How to Put Brown Sugar in Coffee — and Why It’s So Magical

Brown Sugar in Coffee

Coffee lovers: If you want to start your day differently by bringing in a touch of magic, then it’s time you learned the art of using brown sugar in coffee. This ordinary habit might completely transform your routine cup of Java into an extraordinary experience.

I’ve adored brown sugar since I was a kid, and have always enjoyed it in coffee since I started drinking the magical brew. One of my favorite coffee drinks to make at home features a tiny amount of brown sugar, cinnamon, and a generous dash of almond milk all whisked together. 

But brown sugar is simply exquisite whether you drink your coffee black or with white sugar normally. OK, but why else choose brown over white? And is light or dark brown sugar best? Let’s find out. I did a day of fun, caffeine-fueled research to wrangle

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Why Choose Brown Sugar Over White Sugar in Your Coffee?

Brown sugar is made with molasses and boiled sugar crystals. In fact, any sugar called brown mostly likely has a big portion of molasses in it.

White sugar, often referred to as table sugar, is fully processed and devoid of molasses.

On the other hand, raw sugar retains some molasses after processing, while brown sugar contains a higher molasses level, which gives it a rich, full-bodied sweetness. 

These differences significantly influence the taste of your coffee. I love this fun video explaining the differences next to honey, coconut sugar, and maple syrup:

But is Brown Sugar Healthier Than White Sugar?

The health debate surrounding sugar choices often favors brown sugar, but is this accurate? Well, in the context of health, brown sugar might slightly edge out granulated sugar because it undergoes less processing, retaining more natural nutrients.

But remember, it’s always about the amount of brown and white sugar consumed since all kinds of brown sugar are high in sucrose—about 88-93% sucrose vs. white sugar’s 99%. 

And though it contains roughly the same calories as white sugar, brown sugar offers trace minerals not present in its white table sugar counterpart.

However, moderation is key to any sweet indulgence. Even though brown sugar is healthier technically, it’s not significantly so. 

I’m not a doctor, though. But this guy is if you want more info:

How to Incorporate Brown Sugar in a Cup of Coffee

The best time to add brown sugar to your coffee is right after brewing when it’s still hot so the sugar will dissolve properly, subtly changing the coffee grounds’ taste. Adding brown sugar to coffee grounds before brewing can create a slightly different profile. Whether you use light or dark brown sugar, it’ll caramelize during brewing, giving your coffee a more intense flavor. A good place to start is just by adding a pinch to fresh-brewed coffee and giving it a nice, strong swirl so the crystals dissolve.

How Much Brown Sugar to Add

How much sugar you add to your coffee depends on your sweet tooth, but I’d start with one teaspoon per 8 oz. cup. Adjust more or less based on your palate of course.

The secret to achieving the perfect taste is by embracing a little bit of trial and error. A touch of brown sugar here or there could be the difference between a good and a great cup of coffee.

How the Sugar Cane Type Influences Coffee

Sugar cane is grown in a variety of countries around the world, and the type of soil, the climate, and the processing methods used all contribute to the final taste of the sugar produced. Different types produce sugars with varying levels of sweetness, complexity, and texture.

The quality of the sugar cane can significantly influence the flavor of the sugar infused in the coffee. A good quality cane will produce a superior quality sugar, which when used in coffee, will enhance its taste and overall experience.

For example, sugar produced from the Demerara variety of sugar cane, full-bodied sweet crystals with a hint of toffee, can add a distinct flavor to the coffee, giving it a slightly caramel undertone.

The Mauritian cane, noted for its high molasses content, produces a rich, dark, and complex sugar. When added to coffee, this sugar type enhances the coffee’s body and infuses a full-flavored sweetness that balances and complements a coffee’s natural bitterness.

Processing Matters, Too

The way sugar is processed also plays a part in how it will affect the coffee’s flavor. Unrefined or raw sugar, the least processed form of sugar, often retains some of its natural molasses, giving it a distinct caramel-like flavor that can add depth and complexity to coffee.

