Coffee and smoothies: these iconic drinks are two of the most energizing and revitalizing ways to start your day. Blend them together and it's no surprise that coffee smoothies have seen a popularity boom.
As a barista, I’m always looking for more ways to integrate coffee into my life. I spoke to other baristas and professional chefs to make sure that I had the most refined, healthy, and energizing recipe. People are getting creative. I've seen coffee smoothies involving everything form cauliflower to chilli peppers.
I wasn't convinced, so I had to get my best coffee maker and best blender fired up. Naturally, I tried them all. It turns out that pretty much every recipe I tried was delicious. Coffee can mask some healthy but sometimes unappetising ingredients.
Whether you're looking for a morning pick-me-up or a pre-gym boost, this is your definitive guide to mastering the coffee smoothie trend.
Why have a coffee smoothie?
Adding coffee to a smoothie might sound strange, but when you look at the nutrients available in both, it makes sense. I recently listened to gut guru Tim Spector on a podcast about the health benefits of coffee. Tim said that people who drink coffee 'are getting considerable amounts of fiber and there are other chemicals within the coffee that have beneficial effects on the heart via our gut microbes too'. He said that these chemicals, known as polyphenols, 'are like rocket fuel for your gut microbes which have an amazing protective effect on the rest of the body'. So coffee caffeinates, but it also helps your body's natural defense system.
To extract the maximum amount of healthy oils from your coffee, Alex Mastin, CEO and founder of Home Grounds, recommends 'brewing your own coffee in a quality coffee maker'. That way, you can experiment with different coffee beans 'and get it just the way you like it'. When I spoke with chefs and baristas, these are the coffee makers that they suggested:
This is our favorite coffee maker on the market. It will make a range of different coffees and it can froth milk too. This might be overkill for smoothies, but it's incredible for coffee.
The Nespresso Vertuo is a compact coffee maker. It's easy to store and even easier to use. First thing in the morning, it will make you a quick and tasty cup of coffee, ready to blend.
The Chemex makes ultra-smooth pour over coffee, but you can also use it to make cold brew too. Lots of baristas recommended making cold brew coffee smoothies, since it has sweeter flavors
Alex describes his life as 'coffee, business, travel, and dogs, sometimes all at the same time'. He sent years as a traveling barista, where he learned the art of brewing coffee on the go. Aside from brewing coffee, he loves seeing all the processes beforehand, so is often adventuring and investigating various coffee plantations.
The health benefits of coffee smoothies don't stop with a shot of coffee. Smoothies are an easy way to give your body a dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from fruit and vegetables. John Nygren, Chief Editor at Blend Brew Enjoy, worked in a smoothie bar before he trained as a barista. He told me that 'the most popular smoothie we had was the espresso and banana option. By adding ingredients like bananas, nut butter, or protein powder you get a lot of healthy nutrients from a lot of different sources'. People found that they could tick off a lot of health boxes in one, delicious drink.
In his experience, the blender is as important as the ingredients. Your blender needs to 'handle ice super well on top of being high quality and well priced'. That way, you'll achieve a reliably smooth and velvety texture.
I asked everyone for their blender recommendations and 70% of them were the Vitamix. I'm not surprised; it's the number one blender in our buying guide. It makes smooth drinks to the perfect texture. It's a smoothie enthusiast's dream.
Best blender/food processor combo
Almost every other blender that experts recommended was this Ninja. They've established a reputation as low-cost, high-quality, capable blenders. It doesn't struggle with ice or tough greens, so it's perfect for making velvety, creamy smoothies.
I'll throw my hat in the recommendation ring with the Nutribullet. This bullet blender tackles almost anything. It's slick and quick, but, even better, the blend jar doubles up as a cup. You'll have a delicious drink whilst saving on washing up.
John is the Chief Editor at Blend Brew Enjoy and he has the perfect credentials for talking about coffee smoothies. Before he trained as a barista, he worked in a smoothie bar, where the most popular smoothie was the espresso and banana option.
How to make a coffee smoothie
Before you blend anything, start with quality coffee. Jack Farmer from Foundation Coffee Roasters says that the best coffee smoothies start with 'high quality, speciality espresso beans'. He explained a top quality coffee 'tastes full bodied and sweet, not bitter. If you don't have an espresso machine, you can use a single serve machine or make cold brew coffeee. The higher the quality of your coffee, the better this is going to taste'.
Once you've brewed your coffee, there are two things that you'll need to do. Firstly, remove the crema. Jack says that 'although the crema is a sign that the espresso has been extracted properly, when dissolved in the espresso, the crema actually gives a bitter flavor. By removing this, you'll have a naturally sweeter smoothie'.
