14 Unconventional Ingredients You Should Add To Your Morning Coffee

Coffee is so versatile. Some like it hot, and some like it cold. You may enjoy it black with just a sweetener, tan and full of foam (or just enough to cover your brew), with or without a hint of flavored syrup, or with just a dash of milk or cream. And for those who love a refreshing pick-me-up, nitro and cold brews are great options served plain, iced, or blended into a frappe. Okay, you get coffee's widely-adaptable perks. But no matter how you prepare it, you may be missing out on some unconventional ingredients that can make your cup more buzz-worthy or ideal for an occasional treat.

Do you eat grapefruit? Are you a fan of fresh mint? Just a bit of citrus or mint can certainly liven up your brew. And, have you thought about adding a raw egg in place of your cream? 

Whether you are up for some adventurous drinking or simply want more subtle options to spruce up your daily coffee habit, look no further. We have some delicious options for you, and luckily, many of these ingredients are common kitchen staples that you likely have on hand.

1. Egg

If you like your coffee creamy and dreamy, consider Vietnamese or Swedish egg coffee. Swedish egg coffee was developed in the 1800s by Lutheran Swedish-Americans who enjoyed a crushed whole egg in their "church basement coffee." Both the shell and raw egg were added to the grounds prior to brewing. Vietnamese egg coffee originated in the 1940s when milk was scarce in Hanoi so they used an egg yolk in their brew in its place. Today, Vietnamese coffee is a decadent mixture of egg yolk, sugar, and condensed milk in a bold, robust coffee.

Like milk or cream, egg yolks contain moisture and fat. In their raw or runny state (i.e., cooked over-easy or sunny side up), the yolk provides a creamy mouthfeel similar to milk, room-temperature butter, or cream. It is also said to produce a cleaner cup of coffee. Why? Because it has emulsifying properties that keep the grounds from collecting in your cup. The egg white, on the other hand, may serve to reduce any bitterness of the coffee.

The health benefit of adding the yolk to your cuppa is added protein as well as plenty of vitamins and minerals. An egg yolk is a rich source of heart-healthy vitamins, including biotin, folate, and vitamins B2 and B12. It is also a good source of immune-supportive, eye-protective vitamin A. The egg white is also a source of protein.

2. Salt

Salt may be a great way to liven and round out the flavors in your foods as well as reduce any bitterness. But, did you know, it is also a great way to lift the flavor potential and smooth out your coffee? Salt has been used for decades in Turkish, Taiwanese, and Scandinavian cultures to brighten their brews and bring out the sweet flavor notes of both dark and light beans. But just like seasoning your food, you shouldn't go overboard.

If you are concerned about sodium, opt for a lower-sodium salt such as green salt, which is an algae-rich option with 50% less sodium than table salt. It is derived from the sea vegetable Salicornia, which is nutrient-rich and, interestingly, of the same plant family as quinoa. Bet you didn't think of adding "seaweed" to your coffee. As for that matter, you might try furikake –- its salty taste and toasted sesame flavor might be complementary to your cup of joe.

3. Star anise

Cinnamon is a popular ingredient in desserts and drinks as it adds an extra depth of flavor without triggering blood sugar spikes, according to SugarFit. Not only this, but a PLoS One study suggests it may also promote insulin sensitivity, which is also important for blood sugar control. However, you may be overlooking another good option your spice cabinet holds — star anise. With its mild licorice essence, it is another way to kick up your coffee without the sugar rush. According to a 2019 review in Molecules, it may also have a positive role in diabetic management.

You'll not only boost your coffee's flavor with star anise, but you'll also get antioxidants. Amongst its powerful phytonutrients are quercetin and limonene, both of which have anti-inflammatory benefits. And in case you were wondering, star anise has digestive benefits, too. It has been traditionally used as oriental medicine to relieve bloating and ease constipation.

4. Ginger

In certain parts of India, powdered ginger and coffee brewed together is considered an herbal elixir for the common cold or flu. For even more powerful relief, adding black pepper, holy basil, and cumin may be added to the healing drink to help clear your sinuses and offer some relief. Like ginger, these spices happen to be very flavorful, too. Though the origins of combining ginger with coffee may be medicinal, you need not be sick to reap its benefits.

Ginger is anti-inflammatory and soothing to the throat; its gingerols are abundant and potent with antioxidant qualities. What's more, hot coffee with its robust nature and subtle flavor notes, can be as soothing as it is stimulating. Sounds like an oxymoron, but when you sip a warm beverage it may have calming results. According to this 2017 study in Frontiers in Psychology, some participants who sipped coffee at 149 degrees Fahrenheit, which is an acceptable temperature for drinking "hot coffee," found it to elicit a feeling of "calm."