Refined white sugar, on the other hand, has had all its molasses stripped away, resulting in a clean-tasting sweetener that merely adds sweetness without altering the coffee’s intrinsic flavors.

Using sugar cane-based liquid sweeteners like cane syrup or molasses in coffee is another way to introduce distinct flavors. These sweeteners have a heavier mouthfeel and can impart bold, rich flavors to the coffee.

Whether you prefer a clean, sweet cup or a complex, full-bodied brew, there’s a sugar type and processing method that’s perfect for your palate. 

Where Does Brown Sugar Come From?

Brown sugar is derived from sugar cane or sugar beet and differs from white sugar due to the presence of molasses. The molasses content gives brown sugar its distinct color and flavor.

When sugar cane or sugar beet is processed to make sugar, the juice is extracted and then boiled to form sugar crystals. These crystals are spun in a centrifuge to remove the syrup known as molasses, kind of like this:

In the case of white sugar, nearly all the molasses is removed. However, making brown sugar involves leaving some of the molasses in, or in some cases, adding it back after the sugar has been processed.

Therefore, brown sugar retains some of the natural molasses from sugar cane and sugar beet. This not only gives it its color and flavor but also makes it more moist and clumped together than regular table sugar. 

Regardless of its source, most of the brown sugar used in the United States comes from refining domestic or imported raw sugar at sugar refineries across the nation. 

Exploring Different Types of Brown Sugar for Coffee

When you add brown sugar to your coffee, it introduces a special caramel-like flavor that ordinary white or brown sugar isn’t capable of. This unique taste of brown sugar elevates the coffee experience, turning it into a gourmet treat. Consider trying various types of brown sugar in your coffee, like these:

Dark Brown Sugar 

Dark brown sugar contains a higher molasses content, thus imparting a richer, more intense flavor. However, keep in mind that this might interfere with the coffee beans’ original notes.

Light Brown Sugar

Light brown sugar tastes milder and contains less molasses compared to its darker counterpart. This makes it suitable for those who do not want a dominating sweetness in their coffee.

Raw Sugar

Raw sugar, or Turbinado sugar, is minimally processed and hence, retains a little more of the sugarcane’s natural taste. This type of sugar in your coffee can lend a complex, subtly fruity flavor.

Sugar in the Raw

Similar to Turbinado sugar, sugar in the raw is less processed than white and brown sugar and has larger, coarse granules that lend a slightly different texture to the coffee. By the way, raw sugar packets are popular all over the US (where I live).

So if you try it and like it (raw is particularly delicious in iced coffee or cold brew), it’s one of the widest available alternatives to sugar that’s white and ultra-refined. 

Demerara Sugar

Originating from Guyana, demerara sugar adds both sweetness and crunch to coffee due to its large, unrefined granules. Its flavor features subtle hints of toffee and caramel.

Muscovado Sugar

Muscovado sugar is completely unrefined and has the highest molasses content among all sugar types. It offers a rich, robust flavor with deep caramel and fruity notes, perfect for bold coffee.

Panela Sugar

Common in Latin America, panela is unrefined cane sugar, which is sort of pounded into a block shape. This sugar absorbs the flavors of coffee while adding its own earthy, slightly smoky taste.


A popular sugar available most readily in Asia and Africa, jaggery is made from either sugarcane or palm sap. It has a deep, rich, slightly earthy flavor that can complement darker roasts perfectly.

How to Make Brown Sugar at Home for Your Coffee 

To concoct your homemade brown sugar, simply mix molasses with white sugar until you get the desired color and taste. It will give your coffee a little somethin’ extra. 


  • 1 cup of granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of molasses


  1. Pour the granulated white sugar into a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Gradually add the molasses to the sugar, stirring it as you go.
  3. Continue stirring until the molasses and sugar are evenly combined. You can use a fork or your fingers to break up any clumps that form.
  4. If the sugar isn’t dark enough, add more molasses, about a teaspoon at a time. For lighter brown sugar, add less molasses. For darker brown sugar, add more.
  5. Once you get the desired color and taste, store your homemade brown sugar in an airtight container to prevent it from hardening.
  6. Add sugar as desired and enjoy a perfect cup of coffee!

