Drinking a cup of coffee is not about the caffeine jolt for me. Yes, the morning cup feels nice, and caffeine works greatly first thing in the morning. But my second, and sometimes the third cup can’t be caffeinated. I just need the nice feeling of a coffee without the caffeine. And decaf just doesn’t work for me, I don’t know why. I just don’t like it. I don’t drink tea anymore, caffeinated or not, so I was looking for a solution. I love chicory and coffee, and that’s a great substitute for my second cup, but coffee and chicory is still strongly caffeinated. The best tasting ratio is around 20% chicory, 80% coffee. So this wasn’t it. This is how I started to look for a good-tasting coffee substitute.
Cutting down on caffeine wasn’t the only objective, though. I also wanted to replace it with a healthy alternative. I basically wanted a herbal tea that tasted like coffee. Not an easy task. To be honest, I have had coffee substitutes before, so I knew what to expect. I thought, however, that the new products would taste better. It was a mixed bag, you’ll see in a bit why. The nicest surprise though was the healthy aspect of some of these products.
The Best Healthy Alternatives for Coffee: At a Glance
My favorite place to buy online is Amazon. A great place to peek at other people’s opinions about products, and even ask questions, if in doubt. These are the best five coffee substitutes on Amazon. Positive ratings were a quality signal in my initial scoring, and it proved to be an exact method. I tested a lot of products, and even made my own, here is my list of the five best coffee substitutes:
- Ayurvedic Roast, Herbal Coffee
- Kaffree Roma Roasted Grain Drink
- Pero Instant Natural Beverage
- Cafix All-Natural Instant Beverage
- Teeccino Herbal Coffee
I would add to this list the old simple decaf, some of them are really tasty, and they don’t give you the stomach upset associated with the regular joe. My favorite is Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, which tastes really great.
The 5 Best Coffee Substitutes:
1. Ayurvedic Roast Herbal Coffee Substitute
An interesting product is Ayurvedic Roast, which contains Ashwagandha and Brahmi two Ayurvedic remedies. The Ayurvedic Roast is a mix of herbs and roasted grains, to allow a balanced body to your daily cup, and offer you the great health advantages of the Ayurvedic medicinal plants. The ingredients list includes:
- Roasted Rye
- Roasted barley
- Chicory, a powerful prebiotic, helps with digestion and weight control, and too many conditions to be
- Brahmi, Brahmi is a calming plant, which helps you focus and bring clarity to your mind.
- Shatavari. (helps immunity, and is a great antioxidant)
- Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, and it helps you fight stress in a healthy way, without depleting your adrenal glands. Ashwagandha is also called Indian ginseng and is also a powerful antioxidant.
This coffee is not instant, you need to use your favorite brewing method, to make a cup. Make sure you order the right coffee for yourself. I don’t like flavored coffee, so for me, the unflavored one was the way to go. Another thing to consider before buying this is the taste. This is slightly bitter than coffee, and if you don’t like bitter drinks, this won’t work for you. I personally don’t like bitter drinks, but I still love Ayurvedic Roast. You can add a little honey, and a little milk, and it’s perfect.
2. Kaffree Roma Roasted Grain Beverage – Grain Coffee Substitute
This is a substitute made from barley, chicory, and rye. The product is made in Germany, and it tastes absolutely great. Whether you use Kaffree with milk or black, it won’t cause any problems to your stomach, and in fact, it is very nice on your stomach.
If you want to quit coffee, just mix coffee with this, starting with 75% and 25 percent, and then lower your percentage of caffeine every 2 or 3 days. You will be caffeine-free in two weeks without any of the associated headaches.
3. Pero Coffee Substitute
Pero is an instant coffee substitute made from roasted barley, rye, and chicory. Pero used to be made in Switzerland some time ago, and many customers fell in love with that product. The manufacturing has been changed to a German facility, and it looks like the recipe changed as well. At the end of the day, Pero is just a rebranded substitute. Many people who were used to the old Pero have difficulties adjusting to the new one. From my experience, this is just temporary, and you will get used to the new taste. It’s 100% caffeine-free, with great taste.
Many people ask if Pero is healthy. The short answer is YES, Pero is healthy. The high content of Alkylresorcinols in the rye, (an anticancer), and the high content of fiber, combined with the inulin in the chicory, (a prebiotic), the barley malt contain many minerals and vitamins, even though through roasting many vitamins will disappear, and finally, the regular barley that is known to help regulate blood sugar. Barley also contains dietary fibers – prebiotics.
4. Cafix All-Natural Instant Beverage
Cafix is made in Poland, a country with an old tradition in coffee substitutes.
Cafix is made from chicory, barley, malted barley, figs, and red beet extract. Cafix pride with clean ingredients, non-GMO, if this is a concern for you. It tastes good, taste that is very close to coffee, maybe that’s why it became one of Amazon’s best sellers so quickly. If you mix coffee with Cafix in a 50% ratio, most of the coffee drinkers cannot tell any difference, besides the missing upset stomach symptoms, or the jitters.
