Cafe Nico

It’s winter time and citrus fruits abound. Sweet, juicy, and bright, the perfect contrast to gray weather and chilled bones. Hence, the perfect time to share an orange-infused latte recipe (‘cuz it’s been a while), as inspired by our favorite local coffee shop, Hopper and Burr. Introducing, Cafe Nico.

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This drink has it all. It starts with orange peel, simmered and candied with sugar and water to create a lusciously subtle homemade orange simple syrup. Nothing like a little zest to give you that early morning kick, much appreciated after an invigorating 6 am yoga session. A few teaspoons (plus or minus a dash) coat the bottom of a shallow mug, or better yet, a small 4 oz. glass, followed by a rich and creamy espresso pull.

Currently at our house, we have the Decaf Sumatra Mandheling from Portola Coffee Roasters, with dark fruit, earthy, chocolate, and herbal notes, or the Karinga AB, also from Portola, with black currants, melon, lemon-lime, and herbal tones. The latter imparts an additional layer to this citrusy drink. To get an espresso assortment shipped to your door for everyday at-home coffee, may I recommend one of our favorite providers, Blue Bottle Coffee.

Rounding everything off, we sprinkle the top of the espresso pull with a dash of cinnamon, to add warmth to the winter season. If you are feeling up for it, I would mix in some orange zest with the cinnamon prior to adding it to the coffee. Off course, the drink wouldn’t be a latte without steamed milk. I find that the ratio of a 4 oz glass allows for equal parts orange syrup and steamed milk, which is my preferred combination. My favorite cortado cup is this black 4.5 oz Monty Milk Art Cups by Fellow. The latte will appeal to those looking for just a hint of orange zest. Whether you choose to drink in one gulp or in tiny sips, it is sure to take you to the warmer summer days ahead.

Tools You Need:

There are a few gadgets that you will need in order to make a Cafe Nico at home. These are some of our gadgets that we are impartial to.

  • Scale – I own this one, because it weighs heavy-enough things for bread-making as well. I also like this because I can toggle between grams and ounces. Mike has this one that he uses for coffee exclusively, which is what we mostly use when measuring coffee bean and water weight. It is especially useful since it has that timer, essential to latte pulls and drip-coffee!
  • Grinder – The grinder plays a huge role in the quality of your brew (or espresso, or latte, or what-have-you). We used to just live with the results of a sub-par grinder, until last Christmas, when our gift to each other was a high quality grinder that has been spewing out delicious pours ever since.
  • Espresso Machine – We own the La Marzocco Linea Mini. It is a high end espresso machine that my husband sold his motorcycle for after waiting ten years to buy it. We use it every day and are slowly earning back the money we spent buying it by not going to a coffee shop for our espresso based drinks.


  • 4-5 teaspoons of homemade orange simple syrup
  • 18 g of coffee of your choice, pulled as an espresso shot
  • Steamed milk of your choosing, the original recipe calls for half – and – half
  • Cinnamon (a dash)
  • Orange zest (optional)

The Process:

  1. Prior to making the coffee, I would pre-mix some orange zest (if using) with the cinnamon. The last thing you want to do is allow the coffee to cool while you scramble for this mixture. You want it to be prepared with a mesh strainer set aside or placed in a shaker for easier sprinkling.
  2. Place 4-5 teaspoons of homemade orange simple syrup at the bottom of your cup or glass. This is the part that allows you to control how citrusy and sweet the drink actually is. Mr. Debtist prefers only 3 teaspoons, whereas I almost always do the full five.
  3. Pull your espresso shot OVER the simple syrup. I use 18.5 grams of coffee ground at the setting of 6A using our Baratza grinder, extracted for 25 seconds to pull 1.5 oz of coffee.
  4. Sprinkle the top of the espresso with a dash of your cinnamon mix.
  5. Steam milk, and top off the drink.
  6. Allow this drink to get you through the winter. Summer is coming.

If you love coffee, then you may be interested in checking out this coffee gift guide, which lists some of our favorites! Feel free to pin it to Pinterest so you can refer back to it later!

Homemade Orange Simple Syrup

I am one who is all for making things from scratch, sometimes in an effort to reduce pre-packaging waste, and other times for the sake of being creative. Simple syrups are one of the pantry items that I urge people to make at home. Why? Because the name itself implies its simplicity. It only requires, water, sugar, and whatever taste you want to infuse into the syrup. Once made, these syrups are perfect additions to coffee, cocktails, and baked goods. Today, I share with you this orange simple syrup recipe, which we use to make Cafe Nicos in the winter months.


  • 1-quart water (filtered or distilled)
  • 1/2 lb. sugar (granulated)
  • 5 oranges (peel only, sliced)

The Process:

  1. Combine the water, sugar and orange peels in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Avoid boiling for too long. Once the sugar caramelizes, you know you have gone too far. I have had plenty a time when I’ve burned my simple syrup and had to start over.
  2. Remove from heat, remove the peels and let the syrup cool. The syrup should be slightly opaque, with no hint of brown. Transfer to a bottle or jar. Store in the fridge for longest life.
  3. Add to Cafe Nico.