ashley englishsmall measures

small measures with ashley: naturally flavored coffee

by Ashley

Historically speaking, my morning cuppa has been of the Camellia sinensis variety. From Earl Grey to lapsang souchong to genmaicha and all points in between, I’ve long been a tea drinker. Since becoming a mom four months ago, however, the tide has been turning. Each morning, I find myself moving further and further toward the dark side — the dark, strong, French-press-pot-of-coffee side, that is.

I still love tea, without question. Ours is a union that will stand the test of time. I’m just finding that coffee gives me the robust good-morning salute I need to tackle my new role, while continuing to fulfill all of my others. Most mornings, your basic, hearty, super-dark-roast brew is all I need in terms of flavor. Occasionally, though, I find myself yearning for just a little bit more. That’s when I turn to my spice jars.

Today’s Small Measures suggests using whole, natural spices to imbue your coffee with flavor. While it’s certainly possible to purchase cinnamon or pumpkin-pie flavored coffees, many such blends are created via the use of artificial-flavor compounds coupled with propylene glycol. If you’d prefer to go a more natural route, consider tossing whole spices into your coffee grinder when adding the beans. — Ashley

CLICK HERE for the rest of the post and Ashley’s flavor ideas after the jump!

The following whole-spice measurements will work with an eight-cup pot of coffee brewed via either a French press, Moka pot or electric drip:

  • cardamom seeds (taken from 4 pods)
  • cloves, whole (2)
  • cinnamon (1/2 of a 2″ stick or 1 tsp. ground)
  • star anise, whole (1/2 of a star)
  • vanilla bean seeds (1/4 of the bean)
  • grated nutmeg (1 tsp.)

Naturally flavored coffees also make wonderful gifts. Simply grind enough beans for an eight-cup pot of coffee and add the spice measurements listed above. Store the ground blend in a metal canister, glass jar or brown coffee bag (if you can find one; a number of baking and food-craft suppliers carry them, including Bake It Pretty, based right here in Asheville). While best if used right away, let the recipient know that the blend will stay fresh for up to one week at room temperature or three to four weeks in the freezer.

Much like when I’m purchasing chocolate, I seek out fair-trade coffee roasters for my cup ‘a joe. My area has a wealth of such companies; I’m particularly fond of Dynamite Roasting Company. Their “Mountain Morning Blend” roast is a loud-and-proud sort of coffee — dark and chocolaty with hints of cherry. Oh, and all those coffee grinds I’m now accumulating? GREAT for deterring slugs in the garden once dried. I get a flavorful morning jolt while opportunistic slugs get the kibosh. This new morning routine of mine is offering perks all around.

What about you? Got any tried-and-true ways of jazzing up your morning mug? I’d love to hear!

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  • Thank you so much for this post! I too love flavoured coffee but don’t buy it because a) it’s typically not organic/shade grown/fair trade and b) it’s fake! I love these options!

  • Thanks for this! If only I had read it 5 minutes earlier.. I just pressed my morning (spice free) cuppa joe. Would have loved to add cinnamon or nutmeg to it! Next time…

  • I recently co-hosted a Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera costume party and made a batch of Mexican Hot Chocolate. I achieved the perfect blend of cinnamon and spice by plopping Penzey’s cinnamon sticks right into the carton of almond milk a couple days ahead of the party. The taste was so rich yet subtle without the filmy cinnamon oil that often separates out when I use straight ground cinnamon. So now, that’s how I take my morning Moka pot dark roast…lots of hot cinnamon milk. Oh yeah.

  • Thank you for sharing this idea! I am going to have to give the cinnamon flavoring a try next week. I have been wondering what goes into my flavored coffee in that “do I really want to know?” kind of way.

  • Yay! My husband and I usually add a little freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg to our french press every morning. I’m thrilled to see that we’re in good company. ♥

  • i like my coffee with skim milk that has been heated up and then i stir in mesquite honey and last but not least in goes my trader joe’s fair trade du jour. i get a few extra calories by adding the honey, but it’s worth it.

  • Spice noob here.

    How do you get hazelnut and/or vanilla coffee? Does the bean give off enough flavour if it is not ground? Or do you grind it somehow? Can you add vanilla extract to the water that you brew?

  • I didn’t know that coffee grounds deterred slugs. That’s going to be a handy factoid for this garden season. Thanks!

  • My boyfriend roasts his own coffee and this is a great way to bring out some of the natural flavors within the coffee – its so interesting to look at the coffee by region and pair different flavors with it! a *little orange zest in a bright Latin American coffee sounds AMAZING.

  • This is a great idea! A few winters back Trader Joe’s had a great winter coffee blend that had bits of spices ground into it. They never brought it back and I’ve been craving a cup. Your measurements will be a great place for me to start experimenting!

  • I’m from the south, so chicory coffee is a great way to go! However, it can be a little thick for my taste. What I like to do is take a nice french roast, add a little cocoa powder, a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of cinnamon. It’s a delicious way to start the morning!

  • As soon as I saw this title I got super excited! I looooooove flavored coffees but hate all the artificial stuff they do to them to make them taste so good. I can’t wait to try this!