So, kick up your coffee with powdered ginger (and add some of those other spices, too). A healing and tasty beverage can be just what you need anytime you feel a bit under the weather.

5. Turmeric

The curcumin in turmeric has been touted for its immune-boosting effects, so adding a little to your cup can increase your coffee's health benefits. It also adds a pop of warmth. In fact, a wee pinch of turmeric is enough to broaden the depth of your coffee's flavor, without overpowering your brew. That's because turmeric has an earthy and strong musky essence. So, sweetening up the deal with a bit of honey or your choice of sweetener, a bit of ginger and/or cinnamon, and your choice of milk makes a latte sense.

To create a more subtle flavor, add a teaspoon of turmeric to the coffee grounds prior to brewing. And if you are looking for something a bit more decadent, you might consider the sweet, spicy warmth of a creamy turmeric latte with a few shots of espresso added into the mix.

6. Chai tea

Chai tea is a zesty-sweet blend of black tea, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and black pepper. It has its origins in India where it is commonly enjoyed with a milk and a sweetener, similar to how many enjoy their cup of coffee. So, it may be simple enough to just add a chai tea bag to your already creamy, sweetened cup of joe. 

And, there are so many ways to enjoy chai tea and coffee together. For instance, you can make a dirty chai but adding a shot of espresso to a chai latte, or steeping a chai tea bag in a regular latte. Or you can opt for a blend of cold brew, chai tea, milk, and ice and create a frappe. If you really love a dessert coffee, a chai espresso affogato may be your pleasure. For this delicious drink, simply blend your chai tea (sweetened or unsweetened) with a coffee or latte and pour it over a scoop of ice cream.

Note: Most chai tea blends available in coffee shops and cafes are powdery and have a lot of added sugar. So, ask the barista to add a chai tea bag to your coffee instead of the blend and save yourself the sugar splurge. 

7. Mint

Mint is an herb that pairs beautifully with the bold intensity of chocolate. That's likely why many enjoy chocolate-mint candies, mint and chip ice cream, and even mint hot chocolate. But have you considered mint and coffee together? Coffee can be a good swap for cocoa because coffee and cocoa beans have similar flavor qualities. They are both seeds of tropical plants and are processed and roasted very much the same. 

So, it is not far off to suggest a minty espresso can be a suitable pairing, too! The refreshing quality of mint can be complimentary to the bold, toasty, and slightly bitter compounds of coffee. It adds a refreshing sophistication to black coffee, providing a subtle sweetness. If you prefer your coffee on the sweeter side, muddle a loose handful of fresh mint with a pinch of sugar to create a lovely addition to your brew. To really amp up the refreshing factor, add mint to your cold brew and pour it over ice. 

8. Whey

While you can certainly add protein to coffee by using cow's milk or soy, if you are looking to bump it up further then whey protein powder is a good solution. And because whey protein powder can blend in creamy, you'll have a satisfying and appealing cup of joe. When processed in a blender with your coffee, it may also add a bit of foaminess for a latte appeal.

Because whey protein powder is processed from cow's milk, unflavored options generally taste like powdered milk. This makes it a versatile ingredient because the flavor is so mild. If you'd prefer to boost your coffee with a flavored variety, watch out for added sugars — they can easily add up throughout your day. The  American Heart Association suggests no more than 25 grams of added sugar daily for women. Tip: Read the labels. If sugar is listed within the first three ingredients, that means it's mostly sugar. An ideal option is one that has 5 grams (or less) of added sugars per serving of 100 grams. Luckily, you can find chocolate, mocha, and other flavors that comply to healthier standards.

9. Lemon

Lemon peel and espresso can be a picture-perfect pairing. But that lemon peel provides more benefits than just a visual appeal; it's a flavor enhancer, too. Rub it along the lip of your mug to release its flavor-inducing oils. That hint of lemony flavor will add a nice pop to your coffee and may also be a good palate cleanser. And, like salt, it can remove any bitterness from the brew. 

You can even add a squeeze of lemon to brighten your cup of joe. But go minimal and use a Meyer lemon because it's less astringent and far sweeter than a regular lemon. For a dessert-worthy latte, add some lemon simple syrup to enhance the milky foam. You'll need a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and one lemon. Store the mix in the fridge and add a little to your coffee for a refreshing kick. To make this even more elegant, serve your cup with a slice of lemon.

