresso Blend already has notes of clove and honey, which Dessaix says “will pair well with ginger and other chai-like flavors.” Otherwise, light roasts—such as the brand’s new Bayside Blonde Blend—are “very receptive and open to be influenced by spices and sugar.” Dessaix adds that medium roasts can also yield a great spiced cuppa, particularly for drip coffee, French press, and cold brew.
As for which roasts aren’t compatible with this flavorful brewing hack? “Very dark, classic Italian roasts aren’t generally recommended for pairing with spices, since they’ll be drowned in the delicious richness of the espresso,” Dessaix says.
2. Integrate spices based on your brewing method
As we mentioned before, topping off your already-made mug as a final step isn’t typically the best way to go. After all, you don’t want a bunch of grainy chunks floating around or ending up on your teeth. But more importantly, adding spices to coffee grounds before brewing will ensure that the flavor comes out smoother, rounder, and more uniform. This pre-brew addition works well with popular brewing methods such as drip coffee, pour over, and French press. (Extra credit and peak freshness go to those who add whole spices directly into their coffee grinder.) When it comes to how much you’ll need to add, Dessaix says a teaspoon can be a good measure to start. “However, it really depends on the specific spice’s flavor, texture, and density in natural form,” he says—not to mention your own preferences as far as strength and taste go.
In addition, Dessaix shares other great ways to integrate spices into different styles of brews.
First, if you’re prepping milk-based coffee such as lattes and cappuccinos, he says that ground spices would be great to add to the milk itself—whether pre-steaming, as a final touch (yes, this is an exception to our earlier rule), or both.
Second, if you prefer to get your coffee fix via cold brew, you can even make your own spiced concentrate to pair with it. For a 16-ounce serving of cold brew, he recommends adding two teaspoons of each of your preferred spices to three or four ounces of water and letting it steep for 12 hours. “This one-serving concentrate should provide enough time for all subtle notes to come through,” Dessaix says. If need be, you can also pass the concentrate through a strainer to separate any lingering spice particles. Of course, if you’d like to prepare a larger batch in advance, simply build up the ratios accordingly.
3. Get creative and experiment
On a parting note, Dessaix reminds us that experimentation is the name of the game when it comes to finding the right spices and ratios that work for your palate. Think of what flavors you love most, or which ones you’d prefer to leave out of your favorite mixes. For instance, if he were to make his own chai spiced latte from scratch, Dessaix would keep the likes of cardamom, ginger, star anise, and cinnamon but hold back on the cloves (even though it's packed with benefits).
While it may take some trial and error to find your perfect spiced coffee recipe, the basic guidelines shared above will surely help you in your quest to brew the tastiest, more flavorful cup. “Ultimately, it all comes down to prep and quality of ingredients,” Dessaix concludes.
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