How to Make Espresso Powder at Home
It’s the secret to a more chocolatey chocolate cake, the trick to more flavorful baking. But what exactly is espresso powder, and is it really possible to make it at home?
We try to clear up some of the confusion around this popular ingredient and take you through a simple recipe that will work with ground coffee or whole beans.
WHAT YOU NEED
- Espresso grounds or beans
- Baking sheet
- Coffee grinder or mortar and pestle
- Airtight container
AT A GLANCE
1.5 – 3 hours
1 cup per cup of grounds
What is Espresso Powder?
Espresso powder is a common ingredient in baking, particularly in chocolate cake or brownies. But if you’ve ever been confused about exactly what to add, there’s a very good reason for this. There are two different products that can both be sold as espresso powder. And while they have some of the same uses, they’re not the same thing, and one can’t always be used as a substitute for the other.
The first is instant espresso powder. This is just instant coffee, but with a more intense and concentrated flavor. Instant coffee has undergone a complex process that takes the brewed, liquid coffee from espresso beans and freeze-dried it to create water-soluble granules (1). Due to the machinery needed, it’s not possible to make instant coffee at home. Instant coffee can of course be used to make a cup of joe and is handy for traveling, but instant espresso is more often used for baking.
The second style of espresso powder is espresso grounds that have already been used to brew coffee. They’re then dried and finely ground. Unlike instant coffee, it’s not completely water-soluble and is not suitable for making coffee – it’s made especially for baking. This is the type that we will show you how to make today.
In both of these cases, the word espresso refers to the coffee roast type. Both the instant granules and the powder are made from beans that have been dark roasted to be suitable for use in espresso machines.
How to use homemade espresso powder
As we mentioned above, it’s not possible to make instant coffee at home. So this DIY espresso powder won’t be useful for making a quick cup of coffee. But you will find it useful for cooking, with all kinds of applications, both sweet and savory.
Regular bakers will probably notice that espresso powder is a common ingredient in sweet treats, particularly where chocolate is involved. This is because both chocolate and coffee share a similar flavor profile, so you’re essentially amplifying the chocolate taste.
Espresso powder is chocolate’s best friend.
Coffee has also been shown to make sweet food taste sweeter (2). So without increasing the amount of sugar in your recipes, you’re going to end up with a chocolate cake or cookies that taste even more delightful. The same goes for drinks like a delicious homemade mochaccino.
A small amount isn’t going to make your food taste like coffee, it will just help to add complexity to the flavor.
But espresso powder has plenty of other uses beyond baked goods. It works well in savory dishes too, with the rich, earthy notes brought out by a dark roast adding extra depth. If you’ve ever seen stew or braise recipes that call for cocoa powder, it has the same purpose – try this as a substitute. Some swear by a teaspoon of espresso powder as the secret ingredient in their dry spice rub for steaks, or for getting that nice char crust on grilled meats.
Let’s talk grounds.
If you look at a jar of commercially made espresso powder (not the instant kind), it’s going to say something like “darkly roasted coffee beans that have been ground, brewed, dried, and then ground to a very fine powder.” (3)
This implies that the grounds in question have already been used for brewing. If you make your own espresso at home, you’re going to have plenty of grounds left over in your knock box, which would be perfect for this recipe. This is a nice way to recycle, but do be aware that most of the coffee has already been extracted from these grounds.
If you want a bigger coffee flavor, you might want to try espresso beans or grounds that haven’t been brewed yet. This is also a good option for those who want to make espresso powder at home but don’t actually drink coffee. Knowing how to make espresso powder from beans can turn out to be much cheaper than the store-bought stuff. This will of course be higher in caffeine than if you’re using pre-brewed grounds.
This ingredient has adopted the name of espresso, but you can make this recipe with any kind of ground coffee or whole bean. When it comes to espresso vs coffee beans, you’re not looking at different beans, just different serving suggestions.
Labeling coffee beans as “espresso” generally hints at a darker roast, and thus, a bolder flavor than light and medium roast beans.
So, really, any dark roast beans or grounds will do, even if they’re not specifically marked espresso. If you are used to drinking medium or light roast coffee at home, try a small batch with some of your leftover grounds. See if it still gives you the chocolate-enhancing effect you are after.
