Grains, nuts and herbs, oh my—coffee substitutes part 2

By Perry Luckett, CoffeeMan1

In my last post I talked about chicory-root and dandelion-root concoctions that are meant to substitute for coffee by simulating its color and (some say) overall taste. This time, I’m going a bit further afield into grain- or nut- or even herb-based coffee substitutes that simply are alternatives to drinking any type of coffee or tea. Our products made with 3M Thinsulate™ insulation at help you keep any drink hotter or colder longer, so we’re happy to talk about these alternatives.

“Coffee” from grains can be cozy substitute for the real thing


Grain-based substitutes typically don’t taste much like regular coffee, but people have used many kinds of grains and nuts to concoct a drinkable brew whenever necessary. Some ingredients used include almonds, acorns, asparagus, malted barley, beechnuts, beetroots, carrots, corn, soybeans, cottonseed, figs, roasted garbanzo beans, okra seeds, peas or chickpeas, persimmon seeds, rye, sassafras pits, and wheat bran.  

Postum coffee substitute.jpg

A number of these alternatives are sold commercially today. For example, Postum™ is an instant type of coffee substitute made from roasted wheat bran, wheat and molasses. It reached its height of popularity in the United States during World War II when coffee was sharply rationed. It’s available at Walmart Supercenters and online at

Kaffre Roma grain coffee substitute.jpg

A similar beverage is Kaffree Roma™ roasted grain beverage. It’s made from roasted malt barley with a touch of chicory and rye. Sold at King Sooper markets, its advertising suggests you can drink it to enjoy “the robust, full-bodied taste of coffee without the caffeine or tannic acid of coffee beans.”

Other grain-based coffees are sold in Europe. An example is a beverage similar to Postum, called Barleycup, offered as an instant powder in the United Kingdom and online at It contains roasted barley, rye, and chicory. Another is Nestlé Caro, made of roasted barley, malted barley, chicory, and rye. First introduced in West Germany in 1954, it’s available throughout Europe and other markets including New Zealand and Australia. It’s imported to the United States under the name Pero and sold in Spain as Eko. In the U.S. you can get Caro as an instant powder or as Caro Extra in granulated form.

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A similar well-known drink in Poland is Inka--made of rye, barley, chicory, and sugar beet. Developed in the late 1960s during communist rule, Inka has been produced since 1971 in Skawina, a center of coffee production beginning in the early 20th century. Although it was used in part as a coffee substitute to temper coffee shortages in the 1970s, Inka remains popular, in part because it’s caffeine-free. It is imported to the United States as Naturalis Inka in packaging similar to that used in Poland during the 1980s.

Some nuts also can substitute for coffee

I wrote a blog post recently about pinion nuts mixed with coffee beans in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But acorns have also come to be a common ingredient in alternate beverages that use no coffee. To make the “coffee” grounds, preparers dry, bake, and then pass acorns through a mill that’s also used to make flour. The resulting powder mixes with hot water to make a coffee-like beverage, which you can drink on its own or with a splash of milk and a little sugar.

One difference with drinking acorn coffee, besides the taste, is that it's slightly healthier. Acorn nuts used to be an important dietary staple in many early cultures because they were widely available and served many of the same dietary needs as grains do today. These nuts have an impressive number of health benefits, including their ability to protect the heart, boost energy, improve digestion, and regulate blood sugar levels. They also help in building strong bones, growing and repairing cells, soothing inflammation, eliminating diarrhea, and caring for your skin. Perhaps that’s why acorns are still used in the specialty dishes of some cultures, most notably by Koreans and Native Americans.

You can make your own acorn coffee by following five easy steps:

Step 1: Boil the acorns for about 20 minutes

Step 2: After cooling the acorns, remove their outer shell and cut or process them until you get small pieces.

Step 3: Roast the pieces for 35-40 mins at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and stir occasionally until they become dark brown.

Step 4: Use a coffee grinder on a fine setting to grind your roasted acorns.

Step 5: Use 1 tablespoon of the resulting acorn coffee powder for every 6 ounces of hot water for best taste.

Herbal “coffees” are now gaining attention as coffee substitutes

VPK Rajas Cup coffee substitute.jpg

A bit farther afield are so-called herbal coffees, which use herbs such as ashwaganda to add a coffee “look” and faintly similar taste to herbal drinks. India leads the way on these substitutes, especially as the country has become a major consumer of coffee. (See our blogs on coffee drinking in India.) For example, sells VPK (vata, pitta, kapha balancing) Raja's Cup--the antioxidant coffee substitute--online. It’s made with  four potent ayurvedic herbs: clearing-nut tree, coffee senna, licorice, and ashwagandha.

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Another herbal “coffee” is Rasa, an “adaptogenic coffee alternative” with ashwagandha, chaga, and rishi (plus nine other herbs). It supposedly offers stable energy all day with no jitters or crash because it uses a “smooth energy boost” from rhodiola & eleuthero—adaptogenic herbs that boost energy and mood while reducing stress. Unlike some of the coffee substitutes that are instant powders mixed with hot water, Rasa is ground to brew in a French press for 15 minutes. It’s available at several locations online and advertises its varieties under the banner “coffee alternatives that don’t suck.”

In the last two posts I’ve shown that people who can’t—or don’t wish to— drink coffee can find a number of coffee substitutes. These include chicory, dandelion roots, grains, nuts, and herbs that try at least to suggest coffee’s color and taste.

Again, no matter your choice of coffee or its alternatives, we recommend using’s Kup Kap™ coffee cup covers. They come in two sizes to fit cups, mugs, and small bowls—and they’ll keep your coffee, tea, coffee substitute, or other hot beverage pleasantly drinkable for up to an hour.

Koffee Kompanions’ Kup Kap™ keeps coffee and other foods hot in cups, mugs, and small bowls.

Koffee Kompanions’ Kup Kap™ keeps coffee and other foods hot in cups, mugs, and small bowls.



John Staughton (BASc, BFA), “8 Amazing Benefits Of Acorns,” (last updated January 4, 2019).

Perry LuckettComment