Coffee pancakes, coffee bacon, coffee butter, coffee ice cream sandwiches, and more
Credit: Photo by Stacey Ballis

Everyone who knows me knows that I cannot make coffee. Not just that I’m not a skilled barista, but that I cannot make a drinkable cup of joe. Not with a percolator, not with a Mr. Coffee machine, not with a French press. I have had people who are good at making coffee attempt to teach me, but for whatever reason, all my best efforts fail spectacularly. My coffee is either so weak it tastes like I made it with last week's used grounds passed through an old gym sock, or so thick even the mighty Turks would take a polite pass.

Luckily, I don’t really drink that much coffee. I’m a tea drinker by nature, and a caffeine avoider when possible, so with the exception of the occasional decaf espresso in streetside cafés in Europe mid-afternoon, or the end of a really good dinner out, it doesn’t matter that I can’t make coffee. At our house my husband is in charge of coffee, and on the rare occasion he isn’t here, and guests request it, they can either make it themselves or we are walking distance to a Starbucks.

But don’t let the fact that I cannot make and do not often drink coffee fool you into thinking I don’t like coffee. I love the flavor of coffee. I like coffee ice cream and coffee flavored chocolates and coffee macarons. I like a chocolate cake with coffee buttercream, and coffee crème brulee. So, when a friend recently turned me on to Trader Joe’s coffee syrup, I was intrigued. Coffee syrup appears to be more of an East Coast thing, originating in Rhode Island, with some pals waxing poetic about coffee milk in their youth. Think chocolate milk but with coffee syrup instead of chocolate syrup. This coffee-flavored syrup is the texture of thick maple syrup, and is the slightest bit transparent, but it delivers a good sweet coffee punch. Mixed in milk, drizzled over ice cream, of course, why not? But what about breakfast, where coffee really shines? I got all kinds of excited to experiment.

Credit: Photo by Stacey Ballis

Using it over pancakes seemed a natural, but what if those pancakes were also coffee flavored? I keep instant espresso powder for baking, I love how it punches up chocolate desserts, so adding some to my regular buttermilk pancake batter made for a good start. Pancakes don’t just like syrup, they like butter, and why should be the butter not get its own coffee upgrade? Mixing some of the syrup and some of the powder into softened butter makes for a breakfast that is coffeetastic. And just because I could, I glazed bacon with the coffee syrup for the perfect side.

If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you can buy other brands on Amazon.

BONUS RECIPE: Make extra bacon and extra pancake batter. Then form the pancakes into small silver dollar size cakes and sandwich them with a little scoop of coffee ice cream and a small piece of the bacon, wrap individually and freeze for the most adorable and brunch-friendly ice cream sandwiches ever.

Coffee Pancakes

Makes 9 large or 18 small pancakes


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
¼ cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
More butter or oil for cooking


In a large bowl whisk the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt until well mixed. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk and butter until well blended. Pour the buttermilk mix into the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined. Set aside the batter to rest at room temp for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200°F.

Heat your griddle or nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot enough for a drop of water to skitter across the surface and evaporate, brush a thin layer of olive oil on the surface. Drop 1/2 cup scoops for large cakes or 1/4 cup scoops for small on the skillet, leaving plenty of room for them to spread. I usually coax them along with the back of the scoop, since the thick batter will only spread so far on its own. Cook on the first side until bubbles appear on the tops of the pancakes, and the edges look dry, about 2 minutes. Flip over. DON’T PRESS DOWN! I mean it. I know you want to, but resist. These are extra fluffy cakes, and if you press on them they get rubbery. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Cook on the second side about 1-2 minutes till golden brown and cooked through.

Transfer cooked cakes to a rack over a sheet pan and hold in the oven while you make the rest.

Serve hot with coffee butter and coffee syrup and coffee glazed bacon. Or just regular butter, regular syrup, and regular bacon.

Coffee Butter


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon coffee syrup
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
½ teaspoon lemon zest


Mix all in a small bowl until well blended. Keep in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to two months.

Coffee Glazed Bacon


1 pound bacon
¼ cup coffee syrup


Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment or foil and place a rack on top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray. Lay the slices of bacon on the rack, and paint the tops with the coffee syrup. Bake for 15-18 minutes in the lower third of the oven until the bacon is your desired doneness. Do not bake too close to the top, as the coffee syrup can burn. Keep an eye on it after 12 minutes just to be sure, lower the heat if it looks like the glaze is burning before the bacon is your level of doneness.