How to Make DIY Espresso Powder
Now that you have all the equipment you need, it’s time to get cooking. This flexible recipe works with any kind of grounds or coffee beans, and the amount you make is entirely up to you.
Roast your coffee
First, preheat your oven to 170°F. If your oven will not go this low, just use the lowest temperature available. The aim is to dry out the grounds, not to cook them. Spread your grounds out as evenly as possible over a baking sheet. It’s best to use a baking sheet with a rim so that there’s no spillage as you place the grounds in the oven. If you’re using whole beans, make sure they’re in a single layer.
The bake time will depend entirely on what kind of coffee you’re starting with. Whole espresso beans or unbrewed grounds can take as little as one hour, while pre-brewed espresso grounds will take around 2 hours. The best idea is to check regularly after the first hour, making sure they don’t stay in too long.
If you burn your coffee grounds, this will create a bitter-tasting espresso powder.
For grounds, you want them to be dry to the point that they have a “crunchy” texture. This is a little harder to test for beans, but they should have a very brittle feel to them.
Top tip: If you’re using leftover grounds from making filter coffee, they’re going to have more residual moisture, and will need a longer bake time in the oven.
After removing your grounds from the oven, leave them to cool for 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet.
Transfer your grounds to the coffee grinder. Depending on how much powder you are making, you might want to do this in batches. Then you’re just going to grind until you have a fine powder. You want this to be as close to something like cocoa powder or as you can get it – this will ensure you get a smooth texture in your food.
While we normally recommend a burr coffee grinder for grinding your beans, a blade or spice grinder works just as well in this instance. We’re not trying to get a consistent grind at a particular size, just getting it as fine as possible. If you don’t have a coffee grinder, you could use a mortar and pestle or even a blender for this step. However, if you’re starting with whole beans, a grinder is recommended.
Top tip: Make sure your grinder is completely dry before adding the grounds, or you’ll end up with a coffee paste!
Store your homemade espresso powder
Add your fresh ground espresso powder to an airtight container and out of direct sunlight, just as you would for coffee beans or grounds. You might not be brewing coffee with this stuff, but you still need it to taste good!
Espresso powder has a shelf life of around six months, but be aware that the flavor and taste will deteriorate over time. Contact with oxygen will not only cause the espresso powder to lose its flavor but can also affect the coffee’s natural oils, leading to a rancid taste (4). And just as with coffee or spices, humidity and heat can also impact the freshness. This means no storing it in the fridge, or on the counter next to the stove. The best place for it is in a cool, dark cupboard.
Storing your espresso powder correctly is vital to maintaining the taste, so you may want to consider a specialized spice container or coffee canister with a one-way valve.
Top tip: Make your espresso powder in small batches when you already have plans to use it.
With these simple steps, you can create your own batch of espresso powder at home, ready for adding to cakes, drinks, and savory recipes. Not only will this save you money, but it also gives new life to your used coffee grounds.
Espresso powder is gluten-free, provided it is made with only coffee. If you are using store-bought espresso powder, particularly the instant kind, you may want to check the label for any extra ingredients, such as fillers.
You tamp espresso to provide the most even extraction when pulling a shot. Tamping also compresses the grounds so that the water does not flow through too fast, which would lead to an under-extracted coffee (5).
No, you do not need an espresso machine to make espresso powder. You can use this recipe with leftover grounds from any kind of brewing method including pour over and French press. You can also use espresso beans or grounds that have not been previously brewed.
- Durand, F. (2021, March 5). What Is Espresso Powder & How Do You Use It? Kitchn. https://www.thekitchn.com/what-is-espresso-powder-how-to-use-41586
- Haridy, R. (2020, April 22). Study finds coffee makes sweet food taste sweeter. New Atlas. https://newatlas.com/science/coffee-sweet-food-taste-sweeter-bitter-chocolate/
- Brien, P. (2017, January 16). Baking with espresso powder. King Arthur Baking. https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/blog/2017/01/16/baking-with-espresso-powder
- How Vacuums Prevent Coffee Staling. Fellow. (n.d.). https://fellowproducts.com/blogs/learn/how-vacuums-prevent-coffee-staling.
- How to Tamp Coffee: How Hard to Tamp Espresso? Barista Hustle. (2021, January 5). https://www.baristahustle.com/blog/how-hard-should-you-tamp/