I am a coffee fiend. I grew up with parents who had long since ditched their automatic coffee maker for the very sexy Chemex hourglass and the sounds of beans grinding in the morning cued the start of the day. Fresh coffee and fresh orange juice helped me get my day started and old habits die hard. Forgive me, I am a coffee snob.
Coffee is a sacred substance in many cultures and it’s amazing how industrialized it is in the US. Most of us need the caffeine more than the fruit of a coffee tree. Preground tins are a staple of American living and we all know the Folgers jingle by heart. Diner coffee is pretty much an institution onto itself. We’ve also seen gourmet chains dotting the streets offering sugary drinks and endless disposable cups. Meanwhile, coffee snobbery and fine cafes are popular in urban centers and hipsters have declared the barista a spiritual leader. Coffee, however you take yours, is a cornerstone of life here in the US. Here is one of my favorite methods of making fancy coffee for myself or friends at home.
Please note: I rarely use measuring cups when I’m cooking. Your mileage may vary for taste, preference, and ingredient availability.
(Spices can be finely pre-ground from the store or fresh and coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder)
Spice grinder/mortar and pestle
Coffee maker of choice
I cut my vanilla pod into small-ish pieces and tossed them into the grinder with my cocoa nibs and coffee beans. I used 1 whole pod and about a 30/70 mix of cocoa nibs and coffee beans. Since I don’t mind my coffee taking on a vanilla or cocoa taste I had no problem mixing all three. You or your roommates might. Some coffee makers need a fine consistency, others want something coarse. French presses, drip machines, stove top, Chemex, percolators, and other methods all have their own preferences.
Get the coffee-cocoa-vanilla mix and put it into your machine and filter. Then add the spice mix, roughly 1/2-1 tablespoon depending on your spice preferences. Let the machine get hot water over, under, around, or through your mix. Enjoy the brew black or with a sweetener and cream. I like using raw honey and almond milk.
If you have the ingredients on hand it shouldn’t take more than a few extra minutes in the morning and it will work in Mr. Coffee on automatic if that’s how you roll. There’s no shame in setting up coffee the night before to get going at the alarm while you’re in bed. I like having something special they don’t make at Starbucks and the spice mix perks me up.
The fresher your ingredients, the better the taste. Still, it can be hard to get everything. Natural foods or world grocers can be super helpful at getting spices. I feel spoiled to live in the Bay Area where I can stop by groceries that carry goods from around the world. I avoid buying spices at chain grocers where they are marked up a lot in price. I made a jar of my ground coffee spice mix to keep by the coffee supplies and even without the vanilla or cocoa nibs it adds a lot to the taste.
The nice thing is that the pour over method gets the flavor and you can still control the sweetness. Chocolate or vanilla syrups often come packed with sugar and additives. A hint of cocoa and vanilla makes the coffee a treat.
Some might say that all of this masks the richness of the coffee beans but variety is the spice of life. It can be the extra pick-me-up to start the week or a way to close it. Mostly it makes me stop and appreciate coffee beyond compulsive caffeine consumption because I’m prone to the “grab and get out the door” school of mornings.