Best Espresso Powder: Why it Should Be in Your Spice CabinetCLICK HERE to subscribe to our weekly emails on finding and brewing amazing coffee!
Don’t worry, we aren’t going to try to convert you to the dark side of instant coffee in this article. However, we will tell you about what is quite possibly our new favorite secret ingredient. That’s right, you can pop espresso powder into just about anything to make it better.
Who knew espresso could improve anything it touched? Oh right, the coffee community. So read on to get the full low-down on the best espresso powder, tips on how to use it, and even how to make it yourself!
What is Espresso Powder?
Espresso powder, or instant espresso powder, is essentially a darker, more concentrated form of instant coffee. However, most people aren’t using it to brew coffee or espresso. Unfortunately, the powder makes for a pretty weak cup. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it in your kitchen, as we’ll explain later.
The powder is made using a process pretty similar to making regular instant coffee. Beans that would normally be used to brew espresso are finely ground, brewed, and then dried. The dried, used grounds are then further crushed in order to create an even finer powder. Next, this powder is used in the kitchen to enhance everything from chocolatey baked goods to savory meat rubs and sauces.
Also, we probably don’t have to tell you that “espresso” is not really a type of bean. So these powders are referring to the fact that 1) the powder was made by first brewing espresso, 2) the powder itself is more concentrated that your typical coffee powder, and 3) it was likely made using a very dark, Italian roast.
Best Espresso Powders
Medaglia D’Oro Espresso Instant Coffee
While this brand is a little on the pricey side, it is the go-to for many a chef. It is made from a blend of high quality Italian coffees, which means you’re getting the by-product of an intensely dark roast. In fact, D’Oro even explains that it is double roasted. And that translates into more pronounced, recognizable effects. Overall, it makes for a rich, classic flavor.
Java & Co. Espresso Powder
Java & Co. is one of the most transparent about their espresso powder, which we really appreciate. They specifically explain that it is to be used for cooking and not as an instant coffee. Their espresso powder is the only Fair Trade certified one on the list and they even include that it’s made using dark roast Columbian Arabica beans.
The company also sells refill packets and bulk sizes. And something we found particularly interesting is that they offer a “JAMOCHA Espresso Powder” that is made using a lighter roast than the regular powder. This could have potential if you are preparing foods what would pair better with a slightly brighter or more acidic undertone rather than a rich, more bitter one.
King Arthur Flour Espresso Powder
King Arthur Flour is 100% employee-owned and is the United States’ oldest flour company. Dedicated to quality baking, it is unsurprising that their ingredients are top-notch. They go as far as to claim that your chocolate will sing if you add a teaspoon or so of the powder to your mix! This powder is slightly finer than D’Oro’s and has 31mg of caffeine per teaspoon.
Café Pilon Instant Espresso Powder
This well-loved Cuban brand offers an espresso powder sourced from the nation itself. Cuban Coffee differs slightly from Italian roasts; however, it is still primarily bitter with just a hint of sweetness. But it is a bit weaker than some of the other options on the list. That might be perfect for you though; it just depends on personal tastes!
Ferrara Instant Espresso
Ferrara offers a blend of Brazilian, Columbian, Ecuadorian and Mexican coffees. It’s from an Italian style company, so, again, it has a very dark roasted origin. It’s also labeled as gluten and GMO free. They even have a recommended recipe to use it with; check it out here.
Tips to Try
Espresso powder is a shockingly versatile ingredient, so we’ve included just a few of the ways chefs are using it so you can try them too!
Let’s Start with the Sweet Stuff
In chocolatey baked goods
You probably already know that chocolate and coffee is a match made in caffeinated heaven. Bean Box sends chocolate bars specifically paired with their beans and tons of brands are selling chocolate covered coffee, so why not extend the trend to baking?
Well, some people already have! Adding espresso powder really amps up the chocolate and brings out the more bitter notes to balance out the intense sweetness. Plus, just adding a bit of it isn’t going to turn your chocolate cake into a coffee cake, it’ll just make for a more intense, luxurious chocolate flavor.
Hot Coco, Smoothies, and Cocktails
Now, this usage is a little more unconventional than the baking application. But it’s tasty nonetheless. If you are wanting to add a hint of coffee flavor to your drink, but you aren’t keen on adding a shot of espresso or a splash of your drip brew, this is for you. Adding a dash of espresso powder can give you the flavor you want in your beverage without upping the water content with a typical brew or being as intense as a whole shot.
Now for the Savory…
Braises, Chili, and Stew
There are plenty of recipes out there that instruct you to braise meat in a coffee or chocolate-based liquid. The idea behind this is to add complexity to the braise or broth as well as the resulting dish. By adding a bit of espresso powder, you are essentially created a dish wish with more depth and richness without any odd coffee flavor butting in.
We know this might sound nuts, but using espresso powder in your dry rubs is actually incredible. This secret ingredient of sorts adds a rich, smoky flavor and creates extra depth for the dish. It plays well with cayenne and also lends the outside of the steak a rich dark-brown color. And don’t worry, we promise your steaks aren’t going to start tasting like your morning cup of Joe.
