The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Coffee Syrups: The Best, Most Popular, Healthiest, & More
Tea drinkers are classically familiar with the following phrased inquiry, “one lump or two?”
Coffee drinkers, on the other hand, we tend to prefer the pump over the lump!
If you enjoy adding a touch of sweetness and a bit of flavor to your coffee…or a lot of sweetness and flavor depending on how many pumps you use…then chances are you’re fully acquainted with the notion of adding flavored coffee syrup(s) to your brew.
From hot brews to iced coffees, lattes, espresso-based drinks, and more, flavored coffee syrups can transform your ordinary cup of joe, enhancing everything from taste to experience.
A few pumps of vanilla flavored syrup can bring a velvety smoothness to your brew.
The addition of caramel flavored syrup transforms ordinary espresso and milk into a caramel macchiato.
And, would the social meaning of basic even exist without pumpkin spice lattes? (Pumpkin spice flavored coffee syrup, please take a bow!)
Here, we plan to explore it all!
Where’d we get flavored coffee syrups? When were they first popular?
What’s the best coffee syrup brand? Which flavor is most popular?
What’s the perfect pump to ounce ratio?
What about healthy coffee syrups?
Can I make my own flavored syrup?
Spoiler alert - YES! Second spoiler alert - look out for some delicious recipes all throughout this article!!
So, grab a hot mug or iced glass of your favorite brew, and let’s get started…
In the beginning…flavored coffee syrups
It is estimated that nearly 80% of coffee drinkers customize their brew in one way or another.
The particular notion of flavoring coffee can be traced back to the Middle East where people brewed their coffee with spices like cinnamon and cardamom to experience new and exciting brew flavors.
But, the practice of using a condensed, sugary syrup to flavor and sweeten beverages is thought to be traced back to Italy, with Italians having used flavored liqueurs for centuries.
In the 1920’s we started to see flavored syrups for Italian sodas, even cocktails, here in the US.
Then, when flavored coffees started gracing grocery store shelves in the late 1970’s, this sparked the notion of making, and adding, flavored syrups to prepared coffee.
By the mid 1980’s, cafe owners started introducing this interest piquing concept, and within roughly ten to fifteen years, well…I believe the phrase “took off like gangbusters” is wholly appropriate here!
So, let’s quickly go over the details of what comprises a flavored coffee syrup, then we’ll look at the appropriate ratios for including them in your brew.
A typical flavored syrup for coffee consists of sugar and water, with the former dissolving into the water as it heats to create a thick, sweet syrup.
The flavor component of the syrup is typically added near the end of the process, so the flavor itself doesn’t cook out of the syrup as it heats.
Most syrups contain roughly 80 calories per two tablespoons, and when you measure by the pump, generally each pump of syrup contains 20 calories. Though these guides are for traditional syrups, healthier options will vary on caloric content. (We’ll explore healthy options soon.)
So, how much should you use per cup?
As a general rule of thumb for traditional flavored coffee syrups, try the following ratios:
- 4 pumps, or 2 tablespoons, of syrup for 16 ounces of coffee
- 2 pumps, or 1 tablespoon, of syrup for 8 ounces of coffee
*Some guides recommend 8 pumps/4 tablespoons for 16 ounces, and 4 pumps/2 tablespoons for 8 ounces, but these volumes ranked quite high compared to the standard amounts used in most cafes.
The best flavors of syrup for your coffee
Ah, now for the good stuff!
Which flavors of coffee syrup are the best? And, what can these flavors do for your brew?
When you scan the web for favorites in this category, there’s truly a wide variety of answers, where favorites in flavored syrups vastly differ depending on brand. In other words, listing popular flavors isn’t a science. :)
Here we’ll give you a general list of the top flavors before exploring some popular brands.
Topping the charts for the most popular flavor to add to coffee, via syrup, is vanilla.
Vanilla is a very traditional, even classic, flavor. It adds a velvety smooth taste and mouthfeel to a variety of treats (think ice cream), and coffee is no exception.
Vanilla is also considered a tame, even safe, flavor. So, if you’re not looking to branch out all that wildly into the realm of flavored syrups for your cup of joe, then vanilla is the perfect place to start.
Many are familiar with artificial vanilla flavorings, which leave a lot to be desired, but a true vanilla flavored syrup that uses pure vanilla extract made with real vanilla beans or paste is absolutely amazing, adding a rich, sweet, and almost creamy feel and flavor to your coffee.
To make your own vanilla flavored syrup, try the following recipe:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar (can use organic cane sugar for a healthier option)
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Combine water and sugar in a saucepan, cooking over medium heat. Stir continually until the sugar is dissolved.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add in the vanilla extract. Stir, then allow the mixture to cool completely.
- Once cooled, transfer to a glass container.
*This syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Not to be confused with caramel sauce, which serves as more of a topping than a mixable ingredient in coffee, caramel syrup often makes its way to the second or third spot in the “most popular coffee syrup flavors” list.
