15 Unexpected Things to Add to Your Coffee Today

1. Butter

This one’s a delight — just a tablespoon of butter in a mug of hot coffee, whipped up with a frother or small immersion blender. If that sounds gross, consider that butter is really just cream, sort of the “all-and-all” variant of half-and-half. Those who swear by it know that all you need for breakfast is some fat, some protein, and a good bit of caffeine, and this fits the bill perfectly. Note: If you sip buttered coffee, you’ll need to skip the buttered pancakes.

2. Coconut Oil

The same dietary theory applies to coconut oil, but in this case, the fat and calories come from vegan sources. And coconut oil is reputed to do just about everything good that a food can do, from curbing appetite to moisturizing elbows. Throw in a little butter, and you’ve got something called “Bulletproof Coffee” — a life-giving compound to a few dedicated paleo dieters.

3. Coconut Milk

Soy milk always seemed to be a substitute for real milk, a pale comparison for those intolerant of dairy (for whatever reason). But other “milks” — from almond to cashew to hemp — add their own flavor to the mix. Perhaps the best choice is coconut milk, which is naturally creamy and sweet, and adds a nice tropical note to any cup of joe.

4. Turmeric 

The current all-natural-cure-all craze is turmeric, the yellow spice that gives curry powder its color. But this flavor-of-the-month is (1) actually flavorful, and (2) has some science to back up claims of anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancer benefits. Oh, (3) it’s great in coffee. Make what’s known as “Golden Milk” from any of the hundreds of recipes online — that way you can choose the base and sweeteners you prefer — and use it as you would creamer or latte milk. Hardcore turmeric lovers add it powdered to coffee with butter or coconut oil.

5. Cardamon

Cardamom is turmeric’s curry cousin — the evocative, aromatic one that gets all the attention at family reunions. It’s a coffee staple in parts of the Middle East, and making it couldn’t be simpler: Just add a heaping teaspoon of whole cardamom seeds (not the fibrous pods, but the small bits inside them) to whole beans, and then make a fine grind of it all. If you’re ever in Florida, Cardamom is the star of our cafe’s Iced Turkish Latte.

6. Cinnamon

Further down the Spice Route, there’s cinnamon, reputed to have health benefits much like turmeric, though that is not the reason it was aggressively sprinkled atop cappuccinos throughout the 90s. (We’re still not sure why that happened, honestly.) But the best reason to sprinkle a bit of cinnamon into coffee is that it offers the illusion of sweetness without the calories. Many people who don’t like the bitter edge of coffee can pass over the sugar and cream with just a dash or two. Oh, and it’s delicious.

7. Sweetened Condensed Milk

This is the other side of the cinnamon equation. Rather than skipping the cream and sugar, why not add some concentrated milk saturated with sugar? Sure, it’s a caloric indulgence, but it’s also culturally appropriate: It’s the heart of Vietnamese coffee (hot or iced), and the secret (and syrupy) ingredient in Spain’s Café Bombón espresso shot.

8. Caramel

It’s the ubiquitous drizzle on overly sweetened coffee-flavored milk beverages, but that’s no reason to shun caramel in coffee. That slightly burnt-sugar taste is the perfect complement to dark roasts and steamed milk. And, if you’ve got some cans of sweetened condensed milk left over from your Vietnamese coffee experiments, it’s easy to make your own caramel sauce. You just need to simmer the entire can for a few hours.

9. Marshmallow 

A marshmallow is mostly just caramel made fluffy. Homemade ones are the best, but even the generic campfire fodder will add some nice flavor to a steaming mug. If you’re hitting the espresso machine, you can make a Caffé Gommosa — a single shot of espresso poured directly over a single marshmallow. Try not to think about the fact the phrase is Italian for “rubbery coffee,” and just enjoy.

10. Vanilla Sugar

The next time you scrape the inside of a vanilla bean for some fancy French dessert, save the bean itself, and add it to a sealed jar of white sugar for a few days. That will infuse the whole jar with that rich aroma, making it easy to add sweet vanilla flavor to a cup of coffee. For a low-calorie version, add a few drops of vanilla extract, which you may have around for making less fancy desserts.

11. Salt

Just a dash of salt — a few grains of some nice sea salt — is enough to cut the coffee bitterness to those that are sensitive to it. Since the alternative method is to load the cup up with cream and sugar, we’re sure your cardiologist will give you a pass on the few extra micrograms of sodium.

12. Lemon

We’re not talking just a lemon peel on an espresso saucer. The Mazagran is Algerian drink of coffee, ice, sugar, and lemon juice. It’s an acquired taste (and often acquired with rum), but can be found in a few specialty coffee shops that are into things like that. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, you probably will. The reverse is probably also true.

13. Ice Cream

If sugar and cream are the perfect coffee pairings, then ice cream is the all-in-one solution. In hot or cold executions, it can be classier than a coffee-flavored milkshake if you note that it’s a legit dessert in Europe, where the Italians version is affogato, and the (more complicated) German concoction is called eiskaffee.

14. Chocolate 

Chocolate is good with everything, and especially good with coffee. There are a thousand ways to make that happen: as a syrup or powder, or as a chocolate bar dropped into a steaming cappuccino — an Argentine delicacy known as the submarino, for obvious reasons.

15. Booze

Booze is good with everything, and especially good with coffee. Unlike chocolate, you should wait until at least noon to go Irish, or Jamaican, or Russian, Mexican, or Keoke, or any of those other mixes, unless you are at a ski lodge. Then it’s all fair game.

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