Dressings and Sauces
Whether you are making a vinaigrette or a homemade barbecue or steak sauce, espresso powder might just become your new best friend. For salad dressings it adds a surprisingly savory tone and even a pop of flavor and energy, depending on how much and what brand you use.
On the other hand, if you’re using it in something that is already savory, it creates additional depth. By enhancing the smokier notes of the sauce, it creates a rich flavor that’ll have your cook-out guests asking what your secret is.
Seasoning or Finishing Touch
This is the category where you might get a little carried away. Espresso powder is perfect if you want to add a little something extra to whatever you are making. If you’re making granola or toasted nuts, the espresso can provide something a little more interesting than your usual cinnamon touches. Plus, it pairs beautifully with nutty flavors.
Alternatively, you can use the powder in a manner similar to how people generally use sea salt. Essentially functioning as a garnish on top of desserts (try it on lemon sorbet…it’s amazing) or on salads, just a pinch of the stuff can add some serious fun to the flavor of the dish. When used in either of these ways, the espresso flavor will likely be more prominent, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you brew it?
Technically, yes. However, some are better than others for this. Java & Co. specifically states that their powder is NOT intended for this purpose and King Arthur Flour implies the same about. their product.
On the other hand, Pilon and Ferrara’s powders are used just as frequently (if not more) for brewing than they are for baking. To do this, you use a process similar to making powdered hot chocolate. Heat some water or milk, add in the amount of powder you want, and stir.
Do we recommend that you do this? No. The result is a pretty weak coffee. Plus, these products can be priced pretty high for the amount you’re getting, which is fine if you’re only using a small amount here and there to cook with. However, if you’re using it to brew, you’ll blow through it.
You are better off spending your money on actual coffee beans or grounds. Or, if you really want to go with instant, use things labelled as instant coffee rather than instant espresso or espresso powder.
Is it the same as the fine grounds used for espresso?
No! This is a really common misconception. But if you were to use your espresso grounds to achieve the same things, it would not work as well. Espresso powder is specifically intended to dissolve, allowing it to behave more like a regular spice (like cinnamon.) It is made by drying already brewed coffee grounds then crushing them into a powder.
This gives them a much finer texture and allows them to fully dissolve. If you use espresso grounds, they would not dissolve, meaning you wouldn’t get the intended flavor profile, and you’d likely have a weirdly grainy texture.
Can you use instant coffee in the same way?
Yes, you can. However, as we mentioned earlier, just like instant coffee tends to be better for drinking, instant espresso is better for cooking.
But, if you don’t want to spring for the espresso. powder or just don’t have any on hand, you can substitute instant coffee. You would simply need to use 50% more than the amount the recipe calls for of espresso powder. Further, use that as a rule of. thumb rather than a mandate. Taste as you go to determine what works for you and the dish.
The instant coffee may have a harsher taste or exhibit more tinny or sour notes than espresso powder, especially if you use too much. Nevertheless, there are some recipes that work incredibly well with instant coffee. We’ve even written an article specifically covering some of them. Check it out here.
Is it DIY-able?
It is indeed possible to make your own espresso powder. The process is a tad tedious and is quite time consuming. However, it’s the perfect solution if you’re concerned about the origin of the beans you are using or the sustainable/ethical practices of the company you are buying from. It is usually a lot easier to find that information for coffee beans than it is for already-manufactured espresso powder.
What You’ll Need
- Leftover coffee/espresso grounds*
- Baking sheet
- Coffee grinder and/or mortar and pestle
- Airtight container
- Access to an oven
* We recommend a considerably dark roast, though you could probably get away with a medium-dark one. Lighter roasts are harder to grind and won’t give you the same texture or flavor profile. Also, make sure that the grind you initially use is a fine, espresso grind. That way, your grounds start off in relatively small granules.
How to do it
First, you’ll need to save your espresso grounds from your latest brew. Try to make sure that they are relatively fresh, as any staleness will translate into your powder.
Preheat your oven to 170° F. If your oven’s temperature settings don’t go that low, simply use the lowest one available.
While the oven is preheating, use the spatula to spread your grounds in a thin, flat layer on your baking sheet. (You can use foil to line it if you want.) Keep in mind that the more grounds you use, the more espresso powder you’ll get. It has a shelf life of about a year, so don’t go overboard.
Once the oven is finished warming up, place your baking sheet with the grounds in the oven. Set a timer for about an hour and check the grounds. periodically until they are dry and look toasted and crunchy.
Remove from oven and allow them to cool. Using a coffee grinder with a very fine grind option or a mortar and pestle, grind or crush the grounds until they are a fine, uniform powder.
Put the powder in a small, airtight container and label it with “Espresso Powder” and the date.
And there you have it! Your very own, homemade espresso powder.
If you asked us to pick a favorite espresso powder for cooking, we’d probably have to go with Java & Co.’s.Their brand is the most transparent, and they make a quality product. And we’d have to say Medaglia D’Oro is the runner up for this one. If you want to try Java & Co’s, you can grab it on amazon at this link:
Espresso powder may make for a meh cup of coffee, but it does make for an incredible secret ingredient for other kitchen activities. So next time you’re whipping up something sweet and chocolatey or even something savory, try reaching for the espresso powder. It won’t disappoint.
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