Cafix reminds me of Inka, a widely known coffee substitute in Eastern Europe. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cafix wasn’t a rebranded Inka.
Although initially developed by the communists to cover for the coffee shortage, Inka is still a popular drink mainly because it is one of the best tasting substitutes. Inka is healthy and is easy to make a cup. Inka comes in two versions, one with a very small granule, almost like a powder, with a taste that reminds of Postum. The other version has larger granules and the taste is just slightly different. You need about 2-3 heaping teaspoons for a large mug for a nice strong taste. Inka is one of my favorites, although Amazon sales volume doesn’t recommend it. I guess it’s just a matter of getting known.
5. Teeccino Herbal Coffee, Mediterranean Vanilla Nut
Teeccino is another great-tasting coffee alternative. It is not an instant beverage, you need to make it using your favorite brewing method. The best-tasting drink is obtained using slightly lower brewing temperatures. This is why French press and AeroPress are the perfect preparation methods for Teeccino. Teeccino’s unique formula is formulated to resemble a coffee with a strong bite. The ingredients list includes carob, barley, chicory, almonds, dates, and figs. The blend has a full-bodied flavor, that resembles coffee a lot. The Java-style is the closest to coffee.
Other Healthy Coffee Substitutes
Less Popular Coffee Substitutes
Depending on the economic situation, people have used other plants, grains, nuts, and roots to make coffee substitutes. Some of them are good, but they are not very popularized, some of them are OK, and it really depends on one’s taste.
One of these alternatives is acorn coffee. The oak nut was a popular choice in periods of war when coffee was not available, and other substitutes were also in shortage.
Beechnuts also make a nice drink when roasted and ground as you would with coffee.
We can also brew a great drink from other healthy alternatives such as sweet potato, okra seeds, persimmon seeds, peas, and beans.
Wheat bran is also a great substitute for coffee, and Postum the very popular drink from Kraft, was based on wheat bran. For those who miss Postum, there is good news. The all-American coffee substitute is back on the shelves. Eliza’s Quest Food bought the trademark from Kraft Foods and brought it back on the market. You can buy it online on postum.com.
Dandy Blend, Instant Herbal Beverage with Dandelion
Dandy Blend is an instant beverage, easy to prepare, delicious, and healthy. This is actually one of my favorites, as a health product. As a coffee substitute, it’s fine, just like most of the other substitutes presented here. Dandy Blend contains dandelion roots, chicory, beets, barley, and rye. It tastes good, most people say it can be consumed straight, without creamer or sugar, and it is cost-effective and convenient.
On the health side: dandelion root is probably one of the most used herbal medicines in the world. Chicory comes right behind it. The two are loaded with prebiotic fiber, which is the best way to increase immunity and relieve a lot of modern-day conditions. Drinking Dandy Blend is the best way to enjoy a non-caffeinated healthy drink. It contains a lot of essential minerals, and prebiotics, (soluble fiber). The product is gluten-free, check the side effects section, though.
What Are the Best Ingredients for Healthy Coffee Substitutes?
There are many coffee substitutes, some taste horrible, some taste decent. If you want to get a good taste, though, you need a blend.
The ingredients in the substitute coffee are very diverse, you can use anything from herbal mixes to roasted grains, roots, and nuts. Some roasted roots can give you the bite, some other the sweetness, and some will give your beverage body. Some will give your drink a little bit of all but in the wrong ratio. That’s why you need to blend them.
Another reason for blending the ingredients is to get some healthy energy from herbs. Also, some of the herbs and roots work in synergy.
How to Make Your Own Healthy Coffee Alternative
If you want to make your own coffee it is not very complicated, you just need to understand what are the ingredients that mimic the best coffee tastes. The advantage of making your own concoction is that you get to pick the ingredients that work for you best, and in the percentage that you like. The other great advantage is that you can make a herbal mix to work for your health problems. Here are the most used ingredients and their medicinal value:
- Chicory root is one of the best natural sources of inulin, a prebiotic. Chicory is also an important source of antioxidants. Another great health benefit stems from the ability of chicory root to stimulate digestion. It is also great liver support, a fact very well known in folk medicine, and supported by scientific research.
On the taste side, chicory is one of the most popular substitutes for coffee. It increases the TDS, giving your cup body, and a distinct personality. On the negative side, too much of it will overpower other ingredients in the blend.
- Dandelion root’s health benefits are incontestable, it is one of the most used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. We can remind here a few health benefits, but there are many more than these: liver tonic, anemia treatment because of its high content in iron and zinc, aids digestion, lowers cholesterol, detoxifying, and a great aid for skin problems, helps with weight loss, etc… Many people report great results lowering their blood sugar levels with dandelion coffee. Dandelion root is probably one of the best treatments for liver and bile.
