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Coffee Syrup - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

I like flavored coffee.

I guess that counts as a sheepish confession. Though, I prefer to call it an antelopish or gazellish confession. You know how it goes: Wild animals and coffee.

I decided to say that up front so that all the hard-core coffee drinkers could immediately hit the back button and go back to drinking whatever passes for the Real Coffee Deal nowadays.

I also can’t drink coffee straight black. I need milk or cream or 1/2 and 1/2 in it. Or at least some whiskey, especially early in the morning. I suspect this is somewhat less of a heinous offense in the eyes of coffee drinkers (and alcoholics) around the world. But I’m throwing that out there too, just in case.

I also sometimes nuke day old coffee in the microwave, drink fricking Folger’s instant coffee on occasion, and I have been known to tentatively eat some of the grounds in the mistaken belief that it will make me grow a few inches.

I meant in height, you maniacs.

For the three people still with me after those confessions, congratulations!

OK. So I like the flavored coffee and coffee drinks, but I really hate to drop an Abe Lincoln every day at Stirbuks. So, we’ve been buying the standard Torani Syrup to flavor up our morning drinks. The only thing is that they’re sort of expensive, especially considering they’re mostly sugar water. We usually get the 750ml large sizes, and those usually run between $7 and $10 at specialty stores. On Amazon, I discovered you can pick up a three pack of syrup for $16.30 which comes out to about $5.40 a bottle.

Not too bad, but I was thinking – how hard could it be to just make your own coffee syrup at home?

Coffee Syrup - Cheap Eats at Bloglander

The answer is that if you know how to boil water, you know how to make your own coffee syrup. The most difficult part is the flavoring. If you’re just looking to get simple sugar syrup, hey, add equal parts sugar and water together, reduce it by half, and there you go. I have to admit, I never really got into making simple syrup – but it’s a really handy thing to have around, especially when you need to flavor cold beverages. And yes, it’s just boiling sugar and water together.

I looked up a bunch of different recipes for coffee syrups, and a lot of them have you scraping vanilla bean pods, harvesting your own hazelnuts, etc. Ugh-a-bugga. The method I settled for flavoring the syrup just uses vanilla extract.

Yes, I realize that the price of these extracts if you buy them JUST to make your coffee syrup sort of defeats the purpose of making your own syrup. However, I think most people have Vanilla extract in the cupboard – and if you’re using a teaspoon, I think it’s worth it. Based on a 2 Fl. Oz. bottle of vanilla extract that costs $3.50, I think 1 tsp should run you about 30 to 40 cents.

I’m sure that using an authentic vanilla bean pod will make it taste a ton better – let me know if you try that out. My vanilla bean plant is tired after doing all those pushups this morning.

Vanilla Sugar Syrup

1 cup sugar — $0.35
1 tsp vanilla extract — $0.35
1 cup water

Total: $0.70

Get a pot. Dump the sugar, water and extract into it. Stir it up with a wooden spoon to kind of dissolve at least some of the sugar.

Flame up that pot with a medium flame. I wouldn’t walk away, because it won’t take that long. I’d also stir the pot once in awhile. Don’t watch the pot too hard, or it wont boil. Haha.

When it starts to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the mo-fo. Everyone says to reduce it by half, but my eyes aren’t very accurate. So it’ll be about 4-7 minutes I think. It won’t really thicken up THAT much, which is correct because the syrup that you buy is pretty watery as well.

Let it cool, and that’s pretty much it. Congratulations.

This whole shebang seems to result in about 1 1/3 cups of syrup, or, if my shoddy math (and googling) is correct – about 1/3 Liter. So, 750ml (3/4 Liter) of Torani costs at the cheapest, say $5. That same amount of homemade coffee syrup would be, uh, about $1.60? Please don’t check my math work, I’m that embarrassed.

In any case, $5 versus $1.60 seems worth a shot. I suspect that the price will change dramatically if you use real vanilla bean pods, or if you try other extracts like almond or hazelnut. Who knows. The syrup I made seemed to be adequate, although it definitely wasn’t as fragrant. I might try doubling the vanilla extract next time or something.

The consistency of the syrup is about right. It doesn’t seem like it’d be sticky, but I did spill a considerable quanity on the stove top. The resulting mess was both sticky and tasty, though not in that exact order…

One thing I noticed is that while I don’t require any of the preservatives that Torani puts in their syrup, they also sometimes add stuff like citric acid. I didn’t notice it at all until I tasted the store-bought and homemade coffee syrup side by side. The citric acid definitely adds a little something, a bit of a zing. I haven’t thought about experimenting with stand-ins for the citric acid yet – maybe some lemon?

