Sometimes you want to enjoy a nice thick, almost syrupy kind of coffee. But normal drip coffee doesn’t provide this experience. What can you do to make your coffee thicker? Here’s what you want to know.
To make coffee thicker there are changes you can make in the coffee brewing process and type of coffee. Adding heavy cream, whipped cream or condensed milk makes a much thicker coffee drink. If it needs to be even thicker, adding 0.1% xanthan gum to the coffee will make a very thick liquid.
Below we’ll go through all the options to make a more viscous cup of coffee. The different methods are suitable for different people. Pick one that works for you.
#1 Make Espresso
If you like thick strong coffee, espresso is the best option. An espresso machine puts all that flavor of quite a lot of coffee grounds into a tiny amount of liquid. It packs so much of the coffee beans into that small amount of liquid that it actually becomes thicker. If you want to take it up another notch, try making a Ristretto which is even stronger and thicker but smaller.
Making good espresso does require a lot of expensive equipment though. While it’s the best way to get thick coffee in my opinion, it’s also the most expensive way. If the only thing you want to do is to increase the viscosity of your coffee, there are cheaper ways to do it.
Take a look at a moka pot. A moka pot is capable of brewing a type of coffee that’s pretty close to espresso but it’s a much cheaper bit of kit. To get the best out of your moka pot you’ll still want to grind your own fresh beans though. With your own grinder you can make the coffee grounds finer than you would buy from the supermarket which helps extract the coffee grounds faster and so make it thicker.
#2 Make Vietnamese Coffee
This was my gateway into coffee. Vietnamese coffee is made with a very simple filter called a Phin. This brew method lets the water drip through very slowly and extracts a lot from the grounds. A little amount of water is used which means you get a very strong but small cup. It’s not quite the same as espresso but it’s in the same ballpark.
As a result of that strength the coffee is quite thick. The taste is a bit love it or hate it though. Vietnamese coffee is usually made with dark roasted Robusta beans which is not a variety that’s liked for it’s great taste. Often a tiny pinch of salt is added to reduce the bitterness. And it’s often enjoyed with condensed milk. Condensed milk itself is really thick so using those two together really compound the viscosity.
#3 Increase extraction
Coffee beans have a lot of compounds and oils in them. Coffee beans consist of about 25-30% of soluble materials. When you brew coffee, you try to dissolve about 23% of those soluble materials into the water which is what brewing coffee is. You don’t want to extract more than necessary because the last parts taste very bitter and while the liquid might be a bit more viscous, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy the taste.
Of course the more soluble material you have in the water, the thicker the coffee is. This is why espresso is so thick; An espresso machine extracts a lot of coffee grounds into a tiny amount of liquid. All that soluble material makes the liquid more viscous.
So if you can increase the extraction with the same amount or less water, you’ll end up with thicker coffee. Just using more coffee grounds doesn’t necessarily help because how fast the water extracts all the compounds really depends on the brewing methods.
However, using the same brew method has its limits in how much you can increase the extraction. Using a little more coffee grounds but ground finer will increase the extraction and make thicker coffee but at the same time that will also change the taste in a way you might not enjoy.
#4 Avoid Paper Filters
Coffee beans have oils in them that actually get extracted. The oils are a part that actually give a lot of mouthfeel to coffee. Oils are thicker than water so having them in your cup will make it feel thicker.
Paper filters are very good at filtering out those oils. That’s why paper filtered coffee tastes and feels quite different from coffee made with a metal filter. If you like that slightly thicker mouthfeel, don’t use paper filters. Aside from espresso, Vietnamese or Turkish coffee, the French press is a good option. Many people have a French press at home so you can experiment with it. A French press has metal filter screen so you get all the oils.
Also, metal filters often let a little bit of sediment through. Of course you don’t want to drink the sediment but it does make the coffee feel thicker.
#5 Add Dairy
This isn’t much good if you like black coffee but if you want to add dairy, there are some options to make your coffee thicker and velvety.
Normal milk isn’t going to make a huge difference but there are some better options:
Heavy cream is a pretty obvious choice to make your coffee thicker. Whipped cream is even better. Mixing in a good amount of whipped cream into your coffee will completely change the experience.
Besides the obvious choices, you can also go for condensed milk. Condensed milk is very thick but also very sweet. It’s used to make Vietnamese iced coffee which is a very thick style of coffee (That’s not only because of the condensed milk but it plays a big part).
#6 Use Dark Roasted Beans
Dark roasted coffee tends to have more body than light roasted coffee. A lot of that is because there is a heaviness to the taste. Dark roasts taste more bitter and darker which already makes it seem thicker.
Dark roasted beans are easier to extract which means you get a little bit more soluble material in your water easier than with lighter roasts and as you can read above, the amount of material you get from the beans into the coffee makes a pretty big difference in mouth feel. It’s also easier for the coffee oils to be extracted which add a lot of thickness.
#7 Read The Tasting Notes
Not only the roast but also the origin and variety of the coffee beans makes a difference in the final result. In most cases the bags of coffee from the supermarket don’t really tell you where the coffee comes from. It’ll mention a country if you’re lucky. The height a coffee is grown at also makes a big difference. The lower the altitude, the heavier the body tends to be.
However, most people don’t want to become coffee nerds and figure all of that out. So a decent shortcut is to read the tasting notes on the bag which most of them have. Look for words like; Full body, dark, chocolate, cacao. Words that imply some heaviness.
And conversely you should avoid words like; light bodied, citrus, fruity, apple, etc. Coffees with those words are likely to be light roasted and have more acidity but less body.
#8 Add Whipped Egg Yolks
We’re getting into the experimental things here. If you want to get a unique experience, try mixing your coffee with whipped egg yolks. Separate an egg and put the yolk in a bowl. Add about a tablespoon of condensed milk (use honey if you don’t want dairy) to the bowl as well. Then whip until the yolk and milk are mixed, light and fluffy.
Add this mixture to a cup of strong coffee. The types of coffee mentioned (Espresso, Vietnamese, Turkish) above will work best.
This is a love it or hate it thing but you should try it at least once, even if you like black coffee. It’s an interesting style. However, you’re basically drinking raw egg yolk so try this at your own risk and use eggs from a source you trust. The whipping and hot coffee will ‘cook’ the egg yolk to some degree but not enough to make it 100% safe.
#9 Xanthan gum
None of the things above are sufficient for your taste? Try Xanthan gum. It’s a very commonly used ingredient in many foods to make things thicker. This is what Starbucks uses to make their drinks thicker.
You only need a tiny bit for a cup of coffee which won’t really impact the taste much but it will change the viscosity and structure of the coffee so much that It’ll feel more like a latte than black coffee. It might take some experimenting to find out what the best amount of gum to use is for your purposes. About 0.1% by weight is recommended but you can figure out what you like.
To get the proper thickening effect, the coffee and xanthan gum powder have to be mixed vigorously. A blender, egg beater are best but a hand whisk can do the job if you want to put in some effort.
#10 Add a Powder
Besides xanthan gum, there are a few other things you can add to coffee to make them thicker. Cornstarch or potato starch will ticken up any liquid you put it in. However, they also have an impact on the taste. These powders will work but xanthan gum is a better option. You need less xanthan gum than cornstarch so it impact the taste less. However, if you don’t like the results of xanthan gum, try cornstarch and see if you like that better.