Whenever I write about my love of coffee that admittedly has turned me into a coffee snob, reader feedback is as enthusiastic as it is voluminous. I’m happy to know I’m not alone in my snobbery.
Many of you bring up interesting points—questions, too. Like what to do with brewed coffee that is no longer ideally fresh but too good to throw down the drain. Others want to know how to make your own cappuccino, lattes, and even the “steamer,” made popular by Starbucks—surprisingly containing no coffee at all.
Short of purchasing an espresso machine that uses high-pressure steam to make espresso and has a gizmo that steams the milk as well, there are ways we can improvise to create reasonable facsimiles of our favorite coffee drinks.
Popular coffee drink hacks
Both cappuccinos and lattes are typically made with espresso. You can fake that by making very strong brewed coffee.
A cappuccino is an espresso-based coffee drink that originated in Italy and is traditionally prepared with steamed milk foam. Variations of the drink involve the use of cream instead of milk and flavoring with cinnamon or chocolate powder.
Your very strong coffee mixed about 50/50 with hot milk and then topped with foam makes for a very tasty latte. Experiment as necessary to find your ideal proportion of coffee to milk.
A caffè mocha, also called mochaccino, is a chocolate-flavored variant of a caffè latte. Other commonly used spellings are mochaccino and also mochaccino. Here’s a recipe for Caffè Mocha Mix.
Caffè Mocha Mix
Mix well, store in an airtight container
To use: Stir about 3 teaspoons of mix into a cup of hot freshly brewed strong coffee. Top with whipped cream, if desired.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Originally created by Starbucks, Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL) has developed a cult following. It is so popular, PSL even has its own Twitter account, (which I notice has not been activated for the 2019 season yet.) The downside is that PSL is so stinkin’ expensive. And you have to go there, wait in line, order, then wait some more.
At $5.25 for a venti PSL, that’s quite a price to pay! Now that the weather is turning crisp and fall-ish, I’m gearing up to make my own Pumpkin Spice Latte—cheaper, better, and faster.
Perhaps the most important ingredient in PSL is “pumpkin spice.” Curiously, pumpkin spice has no pumpkin in it at all. It is simply a mix of the spices used to make pumpkin pie. Available as pumpkin pie spice is, in the spice aisle of most supermarkets, it’s not exactly cheap.
To pull off this DIY project, you need two recipes—one for the Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix and the other for Copycat Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a small bow. Mix well. Store in an airtight container for up to one year. Recipe multiplies well.
Copycat Pumpkin Spice Latte
- 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mix, plus more to garnish
- freshly ground black pepper, a pinch
- 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar (sub with Splenda or Stevia )
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup half and half (whole milk, reduced-fat or skim milk if you must)
- 1/4 cup hot espresso OR strong brewed coffee
- sweetened whipped cream for serving
Combine the half and half, pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, pepper and vanilla in a medium microwave-safe bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and vent with a small hole. Microwave until the half and half. 1 is hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is foamy, about 30 seconds.
Pour the espresso or coffee into a large mug and add the hot, foamed mixture. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. Yield: 1 large latte.
A “steamer” is simply steamed milk plus your choice flavored syrup. Heat milk in the microwave, on the stovetop or using a frother, making sure it does not come to a boil. Pour into a mug, stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons flavored syrup, to taste.
DIY flavored syrups
Coffee shop coffees taste so great because of those delicious syrups they add, but you can make them yourself and avoid expensive trips to the coffee shop.
All syrups have a base of 2 cups sugar plus 2 cups water in a saucepan, set over low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar completely dissolves. Add in vanilla extract, caramel, or mashed raspberries to taste, depending on the flavor of syrup you desire. Stir until combined. For the raspberry syrup, you’ll want to strain out the berry chunks.
Tips and Tricks
It’s not easy to toss excellent coffee down the drain simply because it is no longer ideally fresh—especially when it’s made from beans you’ve roasted yourself. Don’t. Pour it into ice cube trays and you’ll never drink watered-down iced coffee again.
Once frozen, pop the cubes into a zip-type bag to be stored in the freezer. Coffee cubes are ideal in place of ice for iced coffee and other summertime blended coffee drinks. Coffee cubes come in very handy when a recipe calls for just a small amount of brewed coffee, too.
A true coffee addict will love cookies or brownies that use coffee instead of water in the recipe.
Cold-brewing your own coffee is both easy and cheap, and it offers a much different taste (less acidic) than hot-brewed coffee. To do it, soak ground coffee beans in water for 12 hours (overnight), and then strain out the grounds. Now you can either pour this coffee over ice and add cream and sweetener, or you can heat it up in the microwave.
Reuse spent coffee grounds
Don’t throw those old coffee grounds away; there are many ways to reuse them. Old grounds are great fertilizer and pest control in the garden. They can also help improve your home, as you can use them to absorb food odors (make a small bundle using a used dryer sheet or coffee filter tied with twine for the refrigerator), or you can make your own candles with the grounds at the bottom giving off that wonderful fragrance of coffee. Coffee grounds make an excellent exfoliant and hair treatment too.
Just a pinch
Don’t suffer through bitter coffee. A pinch of salt added to the grounds prior to brewing counteracts the bitterness and gives the coffee a smoother taste.
You may also enjoy:
Copycat Pumpkin Spice Latte
- 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
- ¼ teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar OK to sub with Splenda or Stevia
- pinch ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup half and half
- ¼ cup hot espresso OR hot, strong brewed coffee
- 1 dollop sweetened whipped cream
- Combine half and half, pumpkin, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, pepper, and vanilla in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and vent with a small hole.
- Microwave until the half and half is hot, 1 to 2 minutes
- Whisk vigorously until the mixture is foamy, about 30 seconds
- Pour the espresso or coffee into a large mug and add the hot foamed mixture.
- Top with shipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.
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