I was feeling adventurous when I bought a wee bag of local-ish upcycled coffee flour from a local food market.
For what it purported to be, coffee flour turned out to be little more than milled used coffee grounds, cleaned, dried and packaged as a gluten-free additive for bread or other baking needs.
When I opened the bag for the first time the colour and odor lived up to it’s claim. It looked and smelled like discarded espresso grounds. Admittedly, not very appetizing.
My first batch of bread was as per recommended by the blurb of text on the packaging. I substituted 20% of the bread flour by weight (100g of coffee flour to my 400g of bread flour) to my standard sourdough recipe.
The resulting dough was as black as mud but had a terrific elasticity and smoothness. It still smelled — reeked — of spent coffee, but I was hopeful that the baking process would mellow some of that out.
Honestly, it didn’t.
Those first two loaves could have been mistaken for a couple of over-baked and well-burnt bread. It had the colour of char, for all the world looked like I had forgotten them in the oven for twice their normal baking time. After my standard thirty minutes, the bread was cooked.
First, food that has the colour of burnt is generally not always appetizing. If the first first bite is with the eyes, this bread recipe was a wincing, reluctant bite on colour alone.
Second, though I am a dedicated coffee lover, I couldn’t get over the overwhelming spent coffee scent. A lot of the smell did mellow, but 20% is just too much for this flour. I remarked to my wife (who does not like coffee at all) that they’d do just as well to upcycle cigarette butts into a baking additive for some earthy, tobacco, ashtray aroma.
I ate one slice. Got a stomach ache. (No, really.) And for the first time in a long time in my bread baking career, tossed two loaves into the compost bin.
But I am anything if not forgiving and adventurous, and I tried again. (Not to mention a kilogram of this stuff was the same price as five kilos of bread flour.) This time, however, I substituted at a much lower ratio. Five percent. I used a mere 25g of coffee flour to my 475g of bread flour.
The dough was still grey by the end of the fold cycle, and had a bit of “cookies and cream” appearance, as if little bits of black specks were mixed in with the off-white of the dough.
And instead of two sandwich loaves, I stuck to my single dome loaf for the second attempt.
I think so.
Note: The third photo, above, is my second attempt loaf, and the main top photo, the first in the post, is the sliced view of the “successful” dome loaf pictured.
It’s not my favourite additive, but the 5% blend does give the bread a very rich colour and a strong nutty-coffee-ish flavour whose odor was mellowed significantly during baking. It was almost a savoury bread, as it tasted pretty decent with a bit of butter but as my morning toast with peanut butter and honey, there was something lacking in the pairing that had me thinking I’ll be sticking to oatmeal until I can bake up a new batch without the coffee flour.
I feel bad that I didn’t really like this, though. Conceptually, it’s awesome. Upscaling food “waste” into reusable food additives or substitutes is a noble goal. And it’s from a company that is just a couple hours down the highway and supporting local business is also something of a noble goal. This would have been a twofer on ethical baking.
At 5% substitution, this little bag of flour will last me for another thirty-five batches, tho. And, to be honest, I can’t see myself making another thirty five batches of this strong-flavoured bread. I’m glad I made it a couple times, but even I only like coffee so much.
Maybe I’ll make some cookies… or biscotti!