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Best Instant Coffee Substitutes – 6 Ideas For Baking And Beverages

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Looking to make those amazing coffee and vanilla bean cupcakes ? You’re going to need some instant coffee then. Wait, you’re out of instant coffee ? Then you’ll need some really good substitutes.

Vanilla is a very forgiving flavor and will go with pretty much anything but if coffee is the flavor, coffee we need ! But what are some actual viable instant coffee alternatives ? Read on to find out !

Oh, and please note that we’ve thought of alternatives that work great both as baking ingredients, and as actual coffee alternatives for everyday use !

instant coffee

Best instant coffee substitutes

The best substitutes for instant coffee are brewed espresso, instant espresso powder, Chaga tea, or grain-based alternatives made from rye, barley, chicory, or wheat. Another option is to use unsweetened, dark roast cocoa powder.

Each alternative works well for both baking and for everyday use, like making a coffee alternative. Now let’s explore each of these and see how to use them.

Brewed espresso

Brewed espresso is probably the best alternative for instant coffee. It kicks a strong punch, has a strong coffee flavor, and isn’t as large as a cup of regular coffee. Why does size matter ?

Well because in baking all ingredients are very well thought out. The water in espresso will replace another wet ingredient, like possibly milk, oil, or egg. The good part is, espresso is fairly small so there’s not that much water.

brewed espresso

Espresso powder

Espresso powder is often confused with instant coffee, and for good reason. After all, it’s still instant coffee, but much stronger so it’s dubbed espresso.

You might get lucky and find espresso powder in stores, even if there is no coffee powder. In essence it will work the same way as instant coffee. Add it in its powder form, as you would instant coffee.

On that same note, cappuccino powder works just as well. Just be careful because most are sweetened and flavored, so make sure it still fits with your recipe.

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Chicory powder

Now we get to the alternatives made from not-coffee, but somehow still manage to resemble coffee. The whole point of coffee is to add a bitter, earthy note. Chicory has long been used as a coffee replacement, all the way back to the continental blockade.

You will easily find chicory powder or chicory coffee in Southern states, especially along the East coast. It remained a sort of traditional drink, one that even if they don’t drink as often they still keep around the house.

It will mix well enough into whatever batter or dough you’re making, and provide a flavor that can pass for coffee if you’re not very picky. You’ll notice this is the trend with any coffee alternatives.

They will always be bitter, earthy, but lack the acidity of coffee. This can be either good or bad, depending on your preferences.

Rye, barley, wheat bran alternatives

Another alternative for coffee is powder made form rye, barley, or wheat bran. All of them roasted, and very finely ground. You can sometimes find them mixed with chicory as well, like in Inka for example. Other brands in include Postum, Ricore, Pero, and many more.

You don’t have to stop there. Pretty much anything that is marketed as a coffee substitute will work. Think dandelion ‘coffee’, roasted garbanzo(chickpea) beans, or molecular coffee.

All of these work just as well as instant coffee, in that they come in powder form and mix into the batter or dough.

Chaga tea (brew very strong)

It’s a little exotic, but it can work. Chaga is a type of mushroom from Siberia, very popular in Russia and Asia. Initially it was used to boost the immune system, but it resembles coffee in many ways, especially in terms of flavor.

You’d have to brew an especially strong cup of chaga to get a drink just as strong as coffee. Also keep in mind that you need to account for the water in the tea, like you would need for espresso. So the moisture in the batter needs to be adapted.

Cocoa powder,  dark roast

You could also use dark roast cocoa powder. As long as you don’t sweeten it at all, it will provide an earthy flavor to your baking. True, it’s not coffee, but it can be a fair alternative if you’re not very picky.

Now, it’d be a poor alternative if you were making espresso and vanilla bean cupcakes. Actually, it’d work very well now that we think about it. There’s very few recipes that call for coffee that can’t swap it for cocoa.

cocoa powder

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Do not use ground coffee !!!

Whatever you decide to use, please do not use ground coffee. Even if it’s the finest ground coffee you can find out there (or make at home), it’s a bad idea.

The coffee flavor won’t extract that much, and you’ll be left basically eating ground beans. That’s neither delicious nor really good for the stomach or your bowels. Coffee beans have a high amount of fiber, so a bout of constipation may be your way.

Caffeine needs at least 4 minutes in nearly boiling water to be fully released. Ground coffee in batter or dough won’t extract any flavor or caffeine, so please avoid this substitute. We know coffee is made from ground coffee, but it’s extracted from ground coffee.

And no, instant coffee is not ground coffee, even if they may look similar. Instant coffee is brewed coffee that has been dried out and has turned into brittle, fragile granules. Rehydrate them and they will become coffee.

In comparison ground coffee needs hot water to extract the coffee in the first place. Please don’t use them.


Those are the best alternatives for instant coffee in baking and as a nice beverage for you. I hope this article gave you quite a few ideas from which to choose the one that works the best in your situation.

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