Cold brew coffee is one of life’s greatest joys if you’re a coffee drinker. Steeping your favorite coffee grounds in cold water for 12-18 hours brings out the natural flavors of the coffee in a unique way and has different (and more) health benefits than standard coffee.
Cold-brew is gaining popularity among coffee enthusiasts for its taste, smoothness, and ease of brewing. However, some aspects of cold brew are utterly different from regular-brewed coffee. One of these is the method of sweetening the cold coffee drink.
For those of us who don’t love the unsweetened coffee experience, sweetening cold brew is a necessary piece of information.
Ways to Sweeten Cold Brew Coffee
There’s one major drawback to cold brew coffee concentrate; granulated sugar can’t dissolve in it because it’s never heated up like hot coffee. Sugar dissolves in heat and will just sink to the bottom of a cold brew coffee cup.
Lumpy raw sugar at the bottom of an unsweetened cup of cold brew is a tragedy no one deserves. But don’t worry! There are other ways to sweeten your cold brew without losing any of the flavor profile (and sometimes adding even more flavor).
Here are some of our favorite ways to sweeten cold brew coffee without artificial sweeteners:
The most common way to get sugar into cold brew coffee drinks is by dissolving the sugar before putting it in.
Since the heat of the coffee won’t do it, you’ll have to buy (or make) some simple syrup or liquid sugar. If you don’t want any change in flavor, this is the best method to add a sweet taste to your cold brew!
If you’re a cocktail drinker, you might already have some on hand. However, simple syrup is surprisingly easy to make if you don’t! All you need is regular sugar and water.
Follow these instructions to make homemade simple coffee syrup for your cold brew:
Pour equal parts of water and normal table sugar into a stovetop pan.
Cook the mixture on medium heat until the sugar completely dissolves.
Let the syrup completely cool down.
Store your simple syrup in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
The exact amount of simple syrup you want to make is entirely up to you, as long as the water and sugar are equal. Simple syrup stays good in a mason jar in the fridge for a few weeks, so you can make a large batch and sweeten your coffees and cocktails daily!
Sweetened Condensed Milk and Whipping Cream
If you’re trying to make your cup of coffee as similar to a professional barista’s as possible, you’re going to need to try making a froth of sweetened condensed milk with heavy whipping cream.
These two extremely sweet dairy products are the secret ingredients to those smooth as silk creamy coffee shop cold brews and don’t require any extra sweetener!
To make the froth, simply combine sweetened condensed milk and whipping cream (you can use equal parts or more condensed milk for extra sweetness) in a bowl. Froth it with an electric mixer, a whisk, or a blender until it’s as light as you desire.
If the froth seems like it’s too much work for you, just pick either ingredient and add it to your cold brew! Sweetened condensed milk is a staple of Vietnamese coffee, and whipping cream will add a delightful thickness and sweetness.
While both of the previous methods are effective and make a deliciously sweet cup of coffee, neither of them is very healthy for cold brew coffee drinkers.
If you are trying to cut back on actual sugar or are dairy-free, this non-dairy milk has just enough natural sweetness to add to your cold brew!
Several store-bought cold brews come with sweetened or unsweetened almond milk because it lasts longer in the fridge and adds a slightly nutty flavor.
However, if you brew your own, you can choose from sweetened and unsweetened almond milk in various flavors (we love unsweetened vanilla in the cold brew).
Simple syrup is liquid sugar, which is why it dissolves quickly in cold-brewed coffee. Honey is very similar and will also easily dissolve.
One of the most effective and healthy natural sweeteners, honey is often turned to by those watching their sugar intake and blood sugar levels. It’s easy to find in stores and will satisfy your sweet tooth!
If you use honey in your cold brew coffee, you might have to microwave it just a bit before putting it in. While honey contains natural sugars and is similar to simple syrup, it’s a bit thicker and can take longer to dissolve.
We recommend pairing honey with some plain oat milk for a lovely cup of cold brew coffee!
