Your morning already has a lot of options to make your coffee taste great—each brewing method brings to your cup o’ joe it’s own unique flavors, including french press, pour over, cold brew and drip coffee. Sweeteners are a natural next step, and if you’re avoiding refined sugar, there’s no reason you can’t still enjoy a perky pick-me-up. There are plenty of other ways to add a lovin’ spoonful to your mug—and most of them can make your sips extra special.
If you’re keen to sweeten your coffee without sugar, these alternatives offer natural sweeteners, surprising flavors and fun alternatives. Some work better as daily additions en route to work, while others are the perfect way to enjoy a lazy Sunday with a decadent cup of flavorful coffee,
We think of honey as a natural complement to tea, but there’s no reason it can’t be used to give a little sweetness to coffee, too. A lovely wildflower honey is especially nice in a floral or delicate coffee, like a jasmine-forward Ethiopian or a tropical-fruity, juicy Kenyan. While honey stirs well into hot brews, however, it can be a little tricky to dissolve into iced coffees. Soften it with a little hot water to make a kind of “simple syrup,” or use a warmed spoon to stir it into the coffee liquid before adding ice.
Plant-based sweeteners have added benefits to plain old white sugar, often extra fiber and vitamins, like the iron and B6 naturally found in dates. Dates are kind of like nature’s candy, and it’s easy to make a flavorful (but not overpowering) syrup from them. The caramel-like taste can transform a cup of coffee from ho-hum to woah-yum in no time. Soak one cup of pitted dates in water for about an hour, then pour off the soaking liquid into a separate container. Purée the dates in a blender or food processor, adding about a tablespoon of the reserved soaking liquid at a time until you achieve a nice consistency. Then, simply stir the date syrup into your coffee to your liking—store extra date syrup in a squeeze bottle in the fridge for easy access each morning
Spices & Extracts
To flavor to your morning without necessarily sweetening your coffee, spices and extracts are a great sugar alternative that will still liven up your morning. Cinnamon is a perennial favorite of coffee lovers. Channel the spicy flavors of a cafe de olla by adding a sprinkle of ground cinnamon to your coffee grounds before brewing, or add a cinnamon stick to your pour-over coffee as you prepare it. If you’re keen for a bit stronger flavor, look to extracts such as vanilla or almond.
OK, so this is technically not sweetening your coffee without sugar, but it is still a unique alternative for coffee lovers interested in new ways to enjoy their morning. Some coffees are already reminiscent of fancy chocolate, so it’s only natural that a little melted can bring out the chocolate-y nature. Any kind of chocolate will take the edge off coffee’s natural bitterness to make it sweeter, but of course milk or even white chocolate will have the most bang for the bar. Melt a square or a hunk of chocolate in the bottom of your travel mug by stirring hot coffee on top of it, or mix some chocolate syrup (like how Heartbeet Kitchen does for this Cold Brew Mocha) or cocoa powder into iced coffee and top it with a little seltzer and cold milk for a kind of caffeinated egg cream-inspired drink.
Since we’re already going chocolate, why not pull out all the stops? A little spoonful of softened vanilla ice cream into a hot cup of coffee is even better than milk and sugar, or take a cue from the Australians and pour iced coffee over a heaping scoop of vanilla and mix it together for an shake-like afternoon snack. Of course you can also go traditional Italian-style affogato with a bowl of gelato and a generous pour of fresh espresso or strong-brewed iced coffee—because it still counts as coffee even if you’re eating it with a spoon.
Looking for more ways to improve your morning cup o’ joe? Here’s how to clean your coffee equipment—and why you should for a better tasting cup of coffee.