Coffee is the most important part of my diet, immediately following all the essential nutrients. In the past year, I have upgraded to pour over in the mornings and cold brew on hot days. Beyond everything I value in life, it gives me a reason to wake up and become a functioning adult. This magical beverage has a lot of dietary benefits, but did you know there is an industry sprouting around coffee by-products? The hipsters running your local coffee shops are embracing all the possibilities of coffee, and it is resulting in some fantastic new products.
If we want to explore coffee by-products, we must first learn about their origins. What we get in nicely packaged bags is only the roasted bean. Coffee trees produce the bean as a fruit (cherry). The bean makes up only roughly half of the cherry and starts off green. For the world’s second most consumed beverage, behind only tea, you can only imagine the extreme waste that occurs just for your morning ritual. The beans are surrounded by a silverskin, which is a fiber-dense food material. The mucilage beyond it is composed of a complex polysaccharide. The entire cherry is a rich source of polyphenols. Now, on to the by-products!
Coffee flour is one of the hottest complex carbs on the block, and for good reason. It is gluten-free, has abundant amounts of iron, and is also high in fiber. Strangely enough, many early users say it has no coffee taste but instead introduces more floral and citrus notes. As far as caffeine concerns go, the equivalent of a serving would be roughly an eighth of a cup of coffee. To round out all the possibilities of baking with coffee flour, we might need a great cup of tea to pair with it. Coffee still has us covered.
Cascara (meaning husk) tea is made from the leftover cherry after the bean is removed. It has been a traditional drink for coffee-producing countries like Yemen and Ethiopia, but has been slow to make its way overseas. The leftover cherries are steeped and the drink can be served either warm or cold. I have had this drink several times and can best describe it as a mulled-apple-meets-black-tea taste. There is always a small sigh and gasp of disappointment when the last sip is drawn from my straw.
Possibly one of the easiest, and most overlooked, ways for all of us to make a coffee by-product is to give purpose to our leftover grounds. If you brew daily like myself, you probably have a ton of spent grounds that you toss out. An easy way to divert this from the trash is to throw it over your garden or in a potted plant. Coffee grounds are a great source of nitrogen and can even contribute to aeration and water retention. Consider giving your grounds a second purpose and helping your house or garden plants at the same time.
From baking to recycling grounds, there are likely still many undiscovered possibilities coffee has yet to present to us. Coffee is a huge, and still growing, industry, and I look forward to watching it innovate even further. Keep an eye out for these new products as you also find creative ways to reuse the coffee grounds you already generate.