What Is Chicory Coffee? All Hail Coffee’s Doppelgänger!

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Ever heard of chicory coffee? If not, this post's for you! As it happens, this coffee substitute has been in use for millenia.

Ever heard of chicory coffee? If not, this post’s for you! As it happens, this coffee substitute has been in use for millenia.

From a medicinal plant in ancient Egypt to its iconic modern-day status as a caffeine-free alternative, chicory coffee provides a health-packed, flavor-popping punch.

Ready to get into this deep dive? Here we go!

Overview: What Is Chicory Coffee?

Unlike coffee, which comes from roasted seeds (beans), pure chicory coffee comes from the roasted roots of the chicory plant. In fact, this woody perennial herb (Latin: Cichorium intybus) is a flowering plant belonging to the marigold and dandelion family.

Chicory coffee has a history as rich and intriguing as its flavor. It all started with the ancient Egyptians, who used it as a sort of coffee substitute and for medicinal purposes. From there, chicory spread to Rome and Greece. In fact, the Romans enjoyed chicory sprouts as a dish called puntarelle.

Fast forward to 19th century France and Italy. Chicory rose in popularity, where it was a much sought after coffee substitute. This practice continued well into the era of the two World Wars when many countries experienced a massive coffee shortage.

In America, chicory coffee’s big break came much earlier, during the American Civil War. Union naval blockades cut off coffee supplies to ports in New Orleans and the south. As a result, a coffee shortage ensued.

Resourceful New Orleans folk turned to brewing ground and roasted chicory root. They also mixed it with coffee grounds to stretch their precious coffee reserves. To do this, they took raw chicory, roasted it, ground it and added in some ground coffee.

This creativity led to a delicious, slightly bitter blend with nutty tones, which later became a New Orleans staple. French Market Coffee & Chicory and Cafe du Monde are just two of the brands Crescent City denizens still love and drink today.

Does Chicory Coffee Have Caffeine?

Coffee Caffeine Formula

Now, onto the million-dollar question: What is chicory coffee, and does it contain caffeine

Drumroll, please … aaaand nope! Unlike the iconic New Orleans coffee blends in grocery stores, pure chicory coffee is 100% caffeine-free. Here’s the thing: pure chicory coffee contains only roasted roots of the chicory plant and no coffee beans. That’s why it’s used as a coffee substitute.

Still, don’t think for a second that you’re sacrificing flavor when you opt for this caffeine-free beverage. Raw chicory root roasted and ground into coffee has a robust, nutty kick that more than holds its own.

Mix it with regular coffee grounds (as New Orleans coffee blends do) to tone down the caffeine or go all-in with pure chicory for the win. As N’awlins folk would say, “Chicory coffee is sure to pass you a good time!”

Benefits of Drinking Chicory Coffee

Besides being a delicious caffeine-free alternative, drinking pure chicory coffee can do wonders for your health. So, here’s the 411 on just some of the potential health benefits. And as always, consult your doctor if you have concerns about consuming this brew.

A Healthier Coffee Fix

First things first, pure chicory coffee is naturally caffeine-free, so opt for it if you want to reduce your caffeine intake. You’ll still enjoy a robust, coffee-like taste, minus the jitters and dreaded crashes.

Improves Gut Health

Chicory root contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that research studies1 have shown promotes gut health. It helps feed the good bacteria in your digestive tract. In turn, you get to maintain a healthy gut microbiome, promote healthy digestion and reduce constipation.

Improves Heart Health

Research studies 2 have shown that drinking pure chicory coffee does your heart some good. In fact, chicory can help boost HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind).

Blood Sugar Blues? Reach for Chicory!

For those watching their blood sugar levels, chicory coffee could be a game-changer. Some scientific studies3 suggest that the inulin in chicory can help regulate blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity (a godsend for diabetics).

Potential Side Effects of Drinking Chicory Coffee

While chicory coffee might seem like the biggest thing since flash brew coffee, it’s not all good news. Let’s get into the potential drawbacks of sipping on this rooty brew.

Chicory Coffee Rooty Brew

Chicory Coffee Is an Acquired Taste

First up, the taste. Chicory coffee has a serious bite. We’re talking bold and bitter, like a double-shot of espresso lungo. So, if you’re used to your smooth, mellow cappuccinos and lattes, you might not dig this New Orleans staple.

Potential Allergy Trigger

For allergy sufferers, chicory, ragweed, marigolds and daisies belong to the same family. If you’re allergic to these plants, avoid drinking chicory coffee even with steamed milk, as it could set off symptoms. Enter sneezing, itching and possibly hives. Not good!

Adverse Gut Reactions

Chicory’s packed with inulin, a prebiotic fiber that’s great for your gut – until it’s not. For some folks, especially those with IBS, Crohn’s or sensitive stomachs, research shows that inulin can cause serious tummy troubles. Think bloating, gas and even diarrhea. Not exactly the kind of wake-up call you’re looking for.

How to Buy Chicory Coffee

So now that you know all about chicory coffee, I’m sure you’re asking, “Where can I snag some?”

First up, hit up your local grocery store or health food joint. If online shopping is more your jam, no sweat! Check Amazon or specialty coffee websites for killer selections.

Check for high-quality chicory coffee brands like New Orleans Roast. If you don’t mind the caffeine, opt for coffee-chicory blends like Cafe du Monde or French Market Coffee & Chicory. Be careful not to confuse the two. One is pure chicory (a caffeine-free alternative), and the other is a chicory-coffee blend (which contains coffee and caffeine).

Alternatively, head to the organic section for pure chicory root if you’re amenable to roasting and grinding at home.

