This is one of those recipes that went terribly wrong before it ever went right. Frankly, I’m not even sure it’s right but it’s at least something.
Occasionally, I’ll challenge myself to recreate a complex dessert as a coffee drink. It’s a fun way to reverse engineer flavors and often leads to something tasty. This time around I decided, for some godforsaken reason, that I wanted to create a key lime pie drink.
Condensed milk, graham cracker crust, and a whole lot of lime. Couldn’t be that hard.
Unfortunately, I am notorious for making things ten times harder for myself than they need to be.
I started off with the idea, albeit a pretty standard one, of making graham cracker milk. Simply steeping 60g of graham crackers in 600g of whole milk for approximately 30 minutes before straining out the solids.
Great. Everything is good so far.
But here’s where it got dicey.
While waiting for my milk to finish infusing, I went down the rabbit whole of batched clarified cocktails. Milk clarification is a technique that involves intentionally curdling milk to separate the curds from the whey. When done correctly and incorporated into a drink, it can provide a heavy, almost velvety texture to a cocktail. Additionally, it will create beautiful, transparent drinks. Click here for a more detailed history.
In my never ending search to figure out how to make a coffee beverage that isn’t a brown liquid in a cup, I thought I might toss in some casual clarification.
(In my defense, I’d used this before in competition and therefore figured I had some experience)
So, after straining out all of my graham crackers, it was time to assemble and clarify.
In went 60g of sweetened condensed milk (vigorously stirred to incorporate), immediately followed by two double shots of espresso.
Now, you can clarify milk with a whole assortment of citruses and acids. Heck, you can just use citric acid if you want. But since this is a key lime pie latte, why would I use anything other than lime juice?
In went approximately 2oz of lime juice. Please don’t kill me for switching to ounces here but I was fully free styling this recipe at this point. If it helps, it was the juice of two limes.
No visible curdling.
I’d had plenty of luck curdling room temperature milk with that proportion of lime juice before. My only guess was that the condensed milk was creating some problems.
What else was there to do but add more lime juice?
After the addition of two more limes, whatever was left in my pitcher, and an extensive amount of stirring, I had to admit defeat at the fact that my milk wasn’t going to curdle to the extent needed.
However, at this point I was nearly two hours into making this drink and it felt like a huge waste just to give up so I pulled out my flat bottomed drippers, tossed in some paper filters, and waited to see if anything would separate.
To my utter shock… we had some signs of a clarified drink.
Dripping slowly from the bottom of my Kalita was a transparent, amber liquid. It was certainly an improvement from the brown sludge that was sitting within the filters.
The entire filtering process took around one and a half hours.
Finally, after investing over three hours into one drink, I had something to show for it.
I have to be honest with you. The drink wasn’t amazing. The recipe most definitely needs some tweaking.
But it was good.
The texture was smooth, silky, and heavy in weight. The drink itself had heavy lime aromatics, an undertone of rich, wheat-like sweetness, and a surprisingly forward espresso profile.
All in all, pretty well balanced.
There’s no moral to this story, no perfect recipe that I can suggest you try at home (if you have half a day to spare), but this is the process of creating interesting drinks. It’s a lot of guessing, a lot of questionable decisions, and, at the end of it, something you can learn from.
Embedded link: @morgandrinkscoffee This was an adventure all the way through #coffee #barista ♬ Wes Anderson-esque Cute Acoustic - Kenji Ueda