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Be Your Own Barista! Healthy Spins on Coffee Shop Drinks

By Carolyn A. Hodges, RD | August 26, 2020 | EatingWell

Cue up the mellow jazz and grab your favorite coffee beans. It's easier than you think to brew healthy, coffee shop favorites at home.

Whether you're working more from home these days or just looking to save a few bucks a week, it's really easy to make delicious hot and cold coffee shop drinks from the comforts of your kitchen. Being your own barista allows you to enjoy healthier versions of your favorites while reaping the many benefits of coffee because you choose exactly what goes into your mug. You can also adjust the sweetness to your taste, experiment with milk varieties or non-dairy alternatives, switch up the flavor of your grounds and make it as strong as you like.

These simple tips will help you brew up healthy versions of your favorite coffee shop drinks without fancy equipment. It's easier than you think, and you likely have everything you need on hand.

1. Replace flavored syrups with ingredients in your pantry

A pump or two of vanilla or caramel-flavored syrup is often the hallmark of a traditional sweet coffee shop beverage. While no doubt delicious, these drinks often pack in as much sugar as a regular soft drink and can lead to a late morning energy crash instead of the perk-me-up you were hoping for.

To make a flavorful and perfectly sweet coffee drink minus the sugar bomb, play around with spices, extracts and different amounts of sweeteners. Add a few shakes of ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to the grounds before brewing for DIY flavored coffee. You can also add a splash of vanilla, almond or maple extract to the coffee after brewing (with milk if using) for added warmth and depth of flavor. And if you're in the mood for a sweet cup, try adding granulated or brown sugar, maple syrup or honey a half-teaspoon at a time until it's just right.

2. Add creaminess with milk or a non-dairy option

Coffee or espresso topped with steamed milk or a frothy foam are characteristic of coffee shop classics. Whether your preference is for regular dairy or a cow's milk alternative, there's no need to skip the milk for the sake of a healthier cup. In fact, milk adds protein while both dairy and most dairy substitutes contain calcium and vitamin D. Plus milk (and many alternatives) add richness that can cut some of the bitterness of coffee or espresso for that perfectly balanced cup of joe.

Steam your own milk at home by simply bringing it to a simmer in a small saucepan or heat it in the microwave before adding to brewed coffee or espresso. For that authentic coffee shop foam topper, look for an at-home milk frother. When it comes to the type of milk to use, don't be afraid of higher fat varieties or even whole milk. In addition to adding great flavor, research suggests full fat dairy can actually lower obesity risk. If you stick with non-dairy options, why not try switching things up. Unsweetened full-fat canned coconut milk is a delicious alternative to coffee creamer, and oat milk froths up like regular milk and makes for a delicious latte.

3. Try it iced, blended or whipped

No coffee shop menu is complete without a variety of iced and blended frozen options. Like some of their hot counterparts, many of these drinks can be heavy on the sugar and double as milkshakes. Making them at home allows you to sweeten to taste and experiment with your favorite ratio of coffee or espresso to milk.

A benefit of making iced coffee at home is the option to prep a batch of cold brew to keep in the fridge and enjoy throughout the week. Experiment with the ratio of grounds to water to determine your preferred strength. Then pour over ice and sweeten if you like. You might also want to keeping some instant coffee on hand to blend up a frozen mocha, make a high-protein smoothie with a caffeine kick, or jump on the whipped coffee bandwagon.

4. Switch things up with a coffee alternative

While we love coffee in all its forms, it isn't the only drink worth making at home. A number of popular coffee-free beverages regularly featured at your neighborhood coffeehouse are just as easy to whip up. Like with coffee drinks, making them yourself will save you money and gives you control over ingredients like sugar.

Try swapping your coffee grounds for tea. Keep things simple by steeping your favorite variety in hot water or brew a pitcher of fruity iced tea when you're craving a refresher. You can also try your hand at Chai Tea or a Matcha Green Tea Latte – coffee shop staples − which call for steamed milk and a little honey and are so easy to make at home. And when you're in the mood for something totally different – or want to skip the caffeine − consider making a Turmeric Latte, a comforting golden-hued steamed milk made with anti-inflammatory turmeric and ginger.

This article was written by Carolyn A. Hodges, RD from EatingWell and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

Carolyn A. Hodges, RD
EatingWell