Everybody loves a fancy iced coffee with a green straw, but who wants to spend $5 for a drink each time? This easy Caramel Syrup for Coffee will have you making delicious coffee house style drinks at home in no time!
We all know that in the past year, life has changed in ways both big and small.
The extended time at home with my family feels safe and comforting, but sometimes it’s easy to let the mind wander to those small, previously mundane joys that we no longer partake in.
For me, a drive through caramel coffee or caramel iced coffee was a once-in-awhile special treat. Maybe it was a cheer-me-up on a hard day, or celebrating a big accomplishment. Maybe it was just a distraction from a long list of errands.
Whatever the reason, it’s no longer much a part of my life at the moment. I’m not out doing errands often. My car sits in the garage for long stretches at a time.
The spontaneity of that previous life no longer exists right now. And that’s OK. But like I said, sometimes the mind wanders to the before.
And in some small way, making this caramel syrup for coffee so that I could make myself those fancy coffee drinks at home made me feel normal for just a bit.
Why this is the best caramel syrup for coffee:
While plain coffee with a splash of half and half is my daily morning ritual, when I’m craving a fancy coffee, I generally choose vanilla flavoring. My husband usually chooses hazelnut.
But we can both agree that caramel is our #2 choice, which makes it #1 when we’re at home together making fancy coffee drinks.
Caramel flavored anything is just so lovely to me. Let’s face it – caramel is just sugar syrup, so of course it’s sweet. It has that going for it.
But it’s sugar that has been caramelized, and that lightly toasted sugar flavor is easy to love in cocktails like caramel apple mules and especially in coffee.
Caramel is sweetness with a sophisticated touch, in my opinion.
First, a very important note on safety:
When I was in culinary school, one of the very first lessons the pastry chefs taught was how much respect to give caramel. They instilled in us just how dangerous it was. All due to the science of caramel.
Why is a pot of water + sugar more dangerous than a boiling pot of plain water? Because, water’s boiling point is 212 degrees F.
But when you add sugar to water, the sugar raises the boiling point of the water. Sugar syrup starts to take on a caramel color between 340 and 350 degrees F.
Pastry chefs creating caramel candies can be working with a substance as hot as 410 degrees F. As you can imagine, it’s very dangerous because it is so hot. If it splashes your skin or worse, you’re looking at a very serious injury.
I mean this when I say it: do whatever you have to do to keep kids and pets out of the kitchen when you’re making any type of caramel. I put a baby gate up!
How to make caramel syrup for coffee (some tips):
When it comes to making caramel, I was taught in culinary school to SWIRL the mixture of water and sugar as it cooks, instead of STIR.
The reason behind this is that while rare, a stray granule of uncooked sugar introduced to the caramel while it is cooking could crystallize the entire pot.
So, by swirling the mixture in the pot just using the action of your wrist, you’re not introducing an outside, potentially contaminated instrument, like the spoon.
That being said, I know plenty of people who stir caramel with a clean spoon as it’s heating, and it’s always been fine. So if you’re not comfortable with swirling, go ahead and stir.
Another thing to be mindful of, is that once the mixture starts to take on any sort of brown color, it will continue to darken quite quickly.
So once you see any bit of brown as you’re making this caramel syrup for coffee, watch it very closely from that point on, until it gets to your desired level of caramelization.
Use this DIY caramel syrup for iced coffee OR hot coffee!
This syrup can be stirred into hot coffee for a flavored treat, and it’s also great in cold drinks like caramel iced coffee (either “on the rocks” or blended in a blender like a frappe).
It’s also an easy way to add a special flavoring to an affogato coffee (which is just hot coffee poured over ice cream, and is one of life’s true pleasures).
A note on the difference between caramel syrup and caramel sauce:
So, Starbucks and every other fancy coffee place have two different things going on – syrups and sauces.
The syrups are the generally clear liquids that you see in large bottles with pumps on top. These pumps of flavor are the backbone of all of the flavored drinks.
If you watch closely, these pumps of flavor are usually the first thing the barista will add to your cup after you order.
But then, once the drink is complete, for the final garnish (usually drizzled on top of whipped cream), they are using something different, which is a sauce.
In the photo of the drink with the straw near the top of this post, caramel syrup was used to make the flavored iced coffee, and caramel sauce was used as the garnish on top.
I have a homemade caramel sauce included in my apple and pecan tart recipe if you’d like to try your hand at that.
But I use a store bought sauce (usually Torani brand) for things like my caramel mug cake, and I like that just as well.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons corn syrup
- 3/4 cup water, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup water in small pot. Cook over medium-low heat 3 to 5 minutes, swirling frequently, until sugar is dissolved.
- Increase heat to medium and continue cooking 8 to 12 minutes longer, swirling frequently, until mixture is light amber color.
- Remove from heat. Carefully add vanilla, salt and remaining 1/2 cup water. Stir with very clean spoon until smooth.
- Allow mixture to cool and then transfer to jar or other airtight container. Refrigerate up to one month.
- To serve, I recommend 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) to 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) per 8 ounces of brewed coffee, depending on your desired sweetness level.
Adapted from The Kitchn.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 29Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 10mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 0g
Per 1 tablespoon syrup.