Can You Add Vanilla Extract to Coffee? (How To Use)

Last Updated on June 27, 2023 by Barry Gray

The market for adding flavors to coffee is huge and for good reason. Adding different syrups will completely change the taste of the coffee. Still, I’m going to look at something more specific over the course of the next few minutes.

You see, my focus will be on vanilla extract. Is it something you can add to coffee, and if that’s the case, is it even worth adding it?

Vanilla extract can easily be added to almost any coffee drink you can imagine. Not only that, but it works exceptionally well with coffee as the flavors combine together beautifully, adding a real depth of flavor to your coffee. However, there are limits, so you must know how to use it correctly, or you will quickly run into problems and destroy your coffee.

So, vanilla extract can be used, but it does come with a word of warning. But what else do you need to know about adding this to your coffee?

Well, stick with me for the next few minutes while I take you through everything you need to know about vanilla extract and coffee.

vanilla extract in coffee

What is Vanilla Extract?

Before I go into the issue of adding it to coffee, here’s a quick explanation as to what vanilla extract is and what you should expect from it.

Vanilla extract is often a dark colored liquid, usually a kind of amber color, that offers a potent vanilla flavor. While it’s mainly used in baking, there is the possibility of adding it to your coffee, and it’s a flavor combination that works well.

Vanilla extract is also sweet so that alone will change the flavor of your coffee. It’s created by mixing ethyl alcohol and water and percolating it through vanilla beans. 

This process can take a couple of days to complete, and at the end of it, you have the vanilla flavor pulled from the beans before some sugar or stabilizer is added to the extract.

Which Coffee Drinks Can You Add Vanilla Extract to?

different coffee drinks with vanilla

In theory, you can add vanilla extract to any coffee drink, but I’m not sure I would include Espresso in this list. However, if that’s something you want to do, then go right ahead.

Will Vanilla Extract Overpower the Taste of Coffee?

I admit that I was worried about the taste of vanilla extract in my coffee simply because I know vanilla extract is potent when it comes to the taste. It never takes a lot of this extract for you to be smacked with the vanilla taste, so carefully adding it to your coffee is essential.

But here’s a real positive thing to think about: the taste of your coffee.

You see, what I’ve discovered is that the intense flavor of vanilla extract compliments the intense flavor of the coffee, so the two of them are unable to really overpower one another.

Of course, that would change if you added a crazy amount of vanilla extract, but who is going to do that?

So, I would certainly not be concerned about you struggling to taste the coffee. That’s just not going to happen unless you do that crazy thing of adding copious amounts of vanilla.

Are There Benefits of Adding Vanilla Extract to Coffee?

espresso for coffee to add vanilla

After getting over the fear that it would overpower the coffee, I thought about the different benefits of adding vanilla extract. I came up with several that I think you should know about.

It Acts as a Low-Cal Sweetener

Vanilla extract is sweet, so it does mean you will require less sugar in your coffee, or for some people, it may mean you do not have to add any sugar.

That does mean it has some health benefits in that respect, and I know I was surprised at how sweet it was all on its own.

Yes, some extracts do have sugar added, but this is the important part. You do not use much of it, as I’m talking about a few drops.

The sugar concentration in just a few drops is enough to make a difference to the taste, but it’s still less than if you added sugar all on its own.

The Flavor

Of course, the extract changes the flavor of the coffee, and the profile is certainly very different from what you would typically have with those plain old coffee beans.

When you add this extract, what you get is something that is quite floral in taste, along with almost a sense of it being quite creamy. That last part surprised me, but it certainly adds a whole new level of flavor to coffee.

It Adds Balance to the Coffee

Another benefit I discovered was that the vanilla extract managed to add a sense of balance to the coffee. Again, this makes sense as it takes sweetness and mixes it with the bitter coffee, so it would clearly balance things out.

But it did it with surprising ease and quicker than I thought would be possible.

How Do You Add Vanilla Extract to Your Coffee?

