Keeping It Classy With the Sugar-free Iced Latte

It’s time to give coffee some more due diligence because I’m not certain I’d be alive (and possibly neither would some of my coworkers) without it. I love the taste, but there’s more to it than that – making a coffee drink has become an art and a comforting ritual for me.

In my first post about coffee, I mentioned that I was never a big fan of sugary, non-coffee-tasting coffee drinks (like those everyone likes to purchase at a place that starts with “S” and ends with “-ucks”), so I haven’t had to make any real sacrifices or dietary shifts with my diabetes diagnosis. But, every now and then I enjoy a nice caramel or vanilla latte and sometimes even rarely crave a big ass frappucino with whipped cream, so I can understand that the struggle is real.

And, as I mentioned previously, the struggle is not totally necessary because those drinks are all still within reach. In this post, I’m going to focus on how to make a flavored iced latte yourself, the correct way – then you can save your $6 and the half a vial of insulin you’d have used for a crappy, poorly made drink at Starbucks to pay for more insulin so you can eat cake (or something) instead. You’re welcome.

How to make a sugar-free flavored latte the correct way

Iced latte.

A homemade iced latte. Note the nice espresso crema on top.

An iced latte is comprised of espresso, milk, a flavor (if you want to flavor it), and ice. There are a few tricks to making a good latte:

  • Use good espresso. Don’t use the cheap crap they sell in Safeway; shell out some $$ for a higher quality brand (that you’ve tried first and know you like), make sure it’s ground finely so you get the most flavor out of the beans, and is reasonably fresh (hasn’t been sitting in your cupboard for 2 years). You will spend more on espresso up front getting a better bean, but you’ll save like $300 and your palate not going to Starbucks. Again, you’re welcome.
  • If you have the money, I’d recommend getting a decent espresso machine. You don’t need to spend $2000 so don’t go to Crate & Barrel and get talked into that ridiculousness. There are many good machines starting at around $75 to about $300  available just about anywhere that make a really nice pour (and you just saved $300 not going to Starbucks, so you can afford it).  There are also a lot of coffee/espresso machine combinations that also work just fine. I currently have a $300 DeLonghi that I’m really happy with. But, honestly, you can also make espresso without a machine at all, and it’s really up to you how you get something you’re happy with.
  • There is a proper order to adding the ingredients so you don’t end up with a watery, tasteless mess.  If you’ve ever seen a “barista” (quotation marks intentional) at Starbucks just throwing everything into a cup all at once, they’re doing it wrong, and you’re going to get a crappy, watered down drink. More on the order in a moment.
  • Use a good flavoring option for your drink. I’ve previously extolled the virtues of sugar-free Torani syrups in several posts already; they’re my preferred go to brand for all coffee drinks. They have literally about every flavor you could possibly want, so you can also mix and match and experiment with which flavors you prefer together. I’ve found that the amount of flavoring I put in to a drink depends on the flavor; some flavors are more subtle than others so you need a little more. It’s best to experiment to see what fits your preferences.
  • Oh, and milk type is kind of a personal preference. I really only ever drink milk (skim) when I’m drinking a latte, so I can’t speak to how different types of milk might affect blood sugar. I would note that a higher fat milk makes a smoother drink overall because it holds flavor better than skim, but I can’t stand drinking high fat milk so it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Obviously, any amount of milk contains carbs so there might be a small amount of insulin required to treat but in my case, the BG raise has been negligible for me.

My recommended order of ingredients to get the best-tasting, smoothest drink:

