5 Coffee Hacks to Make Your Mornings Easier and More Flavorful

Melissa d’Arabian shares five tried-and-true tricks for brewing and using the ultimate pots of coffee.

As I type, I am surrounded by a sea of binders and lined papers, high-top shoes, low-top ankle boots, trendy-again ’70s stretchy hipster pants and crisply colored backpacks smelling of factory nylon. Just removing the tags from all this loot makes me feel like taking a nap.

’Tis the season of coffee. (Did I really just say “’tis the season?” It’s not even Labor Day! I think I even outpaced Costco there!) Coffee and autumn go hand in hand in our household. Any time an alarm clock jolts me out of sleep, I want the jolt of caffeine shortly thereafter. My husband makes the coffee as part of our nightly routine, setting the timer for exactly 15 minutes before I wake up, so that I walk downstairs and into the kitchen at the perfect moment, when the machine is gurgling and spattering lightly as it confirms that all the water is gone from the chamber and the machine can finally, confidently turn itself off, while a final few drops of coffee plop gently into the full pot. It’s the glorious announcement of another day full of possibility.

I am a coffee fan (I don’t say “snob” because I find that loosely translates into people who don’t like Starbucks), so I like my coffee exactly right: no sugar and about two tablespoons of half-and-half, or a quarter-cup of milk (but, in that case, heated). Quite simply, the day doesn’t begin without coffee for me. I love the routine, the smell, the warmth and, of course, the caffeine (although I only drink half-caf so I can have two cups without feeling jittery). And all this coffeepot experience has taught me a few little tricks — some coffee hacks, if you will.

1. Mom’s trick to improve cheap coffee:

Growing up, we were incredibly poor, and my mom bought the cheapest coffee she could find at the grocery store. But, no matter, she insisted, because a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of cinnamon in the filter along with the coffee elevated bargain beans to gourmet status. Well, almost. But this trick did get me through the lean college and graduate school days pretty darned well.

2. Flavor freebies in the filter:

Once I learned Mom’s cinnamon trick, I thought, “Why stop there?” There are so many free sources of flavor that we routinely throw away. Instead, why not add them into the filter with the coffee for a slight flavor hint that perks up the coffee every now and again without turning it into some weird fake-flavored monstrosity? My favorite flavor boosters: a little orange zest scraped from an orange I peeled for a snack, half of a scraped vanilla bean that I used for a recipe (add a sprinkle of ground cardamom to this one) or even the outside skin from peeling fresh ginger.

3. Try the trendy bulletproof coffee:

Bulletproof coffee is incredibly trendy now. People swear by this fad, claiming everything from mental clarity to weight loss. It’s basically drip coffee blended up with grass-fed ghee (clarified butter) or butter and coconut oil, or some version of these ingredients. Sounds so weird you just have to try it? I did. I used organic butter and coconut oil, and added a bit of vanilla and cinnamon. I blended it up in my Vitamix, and I will say that I was amazed by how creamy it was! The butter and coconut oil emulsified right into the coffee and turned it into a creamy, luscious treat. Not for every day for me, but certainly worth trying before judging. (To make: Blend a big cup of  coffee with 1 tablespoon each of butter and coconut oil, plus a dash of vanilla and cinnamon if you want, in the blender on high for about 30 seconds.)

4. Use the leftover coffee:

If I have a lot of coffee left over, like on a day when I forget that my husband is out of town and I brew a full pot anyway, I pour it into a pitcher and stick it in the fridge to use for iced coffee. For smaller quantities, I make ice cubes to blend up in smoothies (I really love banana almond smoothies with a bit of coffee!). And whenever I make chocolate desserts, I reach for my coffeepot sitting on the counter, long forgotten since morning, and add a tablespoon of brewed coffee to deepen the chocolate. (Careful: It’s very easy to overdo it and go from deep, roasty chocolate to mocha — and my kids are squarely anti-mocha.)

5. Use the coffee grounds:

Old coffee grounds can be used for everything from fertilizer to boosting compost. But I admit that I’m fairly basic with my coffee grounds: I use them as a natural (and free!) scrub when I have a pan that I need to scour, and I’ve even spread them on my face as a naturally anti-inflammatory mask if I’m looking tired or bloated. And my girls and I once created a super-cool body scrub by mixing equal parts used coffee grounds, sea salt and coconut oil. (But use that one only in the shower, because I imagine it would stain.)

If all this coffee talk has you in the mood for coffee, try my Mocha Granita or Easy Coffee Pudding

Photo courtesy of iStock
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