Alternative Coffee - Chicory Root Coffee Substitute

Chicory Coffee Substitute - Do It Yourself Guide

Coffee is enjoyed for many reasons for some it is the flavors and aromas, the ritual of starting the day, for others it might be because of memories, social moments, or the stimulation it delivers. For me it is for all of the above reasons. Depending on who you ask you should have one cup of coffee everyday - for health reasons. Chicory root coffee substitute is a rich, dark coffee like flavor (OK, I am pushing it now) make for a nice alternative to coffee.

Chicory, more precisely root chicory (Cichorium intybus), grows all over the United States and is cultivated in Mediterranean areas in Europe, where it is roasted, ground, and used as a coffee substitute.

Chicory root is also used as a coffee substitute or additive elsewhere in the world, including the southern United States, particularly in New Orleans. During World War II when shipping from coffee-producing countries was disrupted, chicory was used in the United States to produce "coffee."  

But it goes even further back in history. A magnificent collection of coffee substitutes in the U.S Civil War published 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 recipes of the time.

NATCHEZ DAILY COURIER [MS], Sept. 21, 1861, p. 1, c. 3

Asparagus for Coffee.

[From the Annual of Scientific Discovery]

'Liebig states that Asparagus, contains, in common with Tea and Coffee, a principle which he calls Taurine, and which he considers essential to the health of those who do not take strong exercise. By this, a writer in the London _Gardener's Chronicle_ was led to test Asparagus as a substitute for Coffee. He says: The young shoots were not agreeable, having an alkaline taste. I then tried ripe seeds, and they, roasted and ground, made a full flavored Coffee, not easily distinguished from fine Mocha. The seeds are easily freed from the berries by drying them in a cool [warm, I suppose he means,] oven, and then rubbing them on a sieve.'

'There is in Berlin, Prussia, a large establishment for the manufacture of coffee from acorns and Chicory, the articles being made separately. The Chicory is mixed with an equal weight of turnips, to render it sweeter. The Acorn Coffee, which is made from roasted and ground Acorns, is sold in large quantities, and frequently with rather a medicinal than an economical view, as it is thought to have a wholesome effect upon the blood. Acorn Coffee is, however, made and used in many parts of Germany for sole purpose of adulterating genuine Coffee.

SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY [ATLANTA, GA], April 10, 1863, p. 1, c.3-4

...Columbus is considered the Lowell of the South. It contains 8,000 inhabitants, and it is situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee, at the head of navigation.... . . Here chickory is used as a substitute for coffee. Rice is mixed up with flour and corn meal. It is put into biscuits, batter cakes, hominy, &c. Sweet potatoes are in great abundance, therefore they are eaten at all meals. . . . And the signs over the grog shops of this city are in good taste, viz: The Smile, The Pleasant House, &c. . . . Viator.


Well, not really. Tea, proper tea is Camellia sinensis is a species of evergreen shrub or small tree whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. It is of the genusCamellia (Chinese: 茶花; pinyin: Cháhuā, literally: "tea flower") of flowering plants in the family Theaceae.

Regardless of any botanical facts, chicory is thought to be a tonic, an anti-parasitic, and because of the high content of inulin, a prebiotic soluble carbohydrate, can help with weight loss, intestinal health, and selectively encourages probiotic microorganisms to develop.

Humanity has used chicory since the antiquity, both as a food and as a medicine. Many of the health benefits attributed by the ancients are recognized today, and there is still a lot to be researched in the field. Chicory as a coffee substitute seems to have appeared in France with the Continental Blockade imposed by Napoleon. The Continental System imposed against the British, has left all the Europe without coffee. As a result, chicory was used to replace coffee entirely, or at least partially. The Eastern European bloc used chicory as a coffee substitute during the International coffee crisis. Chicory was used in combination with coffee in different ratios in order to lower the cost.

Is Chicory Good For You?

According to a 2013 review by “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” the chicoric acid found in chicory coffee protects the body against bacteria found around the teeth, indicating antimicrobial properties. The same review found that extracts of chicory root have antifungal properties. Additionally, certain compounds extracted from chicory root have antimalarial properties, justifying the historical uses of chicory as a treatment for malarial fever.

Chicory coffee’s antioxidant effects may prevent against thrombosis and inflammation, according to a May 2011 study from “Phytotherapy Research.” Participants who drank 300 millilitres of chicory coffee daily had reduced blood and plasma viscosity after only one week, which researchers attributed to the phenolic content of the beverage. These phenolic antioxidants also fight against free radical damage in the body, protecting major organs and systems from oxidative stress.

Chicory Coffee Substitute

If you want to make your own chicory coffee and not buy it, it is very simple. You can use the wild variety, or the root of the endive, however, the best variety for this is Chicorium Intybus Sativum.

Here is a quick how to make chicory coffee, if you want to save some money:

  1. Harvest the chicory roots, if you want to use the wild variety, look for a tall plant with a beautiful blue flower.
  2. Wash and peel the roots so that they are perfectly clean.
  3. Cut the roots in small even pieces. They have to be roughly the same width, so they roast evenly and not kill your grinder :-)
  4. Toast the minced roots in a baking sheet at 350 degree Fahrenheit for about 2-3 hours. A lot of the inulin is in fact lost during processing, and this is good, because too much inulin could cause serious abdominal discomfort. During roasting, inulin transforms into sugar, and the roasted chicory loses the bitter taste. It is interesting to note that both coffee and chicory can cause upset stomach, but they work differently, coffee irritates the stomach because of its stimulatory effects, while inulin in chicory causes gas.
  5. Grind the roasted pieces in a good burr grinder, according to your preferred brewing method, (fine grind for espresso, coarse for French press).
  6. Brew as is, or mixed with real coffee.
Even if you have no intention of actually drinking chicory coffee, it is worth roasting the roots this way. Your whole house would smell wonderfully malty and chocolatey giving you a warm nice comforting feeling a bit like coffee really.
In conclusion, if you want a herbal tea that tastes like coffee, chicory is a great, caffeine free, herbal, coffee substitute. It is healthy, it does not contain caffeine, and if you boil it long enough, you will turn that soluble fiber into sugar, so you don’t get any cramps.
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