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Spice Up Your Coffee: Holiday Edition

Spice Up Your Coffee: Holiday Edition

Words Erin Meister

Pumpkin spice season is worth waiting for, but when you want the festive flavor without all of the additives, sugar, and cost, there are many easy, healthy-ish ways to give your coffee a delicious holiday makeover. Try these flavored coffees after a family gathering, on a chilly winter morning, or gathered ’round the fireplace with loved ones for, heck, any old time! They’re easy, inexpensive, and don’t require waiting in line.


Warm Cinnamon Brew

One of my all-time favorites and it couldn’t be easier to brew. Give your coffee a tasty makeover just by adding ground cinnamon to the coffee grounds before brewing. Even a little bit goes a long way in making a fragrant, sweet-spicy, and warm-all-over morning cup.

For a 6 to 9-cup brew or French Press: 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon total (or a mix of 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)

For a manual pour-over: 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon for every 16-ounce serving

Mix ground cinnamon (or the cinnamon-nutmeg combo) into the grounds in your filter.

Adjust to taste. Experiment with other spices as well! Ground ginger can add an interesting, slightly herbal kick and cardamom mixed with ginger makes a regular brew into something exotic and exciting.



Homemade Vanilla Syrup

Why pay by the pump when you can easily whip up your own delicious syrups in the comfort and convenience of your own kitchen? Vanilla bean is relatively easy to come by, and the insides of a single pod can create a flavorful sweetened syrup for hot or iced coffee (as well as fancier drinks like homemade lattes and cappuccino). Other flavors are a fantastic complement to coffee as well: I love a touch of mint, for instance, which can be a refreshing addition on its own or a decadent splurge when mixed with a dash of chocolate in a coffee or into an espresso base.
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/3 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the insides. In a small pan over medium heat, whisk the the vanilla bean insides with sugar and water until the sugar has completely devolved.

2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract if using (to really up the vanilla ante.) Allow mixture to cool completely before transferring to a pourable container; to clarify the liquid, pour through a very fine mesh sieve to remove the vanilla bean fragments.

3. Store for up to two weeks in the fridge.



Homemade Mint Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup hot water
1 sprig mint leaves (approx 10 whole leaves)
1. In a small bowl or pan, combine sugar and hot water until the sugar dissolves.

2. Add the mint leaves, making sure to press them down so they are completely submerged; allow to steep for 3–5 hours.

3. Remove the mint leaves and pour the liquid into a convenient container. Use as needed; store for up to 1 week in the fridge.

Better-Than-Chocolate Milk

When looking for healthy flavor alternatives to the sugar-laden lattes and mochas at the cafe, look to your milk carton. By adding simple, elegant flavor infusions to the milk you pour into your coffee, you can bring your morning mug to a new dimension.

To surprise a crowd after dinner, gently warm 1 cup of milk in a small pan (do not approach a boil) and stir in 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or homemade vanilla syrup) with a pinch of ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and/or nutmeg. Whisking the milk will create a light froth which can also add a layer of festive fun to the coffee around the table. Transfer the flavored milk to a pouring vessel and be sure to use right away; it will not keep in the refrigerator.

By Erin Meister

Erin Meister is a freelance writer for OXO. She is a specialty-coffee professional with 15-plus years as a barista, café manager, wholesale account representative, speaker, and educator; she currently sells green coffee for the Minneapolis-based importing company Café Imports. You can also hear her on weekly episodes of "Opposites Extract: A Debate Podcast about Coffee," available on iTunes.

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