I know some folks also recommended using brown sugar in some of the recipes – I think I might give that one a go later. Others try to use homemade caramel. But I think I’ll leave that one to other people. Boiling sugar and water for 5 minutes is plenty dangerous enough for me right now.

12 Responses to “Homemade Coffee Syrup”

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  1. Rob Says:

    Is boiling the extract really the way to go here? I’d guess you’re killing a bunch of the flavor and aroma with the boiling. Can’t you just add the extract to the reduced syrup?

    Is there too much alcohol taste if you don’t boil? If that’s the problem maybe add the extract at the end for a minute or two?

  2. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    @rob – I actually thought of that too. Most of the recipes I found said to put in the flavoring before boiling, but maybe if it’s just extract there’s no need. Probably they’re talking about if you use real vanilla bean pods. Will probably give it another try just adding it at the end. The one I made, the taste is a bit too mild… so that sounds very plausible.

  3. Cyn Says:

    Agreed. I’ve made many candies and they all require adding vanilla (or other) flavored extracts at the end, AFTER cooking AND cooling slightly.

    I still buy the syrups because I need the sugarless variety, and I always want Raspberry or coconut or some such.

  4. Allie Says:

    Great post. Just as a head’s up, in case you ever feel like playing with vanilla beans without killing your bank account: sells excellent quality vanilla beans really, really cheaply. Don’t buy their vanilla extract, because it sucks. But their beans, saffron and other extracts are awesome and not expensive.

  5. Meg Says:

    I’d just use imitation vanilla for this. It doesn’t cook out. and its way cheaper. At my local dollar store you can buy an 8oz bottle of the imitation vanilla for about $2.

  6. Kathi Says:

    I don’t care for sweet coffee, so I wouldn’t go to the effort (which admittedly is not much) for a flavored simple syrup just for coffee. But I do like vanilla in my coffee sometimes and I use Watkins vanilla and pour a teaspoon in the coffee grounds before I start the hot water running over them. Watkins is stabilized to be able to take some heat without completely losing its flavor. If you add any other vanilla to a boiling or simmering pot – it will lose most of its flavor, in part due to the loss of the alcohol, and in part because vanilla is a delicate thing. Anyway – the teaspoon of Watkins for a pot of coffee is easy and tastes good.

  7. jai Says:

    cinomin sticks finely grated or use them to str you coffee you can buy a bag cheap you need only to grate a verry small amount on top of coffee 0.1 gms i think the smell even improves coffee great in tea to plus 1 bag will last years if kept dry

  8. William Says:

    I’ve added vanilla extract to the coffee grounds for years. I’m a tightwad, so I use imitation vanilla that I get at my favorite low-priced grocery chain store (they aren’t paying me to advertise so I won’t mention the store name).

    What’s so tough about making flavored syrup? I just add a teaspoon of vanilla and/or other flavoring to a cup-and-a-half of clear light corn syrup (I splurge on the name brand here) and mix well. It’s empty calories anyway and not supposed to be on my diet, and no less healthy than refined white sugar.

    Water it down if you must.

  9. Phyllis Says:

    Being from south Texas, I make a trip to Progresso, Mexico, while visiting friends in Falfurras TX. While there I pick up at least 3 or 4 bottles of Mexican vanilla…750litters for as little as 2.00 a bottle…Makes very good flavoring for coffee syrup. Add at the end of the process…To make sugar free…To 2 cups of boiling water add 3 pkts. of truvia, boil 1 minute add vanilla…Great sugar free syrup…Keep refridgerate as it has not preservatives…I am a 10 cup a day coffee drinker…Also if you like cream add fat free cream. Good it is heaven…

  10. Ichthyo_sapien Says:

    Citric acid can be found in vitamin c tablets.Citric acid is used to flavor essentially all vitamin C supplements.

    Anytime I have a call for citric acid I dissolve a tablet or two of vitamin C in it and it works well.It also has the benefit of extra vitamin C in whatever Im making.I always have a bottle of 1,000 mg vitamin C tablets on hand so its a cheap solution for me.

  11. Kathleen Dunne Says:

    Your sense of humor was great! Thanks for the tips, I’m gonna go rock it in the kitchen right now, as my store bought hazelnut syrup just ran out.True, on the citric acid tip, when I can peaches, I add vitamin C tabs to the jar, works great!! PEACE

  12. Sarah Says:

    A note on vanilla extract. You can make your own by putting a few vanilla beans (that have been used for other things, if you want) in a bottle of rum (or similar alcohol) letting it sit for a couple of months, and adding more rum whenever it gets a little low, or more beans if the flavor starts getting weak.



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