Have you noticed how many recipes, copycat Starbucks lattes, coffee syrups, and delectable photos there are concerning this one delicious beverage? I am now here to add my two bits as well.
You see, in my experience, there are some things in these recipes that often seem lacking–deep flavor, practicality, beauty. I am here to present to you all three.
Caramel Coffee Syrup
Makes a little over a pint.
- 2 c. Water
- 2 c. Sugar
- 1-2 t. Caramel Flavoring (I use Watkins brand)
- 1/2 t. Maple Flavoring (Watkins)
Boil sugar and water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool around 5 minutes. Add flavorings and transfer to container. I like to use a glass Starbucks bottle–they pour pretty well. This recipe can also be used for hazelnut or hazelnut caramel–just play around with it!
So, about flavor. I tried making caramel coffee syrup using a simple syrup recipe (sugar+water) and adding caramel syrup (like the ice cream topping) to that. I don’t know what your experiences are, but I’ve always felt as though this was intensely lacking in the one thing it was supposed to be–caramel flavor. It tends to just make your coffee sweet. While that may be delicious, it doesn’t replace a coffee shop drink by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve also tried adding straight caramel syrup. Again, you have to add a lot to get enough flavor, and by that time, it’s overly sweet (and it gets a little expensive, even to make your own). I’ve never really had much luck with Torani coffee syrup either–just a little expensive to use it daily and a little too sweet.
Enter, my heroes. They saved the latte day.
Using flavorings allow you to be able to adjust according to your taste. If you want more caramel, add more! I also like to add some maple flavoring to enhance the caramel. You cannot taste it if you don’t know it’s there, and it really rounds out the caramel flavor. These cost around $3 a bottle, which sounds expensive. But, when compared to buying a bottle of coffee syrup, this is much, much cheaper per cup.
And forward, on to practicality and beauty! I will now present two recipes: one using normal kitchen things, the other using espresso machine essentials. The first method is not as strong coffee flavored, and is great for using with French press coffee. The second will require some basic espresso-making tools (and not quite as much practicality).
First, begin with 1/3 a cup or so of strong coffee, made in your preferred method.
The next step is to heat and blend some milk. I warmed up about 3/4 c. milk in my magic bullet jar. You don’t want to boil the milk, but you do want it to be pretty hot. Blend your milk for about 30 seconds. If you like, you can add 1/2 T. Coconut oil to your milk while you’re blending it.
Add 1-2 T. coffee syrup. If you have your milk in a large blender, pour it into a glass measuring cup or a small pitcher. Tap your milk on the countertop to pop any large bubbles and swirl it around a couple times. Repeat the tap/swirl. Carefully pour your milk in, leaving a little foam/milk in the bottom of your pitcher.
Now, for the beauty part! Sprinkle cinnamon (or cocoa if you’re not a cinnamon fan) over the top of the coffee. Take a spoon and carefully distribute the cinnamon over the top layer of foam–you’re not trying to mix it in to the entire cup.Take another spoon (or clean off the one with cinnamon) and scrape off some foam from the milk in your pitcher. Carefully, just touch the surface of the cinnamon with your spoon of foam to make a little dollop. Make a large circle of dots and a smaller circle in the middle.Take a skewer, thermometer point, or something similar (round, but not too fat or too skinny–a toothpick is too small usually) and slice through the dots in a spiral pattern, creating a series of little hearts!
Alternatively, you can just put a giant dollop of cool-whip on and pour on some caramel–tada!
Now for version two. You will need these items:
- Pump-powered espresso machine (you can use a steam powered machine, but you will get little, if any, crema)
- Coffee Beans and Burr Grinder (or pre-ground espresso grind coffee)
- Metal Tamper (preferably not a plastic one that came with your machine)
- Metal Steaming Pitcher (found in some stores as a cream pitcher)
- Coffee Syrup (the good stuff)
- Coffee Mug
To begin, turn on your machine and let it warm up. While it’s warming up, empty the grounds from the filter basket if you haven’t already. Rinse it out, dry it, and set it aside. Put the filter holder/handle back on and brew plain water into your cup–either half full or if your machine is set to brew a certain amount, until it shuts off. Microwave the water for around a minute (grind your coffee beans while it’s heating) There are a couple reasons for doing this. Firstly, it will clean off any grounds that are left on the machine from the last time. And secondly, it will warm your cup up so that when you brew your espresso, it is not cooled off by a cold cup.
Pour your coffee grounds into the filter basket.
Tamp your coffee grounds by pressing your tamper down really hard, and then twisting and pick up. Tap the sides with your tamper to knock down any grounds that got pushed up the sides and repeat the tamping process. I typically tamp mine a total of three times. The goal is to get an even, hard finish. Place in your machine. Empty the hot water out of your mug and add 1-2 T. of coffee syrup–if you don’t know how much to add, err on the side of not enough, since you can add more later.
Brew that espresso.
In my experience, espresso machines come with either a ‘single’ filter basket or a ‘double’. I always use the double. The reason being that this is not a $400 machine, my grinder is not a $200 grinder and my beans are not fresh. If all of those factors were in place, a single shot would be sufficient. However, with mediocre equipment, I feel like I get the best results with the ‘double’. I usually fill my mug to around 1/3 or just beneath 1/2 full (would be less without the syrup).
Set the espresso aside and turn on the steam function to preheat. While it is heating, pour your milk into your pitcher. Always store your pitcher in the fridge or freezer when you’re not using it so that when you pour in your milk, it stays cold as long as possible. One of my machines took forever to heat up and so I would pour the milk and then set it in the freezer to keep cold while I was waiting.
Hold the pitcher in such a way that the metal is flush against your palm so that you can feel the temperature (it works best for me to do this with my left hand). Immerse the tip of the wand and turn the steam on. Immediately after the steam is flowing, bring the tip to the surface of the milk so that it is sucking air in. If you put it too high, you’ll blow bubbles and milk everywhere. If it’s too low, you won’t be getting any air. It should sound something like paper being ripped. Once you can feel the milk becoming warm against your palm, put the tip back down in the milk and play with the angle until the milk is rolling around in the pitcher. If there are loud screeching sounds, your tip is likely too close to the bottom of the cup. When the pitcher becomes too hot to touch, shut the machine off. Wait to remove the pitcher until the steam stops, then set it aside. With a wet cloth, wipe off the steam wand and run a little steam through it to rinse out any milk.
Pour in your steamed milk! I purposely poured so that the milk all went under the crema, leaving the top golden. If you like, you can sprinkle cinnamon on top–I love how it tastes with the caramel. Then following the directions above, I added dots and sliced through them to make hearts.