Note: This can make a good substitute if you run out of brown sugar or want to create a unique flavor. It may not taste exactly like store-bought brown sugar as the granules of homemade brown sugar may be larger and the taste slightly stronger due to the fresh molasses, but it can certainly add a new layer of depth!

Unusual Coffee Recipes with Brown Sugar Worth Trying

Brown sugar can take an ordinary coffee recipe and turn it into something extraordinary. The unique sweetness and rich flavor of brown sugar can enhance regular coffee, further elevating the taste and offering a unique twist.

At first, you may want to master the art of black coffee by adding a dash of brown sugar to your coffee to taste. It’s the perfect way to add depth and complexity to your coffee without overshadowing its original taste.

But these off-beat recipes featuring brown sugar bring new depth and richness to the everyday coffee experience that goes beyond just simply brewed.  

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

One such recipe to consider is Vietnamese Iced Coffee, also known as ‘Ca Phe Sua Da’. This unique concoction blends strong dark roast coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and a generous serving of brown sugar to create a fantastically rich and intensely sweet aftertaste.

Brown Sugar Caramel Latte

A Brown Sugar Caramel Latte combines espresso, milk, brown sugar, and caramel syrup to create a delicately sweet and deeply satisfying coffee drink. The brown sugar gives the coffee a deeper sweetness that is far more refined and steadfast than that of white sugar. 

Dalgona Coffee with Brown Sugar

A recent coffee sensation that swept social media, Dalgona Coffee, can also be revamped with the addition of brown sugar. The traditional recipe calls for instant coffee, sugar, and water, but when substituted with brown sugar, the frothy coffee mixture takes on a rich, caramelized flavor that pairs well with the robust bitterness of the coffee. This whipped coffee is then served over cold milk, providing a fun coffeehouse experience at home.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Iced Coffee

This recipe takes a slightly different approach, stirring brown sugar and cinnamon into a freshly brewed cup. Once the coffee cools down, it is added to milk and served over ice, making it a refreshing and sweet caffeinated beverage. The combination of cinnamon and brown sugar gives the coffee a comforting essence of warmth and depth. 

Australian Flat White with Brown Sugar 

Even classic coffee beverages can be upgraded with brown sugar. Take, for instance, the Australian Flat White – a well-steamed milk coffee with a velvety consistency. The addition of brown sugar not only sweetens the coffee but creates a fragrant and earthy flavor that distinguishes this drink from other typical coffee beverages. 

Brown Sugar Coffee Cake

For those who enjoy a bite to eat with their morning cuppa, a Brown Sugar Coffee Cake recipe may be worth exploring. This sweet cake, which blends the familiar flavors of coffee, brown sugar, and a hint of vanilla, is perfect for pairing with espresso or black coffee. The crumbly brown sugar topping adds a satisfying crunch that complements the moist cake, providing a balanced and delicious coffee-time indulgence.

These are just a few recipes that can be enhanced by replacing normal sugar with brown sugar. From traditional coffee beverages to indulgent and exciting new drinks, brown sugar adds a rich twist to your sweetened coffee.

Final Thoughts: Is the Brown Sugar in Coffee Hype Justified?

Putting brown sugar in coffee may seem a fad, but the practice has cultural origins, particularly in regions where sugar cane is grown. Shifting from white to brown sugar comes with taste benefits and potential health benefits too. 

Nevertheless, personal preference always plays a crucial role, as does moderation. And your perfect sweetener may be different from others. 

Ultimately, if you love experimenting with coffee flavors and have been wondering if brown sugar is for you, then give it a shot. It may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but it could very well make yours magical! 

Brown Sugar in Coffee FAQs

  1. Why should I try brown sugar in my coffee?

    You should try brown sugar and coffee because it offers a different flavor than white sugar. The molasses in brown sugar gives it a rich, caramel-like flavor that can enhance your cup of hot coffee. The presence of molasses also makes brown sugar slightly more nutritious than regular white granulated sugar.

