Flavored coffee beans have become quite popular in recent years. Vanilla, hazelnut, and other flavored coffee bean favorites definitely bring a number of customers in the door for many specialty coffee retailers.
And flavored coffee beans account for a meaningful number of online orders for specialty coffee beans.
But for coffee connoisseurs, flavored coffee beans can pose a bit of a dilemma. These strong flavorings added to the coffee beans really over-power and mask the distinctive and subtle flavor nuances of the coffee underneath.
You typically won’t find these flavorings added to the many premium single-origin coffees. Obviously, there’s not much point or value in going to all the painstaking effort to cultivate, process, and carefully roast an exquisite origin such as a Sulawesi, only to obliterate the coffee with an over-powering vanilla, hazelnut or chocolate flavoring additive.
For those that enjoy the wonderful and enticing aroma of fresh-roasted coffee beans, the flavored coffee beans are typically completely overwhelming. When I walk into a coffee store that has flavored coffee beans on display for sale, I’m usually overcome by the powerful perfume-like aroma of vanilla or hazelnut. All I can smell are the flavored coffee beans. And even more confusing and distracting if there are several different coffee bean flavorings competing for the aroma air waves in the store.
This can be a dilemma for the specialty coffee retailer committed to providing a premium gourmet coffee experience for their customers. It’s difficult to manage an environment inside the store that supports the full range of both robust and subtle coffee aromas while at the same time trying to compete with the dominant and over-powering perfume smells of the flavored coffee beans. But, understandably, against their personal preferences, store owners may still feel the pressure to satisfy customer demand and offer the flavored coffee beans.
And the challenge is not only the contentious aroma. The flavored beans will also completely overwhelm the coffee grinders, storage containers and coffee brewing equipment. The flavoring chemicals added to the coffee beans will stick to the blades, grinding wheels, and internal components of the coffee grinder. Once you put flavored coffee beans through a grinder, it’s almost impossible to eliminate or remove the lingering remnants of the flavoring additives. If you’re going to grind flavored coffee beans, you really need to maintain separate grinders and keep things isolated.
And once you put flavored coffee beans in a storage container, you’ll almost never be able to get the favoring smell out of the container. Add another dedicated French vanilla coffee bean container to your stockpile.
And, there’s nothing exactly natural about these coffee bean flavorings. In order for the flavor additives to survive the roasting process, the packaging and shelf-storage time frame that could be months for product distributed through the grocery stores, and ultimately make it through the coffee brewing process with enough flavor punch remaining in the cup, these flavor additives need to be sufficiently strong and potent. Yes, coffee bean flavorings are actually a sophisticated modern chemical engineering accomplishment. Not much natural about it at all.
At the Gourmet Coffee Zone, we advocate and promote the enjoyment of the many exciting, subtle, unique and truly satisfying flavor and taste qualities of the natural coffee beans themselves. The variety of flavor from chocolate, to vanilla, to spice and nuttiness is there in the natural coffees without the need for intrusive chemical additives. It’s just a bit more subtle, but definitely much more interesting and balanced in the great premium coffee origins.
But we also understand if you enjoy the flavored coffees. We do hope we can contribute, even in a small way, to expanding your coffee horizons. If you’re interested in exploring for new flavors and experiencing some different coffee tastes, try an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, or a superbly crafted Mocha-Java blend. You might be pleasantly surprised.
And if you still like the idea of flavored coffees, but you’re leery of the chemical additives, how about a more natural approach. Brew your coffee, and then add the flavorings to the cup. For example, brew a nice French roast blend, and then add a few drops of vanilla extract to the cup. You’ll probably find this a better flavoring than the artificial chemical additives anyway. Orange peel or a twist of lemon peel is nice. Or place a fresh cinnamon stick in the cup. These are all natural but effective flavorings that are a better alternative to the chemicals.