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If you’ve ever baked a rich chocolate cake or an indulgent tray of brownies then you may be familiar with the notion that a little hint of espresso can really enhance those chocolatey flavors. It’s not just sweet treats that call for a dash of coffee, many savory dishes will also benefit from this magic ingredient.
Although it is possible to buy espresso powder ready-made, homemade is always a bit more satisfying and gives you full control over the flavor profile of the coffee. It may seem like a specialist ingredient but espresso powder is surprisingly easy to make.
All you need is some fresh coffee, a grinder, a baking sheet, and an oven. Simply warm the coffee until it’s all dried out and crispy and then grind the lot into an ultra-fine powder.
So that’s the basics covered. Now let’s delve into espresso powder in a bit more depth and find out what it is, how to use it, and the full instructions for making your own DIY espresso powder at home.
What is Espresso Powder?
Coffee comes in so many forms and it can be really difficult to figure out what it is that you actually want when you’re browsing the aisle in your local grocery store. From espresso beans to espresso grounds, and instant espresso powder it’s no wonder people get confused.
Espresso powder is an ingredient familiar to bakers and chefs as opposed to coffee shop baristas. It’s used in sweet and savory recipes as a secret ingredient to add depth and enhance other flavors. It works really well in chocolate recipes to give an intense chocolate flavor and it also adds a dark, savory depth to chili, stew, as well as meat rubs.
Shop-bought espresso powder is typically a very concentrated form of instant coffee. It’s made from extremely concentrated coffee that has been dried into crystal form so it dissolves in liquid. It won’t make a tasty cup of coffee, however, as the flavors are far too intense.
Homemade espresso powder is made from coffee beans that have been dried and finely ground into a fine powder. It can be made from fresh coffee beans, fresh ground coffee, or even used coffee grounds.
Espresso Powder vs Instant Coffee Powder
It can be confusing to compare espresso powder to instant coffee powder so here’s how to spot the differences.
Instant coffee is made from brewed coffee that has been freeze-dried into powder or granules. This dissolves when added to hot water to give you a cup of coffee. There are hundreds of varieties of instant coffee available and some are sold under the name espresso coffee. You can use instant coffee in place of espresso powder but the coffee flavor is less complex as it doesn’t have the same depth of flavor.
Store-bought espresso powder is pretty similar to instant coffee but is far more concentrated. This means it adds a lovely taste to any dish but is much too strong to brew into your morning cup of java.
Your own, homemade espresso powder contains the actual coffee beans so doesn’t dissolve completely if added to water. It gives a subtle flavor to culinary dishes but won’t brew a rich and tasty cup of joe. You can’t use espresso powder to brew coffee but it does add a lovely taste to a huge range of recipes.
How To Use Espresso Powder
The good news is, it’s really straightforwards to cook using espresso powder. All you need to do is simply add it to the dish you’re making. You can dissolve it in a little water first if you’re making a batter for chocolate cake or brownies or add it dry if it’s intended as a meat rub.
You can use it as a garnish or topping for ice cream, cakes, and even hot drinks like a mocha hot chocolate. It works especially well when combined with cocoa powder to give a strong, chocolate finish to your recipe. You can even mix it in with cake frosting to give it a rich, dark taste.
Choosing Your Coffee
When you set out to make your own espresso powder, the first thing you need to consider is the coffee you will use. To get a rich, espresso-like taste it’s best to use a medium or dark roast coffee bean. Darker roasts have more intense, single-note flavors like burnt caramel and dark chocolate, perfect for most baking recipes.
Look for coffee labeled as espresso beans, dark roast, or french roast. You can use pre-ground coffee but the flavors will always be more intense if you choose fresh coffee. Coffee that’s intended for use with a french press, Moka pot, or cold brew is also a good indication that’s it’s a bolder, darker roast.
Getting The Equipment Ready
You don’t need a huge array of equipment to make espresso powder and you’ll probably find that you have most of these things to hand already.
A lot of people panic when they see a coffee grinder listed as the first item needed to make espresso powder. Coffee grinders can be expensive and a good quality burr grinder is always recommended when brewing espresso coffee.
The good news is, you don’t actually need a top-of-the-range coffee grinder to make espresso powder. The aim is to get the coffee as finely ground as possible so a blade grinder like an automatic spice grinder does the job very well. You can also use a food processor or even a pestle and mortar at a pinch.
Most of us have one of these as a staple in the kitchen and if you don’t already have one then I highly recommend investing in one (or two!). They are cheap to buy and have so many uses, plus the flat ones don’t take up much space in a drawer or kitchen cupboard.
Another good tip is to use a reusable, silicone sheet to cover the tray instead of parchment paper. This helps prolong the life of your baking sheet and they are more environmentally friendly than single-use baking paper.
Once your espresso power is ready it can be stored for up to 6 months in a sealed container. The best options are a stainless steel tin or glass jar as these materials do not absorb or impart any taste or odor onto the coffee. Good quality Tupperware can also be used.
Store the coffee in a cool, dry, dark place away from fluctuating temperatures and strong odors. Do not store it in the fridge or freezer. Avoid direct sunlight as this can also negatively impact the coffee.
How To Make DIY Espresso Powder
The really great thing about this recipe is the amount of espresso powder you choose to make is completely adaptable. Most recipes call for a teaspoon of espresso powder so consider this alongside how often you feel you plan to use it. It will store for up to 6 months but the fresher it is, the better the flavor.
Preheat your oven to a cool setting. This should be around 170-175F (76-80C) or gas mark 1. Grind up your coffee beans to give a relatively coarse grind size. Spread out the coffee grounds on your baking sheet. You can use coffee grounds that have already been used to brew fresh coffee as this is a great way to get extra use out of them.
You want to bake the coffee until it’s dry and crunchy in texture but not burnt. The cook time should be around 1-3 hours. It’s a good idea to mix up the grounds every 30 minutes or so to get an idea of how they are progressing.
Once the coffee is done, let it cool and then grind it up as finely as possible.
That’s it! Your espresso powder is now ready to use or to be stored away ready for your next baking endeavor.
Espresso powder is an easy-to-make ingredient that can add a lot of character to cakes, desserts, stews, and many other recipes. All you need is some coffee grounds and a bit of patience and you too can have this wonderful stuff available whenever you need it. Coffee is a versatile thing and if you give it a chance, it can do way more than just brew a bog-standard cup of joe.
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