Flavored Coffee vs. Added Flavor: Which One Is Better?

For some, the smell of coffee in the morning is the only wake-up call they need, for others, it may be a little too strong to bare. Coffee is one of the most traded commodities in the World, but it’s not for everyone, therefore, some require a little flavor in their brew to make it more enjoyable. To do this, there are two options, you can either use flavored coffee beans or add flavor to your coffee. Though it may seem like flavoring coffee is a modern invention with companies like Starbucks being at the forefront of this genius, flavoring coffee has actually been around for centuries. In the 16th century, people in the Middle East used nuts and spices to flavor their coffee and eventually Venetian traders would bring that custom to Europe.

There are a wide variety of flavors on offer through either flavored beans or adding flavor, but which is the better option? This article will analyze their similarities and differences to see which one is better.

Flavored Coffee

Flavoring coffee beans is no simple feat. The process of flavoring beans begins in the lab where chemists use natural and synthetic ingredients to design the flavors. Some flavors can take up to 80 ingredients to achieve their desired taste. Once a flavor is developed, it must then be diluted and coated on the roasted beans via a spraying method, hence the shiny coating you see on the bean.

Coffee flavors are categorized into different notes by using the “Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel”. This wheel was developed through a collaboration between the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and the World Coffee Research (WCR) and it shows how coffee flavors are split into nine different categories. These categories include; Green/Vegetative, Sour/Fermented. Fruity, Floral, Sweet, Nutty/Cocoa, Spices, Roasted and Other. See the chart below.

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This wheel is a base guideline for flavor in coffee and is widely used among producers. However, the flavors derived from the categories aren’t definitive, there is much room for diversity and development. The flavor wheel can be used as a guide, but the importance lies on what coffee drinkers want.

When choosing a flavored coffee, one must be careful of the quality of the bean being used. Often at times, the reason for adding flavor to the coffee is to mask the quality of the bean. This can result in the flavoring being too strong. Flavor is meant to accent the coffee, not overwhelm it.

Added Flavor

Added flavor refers to changing the taste of a coffee after it has already been brewed, the beans used are not previously altered. Flavors usually come in the form of a syrup or powder that are simply mixed in with the coffee to produce a different taste. There are many different flavored syrups and powders that can be used in homes, stores, and cafes. According to Amazon, the most popular syrup flavors include; Vanilla (with and without sugar), Lavender, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Caramel, and Raspberry, but there are many more flavors and tastes.

Like flavored beans, these syrups are created in a lab. Coffee syrups are a concentrated, viscous substance mainly comprising of sugar or sugar substitute with flavor. Sucrose, the main component of syrup is usually combined with glycerin or sorbitol to increase the solubility of any added ingredients used to achieve the desired flavor. When all ingredients have been added, the syrup can then be prepared by using one or more of four techniques; solution with heat, solution by agitation, addition of sucrose to a liquid medication and/or percolation. The technique of choice depends on the physical and chemical characteristics of the syrup being produced. The final product of the whole process will be a tasty flavored syrup.

Effects on Your Health

Flavored Coffee

When consuming flavored coffee beans, you could be exposing yourself to some harmful chemicals. It is common for coffee beans to contain propylene glycol which is a chemical used in the production of antifreeze and can have severe adverse effects on the body. This chemical is used as a binding agent so that the flavor sticks to the beans. The majority of solvents used in the production of flavored coffee have been known to be dangerous to the respiratory system, going as far as compelling vendors to wear protective equipment when handling the beans. However, these chemicals are only lethal due to prolonged exposure, whereas consuming it via one cup of coffee in the morning will have little effect on the body. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the chemicals are completely harmless.

Added Flavor

Flavored syrup, on the other hand, lacks the intense chemicals used in its production. Finding the ingredients of a flavored syrup is simple, as bottles will display their ingredients on the label. Primarily consisting of sugar, flavored syrups generally won’t have chemically induced effects on your body, but they are unhealthy. An average bottle of flavored syrup contains around a third of your daily intake of sugar per serving, that would be equivalent to eating 31 strawberries. In today's health driven society, individuals are finding it less and less acceptable to consume so much sugar in one serving and therefore stay away from these flavored syrups. Yet, this does not mean that the sugar-free options are any better. A study conducted by the University of Texas found that rather than promoting weight-loss, the use of artificial sweeteners actually promoted weight-gain. Moreover, artificial sweeteners have scientists divided on how safe they are. Some studies have shown these sweeteners are linked to causing brain tumors, bladder cancer and others, but this data is based on exposure to large doses.

What Alternatives Can Be Used?

If the information about what goes into both flavored beans and added flavors has you concerned, you shouldn’t worry, there are natural and healthy ways you can avoid using either. If you want to add a little flavor to your coffee, it’s not necessary to use the artificially produced options. Here are some alternative ways to flavor your coffee:

  • Organic Cane Sugar
    Organic cane sugar adds the perfect amount of sweetness to your coffee. Substituting regular coffee for this aids in the prevention and treatment of cold and flu symptoms and also prostate and breast cancer.

  • Raw Honey
    A little added honey to your coffee can provide a subtle sweetness that doesn’t overwhelm the flavor. Raw honey is natural, un-tampered with, full of antioxidants and very tasty.

  • Cinnamon
    Adding a pinch of cinnamon to your coffee will not only fill it with flavor but also give you a plethora of health benefits. Cinnamon is proven to promote weight-loss, reduce the risk of heart disease, fight infection and lower blood-sugar levels.

  • Vanilla Extract
    If you like adding vanilla flavoring to your coffee, use vanilla extract over an artificial substitute. Doing this can lower cholesterol and your appetite resulting in a potential for weight-loss and a healthier heart. Don’t use too much vanilla extract though, as the pure vanilla flavor may overwhelm the coffee.

  • Almond Milk
    This is a great, dairy-free alternative to using cow milk. Using unsweetened almond milk is healthy and adds a subtle nutty flavor, perfect for complementing any roast.

  • Ginger
    Using ginger may not be the most obvious choice when wanting to your flavor coffee, but it tastes great. Adding a few slices of ginger root or a small amount of ginger powder to your coffee will perfectly flavor your cup without overwhelming the taste of coffee. Research has that shown ginger is a natural digestive aid that can calm the stomach, reduce inflammation and the risk of prostate cancer.

Drinking Organic Coffee

As well as using a natural, organic substitute to artificial flavors and sweeteners, you could also switch to using organic coffee. Artizan Coffee products are a great choice as they are 100% organic as certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) meaning that they are devoid of chemicals and pesticides usually used when growing coffee beans. Their standards are met by less than 1% of the World’s coffee meaning they are a unique brand whose values are matched by none. By consuming their coffee such as the White Rhino - Signature Blend, you are not only saving the environment, but also your health. The pesticide and chemical residue from non-organic coffee has been proven to aid in causing cancer, hormone imbalances and irritation to skin and eyes. With organic coffee, you will be avoiding all of these harmful effects.

In future, when purchasing coffee, think about what goes into the production of what you will be drinking and the effects it can have. Then, think of the alternatives and how healthy they are in comparison, use that as your guideline to coffee consumption. Artizan Coffee places health and the environment first, so you can be confident knowing that their products are good.