Vanilla flavor can tone down coffee’s natural bitterness, mellow out any overpowering acidity, and highlight coffee’s sweeter side. Plus, vanilla plays nicely with other flavors. So, when you want to get experimental with your morning brew, you can create vanilla-hazelnut, vanilla-caramel, and vanilla crème brûlée beverages.
But before you let your inner barista run wild, you need a strong French vanilla flavor base to build upon. You can create French vanilla coffee using flavored coffee, flavored creamer, or flavored syrups. There are pros and cons to each technique, and because vanilla is one of the world’s most popular flavors, there are plenty of options for each as well.
To help you brew your favorite flavored coffee at home, we’ll explain the three ways you can transform a regular cup of coffee into French vanilla coffee, and we’ll share our favorite options for vanilla flavored beans, creams, and syrups.
1. Brew French Vanilla Coffee Beans
Flavored coffee beans are one of the first things to jump to mind when you hear “French vanilla coffee,” but flavored beans are actually our least favorite way to infuse our morning beverage with flavor.
Flavored beans often have artificial ingredients, like propylene glycol and artificial flavors. Major brands, like Dunkin’ Donuts, state that their coffee is artificially flavored right on their label. And if you’re drinking flavored instant coffee powder, we can almost guarantee that it doesn’t have a drop of real vanilla.
Plus, the flavors are added as an oil, and the oily coating on your beans can mess up your coffee grinder. For this reason, flavored blends are one of the few times we recommend opting for ground coffee instead of whole beans.
But, French vanilla coffee beans are the only way to get that vanilla flavor when you’re drinking black coffee.
So if you need vanilla-flavored coffee beans, we’ve got you covered. There are many small-batch coffee roasters that are making more naturally flavored beans. And because vanilla extract is widely available, vanilla is one of the easiest flavored coffees for roasters to make naturally.
Here are our favorite French vanilla coffee beans to brew at home:
- Volcanica French Vanilla Flavored Coffee: This blend is made with 100% premium arabica coffee beans and real French vanilla flavor. It’s a medium roast coffee to bring out the beans’ natural sweetness.
- Stone Street Coffee Company French Vanilla: This Brooklyn-based coffee company will grind your coffee to any size, so you can use your beans with your French press, drip coffee maker, or espresso machine. Their French vanilla blend is medium-roast 100% arabica beans. It’s also available in decaf.
- Boyer’s Coffee French Vanilla Coffee: This is a light roast, which brings out more of the coffee beans’ fresh, fruity notes. This blend offers a brighter take on French vanilla coffee.
- New England Coffee French Vanilla: This medium roast coffee is available in your choice of coffee grinds. It comes in regular or decaf coffee, and you can also find it in single-serving size K-Cup coffee pods.
- Bones Coffee French Vanilla: Modeled after the famous French process for making ice cream, this coffee is medium-roast and full of rich vanilla flavor. It’s also Rainforest Alliance certified, so you can feel good when you drink it.
2. Use a French Vanilla Coffee Creamer
If you add flavor to your coffee after you brew it, you’ll have more control over how much flavor you add. Plus, you can use your favorite coffee as your base, which means you may be able to use a single-origin coffee or a dark roast coffee, both of which can be difficult to find in flavored beans.
Just like in flavored coffee beans, artificial flavors are something to watch out for in creamers too — Coffee Mate notoriously uses artificial flavors — but natural brands are available to fill your morning cup with more wholesome vanilla flavor.
You can now find vanilla coffee creamers in both animal and plant-based milks. The plant-based options are often lower in cholesterol, saturated fat, and total fat than traditional creamers. But, if you prefer the taste of natural dairy, you can also opt for low-fat creamers. And if you don’t have dietary restrictions, a full-fat creamer will add the best vanilla flavor because fat is an excellent carrier of flavor.
Here are the best coffee creamers for adding French vanilla flavor to your cup.
- Chobani Coffee Creamer, Vanilla: Made with only natural ingredients, Chobani’s creamer is the creamiest option on this list. It features cream and milk as the first two ingredients, and it’s made with natural vanilla extract.
- 365 Coffee Creamer, Vanilla: Whole Foods’ brand of coffee creamer is another natural milk option. This one is made with cream and nonfat milk, combined with natural vanilla flavor.
- Califia Farms French Vanilla Almond Milk Coffee Creamer: For a non-dairy option, Califia Farms uses almond milk, cane sugar, and natural vanilla flavor in their creamer. This option is both vegan and kosher. However, it does contain some of the unpronounceable thickeners that are common in non-dairy creamers, and it has potassium citrate as a preservative.
- Planet Oat French Vanilla Coffee Creamer: This oat milk option is naturally thicker than most plant-based creamers. It’s made with cane sugar and natural vanilla flavor, but again it contains the thickeners and stabilizers that are often in non-dairy creamers.
3. Add a French Vanilla Syrup
Coffee flavor syrups are our favorite way to add flavor to our coffee. This is the technique that coffee shops across the world use to flavor their lattes, cappuccinos, iced coffees, and other gourmet beverages. It’s easy to do — just add a couple squirts of pre-made or homemade vanilla syrup, and stir. It’s also much more common to find all-natural syrups than it is to find all-natural flavored coffee beans or creamers.
The downside of using a French vanilla syrup to flavor your coffee is the sugar content. Coffee syrups aren’t just flavor additives — they’re sweeteners. Most are made with a simple syrup base that’s half sugar and half water. If you don’t like sugar in your coffee or you’re on a low-carbohydrate diet, you probably won’t like adding vanilla syrup.
However, creamers are also high in sugar and carbohydrates. And because adding syrup allows you to add your choice of milk separately from your cream, you may end up using less sugar overall.
Here are our favorite pre-made French vanilla syrups to add to our coffee:
- Monin French Vanilla Syrup: This syrup has a clean label. It’s made from pure cane sugar, water, and vanilla extract. The brand also makes a natural sugar-free vanilla syrup that has stevia and erythritol instead of artificial sweeteners.
- Starbucks Naturally Flavored Vanilla Syrup: If you like Starbucks’ vanilla drinks, you can get the same flavors at home with this syrup. It contains natural sugar and vanilla flavor.
You can also make your own coffee syrups, which gives you complete control over the ingredients you add to your coffee. Here’s our favorite recipe to get you started.
- Homemade French Vanilla Syrup: This recipe contains split vanilla beans and vanilla extract for an extra rich vanilla flavor. It’s simple to make — all you do is stir together hot water, sugar, and the split vanilla bean over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Then, you’ll remove it from the heat, stir in your vanilla extract, let it cool, and remove the vanilla bean before storing it.
Say “Oui” to French Vanilla Coffee
French vanilla is a staple on coffee shop menus because the simple and sweet vanilla flavor adds decadence to your drink without overpowering the taste of your coffee. But you don’t need the help of a barista to get beautiful vanilla flavor. You can make your own French vanilla coffee at home by buying vanilla-flavored coffee beans, creamer, or syrups.
If you drink your coffee black, try one of our favorite French vanilla coffee beans listed above. But, if you like to doctor your drink with cream and sugar, then stick with your favorite coffee beans and add vanilla flavor after you brew with creamers and flavored coffee syrups. Creamers and syrups allow you to add as much or as little vanilla flavor as you want, so you can get your drink just right every time.
For more tips on making the perfect cup of coffee, check out Cup & Bean.