Coconut Water or Milk
Another healthier alternative to sugar, unsweetened coconut water, is surprisingly delicious in cold brew coffee.
There are many different brands of coconut water to choose from, although we recommend that you don’t get carbonated coconut water. You can adjust the level of sweetness to your liking and add more or less to give your coffee a light and airy feel.
Of course, if you don’t want to water down your concentrated coffee at all, coconut milk (or coconut cream, as it is sometimes known) is equally sweet and much creamier.
Canned coconut milk is exceptionally rich and creamy, while boxed coconut milk is lighter and more similar to coconut water. With boxed milk, you can choose flavors and levels of sweetness!
Cinnamon is a natural sweetener and adds flavor to your daily coffee. It’s a spice that can be combined with several other spices (think cloves, nutmeg, and ginger) to make a chai latte type of drink.
If you’re using almond milk, cinnamon combines very well to sweeten and spice up your drink.
Cocoa powder is not naturally sweet, so it shouldn’t work to sweeten cold brew coffee. However, the chocolate flavor combines nicely with the coffee and does give the drink a sweeter taste.
It’s best used with a bit of extra sweetener of another kind, but if you don’t like it particularly sweet, use only unsweetened cocoa powder!
We also recommend cocoa powder with a touch of cayenne pepper. Add 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper if you want to liven up your coffee with a kick of flavor. This combination is surprisingly delicious and has several extra health benefits.
Maple syrup is another liquid natural sweetener. However, unlike honey, you don’t need to do anything to maple syrup to make it dissolve. It’s delicious and one of the sweetest items on this list!
Maple syrup pairs well with oat milk and almond milk because of the warm, nutty flavors. With oat milk, it tastes like you’re drinking maple and brown sugar oatmeal from your childhood.
One of nature’s sweetest nectars, this sugar alternative has grown in popularity in recent years. It’s a healthier option than maple syrup and is often compared to honey for its natural, healthy sweetness.
Agave nectar dissolves readily in liquid, so combining it with cold brew coffee shouldn’t be an issue. The flavor is lighter than honey and comparable with regular simple syrup.
Molasses might seem like an odd choice for coffee—after all, isn’t it just a thicker, slower maple syrup? Actually, no. Molasses is made from brown sugar and will give your coffee a thick, Christmassy taste. It’s the perfect pairing for gingerbread.
Like honey, you might need to heat a couple of teaspoons of molasses with water for a few seconds before you put it in your coffee. We also recommend adding cloves and cinnamon to this mixture—the intense flavor is like Christmas in a cup!
If you want a very sweet cup of coffee, grab some chocolate syrup from the fridge and mix it in.
This popular sweetener is how baristas make mochas in many coffee shops and is a great way to sweeten your coffee without diluting it with actual hot chocolate. You can still have a strong coffee flavor with chocolate syrup.
Is chocolate not your thing? Don’t be boxed in by the standard syrup flavors in the store. Grab some caramel, butterscotch, or even white chocolate syrup and experiment with different flavors!
If you want some sweetened cold brew concentrate with a bit of a kick, consider adding Kahlua or Baileys Irish Cream to your coffee.
Believe it or not, these liqueurs work just as well in the cold brew as they do in a hot cup of coffee! A cream liqueur will add sweetness and creaminess and is the perfect way to end a night.
Finally, the sweetest and most delicious way to sweeten cold brew coffee is to throw a scoop of ice cream in it! While ice cream isn’t the healthiest option, it adds cream and sugar and perfectly flavors your brew.
You can choose any flavor you like, but imagine coffee-flavored ice cream in a cup of cold brew. Vanilla and chocolate are also classic choices and would make any cup of coffee that much sweeter!
Whether you choose coconut water or ice cream, we hope that these creative sweetener options have spared you from drinking coffee with undissolved sugar!
Remember, as long as your cold brew coffee is brewed correctly, you’ll be able to boost its level of flavor however you want and enjoy it for up to two weeks.