You'll also want to let your coffee cool. I've never enjoyed a hot smoothie and I don't plan on starting now. If coffee smoothies become your next favorite drink, I would recommend making coffee ice cubes. You can add these straight into your smoothie before blending, instead of making a shot of coffee. It'll keep your coffee cool and caffeinated, without diluting it.
Coffee smoothies: my test
Armed with these tips, you can make a coffee smoothie. The process is simple. Place one cup of coffee with one banana and a splash of milk in a blender. Once these ingredients are well-blended, you've got your basic coffee smoothie.
I followed this recipe and gave my simple smoothie a sip, but I felt that it could be more exciting. Chefs and baristas think so too. John, barista and smoothie maker, said that I should 'add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, or flavor extracts like hazelnut of caramel to create unique flavors. In smoothie bars you have access to all kinds of extras, so I got to experiment a lot, but sticking with simple additions will get you a long way'. I added vanilla and my coffee smoothie tasted like a professional latte. I loved it.
The next morning, I tried my coffee smoothie as a post-workout pick-me-up, so added a scoop of protein powder too. Obviously I needed to add more milk to balance the texture out, but it was a game changer. My protein powder is vanilla flavored, so my smoothie ended up tasting super sweet. It was a bit like drinking coffee ice cream.
Tips and Tricks
When I can add coffee to something, I will. Coffee smoothies have been an enlightening and game-changing post workout treat for me, but I got a little more experimental as chefs gave me weirder and wackier suggestions.
Firstly, a lot of experts had recommended adding Greek yogurt or coconut cream, to my smoothie for enhanced creaminess. You only need half a cup, but it works. I was pretty pleased with the results. My smoothie became a lot silkier and rich.
If you don't want to use yoghurt, but want a creamy texture, lots of experts recommended blending an avocado in to my smoothie. The avocado didn't do much for my smoothie aesthetics, but it did add a lot of creaminess, whilst increasing the amount of healthy fat in my smoothie. The avocado took a bit more time to blend up, but in the end it gave really good results. If you own a blender that's as good as the Ninja, Vitamix, or Nutribullet, you'll have no trouble whizzing up a delicious coffee smoothie.
The most eyebrow-raising ingredient suggestion was raw cauliflower. Now, I adore cauliflower, but a cauliflower smoothie might be taking things too far. I chopped up a quarter of a cauliflower, which looks like a lot, and slowly added florets to my blender. I was surprised at how effortlessly it disappeared into my smoothie.
I gave the jug a sniff and couldn't really smell much over the coffee and vanilla that I had already blended. Still, I prepared myself for the taste. I was pleasantly surprised. I couldn't really detect the cauliflower. Maybe, in the background there was a savory tone that reminded me of 'healthy' drinks, but if I wasn't looking for it, I definitely wouldn't have tasted it.
Emboldened by this veg trend, I tried adding spinach. This is tough to blend, so I was grateful to own a good blender. I added two handfuls to my cup and again, it disappeared into the smoothie. I could smell the spinach a lot more in this smoothie, so I decided to add a teaspoon of peanut butter. It only increases the protein content after all. Once my spinach and peanut butter were properly blended, this was a yummy smoothie. It was also the most filling of them all. It seems like there isn't really a limit to what you can add to your coffee smoothie.
Given that my post-workout coffee smoothie had been such a success, I wanted to see whether the ice cream flavor could translate into proper ice cream. After I had made my smoothie, I froze it in a Ninja Creami Tub. The next day, I used my Ninja Creami - which you can buy at Walmart - to turn my coffee smoothie into a rich and creamy coffee ice cream. It was a great low calorie, low sugar ice cream to make and I was proud of my results.
Is it safe to put coffee in a smoothie?
Yes - it's even delicious. Adding coffee to your smoothie gives it a caffeine kick, making you feel energized. Just make sure that your coffee is cool before adding it.
What is a rise up coffee smoothie?
This is a coffee smoothie, just with sugar and chocolate added too. If you add some of the chef suggestions you would end up with one of these anyway.
Are coffee smoothies actually nice?
It obviously depends on your tastes, but if you like coffee and you like smoothies, I'd bet that you'll like coffee smoothies.
Can I add peanut butter to my smoothie?
This is a popular add-in for coffee smoothies. In fact, I can't think of a flavor that would make a better complement to sweet banana and aromatic coffee. If you don't like peanut butter, you can add a different nut butter.
Do I have to add banana to my smoothie?
If you can't stand banana, you might not enjoy this smoothie. I'd recommend adding some nut butters, since they are great for masking unpleasant tastes. If that's not enough, try adding some stewed apple and oats in place of a banana.
There are a lot of health trends flying around. You can try bulletproof coffee, olive oil coffee, and Dalgona coffee. However, after trying (and not always enjoying) all of these, coffee smoothies are by far my favorite new coffee drink. They're easy to make, nutritious, and delicious.
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Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.
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