These days, it seems there are a million alternatives to your standard supermarket-variety flours. Banana flour? It’s a thing. Quinoa flour? Check! Obviously there’s coconut flour, too, but have you heard of coffee flour?
Here's what you should know — and why you should give this gluten-free flour a try.
From Coffee Bean to Coffee Flour
Before we delve into coffee flour, it helps to understand a bit about how the coffee we drink is made. To get from plant form to beverage form, coffee has to go from coffee cherry (the fruit) to bean (what's in the center of the cherry).
If you want to get really geeky, this process can happen through a dry or a wet method. In the dry method, the coffee cherry is set out to dry, then hulled to remove the now-dry outer layer from the bean. With the wet method, the coffee cherry and coffee bean are separated before drying.
Either way, the coffee bean goes on to a bigger and brighter future (in your cup), and the pulp is a waste product — or is it? That's where companies like CoffeeFlour come in. A couple years ago, the Vancouver-based start-up developed a method to dry the pulp and then mill it into flour. And last year a professor at Brandeis University invented a flour milled from partially roasted green coffee beans.
So why should you give this gluten-free flour a try?
3 Reasons to Give Coffee Flour a Try
1. Coffee flour tastes good.
Compared to other agricultural byproducts — say, grape seed powder, which Dan Belliveau, inventor of CoffeeFlour, says tastes like garbage — coffee flour actually tastes good. The exact flavor depends on the origin of the beans; just like coffee from countries like Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, and Vietnam can be very different, so can the flour derived from the pulp.
Central American coffees tend to have a similar base to them, with sweet notes. "Guatemala picks up additional caramelized notes," explains Belliveau, while "Mexico is a little bit earthier.”
2. It creates additional revenue for coffee farmers.
Usually coffee pulp is just another waste item — a byproduct of the coffee production chain — but if farmers can make money not only from processed beans, but also from the leftover pulp, they benefit more from their operation.
“The goal for us," says Belliveau, "is how you best support and drive benefit to farmers, to origin countries.” He adds that the company has committed to leave at least 30 percent of the milled flour in the producing countries, ensuring that local communities have access to the flour, which may have nutritional benefits — including high levels of fiber, protein, iron, and potassium — over regular flour.
3. Coffee flour is good for the environment.
Beyond supporting farmers economically, putting a waste product to use makes environmental sense, too. In the coffee production process, almost half the biomass of coffee cherry ends up as waste. Removing the pulp before it even can get to the waste stream — which is full of pollutants, 30 to 40 times greater than in urban sewage — helps to improve the local environment.
Cooking and Baking with Coffee Flour
So what do you do with coffee flour? It can be used in everything from baked goods to savory sauces. In my personal experience, the flavor pairs exceptionally well with chocolate. Coffee with and in your brownie, anyone?
It's important to note, however, that coffee flour is intended for mixing with other flours. “Like other alternative flours, it’s different from your general all-purpose flour,” says Belliveau. After a lot of testing, he says that it's best at about a 10 to 25 percent substitution rate.
For those interested in experimenting with CoffeeFlour at home, it's now available to individual consumers through Marx Pantry.
What do you think? Have you tried coffee flour?