Does your day start with coffee or one of the many coffee shop drinks? Ours does, at home and especially when traveling. It’s hard to get going without our morning COFFEE. We think of it as having to fill our gas tanks before taking off for a trip.
On some days, one of us gets up, makes the coffee, and delivers it to the other in bed, and then we have days where we both hop out of bed, start the coffee and tackle the day and yet some mornings we grab the keys and it’s off to the local coffee shop we go. All these ways are great, they get us going. When we’re traveling and on the go from morning till evening, coffee is what keeps us going. Even during our Adventures at Disney we needed coffee breaks to keep us going.
But what is it about those coffee shop drinks? Why do they seem so appealing and tasty? I always assumed it was the fancy machines that the coffee shops used.
I worked a few years at a local coffee shop and those machines do make coffee faster and the taste is consistent. Look at how many drinks a coffee shop makes in an hour, Speed and consistency is important.
What I learned is that you can duplicate all those coffee shop drinks at home without all the fancy and pricey equipment.
Coffee Shop Coffee at Home
Most of the specialty drinks in a coffee shop start with espresso, but we’re going to start with making a good cup of coffee. Even regular coffee seems to taste better at the coffee shop. If you master a good strong cup of coffee at home, you can use it in place of espresso in specialty coffee shop drinks.
- Start with a clean coffee maker. Coffee beans are oily and if you are not washing your coffee maker regularly, the oils from the beans are going to stay and affect your next cup of coffee. You will end up with almost a burnt taste because of the left-behind oil residue.
- If you want your best cup of coffee, start with whole beans. Look for a local coffee bean roaster, this should get you the freshest beans. Try calling your local independent coffee shops, many roast their own beans and sell them to the public. If you can’t find locally roasted beans, you can still get a good-quality coffee at home by purchasing whole bean coffee at the store and grinding the coffee beans yourself.
Why whole coffee beans? Compared to pre-ground coffee on the store shelves, whole coffee beans ground for each cup or pot is fresher and more flavorful. For this, you will need to purchase a grinder. You don’t need anything fancy.
- Measure your coffee (with a kitchen or postal scale) It is important to accurately measure your coffee. “You need to know how much coffee you’re going to use in order to make the perfect cup.” For every 8 ounce cup of coffee you are brewing, you need 15 grams or 0.53 ounces of whole coffee beans weighed before grinding.
- Grind only what you need. By only grinding what you are going to brew, this will keep the remaining beans as fresh as possible. Once opened, your coffee beans should be stored in a canister that shields out sunlight and is airtight. To keep your beans fresh always store them in a dark colored-ceramic or glass container—this keeps the coffee fresh.
It’s also important to avoid freezing your coffee. When you freeze coffee, there’s a chance that it will absorb moisture, which can affect its taste.
- When it comes to brewing coffee—water matters. Always use filtered water to make your coffee and espresso drinks. We keep a Brita pitcher of filtered water in the refrigerator for our coffee creations.
Not all coffee brewing methods are the same. How you brew your coffee will also impact your flavor. You need to find a method that matches your taste preference. Drip coffee makers create a mild, even coffee, French Press is dark and bold, and cold brew creates a smooth, less acid cup of coffee.
Coffee Shop Cold Brew at Home
Cold-brew is a great option for coffee that has become very popular and is easy to make. This method guarantees smooth coffee every time. The grounds are never heated so there is very little acid or bitterness and the coffee has a smoother taste.
Cold-brew is really as simple as mixing ground coffee with cool water and steeping the mixture in the fridge overnight. The next day you strain the mixture, leaving you with a concentrate (it’s strong, so you’ll want to dilute it). It can be served right away or stored for up to two weeks.
To make coffee shop quality cold brew at home you need to remember these 4 things.
First, always make a big batch, it takes 18 hours to brew and keeps for 2 weeks. Making a big batch once every two weeks takes less time than hopping in the car and going to the coffee shop each morning.
Cold brew requires a larger grind, closer to the size of raw sugar. This keeps the brew from getting bitter overnight.
Cold brew requires 1 ounce of coffee beans for every 8 ounces of water. This is a higher ratio than hot brew.