When starting out with this experiment of adding vanilla extract to my coffee, I did sit and wondered about the best way to add it. After all, I’d never done this before, so I was concerned that I would ruin a perfectly good coffee.

So, I played around with how to add it, and this is what I discovered.

Making a Vanilla Syrup

One of the first things I thought about was potentially creating my own syrup. This made sense as you can easily purchase different syrup flavors, so why not make my own with vanilla at the heart of it?

This worked out well, and it was also very easy to do.

Basically, you just use sugar and water to make the sugar dissolve, and then add the vanilla extract. Of course, you need to melt the sugar to get the syrup consistency, but it doesn’t take long to achieve this.

I did find this to be the easiest method of adding the vanilla to my coffee. I could really measure how much syrup I added, and it generally didn’t take too much to get that vanilla taste.

Adding Drops to Coffee

Another option I tried was adding a few drops of vanilla extract when using a French press. Again, this worked well, but you need to take real care when adding the drops to avoid adding too many.

I need to stress that it must be a very small amount of vanilla extract. It doesn’t take much for it to quickly overpower things, so go easy with the drops and taste it to see if it’s to your preference.

Vanilla Coffee Ideas

espresso for coffee ideas

I mentioned earlier that you can add vanilla to pretty much any type of coffee. However, while that is certainly the case, there are some drinks that I felt worked better than others when it came to adding vanilla.

Vanilla Latte

I feel that mentioning a vanilla latte will not come across as a surprise. After all, how many people have some sort of syrup flavor added to a latte in order to completely change the drink?

In order to make this, you do need to produce the syrup I discussed above. That is the easiest way to add it to the drink without destroying your latte. 

Again, you only require a few drops of the syrup to make a huge difference.

Iced Vanilla Latte

I would also say you could change the regular latte into an iced vanilla latte, and it is also something that works well.

I’m not a huge fan of iced coffee, but I see how the vanilla taste works well in this instance.

Again, you need to use the syrup to your advantage, and just a few drops in your iced latte will be enough to transform the drink.

Vanilla Cappuccino

I also tried out my vanilla syrup in a cappuccino, and it worked very well. Again, it’s no surprise considering a cappuccino is also a drink people will add flavored syrups to, and the vanilla managed to compliment the coffee well.

Vanilla Cold Brew

As I already knew an iced vanilla latte would work, I figured a cold brew would also come out pretty good as well. 

Again, you simply need to make the cold brew in the usual way with your coffee and then add in a few drops of the extract to get that vanilla punch. Then, put it in your refrigerator overnight and then enjoy the taste explosion and experience the following day.

I think I preferred this to the iced version as well. However, I get the appeal of both drinks for different people.

Other Vanilla Coffee Options

The four drinks listed above were my favorites, but the list of options available to you when combining vanilla flavoring with coffee does not end there.

Instead, you can add it to a macchiato or frappuccino and to even play around with adding caramel to the equation alongside the vanilla.

My Recap on Adding Vanilla Extract to Coffee

coffee with vanilla extract added

So, there’s no reason why you cannot add vanilla extract to coffee, but as I’ve covered a number of points, here’s my recap on the main things you should think about.

  • Vanilla flavoring works well with coffee
  • You do not require a lot of extract to make a difference
  • You can add the extract or make a vanilla syrup
  • It acts as a low-cal sweetener
  • It will add more of a floral taste to your coffee
  • You can add it to almost any type of coffee
  • It works well in iced coffee
  • It creates more balance in your coffee and reduces bitterness

Vanilla is just another flavor that can change the taste of coffee, so if you do want to try something else, then using extract is certainly one option I would recommend. 

My Conclusion

If you love adding different flavors to your coffee, then vanilla extract is one flavor I think you need to seriously consider using. It does give a great taste, but remember to go easy on adding the extract.

It’s very simple to go ahead and overpower your coffee taste by adding too much extract. It’s easier to add more if you are of the opinion it’s too weak, so go cautiously, and I’m sure you will love the end result.