The Surprising Ingredient Grandma Used for Unbeatable Coffee

Her secret ingredient elevates ordinary coffee to new heights of richly flavored, well-balanced perfection.

If your family’s from the Midwest (especially Wisconsin or Minnesota), you might remember your grandma boiling up big batches of what she called Scandinavian coffee (or perhaps Norwegian or Swedish coffee, if she wanted to get specific). If she was making it for a church get-together, she might have called it church basement coffee and brought along one of these heavenly desserts.

But what was the secret ingredient in coffee that Gran made? If you peeked in the percolator, you might have seen it.

What’s in Scandinavian coffee?

Eggs! They are what makes Scandinavian coffee the richly-flavored, amber-hued, perfectly-balanced brew that it is. Or more specifically, a raw egg—shell and all—which you crack over and mix it into your coffee grounds to form a thick slurry. (We’ll get to the how-to just below.) You should also consider adding this secret ingredient to your coffee, too.

But why?

Not everyone knows this, but eggs have a seemingly magical power to “clarify” liquids from broth to wine to… yes, coffee. As the liquid is heated, the egg coagulates, drawing impurities out of the liquid and into itself. In the case of coffee, those impurities include substances that can cause coffee to taste bitter or burnt. Ultimately, the impurities also include the grounds, themselves. In other words, the egg acts as an “ick” magnet, filtering your coffee without the need for a paper or mesh filter (yay!). After a mere three minutes, the egg and grounds have formed a unified lump that you can easily strain as you pour yourself a cup.

How to make Scandinavian coffee

What you’ll need:

What to do:

  • Set three cups of water to boil in a pot. Set aside one cup of cold water.
  • In a small bowl, combine coffee grounds, egg (crush the shell as you mix it up), and the remaining 3 tablespoons of water. This is your slurry.
  • When the water is boiling, add the slurry to the water and set a timer for three minutes.
  • When the timer goes off, remove the pot from the heat source and pour in the cold water.
  • Strain into a pitcher (you’ll leave behind a large clump of egg and grounds) and serve.

While you work, make sure you’re watching out for these mistakes everyone makes while making coffee.

A word about salmonella

Raw eggs are perhaps the most common source of salmonella food poisoning. Scandinavian coffee eliminates that risk by boiling the eggs for three minutes, meaning they are fully cooked and you can drink with confidence. While you’re indulging in your delicious Scandinavian coffee, give these other yummy recipes straight from Grandma’s kitchen a try, too.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.