10. Pinneapple

According to adventurous foodie folk, adding a bit of pineapple juice can be complementary to your coffee. Just a little teaspoon per hot cup of joe will do –- don't go overboard or it may have too strong of an aftertaste. In fact, similar to citrus, the tangy sweetness of the pineapple may balance out bitter flavor compounds in the roast. And it is not unheard of to pair coffee liqueur with pineapple in a rum-based mixed drink. The tangy, sour notes of the pineapple may balance the mildly bitter-sweet flavoring of the coffee liqueur.

But, if you want something refreshingly tropical (in a non-alcoholic mixed drink), add a hefty dose of pineapple juice to your cold brew. Think of it as the "Arnold Palmer" for coffee drinkers. Your pineapple is tangy and bright like lemon and your cold brew has the refreshing qualities of an ice tea. Balance it how you want, you can even go 50/50. It depends on how tangy, sweet you like it. If you go this route, may we suggest enjoying it on the rocks with a splash of coconut milk and an orange peel for a festive garnish. You might feel as if you've embarked on a tropical vacation.

11. Sparkling water or seltzer

Need something bubbly, refreshing, and caffeinated that's not loaded in sugar? Try a coffee soda. The strong flavor of the coffee holds up well in fizzy water for a refreshing and flavorful option. Simply add sparkling water or seltzer to your cooled coffee or espresso and serve it all over ice. 

For a cleaner, less acidic pick-me-up, go with cold brew. This has a lighter viscosity and milder vibe than traditional coffee and it is less bitter. You can even go with a nitro cold brew, which has a more subtle effervescence and adds to the mouthfeel. And if you like cream soda, add a splash of milk to the mix. If you should choose to sweeten your coffee soda, go lightly with the sugar or choose a no-sugar alternative, as you don't want to turn this into a liquid sugar bomb, like traditional Coke or Pepsi.

12. Grapefruit juice

Both coffee and grapefruit juice may be a part of your morning breakfast routine. But have you ever considered combining the two? Truly, grapefruit is a sweet-tart, citrus juice that has a lot of punch along with notes of bitterness. Coffee is also quite bold with a slight bitter edge (though some brews are less bitter than others). As far as potency and an element of bitterness, the two may be more similar than you think.

There are some interesting ways to combine the two to create amazing coffee drinks. If you are a latte lover, combine no more than a tablespoon of the citrus to your espresso before adding in the milky foam. Or serve it up iced with grapefruit bitters and a tablespoon of simple syrup for a refreshing coffee mocktail. You can also add a teaspoon or two of grapefruit juice to your coffee or cold brew. In addition to the unique flavor combination, grapefruit and coffee also have a refreshing effect. 

13. Cayenne

If you like spicy-hot foods and drinks, consider adding a hint of cayenne to your morning cup of brew. Enjoy it black to focus on the spice factor, or tone it down a bit by adding a little milk and sugar. Either way, it will have a lasting burn, which is pleasurable for some. 

Cayenne has some other benefits, too. Traditionally, it has been used in herbal medicine. Native Americans used this heat-inducing spice for its capsaicin, which not only provides its distinct taste but has also been used to relieve pain, induce an appetite, and improve circulation. Indian cultures have used it for Ayurvedic healing, and it has also been widely used medicinally in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cultures. While it may help boost one's appetite, some believe it may also be effective for increased satiety. You may just find that cayenne gives your cuppa that extra kick to get you up and out the door. 

14. Olive oil

Consider fueling your morning with a bit of olive oil in your brew. Yes, olive oil with coffee is the latest buzz. In fact, Starbuck's carries a line of Oleato olive oil coffees, including an oat milk latte and an iced shaken espresso. 

The addition of olive oil is not meant to be hidden or masked out by sweetness or bold flavors. It gives coffee a unique, flavor balance and its natural viscosity makes your latte especially smooth and creamy. But don't just choose any olive oil. You'll get the most pleasant taste experience if you use a light, buttery olive oil, such as cold-pressed Partanna, which is buttery and smooth. Furthermore, cold-pressed olive oils have more polyphenols than those that are heat-pressed, yielding a richer, yet more delicate flavor. 

An olive oil coffee may not be your everyday drink, but it's worth giving it a try. And, while olive oil will certainly add some more calories to your beverage, its heart-health benefits are just as weighty. It is comprised mainly of monounsaturated fats, contains anti-inflammatory compounds, and is a source of antioxidant vitamin E.