Once brewed the cold brew is strained gently through a strainer and cheesecloth. This is a process that can not be rushed. Any pressing or squeezing of the coffee grinds while straining will result in extracting the bitter flavors from the grounds. The straining process is best done in small batches.
Cold brew coffee does not require any special equipment, just a large glass container for making the coffee (a large Mason jar is perfect) and a strainer and cheesecloth. This coffee brewing method has a lot going for it. Cold Brewing is a slow process and gives the coffee a great coffee flavor, all the caffeine and without the bitter taste.
- Coarsely grind 1 ounce of your favorite roasted coffee beans for every 8 ounces of water. If making 8 cups of coffee use 8 ounces of beans. (Weigh the beans before grinding)
- Add your coarsely ground coffee to the jar. (8 ounces of ground coffee for 64 ounces of water)
- Then add your cold filtered water to the mason jar. (always use filtered water, this is one trick that all coffee shops use. It produces a better-tasting coffee) (64 ounces of water for 8 ounces of coffee grounds)
- Stir the coffee to make sure all the grounds are saturated. The
grounds will float to the top use care to make sure they are completely wet.
- Cover and place in the refrigerator for 18 hours to steep.
- After 18 hours stir the coffee to loosen the grounds and then strain the coffee concentrate through your cheesecloth or coffee filters placed in a strainer. (Use caution if using the coffee filters, they may tear) You may want to do this in small batches. Rinse your jar and refill it with the strained coffee. Return your brew back to the refrigerator.
- Your coffee is now ready to serve either hot or cold.
If serving cold, just pour over ice, diluting with additional cold water as needed, half coffee and half additional filtered water is custom, add your simple syrup, flavored syrups, and cream if desired. Perfect for a summertime treat.
If you are serving your cold brew coffee hot, yes, I said cold brew served hot! Just microwave your cup of coffee, diluting again as needed, add your cream and sugar and enjoy. You will be surprised at how smooth and pleasant tasting the cold brew is.
We make a large batch on the weekends and then it’s ready for the entire week. This saves on the budget by not having to visit our local coffee shop every day. Your cold brew concentrate will last two weeks in the refrigerator.
For added flavor, try using some of the many flavored coffee beans that are available. These flavored coffees get their taste when the roasters mix the hot, freshly roasted coffee beans with flavors. The coffee beans are mixed and stirred for 15 minutes as the beans absorb the unique flavors. The beans are then immediately bagged and sealed. Bourbon flavored Coffee has become one of our favorites.
Making Simple Syrup at Home
If you are making iced coffee drinks or ice tea at home, you will notice that when you add sugar it does not dissolve. The solution to that is to use simple syrup. Easy to make and keeps for weeks.
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
½ tsp vanilla (optional)
- Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Remove from heat and let the syrup cool completely.
- Stir in the vanilla. (optional)
This will keep several weeks.
We keep ours in a small bottle with a squirt top.
How to Make Speciality Coffee Drinks at Home
We love our cold brew and our hot coffee. Each has its place. Yet there are times when you want something fancier. Those are usually the mornings we grab the keys and head to the local coffee shop. But what about those times when you are longing for a latte, mocha or macchiato and can’t get to your local coffee shop?
This is how we make some of our favorite specialty drinks at home without an espresso machine, milk frother or specialty equipment.
It all starts with the beans. There is a difference between coffee beans and espresso beans. Technically espresso is coffee and can be made from the same bean. It all has to do with the method of preparation starting with the bean roasting.
Coffee beans are beans that have been roasted and are ready for brewing. You can choose between light, medium or dark roast.
Coffee beans designated for espresso are generally roasted for a longer amount of time than beans meant for drip coffee. Espresso Beans are dark brown in color and very oily. It is at this dark stage where the beans are the least acidic. The espresso beans are the richest and oiliest beans.
When making espresso, the beans will be ground finer than coffee beans ground for a drip maker.
We no longer have an espresso machine, but we still like to have both beans on hand. There are times we use the espresso beans instead of the coffee beans. When making those specialty drinks you have a couple of options.
- If you have a home espresso machine, use your favorite espresso beans, finely ground and use shots of espresso in the drinks.
- An Aeropress machine is a good option, not very costly compared to an espresso machine. You can use your ground espresso in the Aeropress machine and make a strong shot of espresso coffee.