  1. Make your espresso pour. Most standard espresso machines will make two shots at a time, and most espresso drinks are made with two shots. I like my drinks strong and I’ve been drinking coffee a long time, so I use four for my drinks.
  2. Measure out your sugar-free flavor and pour into steaming hot espresso. Mix well to evenly distribute flavor. I’ve found, depending on the flavor, that 1/2 to 3/4 oz. sugar-free Torani syrup is a perfect amount for a standard drink-size latte. My favorite flavors are vanilla and salted caramel (sometimes together).
  3. Set espresso and flavoring mixture aside.
  4. Fill a standard cup, glass or travel beverage container completely with ice. The larger the ice cubes, the better. Using enough ice (and large cubes, if possible) is important because if you don’t use enough, when you mix in the hot espresso your ice will melt and you’ll end up with diluted espresso and a lukewarm drink. More ice = more cold surface area to cool the espresso more quickly, so the ice doesn’t all melt at once, and then it will stick around to keep your drink cold while you consume it.
  5. Pour milk into your ice-filled glass until it’s about 1/2 full. Pouring the milk in first is another way to keep things colder overall and prevent melting and dilution of your flavors.
  6. Pour espresso & flavoring mixture into the glass.
  7. Add ice if more is needed and mix well. Enjoy your high quality sugar-free latte and flip Starbucks the bird.
  8. Optional: You may find your drink isn’t quite sweet enough to your liking once you try it. You can either add more flavoring until the sweetness is to your satisfaction, or you can add a little bit of liquid Stevia, which I’ve found both sweetens the drink and brings out the flavoring a little more.

 

Liquid Gold

Raise your hand if you’re reading this WT (while tired).

It’s somewhere in the middle of a week after a long weekend literally designed for grilling, drinking beer (more on that later), relaxing with family and friends, and celebration. Maybe you ate too much, or drank too much, especially last night at 10pm when you were in denial you had to go back to work today (I mean, I didn’t… I’m just asking for a friend).

Whatever your reason, you’re dragging, and I have a solution.

No, it’s not quitting your job (sorry). Here it is:

Drink coffee - do stupid things faster with more energy.

Drink coffee – do stupid things faster with more energy. (this photo belongs to Amazon)

My solution to nearly all the ills in life is coffee. It tastes amazing, it can warm you up or cool you down, and as an added bonus, it can help you do stupid things with more energy. The first question I asked my doctor when I was diagnosed was “can I still drink coffee?” That is how much this liquid gold matters to me.

This blog promised to cover all of the liquid perks life has to offer, and I particularly look forward to exploring the world of coffee. I’ve heard anecdotally and read in a few articles that coffee (or, rather, the caffeine in coffee) will raise blood sugar in some Type 1s marginally but not on a massive scale. I haven’t found that to be the case myself, but I have a rather stubborn dawn phenomenon that occurs with or without coffee, so it’s hard for me to separate the two in a quantifiable way.  Further, I’d rather take insulin than be cranky (you’re welcome).

I suspect my present day fascination with mixing drinks can actually be tracked back to my days as a barista, when I officially became addicted to caffeine and was introduced to the notion that drink making could be an art. This was back in about 2000, when Starbucks only had 3,000 stores and only half the country thought it was cool to drink pure sugar that tasted remotely like coffee. Today, every Pinterest model can be seen sporting two critically important accessories: a cell phone and a plastic Starbucks cup with the latest flavored frappucino or flavored latte. For better or worse, this has created an expectation, at least in the U.S., that coffee must taste like smoked marshmallow instead of coffee. I’m not actually sure half of the coffee drinkers in this country know what real coffee tastes like, which seems to be sad only to me and people who actually know how to make coffee.

Those of you who know me well know I fucking hate Starbucks and I always have for a lot of reasons, but let’s all be honest with ourselves: those frappucinos don’t suck, and that’s because they have a shitload of sugar in them. I had a frappucino once post-dead-pancreas, because I didn’t even think about how much sugar was in there and it was hot and I wanted whipped cream. An hour later, my blood sugar was almost 400 and no amount of insulin would bring it down. Whoops. On the plus side, I rarely drink that crap anyway because I believe in quality coffee roasted by people who know what the fuck they’re doing (Starbucks has neither), so giving up fake-coffee-sugar-drinks wasn’t a huge sacrifice. But I know I’m in the minority (haughty sniff).

The good news is, there’s a TON of alternatives for great (and sweet) coffee drinks for those of us who can no longer survive a frappucino without a trip to the hospital. But this *might* mean you will have to learn to make your own coffee drinks in some cases, so hang in there with me. I promise, real coffee drinks can be as good as a frappucino.

