A little spice can brighten up an otherwise ordinary cup of coffee – and add a little extra seasonal flavor. Pumpkin spice is a combination of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg that is typically used to season pumpkin pie and other pumpkin desserts (hence the name), but shows up many other kinds of fall dishes. I’ve even used it in chili before! But like many flavors that work well in desserts, pumpkin spice also works well in coffee. You can add a splash of spice to the top of a latte, but to really get some fall flavor, I like to add this combination of spices to my coffee while it is brewing.
The amount of spice should be added to taste. You can sprinkle the spices over the grounds before turning on your coffee pot or you can blend them with your coffee beans in the coffee grinder, if you’re working with whole spices. I use about 1/2 a teaspoon of ground spices when I’m working with already ground coffee, and slightly more when I’m grinding them fresh. Either way, you’ll get a pot of coffee that has a wonderful aroma and a distinctly fall flavor. It is especially good when you’re making coffee for a crowd and want a little something different. I topped my cup with pumpkin spice marshmallows for even more spice – and a very cute look.
This picture may not be the most exciting I’ve ever posted, but the promise of a cup of Starbucks Reserve Guatamala de Flor makes up for it. This coffee wasn’t at the top of my Reserve tasting list because I’m not always a huge fan of central American coffees, but I shouldn’t have put it off. The Guatamala de Flor was one of the smoothest and most interesting coffees from the region that I’ve tasted to date (and certainly one of my favorites, though of course I can’t claim to recall every Guatemalan coffee I’ve tasted). I found it to be much more difficult to describe than some other coffees. Many coffees will come out and hit you over the head with bold, distinct berry and citrus notes. This coffee is a little different, because it is incredibly smooth and, while it is very complex, the flavors in it just seem to blend together seamlessly. It has a lovely herbal quality that reminds me a lot more of rooibos tea than it does of the sort of herbs that grow in your garden, with mild hints of citrus (no tartness, though) and even a hint of aged wood. It has a bright flavor and leaves a lingering, complex flavor in your mouth – much like a good Chardonnay.
This is a medium roast, and like the lighterKenya Tana River Reserve coffee, this makes fantastic iced coffee. That tea-like herbaciousness makes it very refreshing, and the full flavor of the coffee comes through without a hint of bitterness.
I should also add that not just one, but TWO Starbucks stores in my neighborhood now have Clovers and a fantastic selection of Starbucks Reserve coffees, so you can look forward to more Reserve reviews as more coffees are released. I know I’m looking forward to trying them!
Coffee gets us going in the morning, but it also gets The Coffee Car going in the morning. The coffee car is a heavily modified Rover SD1 redesigned by a team of British engineers that is powered by organic waste – specifically, coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are a waste product in thousands of coffee shops and there is plenty of it to go around. Many shops will even pack up leftovers as “grounds for your garden” for people looking for fertilizer or compost. This coffee fueled car is sort of an extension of that. The coffee grounds are dried and turned into pellets, which are used to power a machine built into the car that turns them into fuel.
The record that the car set was a land speed record for a car powered by coffee. You can bet that there weren’t too many competitors, but the fact that they got that car up to more than 70 mph (average speed of more than 65 mph) says a lot for the success of the project. That said, I don’t think we’ll see a wave of coffee powered vehicles in the future – but I am hoping to see this one appear on an episode of Top Gear someday.
The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a hugely popular seasonal offering at Starbucks, and many other coffee shops offer similar drinks during the fall and winter. All of these pumpkin spice drinks tend to be made with a thick pumpkin syrup that has the consistency of caramel sauce. I’ve experimented with coming up with a homemade version of this syrup, but have found that I get the best flavor when I simply add a dash of pumpkin pie spice – a mixture of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg – to my coffee drinks and skip the actual pumpkin. To add back some of the richness lost by omitting the pumpkin syrup, I decided to add chocolate syrup to a drink the other day and created a Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Latte.
The latte starts with a shot or two of espresso that is stirred together with some chocolate syrup and a generous pinch of pumpkin pie spice. You want to use enough spice to get the flavor, but not so much that you’ll have a block of it at the bottom of your cup. I steamed some chocolate milk and poured it on top of the drink (adding chocolate sauce to the hot milk will lose you a few bubbles, but will keep your steam wand clean), then finished the whole thing off with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a sprinkle of spice.
You can also make this with coffee and milk that has been heated in the microwave if you don’t have an espresso machine. Put the hot milk into a small bowl and beat it with a whisk for a minute or two to foam it up for a more latte-like effect. And, as always, feel free to increase the amount of chocolate to taste or to add some sugar to the espresso for a sweeter finished product.