Browse the ground coffee aisle at the grocery store and you’ll find a mind-blogging array of varieties that sound so good: mocha mint, peach cobbler, cinnamon roll, and even jelly doughnut, if you can believe it. The only problem? Most of these zany coffees are made from a proprietary blend of natural and artificial flavors that manufacturers aren’t required to disclose in detail, meaning that it’s impossible to know exactly what’s in your morning joe.
Think the syrup-flavored coffees you can get at your local café are cleaner? They’re not. Just four pumps of the stuff—the amount you’d find in a grande Starbucks drink—has 19 grams of sugar.
Luckily, there are plenty of healthy, clean ways to flavor your coffee at home with real ingredients that will help you slash the junk and sugar from your coffee dessert drinks, not to mention save you money at the local ‘Bucks. Here are 6 of our favorite methods.
Subtly sweet cinnamon dampens coffee’s natural bitterness, and research shows it can even help manage blood sugar. Add it to your ground coffee in a ratio of 2 Tbsp ground cinnamon to ¾ c ground coffee and brew as usual.
Vanilla extract is a low-calorie, flavor-boosting miracle. You can add it to yogurt, smoothies, and almond butter, but we love it in coffee. If you’re making a whole pot, just stir in ½ tsp when the coffee is done brewing. If you need to flavor a single mug, you’ll only need a few drops—start slow and taste as you go.
Can you ever go wrong with chocolate? Of course not. Place a 2-inch square of 72% dark chocolate (or 2 tsp dark chocolate chips) at the bottom of your mug, then fill with very hot coffee. Stir vigorously to melt chocolate and sip away.
Brighten up your java with a fresh burst of citrus. Use a ratio of 1 Tbsp fresh grated orange zest to ½ c ground coffee and brew as usual. For a single cup, add a single strip of orange peel to your mug and let steep for a minute or two.
This tropical flavor is unbeatable in cold-brewed iced coffee. All you need to do is toast shredded coconut, mix with ground coffee, add water, and let steep overnight before straining. This recipe from the blog A Beautiful Mess has a photo tutorial and all the details.
You’ll know the deep, fragrant flavor of cardamom if you’ve ever had a cup of chai tea, but it also works beautifully in coffee. (In fact, cardamom coffee is a traditional pick-me-up in many Middle Eastern cultures). Though they’re a little tougher to find, experts say you’ll get the best flavor if you use whole crushed cardamom pods. Brew coffee as usual, then add one crushed pod per cup of coffee and let steep until fragrant and flavorful. You can use ground cardamom, too. Just follow the instructions for ground cinnamon above.