A couple of thoughts about things you can change right away to ante up your coffee quality of life:

The world of sugar-free flavored syrups is worth exploring. I mentioned in a previous blog post the many, many virtues of sugar-free Torani syrups, which can create a beautiful, smoked marshmallow world for those of you who prefer it that way.  While there are lots of syrup brands out there, Torani is used most consistently in the coffee world — it’s good stuff. A bigger coffee shop will carry at least one or two sugar-free flavors, so it’s always good to ask what they have before assuming you’re stuck with something boring (I do happen to know that every Starbucks carries sugar-free Vanilla, at a minimum). If you want to buy your own to make your own coffee drinks, just about any flavor you can imagine is available on the Torani site or on Amazon. If you’re in a hurry, you can pick them up at World Market, which carries several flavors.

You do not have to suffer because of someone’s hipster liquid agave. I’ve noticed a recent trend: today’s local coffee shops (which you should be going to instead of Starbucks because their coffee is actual coffee) have gone very modern and minimalist in order to enhance the customer experience, and in some cases, this means they no longer offer artificial sweeteners because it will RUIN their minimalist look and kill your $6 pour-over (haughty sniff). Instead, you will find a very chic looking single bottle of liquid agave on the condiments counter, because liquid sugar is the new thing. How classy. So, for a diabetic, you might believe your choice is to drink fancy but bitter unsweetened coffee, or risk a blood sugar spike… not true! Fuck that hipster shit.

Now, you know that you should carry a few packets of artificial sweeteners with you everywhere you go because you read my post on tips and tricks, and you can use those anytime when you order your coffee and discover you’ve chosen to patronize somewhere too cool for you. I’ve also learned that sometimes coffee shops do carry artificial sweeteners but they hide them, so you should always ask. And, this is a very recent discovery – some coffee shops are learning they have been assholes and are starting to carry sugar free liquid sweeteners, too!

Kudos to Ziggy's Coffee in Longmont, CO, for carrying sugar-free liquid sweetener.

Kudos to Ziggi’s Coffee in Longmont, CO, for carrying sugar-free liquid sweetener.

I was actually not aware Torani even made liquid sweetener prior to taking this photo, but I am now. Kudos to the Colorado-based Ziggi’s Coffee for carrying this alternative.

In the next few posts about coffee, I’ll explore some recipes for summertime drinks that are low sugar and just as damn tasty as a frappucino.  In the meantime, you’ll likely find me sucking down my bucket of sugar-free liquid gold at work tomorrow. Zzzzzz….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SaveSave

Random handy tips & tricks: Installment 1

By necessity, diabetics are a pretty resourceful lot. Being a healthy diabetic requires a shitload of supplies and a level of preparedness usually reserved for a girl scout (raise your hand if anyone has ever called you that when you hauled out your bag of diabetic crapola to calibrate/adjust a sensor/inject, etc.). Having a fickle/dead organ can result in some fun surprises, most often at highly inopportune times (my favorite diabetic surprise so far was having a low while in the middle of negotiating the purchase of a vehicle and having to explain why I was consuming Skittles while signing $30k+ of my life away – I really like to keep it classy) and I’ve found the more prepared I am, the less intrusive my disease needs to be.

Now that I’ve launched the blog, I’ve become a little more woke to my day to day coffee/cocktail consumption routine, and have noted some of the little tricks I’ve learned that make my life easier and the disease less obnoxious. These are aggregated both through my own trial and error, but also from reading learnings from other diabetics and diabetic blogs, so the credit belongs fully to the community.  These are by no means comprehensive and this is an evolving process, so I’m loosely calling this Installment 1.

Oh, and BTW – please leave your own learnings in the comments! We can keep this discussion rolling.

Anything in liquid sugar form is a fucking PITA for my pancreas. What I mean by this is that for diabetics, managing sugar intake is the name of the game, period, right? And I’ve found, in my limited experience, that managing sugar in liquid form is extraordinarily difficult because it absorbs much more quickly into the bloodstream and it’s nearly impossible for any short-acting insulin to keep up in order to manage it (unless you really time an injection/bolus carefully). Therefore, from the perspective of a blogger writing about things in liquid form, one of the main goals of my recommendations, recipes, ideas, etc. will be to avoid sugary liquid in any form as much as possible. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to swap/skip those ingredients, as well as several methods to slow down the rate of absorption so it’s much more manageable if you really must consume sugar.

