This ingredient makes my homemade lattes taste barista-made

And I'm never going back

Published April 15, 2023 11:00AM (EDT)

Coffee (Julia Gartland/Food52 )
Coffee (Julia Gartland/Food52 )

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I cherish my morning coffee ritual. Before the rest of the house wakes up, I head to the kitchen, pull out my canister of espresso beans, and begin the process of grinding, tamping, and pulling the shot. Then, I steam the milk (oat is my preference these days) and pour it all into my favorite ceramic mug. I didn't think the process could be improved. That is, until I found Alfred's World Famous Vanilla Syrup.

Like many of us, I'd gotten into the habit of getting my lattes from my neighborhood Starbucks. But splurging on a daily coffee drink is not a sustainable practice for me, especially when I can technically make it at home. The only snag: I love the taste of toasty vanilla in my coffee, and Starbucks does this very well. Surely this could be replicated at home, I thought. And so began my quest for the perfect vanilla syrup.

I tried several brands—six to be exact—each offering a different price point and taste. I even attempted to make my own vanilla syrup, which turned out decently (it did the job of sweetening), but not as well as the professionals' (it lacked the creamy, floral notes). After a few weeks of striking out, I happened to be skimming an interview with fashion writer Leandra Cohen where, while giving a tour of her kitchen, she referenced Alfred's World Famous Vanilla Syrup. This was the first I had heard of the brand. Apparently, they are well known on the West Coast, but as a New Yorker, I was unfamiliar—and, surprisingly, the algorithm had not fed it to me during my internet research. Intrigued, I immediately placed an order and have not looked back since.

The product is as delicious as it is straightforward. With just three ingredients (vanilla bean, pure cane sugar, and a bit of Vitamin C to help preserve things), this syrup doesn't have the distinctly artificial tinge of others I tried. Jordan Hardin, Alfred's Director of Food & Beverage, explained to me that while pretty much every coffee shop has a vanilla syrup, most source it from a large manufacturer because it's generally more affordable. Alfred's choice to use quality ingredients and produce smaller batches means a slightly higher price tag ($12.50 for 12.6 ounces), but the difference in taste is notable.

The syrup's subtle sweetness showcases the vanilla without overpowering it. Flecks of vanilla bean are distinctly visible, and the syrup is best kept refrigerated—further evidence that it's made with high-quality ingredients. I also appreciate that it comes in an easy-to-use glass bottle that is appropriately sized for a home kitchen. (Conversely, many of the other syrups arrived in large plastic containers that were hard to fit in my limited kitchen space and featured tall pumps that were prone to clogging.) Alfred's syrup fits tidily inside my refrigerator door.

Beyond your everyday cup of coffee, there are lots of other potential applications for the syrup. I've been mixing it into my overnight oats, smoothies, and even my go-to pound cake recipe to great success. If using it for baking, I'd suggest reducing a teaspoon of sugar for each teaspoon of Alfred's stirred into the wet ingredients.

If you, too, are seeking ways to elevate your coffee game, I highly recommend giving this product a try—I don't think you (or your wallet) will regret it.


By Marichal Gupta

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Barista Coffee Latte