I sympathize with the ingrained coffee addict. Mornings have their way of audaciously demanding movement and productivity without any promise for what the day holds. This and other grouchy complaints circle my mind until I pour a cup of that beautiful brew. All of a sudden, I’m tap dancing to Debbie Reynolds’s “Good Morning” intro from the cinema classic Singing in the Rain. It’s a lovely day, I’m ready to take that “A” train and all that jazz. Other than the dose of caffeine, I hypothesize that creating something with your hands that brings you joy first thing in the morning, also triggers creativity and tranquility. But the thing that truly sweetens at-home coffee? It’s none other than relishing in the fact that you made a delicious drink without breaking the bank at an overpriced café.
So, how can you join the fight against capitalism one perfect cup of joe at a time? Keep reading for some tips on creating yummy recipes at home!
Suffering through more than two years as a Starbucks barista taught me a thing or two about the craft of coffee. Here you go: some cool things I experimented with during the small gaps of time when customers weren’t making my life extremely difficult.
1. Myth: Light roast has less caffeine.
I remember seeing a Reddit post making fun of a coffee bean package that had both the words “light roast” and “more caffeine” written across the bag. Juxtaposition? Not at all! This topic stirs up a lot of confusion for regular coffee drinkers, but I’ll give you the breakdown. The word “light” in light roast, refers to its taste and color. However, the beans themselves contain a slightly higher content of caffeine. This means dark roast, on the other hand, has a darker color, bolder taste and less caffeine than its counterpart. To me, a lighter taste and stronger caffeination equate to a match made in heaven.
2. Why does my espresso taste burnt?
Short answer: You let it sit too long before adding milk or taking your first sip.
Long answer: Unless you have a high-end machine at home, the key to honey-smooth espresso correlates with how long you let it sit. Espresso comprises itself of three layers: the crema, the body and the heart—all of which gradient down from a beautiful golden-brown color to a deep black hue. The crema carries all the flavor and indicates the overall quality of the espresso. As such, consuming it quickly versus letting it sit around, makes all the difference in taste. After a max of two minutes, the acids degrade and the crema will “die” into the rest of the espresso shot, resulting in a loss of full-bodied flavor and a burnt taste. Some lower grade machines, due to water temperature among many things, allegedly cause the espresso to fall even faster (i.e. 10 seconds). Remember to act quickly to avoid killing your shot!
3. At-home tastes!
While I have my reservations about Starbucks as a corporation, a lot of their employee perks were notable. Baristas benefit from being able to mark out as many drinks as they want. So it was to my dismay after I left the company that I realized… I don’t know how to make elaborate lattes without Starbucks’s equipment. It took many trial and error attempts over quarantine, but I’ve finally perfected my at-home technique!
Check out five varying coffee-based drinks to make your kitchen feel café-chic:
1. Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte
Ingredients: a dash of cinnamon, 1 tbsp coconut sugar, 2 shots of espresso, milk, ice (optional)
At Starbucks, this flavor comes in the form of a syrup. However, since the word translates to “sweet cinnamon”, you can recreate your own by mixing a dash of cinnamon with 1 tablespoon coconut sugar. The big-league secret: pour espresso (or hot coffee) over your flavoring so the sugar dissolves. Nothing proves worse than sugar that settles at the bottom of your cup. For this drink, I would go with two shots of espresso, Oatly-brand oat milk, then ice to top it off. For a hot drink, you would simply heat the milk. Lastly, sprinkle some cinnamon on top for aesthetics. Nailing a basic latte recipe like this will save you $5 and lay the foundation for making more fancy drinks in the future.
2. Iced Mint Mojito (Philz dupe)
Ingredients: 10 mint leaves, 1 tbsp brown sugar, medium or dark roast coffee, creamer, ice
While this drink has many steps, it holds a special place in my soul for the most delicious brand coffee recreation. First, muddle your mint leaves with one tablespoon brown sugar for 30 seconds. Pour in a dark roast or any strong-flavored coffee and give it a quick stir to ensure your sugar dissolves. I recommend a more powerful and robust tasting coffee because we will be adding a lot of ice to chill the drink. Ground beans with earthy or nutty notes will complement this drink best. (You can find out your coffee’s palette description on the front of the bag.) Next, strain the coffee into a glass filled ¾ way with ice. Now, froth your creamer until it reaches a silky consistency. Pour a cappuccino amount of foamy cream over the chilled ice coffee and you’re done! Garnish with one or two pretty mint leaves and you have your Insta-worthy mint mojito drink at home.