Artificial sweeteners in varying forms have changed my life. I’m going to talk about these a LOT, because they are my go-to replacements for a lot of sugary ingredients. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m NOT A DOCTOR and I am aware there are mixed reviews on artificial sweeteners and their potential affects on health. In fact, here’s an ADA overview of a few, or feel free to google “artificial sweeteners and Diabetes” and go to town. Ultimately, these are just my opinions and you should do what’s right for your own health.

My personal favorite of all of the sweetener options is Stevia in its varying forms; the research indicates that it’s the most natural option (because it’s literally plant-derived) and to me, has the least chemical flavor. I use it in almost everything I make.

IMG_1646

Varying Stevia options currently in my cabinet, both in crystal and liquid form. Most of these can be found at any major grocery store.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another flavor assist: Sugar-free Torani syrup. Anyone who has had fancy coffee drinks with some kind of flavor added has had Torani, which, as far as I know, is the most widely used brand of syrup for flavoring coffee drinks nationwide. And because there is a god, Torani makes a ton of sugar-free flavors that are GREAT. More on Torani and its amazing-ness coming in other posts.

I carry my sweetener of choice with me, everywhere I go. I cannot tell you how many times a couple of Stevia packets have saved my ass. And, if you’re thinking “I don’t want to carry extra shit” — for those diabetic girl scouts, are a couple of square sized packets really going to push you over the edge in terms of space management? I mean, really.

Here’s a couple examples of why these things save my ass:

  1. I like to go to fancy, pretentious new coffee shops to try their espresso or cold brew because I love good coffee and I like trying all the new roasts in my vicinity. I’m also a coffee snob, but not hard core enough to drink coffee black; I like a little cream and sweetener in it (and I’m assuming most of you are wusses like me because places like Starbucks are still in business). Because these places are so pretentious, they often only offer “organic agave nectar hand-picked by your local dude with a beard and a trucker cap” and they believe in minimalism, so if you don’t want agave because you can’t consume liquid sugar, you can pretty much suck it. Hey, look at that! I’ll just surreptitiously pull out my Stevia packet, sneak half into my coffee when no one’s looking, and enjoy my snobby coffee like a champion.
  2. Wayyy more to come on this later, but when I go out and have drinks, many times it’s at places that don’t actually have artificial sweeteners on hand if I ask them to cut sugary ingredients out of drinks. Think: bartender at club who is like “WTF dude you’re at a skeevy club and you want Sweet & Low? Are you fucking kidding me?”. I don’t want to suffer through something bitter and horrible because I’m at a skeevy club, so voila! Order gin & soda & lime and add Stevia, enjoy excellent drink as though you are an excellent dancer.

And, I keep my sweetener and the rest of my shit classy. Even though I’m making jokes about girl scouts, the truth is that if you’re a diabetic and you plan to make a night of it drinking/clubbing, you can’t be a dumbass because alcohol and diabetes have some issues when running in parallel. If I plan on really making a night of it, I will always make sure I have the right stuff with me to deal with a severe high or low. But I do like to keep it classy, and I’m not going to haul around my Harry Potter purse if I actually plan to dance, which is why I love my Myabetic purse. I’m not getting paid to say anything about Myabetic and there are plenty of blogs out there touting their amazingness so I’ll keep it short – my point is that there are plenty of ways to be a classy, drinking diabetic without again, having to sacrifice much of anything, including style.

IMG_1658

My Myabetic purse with all my crap (note, importantly, Stevia packets on left which are always in there). You can use the cross body strap or remove it and just use the wrist strap.

I really would have thought this was all a no-brainer and maybe it is for you, but I can’t tell you how many diabetics I recently surprised at a Type 1 social in Denver when I whipped out my handy Stevia packet to add to my sugar-free drink.

I’ll see you at the club, sweetener in hand.