Coffee is officially the world’s most popular drink. Around one billion people drink coffee each day, and for some people, coffee is the only beverage they like. It has been the drink of choice for centuries, with coffee cultivated as far back as the 15th century. Since then, coffee beans have become a major crop, generating massive sums of money for the countries where coffee is grown.
The global coffee market was worth an estimated 102 billion dollars in 2020, and it is forecast to grow by around 4% over the next five years. Whereas in the beginning, coffee was consumed black, with no added milk or flavorings, these days we can consume coffee in a million and one ways. It is now customary to add milk and sugar to sweeten this traditionally bitter beverage. Unfortunately, while milk is good for us, sugar is not.
Why is Coffee Bitter?
There are several reasons why your mug of coffee tastes rather bitter, hence why you feel you need to add a coffee sweetener. Coffee is naturally bitter but it’s more likely that something has gone wrong in the brewing process. A small degree of bitterness comes from the caffeine component in coffee, but when too much or not enough water is used to extract the coffee from the beans, the result is a bitter brew.
How coarse or fine the coffee is ground also affects the favor – there is an optimum pour time, so some practice may be needed.
Dirty coffee brewing equipment or grinders also lead to bitter coffee. Stale coffee beans or ground coffee can also impact the favor.
If you are an expert at brewing flavorful coffee, bitterness is not something to worry about. However, if your skills as a barista leave something to be desired, or you regularly pick up a coffee from one of the big coffee chains, you are probably accustomed to adding sugar to your brew. Unfortunately, adding the best sugar for coffee is bad for many reasons.
The consumption of too much sugar can increase our risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes. For many US adults, sugar accounts for a significant percentage of their daily calorific intake. As well as causing many serious health issues, too much sugar in the diet has been linked to acne, tooth decay, depression, premature aging, and fatigue. The more you can do to eliminate sugar from your diet, the better.
One way to reduce our sugar consumption is to stop adding it to hot drinks like coffee. However, if you have a sweet tooth and coffee is too bitter to drink it without some kind of sweetener, it’s only natural that you’ll add some sugar. One teaspoon of sugar isn’t so bad, but two or three teaspoons or lumps of sugar is bad news, which is why it is wise to look for healthy coffee sweetener alternatives.
Read on for a guide to sugar alternatives for coffee.
Artificial sweeteners have long been marketed as a low-calorie alternative to sugar. They are synthetic, chemical sugar substitutes. While artificial sweeteners are added to diet beverages as a matter of course, you can also buy them to add to beverages like coffee and tea. Artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than sugar, so only a small quantity is needed to sweeten coffee.
The five most commonly used artificial sweeteners, which have all been approved by the FDA, include:
There have been some concerns raised that artificial sweeteners are bad for us, and long-term use can stimulate the appetite, but research studies have been inconclusive on that score and the general opinion is that artificial sweeteners are better than sugar. However, it is important to note that animal studies have found artificial sweeteners increase the risk of brain tumors and some types of cancer.
If you do elect to use artificial sweeteners as a sugar substitute, it’s important to be aware of the risks.
Honey is a natural sweetener. It is made by honey bees from plant nectar and enzymes. The natural sweetness of honey comes from glucose and monosaccharides fructose. It is as naturally sweet as table sugar, and if kept in a sealed jar, will last forever.
Honey is readily available and makes a tasty natural sweetener for coffee and other beverages. However, what puts some people off is the distinctive flavor of honey, which alters the taste of coffee.
One great reason to add honey to coffee is that honey has a number of health-giving properties. Honey contains many natural nutrients and because it contains raw pollen, it has been found to boost the immune system and slow down the body’s response to allergens.
If you are looking for the best sweetener for coffee, it is worth giving honey a try, but begin by adding a very small amount to see if you enjoy the taste of honey in coffee – you might hate it! Experiment with different honey types, as they vary in taste according to the pollen used by the bees. For example, honey made from clover is quite mild whereas manuka honey has a strong taste, which will be obvious even in strong coffee.
Maple syrup is an excellent sugar alternative for coffee. Unlike some sugar substitutes, maple syrup dissolves almost fully in coffee, so you won’t have to slurp any nasty sludge at the bottom of your mug. While maple syrup is just as calorific as sugar, it does have some health advantages.
Unlike sugar, maple syrup is a great source of potassium, zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, and antioxidants. In fact, a study carried out by scientists at the University of Rhode Island found that maple syrup is the only source of eight important antioxidants. Unfortunately, however, you would need to consume an awful lot of maple syrup to see any significant health benefits, by which point you’d probably have gained a bit of weight, but rest assured that adding maple syrup to your coffee instead of white or brown sugar is a tasty and marginally healthier alternative.
Who doesn’t love the sweet, creamy flavor of condensed milk? Adding a small amount of condensed milk to a mug of coffee is one of life’s little treats and you can drink coffee sweetened with condensed milk hot or iced.
Condensed milk is a lovely sugar alternative for coffee if you prefer a creamier drink. Use condensed milk as you would dairy or non-dairy milk and enjoy its creamy, naturally sweet flavor. Because it is naturally sweet, it lends a delicious caramel taste to fresh coffee. It is especially tasty in lattes if that is your preference.
The great thing about condensed milk is that it is available in a can. Buy a few cans and keep them ready for when you feel like a delicious creamy latte with your breakfast porridge or bagel.
Ice cream in coffee is a sweet treat for any day of the week. Brew some coffee and pour it over a scoop of ice cream. Stir the coffee and ice cream until the ice cream has melted. Any flavor will do, but vanilla is a good choice, as is chocolate. If you feel like being fancy, remember to refer to your ice cream and coffee treat as affogato – it’s the correct name.
Experiment with different ice cream flavors. Salted caramel and homemade varieties of ice cream all add a special something to a cup of hot espresso.
Coconut cream is a non-dairy alternative to milk and because it has a natural sweetness, it can also be used as a sugar and milk substitute. This is one to try if you like a coconut flavor, but note that it will alter the taste of your coffee and it doesn’t whiten coffee in the same way that milk does.
To prevent the coconut cream from curdling when you add it to hot coffee, warm it up first. Use a milk frother or gently warm it in the microwave. There is some practice involved if you want to brew the perfect cup of coconut cream coffee, so be prepared for a few failures.
Chocolate is deliciously sweet and a great way to sweeten coffee. There are several ways to add a chocolate sweetness to your coffee. These include:
Cocoa – add raw cocoa powder; it isn’t terribly sweet but it does add something extra to coffee.
Drinking chocolate contains sugar so technically this isn’t a sugar alternative, but it does make a delicious cup of chocolate sweet coffee.
Chocolate chunks or flakes can be added to piping hot coffee and, when stirred well, they melt into the liquid. Experiment with dark, milk, and white chocolate for different taste combinations. For faster results, use grated chocolate rather than chunks.
Other sugar substitutes worth trying include cinnamon, butter, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. While butter and coconut oil might not seem sweet, the oil component does curb sugar cravings.