Flavored coffee beans may seem like a relatively new trend in the West, but coffee lovers having been adding flavors to their coffee for centuries. Originally, nuts and berries were added to the coffee itself to flavor it. Advances in technology have allowed for flavor to be added directly to the bean.
Coffees are flavored differently depending on the spice or plant that is used. Some flavors are extracted from the plant itself. Other flavors are mimicked in a lab. The flavor component is isolated and then reproduced. This is why some coffees are identified as having "natural and artificial" flavoring.
There are a variety of coffee bean flavors. Bean Central separates the flavors into seven categories: chocolate, vanilla, fruit, nuts, spice, caramel and distilled spirits. A coffee bean may be infused with either a single flavor or a mix of two or more flavors.
Coffee beans are roasted before they are flavored. After roasting, the beans must be cooled or the high temperature can destroy some of the flavoring. The beans are placed in a large mixer and gently agitated as the flavoring is dripped into the mixer. The process continues until the beans are completely coated, which can take 15 to 30 minutes.
Regular coffee beans contain virtually no calories. According to the USDA, an 8 oz. cup of regular coffee prepared with water has only 2 calories. These negligible calories come from some oils in the beans. Flavored coffee beans also do not contain any significant calories. Even if flavor is infused into the bean, it will not add any extra sugars or calories.
If you purchase powdered instant flavored coffees, these will likely contain calories. Powdered coffees have added sugar and fat, although you can purchase sugar-free versions. Coffee shops sometimes use syrups to flavor their coffees. Unless identified as sugar-free, these syrups generally contain sugars and calories.