3. Cocoa Double-shot (Starbucks dupe)
Ingredients: 1 raspberry dark chocolate baton square (Trader Joe’s), 2 shots of espresso, a tiny splash of heavy cream, extra ice
This drink provides an immediate caffeine charge. First, take the crimson-packaged raspberry dark chocolate baton stick from Trader Joe’s and snap off one piece. You can also substitute this for your favorite piece of chocolate or even one tablespoon of cocoa powder. Place the chocolate in a glass and let the espresso pour over it. Stir the glass as it pours to help the chocolate melt. Next, pour your cocoa espresso into a shaker and add a cup of ice. Commence shaking. Your drink should feel super cold and look foamy. Strain the contents back into your glass and top off with a tiny splash of heavy cream. Voila!
4. Cardamom n’ Honey Hot Coffee
Ingredients: ⅛ tsp of cardamom, 1 tbsp honey, hot coffee
Shout out to the Great British Bake Off for teaching me about cardamom. Other than its many health benefits such as lowering blood sugar, lowering anxiety and containing anti-inflammatory effects, it makes for a unique tasting spice. Combined with the honey, I find that these two flavors balance each other well. In fact, it oddly reminds me of French toast. This recipe reads quite simply: mix sugar and spice, add hot coffee and stir well. Bonus points if you use a bar spoon to stir. Perfect for when you don’t have time in the morning but crave the smell of charming aromas to start your day.
5. Hazelnut Cream Cold Brew
Ingredients: ¼ tsp vanilla extract, cold brew, lactose-free hazelnut creamer (Trader Joe’s), ice
For those who make their own cold brew, the only advice an ex-barista such as myself can give would be to use filtered water! For this drink, first pour cold brew halfway into a glass. Add ice and ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Stir that up. Next, froth some hazelnut creamer until it has a cloud-like consistency. At Starbucks, this takes 15 seconds with the machine. At home with a hand frother, this could take up to one minute. When finished, pour the cold foam over your cold brew and there you have it— a barista-approved drink!
“The devil is in the details”… or so I tell myself to justify certain bougie Amazon purchases. Whether or not the following purchases will satisfy you depends entirely on your coffee preferences. If you exclusively drink hot black coffee and don’t enjoy experimenting with flavors, then these might not be for you. Also, congrats on making it to the end of this article!
Personally, I’ve found these items to be absolute necessities that have upgraded my at-home coffee excursions. Here they are:
1. Large Square Ice-Cube Tray
Channel your inner Squilliam Fancyson III with a purchase that reminds you of the good ol’ days of going to bars and cafes. All jokes aside, this purchase makes the most sense to me. I can’t stand diluted drinks and at the same time, I take my time sipping my coffee. Answer? Large ice takes longer to melt. It’s elementary, my dear!
2. Fancy Stirring Bar Spoon
The aesthetics alone make this long-handed product attractive. Its purposes range from layering parts of a drink to stirring it well. I’ve found that muddling mint and fruit also works with the bottom end of the spoon. An ideal tool for iced drinks!
3. Electric Hand Milk Frother
Texture truly transforms the quality of a drink. So if you appreciate cold foam or find luxury in drinking faultless creamy consistencies, this kitchen tool should be in your Amazon cart. Suitable for making both hot and cold foam, this mixer does a lot for its price. You can even mix matcha or travel back in time to March 2020 to retry making dalgona whipped coffee.
If you’ve been waiting for a sign to start practicing mindfulness, consider this it.
Brewing your own coffee at home allows you to be cognizant of what you put in your body, and breaks you away from the overwhelming fast-paced morning routines big-chain coffee shops rely on. Instead, fill your space with intoxicating smells and creamy caffeinated cappuccinos at the rise of the day.
You deserve to experience peace in 2021.