Jul 12, 2011

How is flavored coffee made?

Dunkin' Strawberry Shortcake Coffee

French vanilla, hazelnut and other types of flavored coffee usually to consumers looking for something a little sweeter and a little milder than other types of beans. Flavored coffees don’t allow you to taste all the complexity of black coffee, but at the same time, they usually deliver more of an aroma of their “flavor” rather than a strong dose of hazelnut or, in the case of the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee pictured above, strawberry shortcake. This begs the question: how is flavored coffee made?

Flavored coffee can be made in a variety of ways. The simplest way to flavor coffee will add spices alongside the beans, and the spices are soaked into the water along with the coffee as it brews. Most flavored coffees, however, are flavored by mixing flavoring – either a natural or artificial flavoring, usually mixed with water or some other liquid – into freshly roasted coffee beans. The flavoring gently coats the beans and is essentially steeped into the brewed coffee. Often, flavored coffee is ground before flavoring is added to increase the surface area that the flavoring can cover. Powdered flavorings can also be added, although that generally works best with already ground coffee.

Coffee aficionados will tell you than many manufacturers use less expensive beans (or simply a whole variety of beans mixed together rather than a specifically formulated blend) to make flavored coffee because the flavors will cover up any imbalances in the beans. This may be true in some cases – though there are plenty of companies that use high quality beans for all of their products – but it is definitely true that you will not be able to taste the nuances of a perfectly roasted coffee bean after flavoring has been added, so it isn’t worth putting your very best or most expensive beans in a batch that is going to be flavored.

So, with the exception of the occasional batch of spiced coffee, the flavoring comes from natural or artificial flavoring liquids that are added to the coffee beans. Actual ingredients like hazelnuts and chocolate are not added to coffee to produced flavored coffee and this is why flavored coffee usually has a stronger aroma of the “flavor” rather than the distinct taste of it.


6 Comments

  • Thanks so much for this info! I have been wondering about my favorite hazelnut-flavored coffee for a while; while I hate to use artificial creamers and flavorings in my coffee, I wonder if buying it “pre-flavored” is any better… I have not been able to find any of the nutritional information for any specific coffee brand that I buy. Most packages read: “All flavored coffees contain natural and/or artificial flavors,” which is a suspiciously vague description. I want to know what I’m ingesting!

  • I am highly allergic to something in flavored coffee. I was hoping to find out what is added to flavored coffee that could be my problem. It does not matter what flavor. I have tried blueberry, pumpkin spice, carmel, French vanilla etc….. I get a rash and itch all over. If anyone has an idea what is added to flavored coffee that would cause this issue, I would love to know. I am not allergic to unflavored coffee.

  • I get asked every day or so if we carry “flavored” coffees … “We brew premium coffees from local roasters. I can add a flavor to your coffee if you’d like. I have natural syrups and sugar-free options if you’d prefer.” “Oh … no, thanks. I don’t like adding those syrups to my coffee.” … You have no idea how hard I have to bite my tongue from asking, “How the f#^% do you think they flavor flavored coffees?!”

  • To Dianne: I have recently discovered that even the skinny hot chocolate at Starbucks and Barnes and Noble are made with syrup that contain alternative sweeteners that are sourced in corn (I have an intolerance to corn and have stopped drinking hot chocolate except when I make it at ho e with honey). Corn is the first food that was genetically modified and is the foundation for many alternative and artificial sweeteners. It is also in many pre prepared food products and likely is what the flavored coffees are steeped in to make them flavored. Wikipedia is a valuable resource for learning the source of many ingredients to food that you are not familiar with.

  • I would also like to know what they put in ground coffee that is flavored. I started showing signs of MS and actually went to the MAYO Clinic in Jacksonville for testing. Turned out to be the flavored coffee I was drinking every day started the MS symptoms and caused my feet not to work. Crazy huh? Makes you wonder…never found out which ingredients was though.

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