Coffee flour isn't really a flour. And although it is from the coffee plant, it doesn't taste or smell anything like the roasted coffee beans we know and love.
Coffee beans are actually seeds and, like many seeds, they grow inside a fruit. The fruit that surrounds a coffee bean is called a coffee cherry. After harvesting the coffee beans, the coffee cherry has traditionally been discarded. Billions of pounds of coffee fruit was simply discarded every year. But now this tasty part of the plant is being reclaimed as an edible crop. The cherries are dehydrated and ground into a fine powder and sold as coffee flour or coffee cherry flour. But it functions more like a spice or flavoring agent than a flour.
You'll see coffee flour in stores that specialize in healthy foods, including some Trader Joes. Chefs, food bloggers, and even mixologists have taken interest and have been experimenting with it as an ingredient in drinks, baked goods, dips, and desserts. In an era when we are increasingly focused on reducing food waste, the idea of diverting perfectly good food out of the waste stream is very appealing. Coffee flour production is also providing a new source of income for people in developing countries.
What does it taste like?
Even though it's made from a fruit, coffee flour is not sweet. It is virtually sugar-free and fat-free. It has a slightly tart, slightly bitter taste, like fruity cocoa powder. You can add a tablespoon or two to a smoothie or your favorite chia seed pudding recipe. You can also add it to baked goods, replacing two tablespoons of every cup of flour with coffee powder. You'd certainly notice it if you added it to your pancake or pound cake recipe. You might not notice the difference in a brownie recipe.
But as one food blogger wrote, "Though the #wasteless angle reeled me in, it's the nutritional aspects that really sold me. ... The real reason I'd cook with coffee flour again is not for its flavor, but for the nutritional boost it offers."
And it is sometimes touted as a nutritional powerhouse. One website claims that coffee flour has more iron than fresh spinach, more protein than fresh kale, more potassium than a banana, and more fiber than whole grain wheat flour.
But this is a perfect example of how nutrition claims can be true but not meaningful.