How flavors can add to your coffee enjoyment
Let’s talk about nuts. Not wacky, crazy, or foolish people but actual nuts: large, oily kernels found within a shell and used in food. These rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber are important to the coffee industry and consumers as a source of flavoring for coffee.
How flavors are made
Now we’re not talking about flavored syrups, though that is a way to get some nut flavorings (almond, hazelnut) in your coffee drink after it’s poured. We mean the kind of flavoring that applies directly to roasted beans and becomes infused into them—the way to get true rich flavors you enjoy.
Flavored coffees have been around for several centuries, but at first unscrupulous coffee vendors used them to mask the bitter taste of low quality beans. Today, flavors complement and intensify the coffee’s flavor, giving us coffee lovers delightful coffees to enjoy. Flavoring coffees is both art and science because the average coffee bean has more than 800 compounds that contribute to its complex taste. Powerful coffees, such as Sumatra and French roasts, are delicious on their own but usually too intense in flavor to be used for flavored coffee. Instead, producers use lighter roasts of Arabica beans, which lend themselves well to adding flavors.
Flavored coffee begins in the lab
Flavor chemists use natural and synthetic ingredients to create the flavored coffee we've come to know and love. They lock away the secret formulas, but we know a single flavored coffee can require 80 ingredients to create it. Chemists delicately balance the created flavor to accent but not overpower the bean's natural flavors.
Once they create a flavor, they dilute it with a solvent, such as water, alcohol or even vegetable oil. This solvent also adds the characteristic glossy sheen to flavored coffee beans. Dilution is an important step. The oils are extremely concentrated, so they need to be diluted to make them easier to work with during the flavoring stage.
What if we don’t want to use chemicals?
Chemical flavors are usually necessary for the most popular nut-flavored coffee because vendors must produce it in large quantities. Almond, coconut, pecan, and hazelnut come to mind. Recent popularity of macadamia nuts from Hawaii has added them to this list. But small-batch roasters associated with nut producers can still put actual nuts in with coffee beans to produce unique, tantalizing flavors.
A great example is Albuquerque-based New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company, which has been pairing high-quality Arabica beans from Mexico, Brazil, and Peru with New Mexico’s rich, buttery piñon nuts for 20 years. They roast beans in small batches and combine them with roasted piñon nuts, which foragers gather in the region by laying blankets beneath the trees and shaking the branches to get the nuts to fall. When ground together, beans and nuts yield a coffee that’s rich and smooth, sweet, nutty, and deliciously mellow.
If you like, do it yourself:
Pick your roast. Nut-flavored coffees typically are available in light to medium roasts, but by making them at home means you get to decide whether you want your beans in a darker roast.
Grab a bag of shelled, roasted hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, or macadamia nuts. You should be able to find these at most grocery stores, or you can order them off the Internet by the pound.
Put the beans and nuts in a coffee grinder. Measure them out to a ratio of two parts beans to one part nuts. Nuts add subtle flavors, so you may have to play around with this ratio a little as you find your exact preference. Grind the mixture on a very coarse setting.
Brew it in a French press. The press will ensure you get the most flavorful cup possible, especially with a coarse grind. Use our Koffee Kozee (TM) to keep your coffee hotter and more flavorful throughout your brewing and drinking.
Enjoy your nut-flavored coffee. That's it! This method may take a little more effort than just pressing down on a syrup pump, but the result is a much better taste.
Have you tried nut flavors or just stuck to caramel macchiato or mocha? Maybe this article will inspire you to try some, find your favorites, and add to your coffee-drinking pleasure.
Sources for nut flavoring in coffee