In a recent "research" we conducted here at the "Date Seed Coffee Institute" we stumbled across a magnificent collection published online at around 1999 by Mr. Robert Lewis from The Arizona State University. It is a collection from various newspapers dated as back as the year 1861.
Here are some of the best recipes we THINK should work :-)
What is truly astonishing though is how little things changed! We still use more or less the same coffee substitutes today as we did than.
SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY [ATLANTA, GA], November 7, 1861, p. 3, c. 1
How to Get the Very Best Coffee at About Ten Cents a Pound.--In these war times it is quite an object to make economical investments in this article, but aside from this, the coffee that you can make from this recipe will be found far superior to the very best you can get anywhere, either North or South, and those who give it a fair trial will be unwilling to go back even to the best Java.
Take sweet potatoes and after peeling them, cut them up into small pieces about the size of the joint of your little finger, dry them either in the sun or by the fire, (sun dried probably the best,) and then parch and grind the same as coffee. Take two thirds of this to one third of coffee to a making.
Try it, not particularly for its economy but for its superiority over any coffee you ever tasted.
ALBANY [GA.] PATRIOT, December 12, 1861, p. 2, c. 3
A Good Substitute for Coffee--At the present time, when coffee is selling at a dollar a pound the following suggestion from a correspondent of a Southern paper, is worth trying:
Many worthless substitutes for coffee have been named. The acorn need only be tried once to be discarded. Corn meal and grits can be easily detected by the taste. Rye is only tolerable. Oakra [sic] seed is excellent, but costs about a dollar a pound, which puts it entirely out of the question. What, then, can we use? We want something that tastes like coffee, smells like it, and looks like it. We have just the thing in the sweet potato. When properly prepared, I defy any one to detect the difference between it and a cup of pure Rio.
Preparation--Peel your potatoes and slice them rather thin; dry them in the air or on a stove; then cut into pieces small enough to go into the coffee mil, then grind it. Two tablespoons full of ground coffee and three or four of ground potatoes will make eight or nine cups of coffee, clear, pure and well tasted.
The above is worthy of a trial. We have thoroughly tested its qualities, and can perceive no difference in taste from the genuine coffee. One table spoonful of ground coffee to two of the ground potatoe [sic] makes five cups full of a cheap, pleasant and healthy beverage. It is preferable to parch the potatoe [sic] in thin slices by the sun, as the parching or drying will be more regular, and not so apt to burn as when parched on a stove. We regard it as every way equal to Rio, Java, or the Mocha coffee.
THE SOUTHERN BANNER [ATHENS, GA], February 11, 1863, p. 3, c. 4
Mr. Archer Griffeth, of Ala., gives us the following directions for preparing okra seed as a substitute for coffee. He expresses himself as highly pleased with the beverage:
Parch over a good fire and stir well until it is dark brown; then take off the fire and before the seed get cool put the white of one egg to two tea-cups full of okra, and mix well. Put the same quantity of seed in the coffee pot as you would coffee, boil well and settle as coffee.
Directions for Planting and Cultivating.--Prepare a rich spot as for cotton, by bedding 3 1/2 feet. About the 10th of April open the ridges and sow the seed, and when up, chop out to 12 inches in the drill and cultivate the same as cotton. it will grow 6 to 8 feet high and will yield abundantly--one acre of good land producing ten bushels of seed. The seed will be dry in July.
Since writing the above, we have tried some of the okra coffee prepared by the above directions, and find it better than pure Rio and almost equal to old Java.--Try it.
THE SOUTHERN BANNER [ATHENS, GA], February 11, 1863, p. 3, c. 6
Okra for Coffee. [copy]
A Small lot of Okra Seed--the best substitute for coffee--for sale at James I. Colt's.
THE SOUTHERN BANNER [ATHENS, GA], October 28, 1863, p. 2, c. 5
...--But another important item is, to save the seeds of the persimmons after they have boiled, and you let out the slop, for they are excellent for coffee, rather stronger or rougher than the genuine Rio; hence, I mix two parts of dried sweet potatoes to one of persimmon seed. Dr. Buck says this coffee is equal to Java coffee! By the boiling the seeds are rid of all musilaginous substances, and just right for coffee or buttons. If you use them for buttons, the washer woman will hardly break them with her battling stick. For coffee they should be parched twice as long as any other substitute, so as to make them tender to the centre.