  2. How do I put brown sugar in coffee?

    To put brown sugar in coffee, simply add it to your coffee in the same way you would normal sugar. You can add it to taste, and remember that it has a stronger flavor than white sugar, so you may need less than you’re used to.

  3. What type of sugar is recommended for coffee?

    Any sugar is fine to use in coffee, it ultimately comes down to personal taste preferences. If you love brown sugar, you might enjoy the distinct taste it brings to your coffee with milk, making it a little less bitter and creamier, and more flavorful.

  4. Should I try to use brown sugar instead of white in my coffee?

    Yes, if you are curious about new flavors, you should try using brown sugar in your coffee. Brown sugar has a molasses content that gives it a unique flavor. It’s a different taste that’s worth trying if you’re looking to switch up your coffee routine.

  5. What is the difference between white and brown sugar?

    The main difference between white and brown sugar is that brown sugar has a molasses content, while white sugar doesn’t. This gives brown sugar its distinctive brown color and rich, caramel-like flavor. It also means that brown sugar is slightly higher in nutritional value than white sugar.

  6. Can I add regular brown sugar to my coffee?

    Yes, you can add regular brown sugar to your coffee. It will add a caramel-like flavor to your coffee due to the molasses content in brown sugar.

  7. Can I make brown sugar syrup for coffee?

    Yes, you can prepare a brown sugar syrup for coffee. You just need to simmer equal parts of water and brown sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved, then cool it down. Add a little to each cup to sweeten it up and add a bit of caramel-like flavor, too.

  8. What’s a good sign to start putting brown sugar in coffee instead of white?

    If you want to experiment with new flavors and ways to add sweetness to your coffee, those are enough signs to give it a shot. Brown sugar provides a rich, caramel-like taste that many people enjoy. Who knows, you might become bewitched!

  9. Does brown or raw sugar make a difference in taste when added to coffee?

    Yes, brown or raw sugar makes a big difference in taste when used as a sweetener for coffee. These sugar types are less processed than white sugar and contain molasses, which adds a rich, caramel-like flavor to your coffee.

  10. How can I properly use brown sugar in my coffee?

    If you’re using brown sugar in coffee, start with a small amount. Depending on the size of your cup and your taste preference, a teaspoon of brown sugar could be enough. Stir it in while the coffee is hot so the sugar melts and blends with the coffee.

  11. Does brown sugar make coffee taste sweeter?

    Yes, using brown sugar in coffee also contributes some sweetness, but it’s a different sort of sweetness than the clean, straightforward sweetness that refined white sugar provides. It’s deeper, with hints of toffee and caramel.

  12. What are the alternatives to sugar for sweetening coffee?

    Some of the alternatives to sugar for sweetening coffee are honey, stevia, agave nectar, and sweeteners like Splenda. These can offer different flavors and are beneficial if you’re trying to cut down on sugar intake.

  13. What can happen if I put too much brown sugar in my coffee?

    Using too much brown sugar in coffee could make it far too sweet, and you may end up not tasting the coffee itself. Additionally, consuming excessive amounts of sugar can lead to health problems such as weight gain and increased risk of heart disease.

  14. How does brown sugar complement the flavor of coffee?

    Coffee comes with a symphony of flavors, especially specialty coffees. Brown sugar, with its caramel note, merges perfectly into this configuration without covering other flavors and adds a hint of richness that enhances the overall coffee experience.

  15. Can I use brown sugar in my coffee if I’m a hardcore coffee drinker?

    Yes, even hardcore coffee drinkers can enjoy the distinctive taste that brown sugar adds to coffee. It brings out the natural flavors in the coffee, giving it a unique and enjoyable taste, without masking its original form.

  16. Do there exist any types of coffee that taste better with brown sugar?

    Yes. Coffees that have chocolate, caramel, or other sweet undertones can particularly benefit from brown sugar since brown sugar has molasses it can really enhance these built-in flavors. Preferred ones are dark roast coffee beans or full-bodied gourmet blends.

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