Many caramel syrups contain a hint of vanilla in them, and some recipes for homemade caramel syrup include it as well.
But truly, what compares to the rich sweetness, depth of flavor, and slight buttery notes of a caramel syrup? (Hint, that butter flavor some detect here comes from the amount of sugar, the temperature, and the length of time the sugar is cooked.)
Some denote hints of molasses in caramel flavored syrups, while other fans of this flavor offering can nearly pinpoint the amount of sugar, water, and vanilla.
This decadent flavor addition can elevate your brew from ordinary to sinfully sweet and delicious in only a pump or two!
This flavored syrup has recently grown in popularity, though it continues on an upward trending scale.
Many prefer this flavor addition in the form of a creamer, but the creamy feel and nutty sweetness in flavor can’t be ignored as a great addition to your cup of joe in syrup form as well.
Some claim the popularity of this flavor can be attributed to the fame of chocolate hazelnut spreads, which probably sparks ideas of combining chocolate and hazelnut flavors in your next mug…right? In case you’re wondering, that combo is delicious!
4- Caramel plus
I’ve you’ve never seen such a flavor, you’re not on an episode of the Twilight Zone, we just have a lot to include here, all involving caramel, and therefore the plus title just seemed fitting.
Caramel flavored coffee syrups, according to recent popularity, seem to have made a great base for other flavor offerings with a similar flare.
Salted caramel, caramel pecan, vanilla caramel, and caramel pumpkin (to name a few) have all joined the syrup scene with grace and gratitude.
And, each brings a slightly unique flavor addition to your brew…
- Salted Caramel brings a rich decadence cut by a bit of savory flavor from the salt
- Caramel Pecan, as you might guess, contains the classic creamy nuttiness from the pecans that tends to be very noticeable (and pleasant), even above the caramel flavoring in some brands
- Vanilla Caramel flavored syrups add just a touch more vanilla than traditional caramel flavorings, allowing you to experience both flavors and mouthfeels
- Caramel Pumpkin (sometimes containing cinnamon) takes sweetness and creamy pumpkin flavors to the next level, whisking your coffee away to an autumn day wrapped in creamy confection
Who doesn’t love a peppermint mocha? This favorite winter selection is made possible with the addition of crisp, clean, sweet, and cool peppermint flavored syrup.
Peppermint syrup allows you to experience the refreshing flavors of mint in a sweet and palatable way, combining oh so well with coffee.
Most enjoy this selection in coffee when chocolate is included in the mix, but you can add this syrup to your brew alone if desired.
6- Pumpkin spice
Since the early 2000’s this flavored syrup has been a necessity in many cafes and homes due to its incredible popularity.
While you can simply add this flavoring to any cup of coffee for a spicy, sweet, and creamy flavor, pumpkin spice lattes, including the addition of steamed milk, potentially whipped cream and dashes of nutmeg or cinnamon, truly take this flavored syrup over the top.
7- Cinnamon dolce
I believe the Middle Eastern practice of brewing coffee with cinnamon for added flavor was right along, because cinnamon pairs perfectly (unless you’re allergic) in a cup of coffee!
So, I must wonder if this notion is what syrup companies had in mind when cinnamon dolce syrup was first invented?
This syrup brings a unique sweetness to your brew with notes of rich, brown sugar and spicy cinnamon.
Instead of the caramel-like flavor that results from the use of cane sugar when making a flavored syrup, the use of brown sugar here sets cinnamon dolce apart with a soft and gentle sweetness. Then, when paired with the slightly sweet spice of the cinnamon, the flavor is out of this world!
8- Toffee nut
Slightly nutty, slightly salty, rich, and sweet, toffee nut flavored syrup adds a unique and wonderful flavor to coffee.
Many enjoy this syrup paired with a splash of heavy cream as the richness of the cream helps to bring out each flavor component, sweet, nutty, and salty, in the syrup.
The most popular flavored syrup brands for your coffee
There are a multitude of brands when it comes to choosing a flavored syrup to use in your coffee.
Here, we’ll list the most popular brands of flavored coffee syrups as well as the fan favorite flavors for each brand.
Torani tops the brand list for customer favorites with their caramel, vanilla, and hazelnut flavors.
This company offers a wide variety of syrups to choose from, with fruity, floral, seasonal, traditional, and unique selections.
This brand was another chart topper for fan favorites when it comes to flavored syrups.
Their premium syrups wow most return customers with their caramel, peppermint, and dark chocolate flavors.
All of their selections are noted for reacting well with milks and creams, common additions to flavored syrups when concocting the perfect latte or creative iced coffee concoction.
The third chart topper, Monin competes with Torani and Amoretti for the coveted number one ranking on most flavored syrup lists.
Their ever-expanding line of premium flavors are often seen in cafes across the nation, with their organic vanilla flavored syrup being a favorite.
This selection, in particular, is noted for its precise, true vanilla flavor.
For a traditional option, DaVinci’s gourmet caramel syrup is a favorite.