But if you’re feeling especially fancy, swing by your local café or roastery. Some spots brew custom chicory blends, so you can sip and shop all in one shot. Plus, you might score some hot brewing tips from the knowledgeable baristas.

However you choose to shop for chicory coffee, keep your eyes peeled for quality. Look for reputable brands (preferably organic and non-GMO) and read those reviews. You’re bound to score a good coffee experience this way.

How to Make Chicory Coffee

So, how can you make this delicious brew at home? Some coffee pod machines like Keurig allow the use of chicory coffee pods.

But for those who prefer more traditional brewing approaches, here’s how to make non-caffeinated and caffeinated chicory coffee at home:

You’ll Need:

  • Whole chicory root or pure ground chicory coffee

  • Coffee beans (your favorite medium or dark roast)

  • Clean filtered brewing water

  • Sugar, honey or other sweetener (to taste)

  • Optional: dairy or nondairy milk

Equipment

Kaffeewaage Kaffeepulver Abwiegen
  • Coffee maker of choice (drip machine, French press or pour-over maker)

  • Coffee grinder (if using whole beans)

  • Coffee scoops

  • Measuring scale

  • Your fave coffee mug

Instructions

  1. To begin, grind your whole coffee beans and chicory root (if using) on a medium-coarse grind setting. You can grind coffee beans and chicory root together for a uniform mix. But I recommend grinding them separately to adjust the blend ratio to your taste preferences. Alternatively, use a quality store-bought New Orleans coffee blend.

  2. Measure out two parts coffee grounds to one part chicory coffee. If you’re looking to reduce your caffeine intake, skip the ground coffee altogether and use pure ground chicory coffee only.

  3. Get your brewing equipment ready. If you’re using a drip coffee maker, add a coffee filter and brewing water.

  4. For a standard 12-cup coffee maker, use approximately 12 tablespoons of your custom coffee blend or pure chicory. For a French press or pour-over maker, use 1 tablespoon of pure chicory coffee or blend per 4 ounces (118 milliliters) of water.

  5. Bring your filtered brewing water to a boil before letting it cool slightly. The ideal brewing temperature is 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit (90-96 degrees Celsius).

  6. Add your own ground blend, store-bought New Orleans chicory coffee blend or pure chicory to the filter for a drip coffee maker. Then, let the machine do the work.

  7. If using a French Press, add your blend or pure chicory coffee to the press, pour in hot water and stir gently. Then, place the lid on with the plunger pulled up and let steep for about four minutes. After steeping, press down the plunger slowly and evenly to retrieve your brew.

  8. Lastly, if using a pour-over coffee maker, place the blend or pure chicory coffee in the filter before pouring a small amount of hot water over the grounds. If you can, use a gooseneck kettle, as it gives the best pour. Let the grounds sit for about 30 seconds to bloom, then continue pouring the remaining water in a slow, circular motion. Wait for your brew to percolate into the glass carafe.

  9. Pour the brew into your favorite mug and taste the magic. Add milk, cream, sugar or any other preferred add-ins. Chicory coffee pairs well with steamed milk and a touch of honey or sugar to balance its robust, slightly bitter flavor.

Pro Tips

  • Use high-quality chicory root and coffee beans (if using) for the best taste.

  • Feel free to adjust the coffee-to-chicory ratio if making a caffeinated brew. A higher chicory ratio leads to a slightly bitter brew.

  • Store any homemade chicory-coffee blends in an airtight container and use within seven days for maximum freshness.

  • Chicory coffee also makes a fantastic cold brew. Simply steep the grounds in cold water, refrigerate for 12-24 hours and then strain and serve over ice.

Final Thoughts on Chicory Coffee, The Ultimate Caffeine Alternative

Chicory Coffee How to Make

Pure chicory coffee is more than a trend—it’s a tasty, healthy alternative that’s here to stay. With benefits ranging from better digestion to a healthier heart, it’s no wonder folks across America are jumping on the chicory bandwagon.

So next time you’re in the mood for something different, ditch the regular brew (hard, I know) and give chicory coffee a shot. Your body will thank you, and your taste buds will do the happy dance for sure!

Brew up a cup of chicory coffee and share your thoughts on this healthy caffeine alternative. Don’t be shy – hit that comment section, spill your brewing secrets and let’s keep this coffee convo going!

Chicory Coffee FAQ

Chicory coffee offers rich flavors and impressive health benefits. Made from roasted chicory root instead of coffee beans, it provides a bold, nutty, less acidic taste. Plus, it’s caffeine-free and packed with inulin, a prebiotic fiber that promotes gut health. This makes it a fantastic alternative for those seeking a flavorful, healthier coffee experience.

Chicory coffee is not recommended for those allergic to chicory or related plants like daisies and ragweed. It is also not suitable for those with digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease, as its inulin content may worsen symptoms. Always consult a doctor before consumption.

Regular coffee comes from roasted beans, while chicory coffee is a pure form of roasted chicory root. Chicory coffee is also caffeine-free and contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that improves gut health.

Chicory coffee has a rich, bold flavor with a slightly nutty and earthy undertone. It’s less acidic than regular coffee and offers a smooth, mellow taste. You’ll find chicory coffee pleasantly different if you’re used to drinking traditional coffee.

Sources

  1. Hanada et al. (2019) European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases: The effects of inulin on gut microbial composition: a systematic review of evidence from human studies ↩︎
  2. Puhlmann et al. (2020) Advances in Nutrition: Back to the Roots: Revisiting the Use of the Fiber-Rich Cichorium intybus L. Taproots ↩︎
  3. Causey et al. (2000): Nutrition Research: Effects of dietary inulin on serum lipids, blood glucose and the gastrointestinal environment in hypercholesterolemic men ↩︎
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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