  • I dream about the cardamom iced coffee at Hampton Chutney Co. My step mom makes this amazing chai spice and I steeped it in my iced coffee once, it was rather delicious!

  • I’m a regular tea drinker myself, but when I indulge in coffee, I often go one of my favorite flavored blends, Seville Orange. After reading your post, I might just try to doctor up my own homemade brew with some orange peel, maybe throwing in some vanilla too. Thanks for the inspiration, Ashley!

  • I usually drink my coffee black, but when I’m feeling any sinus issues coming on I love to throw some freshly cracked black pepper into the aeropress with the grounds. Cayenne works too. When I’m just a little bored of the usual, I’ll throw in peppercorns, clove and a little nutmeg. So good!

  • didn’t quite understand the slug deterring part…how should one place the coffee grind? is it the smell the slugs don’t like?
    maybe you could write a post on natural pest control one day…

  • I put Cinnamon or nutmeg in my coffee every morning but I never thought of using anise or cloves. I’m going to have to try that. Possibly right now! Thanks for the great suggestions.

  • w @ city jar exchange-that’s not a flavor pairing i’ve tried in my coffee, but, according to commenter HD, it works quite well!

    connie-hazelnut-flavored coffee can only be achieved via flavorings, not from the bean itself. there are several companies that make all -natural flavorings. natural food stores carry such products in their “baking” sections. as for vanilla, i just scrape the seeds from a fresh bean into the coffee, either before i grind it, or once ground, i add it to the french press.

    melody-the measurements listed for spices are to accompany an 8-cup pot of coffee.

    gabrielle-slugs don’t like the way the grinds feel on their bodies. it “hurts” them, apparently, so they stay away. allow the spent grounds to dry out and then scatter them in your garden beds. as for a post on natural pest repellents, check out this “small measures” post i did awhile back: http://www.designspongeonline.com/2010/06/small-measures-with-ashley-natural-insect-repellents.html

  • I *always* enjoy your posts the most, Ashley. You are always speaking about such yummy things. Mmmm, I knew about the Arab habit of drinking coffee with Cardamom, but this just opens up whole new vistas of flavour!


  • What a fabulous idea! I can’t wait to try this and bring a jar to my work, where I can make all of my coworkers jealous with my homemade, naturally-flavored french press coffee :)

  • Ashley, your d*s posts are always a Friday highlight for me, but this one is especially perfect. It’s so fitting for this cold and rainy spell we’ve had over the weekend in the southeast. Thank you!

  • Mmmmm. Cardamom coffee reminds me of my time spent in the middle east… syria in particular… where walking through the souk to do some weekend shopping meant being force-fed cup after cup of the stuff. I became addicted. Unfortunately, the stock I brought home was pretty much undrinkable due to the coffee seller being WAY to eager to please when adding the cardamom pods. You’ve inspired me to go make some of my own:-)

  • Hi Ashley — two things: 1) great post! I had this same thought around coffee + spices a few days ago so your timing is impeccable — thanks for doing the trial & error on the measurements for me! 2) I thoroughly enjoy your writing style. The majority of posts drive me crazy as writers struggle to find their voice and inevitably end up saying things like “I for one” and “I will definitely try this myself”. Your style, on the contrary, is clean and refreshing and your voice shines through. Keep up the great work!

  • Ashley,

    I really enjoyed your article. Who knew!! Your design and lay out is simply beautiful.

    I do love my coffee which it is always nice hear what others are doing.


  • In my coffee, I use a scoop of the hot, hot hot chocolate (recipe from your hot chocolate post a few months ago). Adds great flavor and no cream or milk needed.

  • I want to try this recipe but not sure how much coffee to use. How much do you need for an 8-cup pot? I’m obviously not a coffee drinker, but I’m making it for a gift!

  • Some dried rose petals and cardamon pods popped in provide a lovely soft finish. Must try your other suggestions – thanks.

  • That is a thing of beauty Ashley. I am an avid coffee drinker (it’s kind of an obsession sadly,) and I love the natural flavor of coffee and natural additions to that flavor (like nutmeg) oh so good. Thanks for sharing. I love your work.

  • @Connie re: vanilla.
    Try sourcing vanilla powder. We get ours from an organic vanilla farm in Costa Rica. The powder is the vanilla beans, pods and all ground down, with some of the excess fiber removed. You can add a few teaspoons to the coffee grounds before brewing. Beautiful subtle vanilla flavoring.

  • I use a stovetop expresso pot for my coffee. I grind the beans, put them into the metal filter, and grind nutmeg directly over the grounds with a microplane. Cinnamon and cardamom work well too.

  • I’ve been switching back and forth between a combo of cinnamon and vanilla, and ground lavender (of all things!!!) I became hooked on lavender when I found it in a recipe for fleur de sel caramels, and tried adding it to coffee…found it unusual and delightful!!

  • I find the spice blend all too familiar till I read that you were once a tea regular.:-) I have never ventured more than a tsp of cinnamon powder for my cuppa. Thanks for the wonderful idea!

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