It is not so long ago when your choice of flour was limited to your plain old wheat flour. Those days are gone however and there seems to be an endless supply of new flours on the market. These days, flour is made from everything from oats and almonds to bananas and beans. But how many of you have ever heard of the new kid on the block – coffee flour?
Coffee flour is one of the latest gluten-free flour options. There are actually two different types of coffee flour with each having different nutrients and potential health benefits. I am sure you have plenty of questions about coffee flour. Does it contain caffeine? How do you bake with it? And what are its potential benefits to your health?
We will do our best to answer those questions but first let us look at a bit of background information about coffee flour.
A Sustainable Product
The story of how coffee flour came to be is interesting. It was basically created as the solution to a variety of environmental issues caused by the production of coffee itself. Each and every coffee been sits inside a pulpy red fruit. The pulpy part of the fruit has largely been discarded during the coffee production process. This can have a devastating environmental impact since the fruit is mostly thrown away as waste which can contaminate local water supplies, ricers and streams.
Finding a use for this fruit can help protect the environment and of course offers another source of income for coffee farmers as well as creating new jobs to mill the fruit and process it into flour.
Coffee Flour is High In Potassium
Coffee flour is high in potassium with a single tablespoon containing over 300 mg of potassium. That is twice the amount found in a cup of your regular brewed coffee and only slightly less than you find in a banana.
Potassium is linked to heart health, reduced blood pressure and bone muscle and bone health.
High in Fiber
Each tablespoon of coffee flour comes with over 3 grams of insoluble fiber and 1.8 grams of the soluble variety. This is significant since soluble fibers help to absorb water as it flows through he system. This slows down the digestive process and helps your body properly absorb nutrients.
Insoluble fiber on the other hand, adds bulk to your stools making it easier for waste to pass through your intestines. This can help ease common problems like constipation and bloating.
How is Coffee Flour Made?
As I mentioned earlier in the article, there are two different types of coffee flour made in very different ways. They also contain different nutrients meaning that their benefits also differ.
Type 1: Coffee Flour Made From Discarded Fruit
Under normal circumstances, the coffee fruit or cherries are picked from the tree. The bean gets extracted and the rest of the fruit is simply thrown away. The solution to this waste was to find a way to grind the leftover cherries into a flour we call coffee flour.
Coffee flour made in this way can offer significantly greater benefits to your health than your standard all-purpose wheat flour. Coffee flour contains around half the amount of fat and considerably more fiber. It is also higher in certain minerals including iron – in fact just a single tablespoon of coffee flour will provide you with 13% of your recommended daily intake of iron. Coffee flour is also slightly higher in vitamin A, protein and calcium.
How to Use Coffee Flour
Despite coming from the coffee plant, coffee flour actually tastes nothing like coffee. This is likely good news if you don’t want your baked goods and soups being overpowered with coffee flavor. It actually has a mild flavor more similar to tea than coffee.
Unfortunately, you can not use coffee flour as a direct replacement for your all purpose variety of flour. Although there are plenty of recipes available online, it may also take quite a bit of trial and error before you find the right amount to use. You can start off by replacing around 15% of the regular flour called for with your coffee flour. This will help you get to know the taste and whether it complements the rest of the ingredients you are using. It is better to be safe than sorry, so start small to make sure you do not ruin your recipe.
Does it Contain Caffeine?
The good news for anybody with a sensitivity to caffeine is that coffee flour does not contain very much caffeine at all. Because it is made with the coffee fruit rather than the bean, the flour contains a level of caffeine similar to a bar of good, dark chocolate.
Type 2: Coffee Flour Made From Coffee Beans
The other version of coffee flour is made not from the discarded cherries but from the coffee beans themselves. You will be familiar with the dark, aromatic coffee beans that you use to make your coffee but when the beans are actually first picked from the tree, they are green and slightly soft.
The roasting process changes their color from the initial green to the familiar dark brown or black. However, when they are roasted, the coffee beans also lose a considerable amount of their benefits to human health.
Coffee beans before they are roasted are a great source of antioxidants but researchers have found that their antioxidant levels drop by about half during the process of roasting. Scientists have therefore come up with a way of keeping the antioxidant levels higher. Par-baked beans are roasted at a lower temperature than normal. Unfortunately, the process does not work so well if you want a strong cup of coffee but par-baked beans can be ground into a healthy flour instead.
The coffee flour made from the beans helps maintain the level of certain antioxidants like chlorogenic acid. This has various health benefits including slowing down the body’s glucose uptake. Because of this, eating products made from coffee flour can give you more sustained levels of energy than you would get from a muffin or an energy bar made form traditional wheat flour.
Despite being made from coffee beans themselves, the taste is actually quite mild with a slight nutty flavor that works well in plenty of different recipes. Unfortunately, the cost of coffee beans is far higher than wheat and this is reflected in the cost of the flour. Experiment a little but start by substituting 10% or so of your wheat flour with coffee flour.
As regards caffeine content, coffee flour made from the beans contains more than the version made from the cherries. A muffin or pancake made with this flour contains about the same amount of caffeine as you would find in half a cup of regular coffee. Good news for those of you who like a morning caffeine kick.
The Bottom Line
The release of coffee flour was greeted with quite a bit of fanfare and touted as a future player in healthy baking. Whether or not it is worth the hype is debatable and I would not get too excited about it just yet.
It certainly has the potential to revolutionize the coffee industry and as a sustainable product, can help a great deal with the environment. But will it find its way into millions of kitchens and be used as readily as your regular wheat or almond flour?
Time will tell if it is here to stay or just a new fad but if you have any experience of baking with coffee flour, we would love to hear from you.