- Use your Keurig to make your espresso shots. I just discovered that Keurig has espresso k-cups.
- Use strong brewed coffee to replace the espresso.
Any of these options will give you a good tasting drink.
Almost all specialty drinks are made up of good tasting coffee/espresso, flavored syrup, and milk. Milk is steamed or frothed for hot drinks and cold for iced drinks.
Frothing Milk at Home
There are several frothing pots on the market that you can buy, I’m sure they all work great. My daughter gave us one as a gift that I love! I’ll put a link to it at the end. But what if you don’t want to buy a frother? You still can have hot frothed milk without extra equipment.
- Use a small mason jar, pour the amount of milk in the jar that will be needed, making sure the jar is no more than half full.
- Shake the jar vigorously for 1 minute. Make sure your milk and jar are cold. The cold milk and jar are key to frothing milk.
- Once your milk is nice and foamy, microwave it for 30 seconds to set the foam and heat the milk.
Recipes for Coffee Shop Drinks at Home
Now that we know all the how-to’s and tips when it comes to making coffee shop drinks at home. Here are some of our favorite recipes that we personally use.
1/2 cup of strong coffee
1 cup milk (frothed)
1 to 2 tablespoon vanilla syrup
- Froth the milk
- Put the vanilla in your mug
- Top vanilla with the milk and foam
- Pour the espresso or coffee through the foam and milk
- Top with whipped cream and drizzle with caramel (if desired)
We love chocolate and this is one of our favorite drinks. It was also one of the most ordered drink when I worked at the coffee shop. Chocolate was the main focus of our Fondue Date Night, and we have enjoyed chocolate fondue many nights since then.
½ cup strong coffee
1 cup milk
1 – 2 Tablespoons high-quality chocolate syrup or hot chocolate mix
Chocolate syrup or shaved chocolate
- Add ½ cup hot milk and chocolate syrup or hot chocolate mix into a cup, mix well.
- Stir in the prepared strong coffee
- Place the remaining ½ cup milk into a glass mason jar.
- Cover tightly, shake the jar of milk vigorously for up to 60 seconds until frothy.
- Remove the lid and microwave for 30 seconds (do not put anything metal in the microwave)
- Pour the frothy milk on top of the drink.
- Top with whipped cream and drizzle with chocolate syrup or shaved chocolate. (if desired)
A latte is a coffee drink that is made of espresso/strong coffee, steamed milk and milk foam.
- Pour 1/4-1/3 cup (depending on your liking) espresso/strong coffee into your mug
- Froth first and then heat the milk, pour it into the espresso/strong coffee, holding back the foam.
- Spoon only a small amount of foam onto the top of your drink.
- If you want to sweeten your latte add the sugar or syrup to the espresso before adding your milk.
By starting with this basic latte recipe, you can make many of the coffee shop specialty drinks just by adding your preferred syrups. Start with a Tablespoon of syrup for each 6-ounce drink and adjust to your liking.
- Vanilla latte ~ add 1 Tablespoon vanilla syrup
- Snicker Doodle ~ add 1 Tablespoon each vanilla syrup and cinnamon syrup, sprinkle cinnamon on top of your drink.
- Salted Carmel Latte ~ add 1 Tablespoon Salted caramel syrup, sprinkle sea salt on top of your drink
- Mocha Latte ~ add 2 Tablespoons of chocolate sauce (mix well with hot espresso)
- White Chocolate Mocha ~ add 2 Tablespoons white chocolate mocha sauce (mix well with hot espresso
- Irish Cream Coffee ~ add 1-ounce Irish cream liqueur or Irish cream nondairy creamer
- Pumpkin Spice ~ add 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin spice syrup and sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg on top
- Salted Caramel Mocha ~ 2 Tablespoons salted caramel sauce, 1 Tablespoon Chocolate Sauce and a pinch of sea salt
With so many syrups available the possibility are endless. Get creative and see what you can come up with. You might just create your own new favorite.
All of the above recipes can be served hot or iced for that perfect summertime treat.
Our favorite Coffee Bar Equipment
If you want to get serious about your coffee experience at home, this is a list of our favorite coffee bar items. Coffee Shop Drinks can be just as good if not better at home, any of these extras are worth the investment.
Gary & Michelle
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