Can you bake with it? Does it have caffeine? You probably have so many questions, and luckily we have all the answers
Any baking connoisseur knows flour is no longer limited to plain ol' wheat anymore. These days it seems like you can make flour out of just about anything—from almonds and oats to fava beans and amaranth—and now it's time to add one more to the list. Coffee flour, the latest gluten-free variety, is a buzzed-about ingredient that just so happens to have two versions to rave about—and its own set of nutritional benefits that come along with them. Here's what you can get from a bag of coffee flour that even a straight-up cup of Joe can't claim. (Also, here's how to bake with eight other new types of flour.)
Version 1: Coffee Flour from Discarded Cherries
The usual coffee-harvesting process looks like this: Pick the fruits, known as coffee cherries, off the coffee tree. Extract the bean from the middle. Discard the rest—or so we thought. Starbucks alum Dan Belliveau found a way to take those leftover cherries and grind them into a flour. The result? CoffeeFlour™.
This new flour variety offers way more health benefits than your basic all-purpose flour. It has about half the fat, significantly more fiber (5.2 grams compared to 0.2 grams), and slightly more protein, vitamin A, and calcium. Coffee flour also packs a huge iron punch with 13 percent of your daily recommendation coming in 1 tablespoon.
Despite its name though, coffee flour doesn't actually taste like coffee, which means it won't have an overpowering flavor when you use it to make muffins, granola bars, and soups. It also isn't meant to be a direct substitution for the flour a typical recipe calls for. You'll likely have to do a little trial and error, so start by replacing 10 to 15 percent of the recipe's regular flour with coffee flour, then use your usual flour for the rest. That way you can get used to the taste and see how it reacts with the other ingredients without totally ruining your recipe.
And if you're sensitive to caffeine, don't worry: Since it's made from the coffee cherries and not the bean itself, coffee flour contains only about the same amount of caffeine as you'd find in a bar of dark chocolate.
Version 2: Coffee Flour from Coffee Beans
The other route to coffee flour involves the beans themselves—but not the dark, oily, super-aromatic beans you likely associate with coffee. (Surprised? Check out these other coffee facts we bet you never knew.) When coffee beans are first picked, they're green. Roasting makes them shed their greenness, along with a significant amount of their health benefits. The original bean is packed with antioxidants, but Brazilian researchers found that those levels can be cut in half during the roasting process.
That's why Daniel Perlman, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Brandeis University, worked to keep the antioxidant count high by roasting the beans at lower temps, which created "parbaked" beans. Those don't taste so great in coffee form, but ground up into flour? Bingo.
This version of coffee flour keeps up the levels of chlorogenic acid antioxidants, which slow down the digestive system's glucose uptake. As a result, you'll get more sustained energy from that muffin or energy bar, rather than the usual spike and crash, says Perlman. (Side note: Before you think of making coffee flour at home, know that it's not really as simple as it sounds. Perlman's coffee flour, which Brandeis University patented last year, is milled in a liquid nitrogen atmosphere.) The taste is pretty mild, with a slight nuttiness that plays nicely in a variety of recipes. Perlman recommends subbing in 5 to 10 percent if you're baking on a budget, since coffee beans cost a lot more than wheat.
And those in need of a caffeine kick can rejoice: A muffin made with coffee-bean coffee flour has as much caffeine as you'd find in a half-cup of coffee, says Perlman. We'll start baking to that.