This vegan-friendly spicy Chile Mocha is made with freshly brewed espresso, steamed milk (or coconut milk), and spicy hot cocoa. This post is sponsored by De’Longhi.
Hello, friends! Are the skies a little grey where you are right now? They are here. The cooler weather has rolled into Central Appalachia, and we’ve entered the awkward ‘in-between’ season. Let’s call it ‘fwinter.’ The bright, multi-color leaves have fallen, and the trees are (gasp!) unclothed. Will we have gorgeous, snowy blankets on the ground soon? Most likely. For now, to help transition through the grey, chilly mornings– we need coffee. More specifically, we need espresso. And chocolate. While we’re at it– let’s add some spice! This spicy Chile Mocha is a vegan-friendly, decadent, caffeinated, fantabulous way to jump-start your day.
The Perfect Winter Drink
When Starbucks rolled out their fall menu this year, and the annual Pumpkin Spice Latte frenzy began, another, newer, spicier drink jumped out at me– the Chile Mocha. This fiery concoction is made by blending a Mexican hot chocolate with a creamy, espresso-filled latte. Espresso, chocolate, AND spicy pepper??? Basically, it’s the best thing ever.
Instead of paying for someone else to make my mocha, however, I decided to make my own! Being my own barista not only saves money (yay!), but also lets me control how much sugar is in my drink. (I’m more of a ‘slightly-sweetened’ drink fan, and pre-made drinks tend to be more on the extra-sugary ‘sickly-sweet’ side.)
To make a frothy, spicy mocha (or any espresso-based drink) at home, you’re going to need an espresso machine. No– you can’t make espresso in your drip coffee machine or French press, because espresso is, by definition, a strong coffee brewed under extreme pressure. You can use any roast you want, but normally it’s made with a dark roast. (That said, if you really, really want to try making this ‘spicy cocoa with a kick,’ but don’t have an espresso maker yet– go ahead and substitute strong coffee. Then, put an espresso maker on your shopping list– or make pals with an espresso-making neighbor.)
Recently, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect espresso maker. I wanted it all– the dark, delicious flavor, the foamy crema, and a steam wand that was easy to use. What I didn’t want, however, was another massive appliance taking up my too-small, precious counter space. (And if you’ve spent any amount of time looking for espresso machines– you’ll know they can be HUGE.) I scoured the internet, reading review after review, and one brand kept standing out– De’Longhi. Not only did I see excellent reviews over and over again, but I saw something else– something perfect. De’Longhi offers compact pump-powered espresso machines! I contacted them, gushing over these little beauties, and they sent me an espresso maker and burr grinder to try out!
When my new coffee set-up arrived, I heard harp music, and a single sunbeam landed on the shiny metal surface– no, not really guys, but there was a lot of squealing, shrieking, and clapping. The husband wasn’t home, so his ears were spared. These machines are sleek, modern, slender– and were actually more substantial and sturdy than I expected! Both the grinder and the espresso maker were slightly larger than I’d imagined (they’re both tall), but since both are only about 6″ wide– they slid nicely into their designated spots in my now more awesome tiny kitchen.
The De’Longhi burr grinder has a digital screen to let you select your preferred coffee ground size (for espresso– we want a fine grind). It is particularly amazing, though, because it works WITH the espresso maker, and you can grind straight into the espresso maker coffee filter. (Plus, you get to feel extra-cool, because your coffee machines are working in unity– as if they also got to drink some pretty delicious chile mocha, and are feeling great about life.)
The espresso maker was the bomb dot com. It heats up in 40 seconds, can use ground coffee OR pods, and shoots perfect little shots of dark, decadent liquid into my coffee mug. My favorite feature, after years of using a steam-powered espresso maker and not a pump-powered maker like this one, is the steam wand. On my old machine, I had to precariously time steaming my milk with the leftover steam from the espresso-making process. No longer!!! This gorgeous mini beast of a machine will steam my milk WHENEVER I WANT. (I feel so empowered– I’m tempted to start pouring frothed milk into everything– just because I can.)
Making Chile Mocha
Once you’ve got your espresso machine– all that’s left is to start making your drink! Begin by heating your milk (or coconut milk) in a small pan with the chiles and cinnamon. (If you’re feeling a little wild, go ahead and add more chile than the recipe tells you to.) As soon as the milk starts to boil, remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Stir until it’s all blended up, and then divide the cocoa between two mugs. Pour an even amount of espresso in each mug, and top it with frothed milk. If you want even more chile, you can add chile to the milk while it’s frothing (like Starbucks does), but I just add it to the cocoa. Once you’ve poured the milk, top it with a little extra cinnamon or whipped cream, wrap your hands around the mug, and drink up!
*Note: Normally I’d say– substitute milk with any milk substitute you prefer! For this, however, you’ll ideally be frothing or steaming your milk, and coconut milk froths better than soy, cashew, or almond milk. If you don’t care about frothing, go ahead and use whatever milk substitute you prefer. If you do care, get a full-fat, or ‘first pressing’ coconut milk from a can (I like Trader Joe’s or Thai Kitchen’s coconut milk). Coconut milk in refrigerated cartons is not as thick and does not froth well.
Spicy Hot Chocolate:
- 1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1oz)
- 1 cup milk OR full-fat coconut milk
- 2 chilis de arbol, split open OR 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 oz brewed espresso (more or less as desired)
- 1/2 cup milk for frothing (use at least 2%, skim won't froth well) OR full-fat coconut milk
- To Serve (Optional): whipped cream, extra cinnamon
Make hot chocolate: In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup milk over medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat immediately, strain out peppers with a slotted spoon, and quickly add chocolate and cinnamon. Stir until chocolate melts. Taste hot chocolate, and add more chili if desired.
Next, brew espresso and steam milk. If you don't have a milk steamer, heat milk on stovetop and use a hand-held frother or immersion blender to create some froth (froth optional but recommended).
Divide hot chocolate between two mugs. Pour half of the espresso into each cup and stir to blend the coffee and chocolate.
Pour milk into each espresso, holding back the froth with a spoon. Top with foam.
Optional: Top lattes with whipped cream and dust with more cinnamon. Serve immediately.