Dandelion root tastes very similar to chicory, but the flavor is a bit more complex because of the greater content in minerals. Too much in the blend will overpower other ingredients.
- Barley is a great source of zinc, a trace mineral that we don’t get in abundance in our regular diet, it lowers glucose levels, reduces blood pressure, and reduces LDL cholesterol. Eating barley regularly helps with weight control. Barley also contains dietary fiber, a prebiotic, very important for intestinal flora.
Roasted barley tastes nutty and coffee-like, but it can’t be used on its own, because it doesn’t have the needed kick.
- Red beets are known to lower blood pressure, they also contain magnesium, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. They are also a great source of fiber. The sugar in beets is a healthy form of sugar, and in moderate quantities boosts your energy levels. The large amount of boron present in beets make them a great aphrodisiac.
From a taste perspective, roasted sugar beets bring to your blend the sweetness that is much needed for a balanced cup.
- Carob pods are ground into a powder that is great for improving digestion and lowers cholesterol. It is also very effective in treating diarrhea. Its high content in phosphorus and calcium makes it a great aid in fighting osteoporosis.
Roasted carob brings chocolate notes to your drink, reminiscent of Mocha coffee. Yummy.
- Almonds contain a consistent dose of vitamin E, a great antioxidant. It also contains fiber, and magnesium, which is one of the lacking minerals in our regular diet.
The taste is nutty, as you would expect from almonds. Almonds for coffee substitutes are roasted darker than the ones we eat.
- Chickpeas contain a lot of iron, and it is an important source of manganese which plays an important role as an antioxidant. The soluble fiber will help to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower LDL cholesterol. One of the less known facts is that chickpeas contain the trace mineral molybdenum, which is an important factor in sulfites detoxification. Chickpeas also contain phytoestrogens, and this could help women lower the risk of cancer.
Steeped or boiled roasted chickpeas drinks taste a lot like coffee. Chickpeas are great on their own, or in blends.
- Rye grains contain Alkylresorcinols. In vitro studies show that alkylresorcinols may prevent cells to turn cancerous. They also have a high content of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber encourages bowel movement, improves glucose tolerance, and it is a food source for prebiotics. Rye, when roasted, taste very similar to barley. If you are a perfectionist though, you will use a combination of the two in your blend.
- Dates and figs are great sources of dietary fiber, and many trace minerals. Although their role in a coffee substitute is purely to make it more palatable, the dried form of the two fruits is a great source of trace minerals. Their role is to give your blend some sweetness.
Are Coffee Substitutes Healthy?
Why Drink Coffee Substitutes?
There are a lot of reasons to drink a coffee substitute. You can drink it to reduce the caffeine intake, or avoid it all together. Some religions forbid the consumption of coffee, but you’d like to have a nice drink, or maybe enjoy the social side of it. Some people get serious stomach problems from drinking coffee, and drinking a cup is pure torture for them. Whatever the reason, you still need a hot palatable drink to mimic the daily joe habit.
Coffee has some remarkable positive effects on our health, and if we can tolerate it is the perfect pick me up. However, coffee can have negative effects on some people. Some can only drink it in moderation, some can’t drink it at all.
Coffee substitutes are healthy alternatives with low or no caffeine content at all. Depending on your tolerance and preference, you can go with 100% substitute, or with a mix of coffee and substitute. Plain chicory is less palatable on its own, so you can’t use too much in your blend.
Most companies will make a blend to simulate the taste of coffee, and the substitute is not necessarily a stimulant. There are though products that aim to change the way you re-energize yourself. While coffee gives you a boost in energy, it slowly depletes your adrenal glands.
Sensitivity and Other Side Effects
Most of the products here are based on chicory and dandelion, which are very high in inulin. People sensitive to it will get a gluten-sensitivity-like reaction, but it’s not from gluten. Coffee substitutes are loaded with soluble prebiotic fiber, which in sensitive people causes these reactions.
Increasing the dosage of soluble fiber in your daily diet should actually help with your gluten sensitivity, but you have to start with very low doses and work it up. It helps rebuild your intestinal flora, and as a result, repair your intestinal lineage. Coffee substitutes, however, are only part of the regimen to fix your GI problems, talk to your doctor about this.
Healthy or not, you should start with a small portion of coffee substitute, to increase your tolerance to it.
Featured image credit: Hasan Albari, Pexels
Table of Contents
- The Best Healthy Alternatives for Coffee: At a Glance
- The 5 Best Coffee Substitutes:
- Other Healthy Coffee Substitutes
- What Are the Best Ingredients for Healthy Coffee Substitutes?
- Are Coffee Substitutes Healthy?
- Sensitivity and Other Side Effects