Creating Coffee Flavors

Coffee Flavors: coffee drinks, black coffee, french vanilla, brew coffee, ground coffee, cup of coffee, cold brew, coffee beans, espresso machine, taste buds, caramel flavored coffee, flavored syrups, coffee taste, pumpkin spice, type of coffee, popular coffee, light roast, roast level, medium roast, iced coffee

Creating Coffee Flavors

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. More than 150 million bags of coffee are consumed across the globe per year, and the rate of global consumption reached over 166 million bags in 2020/2021. That’s nearly 10 trillion kilograms of coffee!

With so much coffee in the world and so many people drinking it, it’s easy to see the need for some variety in flavor, which can come from variations in the coffee itself or common additives such as sugar, milk, or flavored creamers. According to a 2019 survey, 79% of Americans use at least one form of additive in their coffee. Don’t worry though, there are still plenty of ways to find variety in black coffee as well.

Challenges When Flavoring Coffee

Coffee is an essential part of so many lives, not just because many of us need it to function, but also because over 25 million farmers are dependent on coffee for their livelihoods. These farmers are located in over 50 countries throughout Asia, Africa, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. 

Because coffee is grown in so many places across such a large variety of climates and growing conditions, individual crops can have drastically different flavors based on the type of coffee and its origins. This mixture of distinctive, geographically linked qualities, referred to as terroir, can make it difficult to formulate flavored coffee additives that work across all blends.

The origins of coffee beans also pose a logistical problem. Since coffee beans require warm environments to grow, nearly all coffee is grown in the global south, which means beans have to be transported great distances to end up in your espresso machine at home. 

Since coffee beans are porous, they tend to absorb the smell and taste of things around them, meaning beans that are stored improperly or for too long can begin to take on the taste of the bag they are in, making the coffee taste like plastic. This porous quality also means that beans that are not properly dried can easily become moldy, and nobody wants that from their cup of coffee. 

Then there are all the things that could go wrong during the roasting process. From baking to scorching, underdeveloping, and overdeveloping, the taste of coffee can be drastically impacted at this stage in the process. This is why many coffees are branded as artisanal because coffee roasting is most certainly an art form. 

In addition to the minefield of roasting mistakes to be avoided, there are also major flavor differences between roast levels. A light roast generally presents the characteristics of the bean’s terroir more so than others with bright flavors and an invigorating acidity that cuts through the roast's mellow body. A medium roast will typically be more well-rounded with midlevel acidity and body. Dark roast uncovers the inner depth of a bean’s flavor having cooked off much of the acidity leaving a heavy body full of exciting notes like chocolate, caramel, and nuts. 

The final step in bringing coffee all the way from bean to brew is to, well, brew it. There may be an additional step of grinding the beans, but according to an Experian study, over 84% of households use already ground coffee

The two main types of methods for brewing coffee are immersion and percolation or pour-over. Percolated coffee is what you usually get from your standard coffee machine at home. Coffee grounds are placed in a filter and hot water is poured over them to steep the liquid as it passes through the coffee. 

Immersion brewing is more similar to how we make tea, soaking the coffee grounds in water and then filtering them out after steeping. The most popular immersion method is the French press, but there are a number of other techniques and tools offering a variety of functions to affect the brew in unique ways.

If everything goes well, and you end up with the perfect cup of artisanally roasted coffee in your favorite blend, made just the way you like it, then comes the challenge of pairing the right flavors to balance coffee’s strong profile. Any flavor that is developed for use in coffee needs to be strong enough to compete with the naturally robust profile of coffee, while also balancing against the bitterness of the beans and highlighting the wealth of flavor notes within.

Traditional Coffee Flavors

Many of the traditional flavors used in coffee run on the sweet side in order to balance the natural bitterness and compete with the robust nature of the coffee beans. 

Some popular coffee flavors include French vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, and mocha. Vanilla pairs well with coffee because of its similar smoothness and the pure virtue of vanilla’s versatility. Hazelnut, mocha, and caramel flavors rely on the deeper roasted notes while still balancing the richness with their sweeter qualities.  

There are also a number of liqueur-style flavors that are commonly used in creamers such as amaretto and Irish cream. While these flavors in creamers are missing the bite of their native alcohol, the complexity of their profiles still comes through as does the sweetness that is a trademark of a liqueur. 

Last, but not least, are the seasonal favorites like peppermint and the often controversial pumpkin spice. With peppermint and coffee, usually, there is also a fair amount of white chocolate to smooth out the two powerful profiles, which can sometimes result in the coffee profile becoming masked or muted. 

And then there’s pumpkin spice. Made of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, pumpkin spice has been around for arguably thousands of years, but the term as we know it today was coined by McCormick in the 1950s. It was the name of their pumpkin pie spice, which explains why pumpkin spice lattes don’t have pumpkin in them. The warmth of the cloves blends smoothly with the coffee notes while the sharpness of the cinnamon and sweetness of the nutmeg lift the profile.

The Future of Coffee Flavors

Much of the future of coffee, including its taste, will depend greatly on environmental factors as the global south faces the impacts of climate change. Changes in temperature and rainfall will likely bring new flavors to the beans from a large portion of growers and it is estimated that roughly half of all land used for growing high-quality coffee could become unusable by the year 2050.

Other changes are likely to come from technological advances that are improving our ability to create better ready-to-drink and instant coffees, as well as the expanding interest in pre-flavored coffee beans.

Additionally, the cold-brew craze seems to be here to stay, with the newer process of flash brewing, also called snap chilling, making a name for itself in the space. The continued innovation around cold-brew techniques is opening up a whole world of new possibilities for coffee drinks, including an expansion of new and revitalized coffee cocktails like the espresso martini, and experimentation with less traditional flavors such as fruits and florals.

Contact us today to spice up your next product with that little extra kick of flavor! 

What are you looking for?

Your cart