But, the company also specializes in sugar-free coffee syrups, where customers are in love with the brand’s caramel, english toffee, and white chocolate selections.
5- Jordan’s skinny syrups
Jordan’s Skinny Syrups specializes in sugar-free syrups.
The brand’s most popular syrup is their caramel pecan skinny syrup, a favorite for use in lattes.
Considered a healthy alternative for sugar-laden syrups, this syrup for flavoring coffee is notably Atkins and Keto friendly.
Like most syrup brands, Jordan’s offers multi-pack purchasing options, their salted caramel, caramel pecan, and vanilla caramel creme trio being a fan favorite.
The healthiest coffee syrups
What if you’d love to savor the rich flavors these syrups can bring to your brew, but you don’t care for the hefty sugar content or caloric load these additions can bring?
Even with health as a top priority, you can still enjoy tasty flavored syrups in your coffee.
As far as brands are concerned -
- Jordan’s Skinny Syrups and DaVinci syrups that we mentioned in the section above both offer sugar-free selections, if sugar content alone is a concern.
- Bee in your bonnet is a flavored syrup brand for coffee that offers selections made only with natural ingredients, using real honey as a sweetening agent.
- Lakanto uses monk fruit to sweeten their products, with their vanilla flavored syrup being a favorite for coffee.
- Monin’s organic syrups are another choice for a healthier alternative to traditional selections.
- Wholesome yum offers a keto friendly vanilla coffee syrup sweetened with monk fruit and allulose that is a popular healthy alternative to traditional syrups.
But, don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to healthy flavorings for your brew!
Pure maple syrup and honey are often used in coffee to not only sweeten (naturally) the brew but also bring unique and rich flavors, similar to using a flavored syrup.
And alas, many prefer to simply make their own flavored syrups for their coffee to ensure they’re only adding the healthiest options available to their clean, pure brew.
**If you haven’t already, check out the vanilla flavored syrup listed in the first section of this article, and using that same recipe, you can simply sub your preferred sugar or sweetener for a healthy upgrade.
Then, instead of using pure vanilla extract, you can use one vanilla bean. To do so, simply cut the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the inside of the pod into your sugar and water mixture. Toss the pod in as well, then heat together following the remainder of the recipe as-is.
(Feel free to strain out the pod afterwards, or keep it in the stored syrup for added flavor.)
**Spoiler alert - In the next section you’ll find a recipe for a blueberry flavored syrup. Feel free to sub coconut sugar in place of the cane sugar for a healthier option.
And, if you’re looking for a category of its own for a phenomenally flavored coffee syrup that includes only natural ingredients, give this one a try:
- 1 cup water
- 1 ½ cups pure maple syrup
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- Add all ingredients to a saucepan. Bring to just below a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. (You can also turn the heat off completely and simply let the cinnamon sticks steep for 20 minutes. I like to simmer to yield a slightly thicker syrup.)
- Cool completely, then strain out the cinnamon sticks.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Uniquely flavored coffee syrups
Lastly in our list of syrups, we’d like to leave you with a few nontraditional syrup ideas or selections.
These syrups, though some may find them to be unique, are not only delicious, but growing in popularity!
Some of you may already prefer these offerings, while others may have never thought of using them in coffee.
My suggestion? Give them each a try, because they’re a great way to take your ordinary cup of joe to an entirely new level!
Both rose and lavender flavored syrups are becoming increasingly popular.
Rose syrups are said to have a sweet aftertaste and even bring out the subtle, otherwise possibly unnoticed, flavor notes in your coffee.
Lavender is another flavor of syrup that many find to be very pleasant in coffee.
This selection is noted as light, floral, even slightly fruity in flavor and is best used in lattes as the milk adds an overall creaminess that marries the coffee and lavender well.
Many brands offer fruit flavored coffee syrups such as blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, even peach, and kiwi fruit themed selections.
The possibilities are seemingly endless if you’d like to explore the options of adding syrups to your coffee with a light, fruity, sweet, even tart tastiness.
Because I’ve personally tried, and have overly loved, the addition of blueberry syrup in my coffee: freshly brewed, iced, lattes, and more, I can vouch for the incredible flavor that this berry brings to your brew.
So, I’ll leave you with one more recipe, here a blueberry flavored syrup to add to your coffee enhancing ventures.
- 2 cups fresh, or defrosted frozen blueberries
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup cane sugar
- Place blueberries and water in a blender and blend until completely liquified.
- Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer over a small saucepan. Press juice through the strainer into the saucepan, and discard remaining pulp.
- Add cane sugar to the blended blueberry/water mixture in the pan, and heat over medium heat, stirring to combine.
- Simmer for approximately 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Be sure sugar is completely dissolved.
- Cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. (will keep up to two weeks in refrigerator)
For some of us a classically black cup of coffee is what our bodies want every time, while for others a touch of sweetness brings us that extra level of joy––and there’s nothing wrong with a little treat every once in a while!
So, while you brew up your favorite Lifeboost coffee roast, why not try and add something a little different this morning?
Drop a Comment