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What coffee sweeteners work best?

January 27, 2009

I'm always trying to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet. Maybe you are too. Coffee is one of the places where I use the most sugar. (That and the huge piece of pie that I have most nights...). So I have been experimenting with artificial sweeteners.

 

I'm always trying to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet. Maybe you are too. Coffee is one of the places where I use the most sugar. (That and the piece of pie a' la mode that I have most nights...). So I have been experimenting with artificial sweeteners.






That includes Splenda, Sweet 'n' Low (saccharine) and Equal (same as Nutrasweet - both are Aspartame). I've tried substituting them for my usual brown sugar or white table sugar. Over the years, I've kept careful note of what has worked during about 100 attempts at mixing artificial sweeteners in. I'd be happy to cut out the calories from sugar.





Sad news: real sugar tastes better. Way better. It's like the difference between walking on the moon for real and seeing the video that NASA faked to make us think that Buzz Aldrin was walking on the moon (hey wait...that wasn't fake according to NASA)





Any of these artificial sweeteners tastes hollow and gives me a bitter aftertaste. The reason that I'm using a sweetener in the first place is to lessen the bitterness of my brew. And the bitter aftertaste I get from Sweet 'n Low, Equal and Splenda compound the problem.





There's no way I would give up using real sugar. I've tried artificial sweeteners probably a hundred times and been unhappy every time.





But the most important thing I've noticed with gourmet coffee from micro-roasters and artisanal roasters is that I need much less sugar in their coffees. Instead of a tablespoon per cup of brewed coffee, I use half a teaspoon. The reason is that the freshness and high quality of the coffees means that the coffee isn't bitter.





If I regress and drink a cup of Starbucks with all its bitterness, I feel like a soldier eating an MRE and I have to really load up on the sugar. Three tablespoons per tall cup of Starbucks. That's yet another reason I avoid Starbucks: I have to use so much sugar to temper its bitterness that I feel like I'm trying out for The Biggest Loser.





Why do I prefer brown sugar to white sugar? More taste. Coffee is a naturally strong, rich-tasting drink and brown sugar adds a flavor that I think complements it. To me, white sugar tastes hollow. Sweet but no flavor. Kind of like Nicole Kidman.





So with all respect to Dr. Robert Atkins, Nathan Pritikin and Richard Simmons, I'll keep sugar in my daily morning coffee. If my diet is so free of sugar that I have to worry about a teaspoon here and there in my coffee, I'm going overboard.





By the way, Wired had a fascinating article about Splenda a few years ago.








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