Many different plants have been used to make a coffee substitute over the years. We thought we'd revisit the subject and give you our recommendations and instructions on how to get the best drink.
List of plants to use
The following have all been used to make a coffee substitute. Some taste infinitely better than others! We give a list of a few of our favourites later on in the article.
Almond, acorn, asparagus, barley, beechnut, beetroot, broom seed, carob, carrot, chick peas, chicory root, corn, cottonseed, dandelion root, fig, hawthorn seeds, hemp seeds, Jerusalem artichoke, Job's tears, juniper seed, Lady's bedstraw seed, boiled down molasses, oats, okra seed, parsnip, pea, peanut, persimmon seed, potato peel, rough hawkbit root, rye grain, sassafras pits, soya beans, sunflower seed, sweet potato, wheat bran and wild strawberry root.
We used a dehydrator, an oven, a grinder, airtight jars, a baking sheet and a julienne peeler. You could get by with just an oven, a baking sheet and something to grind with e.g. pestle & mortar or rolling pin and chopping board. However, pulses take some grinding even with an electric machine. You have been warned!
If you are doing this all manually you'd be better off trying roots and leaves as these are much easier to process.
Preparing for roasting
Obtain whatever roots, leaves, grains, nuts, seeds and beans you want to use. Wash anything if needs be but dry well with a clean t-towel or paper towel.
Drying the roots and leaves in a dehydrator before roasting seemed to improve the flavour but isn't absolutely necessary. Peel the roots into strips with a julienne peeler to make them thin and easier to roast.
Grains, nuts, seeds and beans don't need any preparation although you could roughly chop up the larger nuts.
Roasting and grinding
Place your chosen ingredients on a baking sheet in a medium oven and bake until dark brown in colour. The leaves and roots take on a fragile powdery crispness. Everything else goes hard and brown. The time and temperature is variable due to moisture content of food and oven settings.
Dried roots and leaves take about 5 mins. Grains, seeds and beans take much longer. Stand and watch them cook. No, we're not kidding! Ensure everything cooks evenly and doesn‘t burn. Remove from oven, cool and then grind very finely.
Top tip: ensure everything is very dry before you grind otherwise you will get damp lumps rather than powder. You can roast again after grinding if you want a better flavour however over-roasting also destroys the flavour.
Store powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place or refrigerator.
Place 1-2 teaspoons of powder in a mug and add boiling water. You can drink it black or add plant milk and sugar to taste. Doing it this way produces 'coffee grounds' in the bottom of the cup which may or may not bother you. If you want to impress, you could use a cafetierre with a push down filter to remove the grounds. You can mix your powders, e.g. dandelion and chicory, or add herbs and spices for different flavours e.g. cinnamon.
Our all time favourites include dandelion root, chicory root, carrot root, Jerusalem artichoke root, rye grains and parsnip root. All of these produced a really good flavour and were worth processing.
The less favourable
We roasted hawthorn leaves instead of seeds and would use them if we had nothing else! Hawthorn leaves are better served by making a green tea out of the fresh leaf.
We couldn't get the hemp to taste of much at all but hemp 'coffee' products often have coffee beans added and now we know why.
Despite being roasted twice, oats had a very bland creamy flavour, not dissimilar to slippery elm powder.
Like oats, soya beans (our own home grown) had to be ground twice and roasted twice before they tasted of anything very much at all.
We couldn't get the almonds to taste of much either and we don't think they dissolved well because of the oil content of the nut. They may need to be boiled up rather than just spooned into a mug or cafetierre.
We tried spelt (wheat) grains complete with outer husk, which is difficult to remove, and they tasted okay despite the husk debris.
We didn't have any acorns available at the time so haven't tried these although they were supposed to have been used in the war and there are reports of them tasting foul. This may or may not be the case and needs further investigation!