CoffeeFlour is made from the discarded fruit of the coffea plant. Photo: Ethan Covey
Last week, at a back table inside New York City’s Brooklyn Roasting Company, a spread of desserts tempted guests: moist and dense brownies, coffee cake sprinkled with a sugary crumble, and chocolatey cookies. But these were no run-of-the-mill desserts: All were made with CoffeeFlour, a brand of flour made with the dried and ground fruit of the coffea plant, called “cherries.” Never heard of them? You’re certainly familiar with their seeds, known around the world as coffee beans.
CoffeeFlour, it turns out, tastes nothing like coffee. The chestnut-hued powder has a rich flavor a bit like roasted fruit, and lends baked goods a hint of fruitiness on the finish. Taste, however, is just one of the flour’s selling points. The creators of CoffeeFlour have lofty goals for it, and hope the product will prove a solution to global problems ranging from pollution to poverty.
Coffea “cherries,” which contain coffee beans. Photo: Coffee Flour/Facebook
“This is an agricultural innovation that will change the coffee industry,” CoffeeFlour co-founder Andrew Fedak told us, adding that 17 billion pounds of coffee cherries are thrown away every year. Some is reclaimed to make tea or used as a natural fertilizer, but most seeps into nearby waterways and wreaks havoc on the local environment. It’s a troubling issue that Fedak’s partner Dan Belliveau witnessed firsthand in his former job as director of technical services for Starbucks.
“There’s nothing new about this problem,” Fedak said. For years, people around the world experimented with potential solutions, including converting the fruit into biofuels, biodigesters, and even building materials. Nothing stuck. Then, in the middle of the night several years ago, Belliveau called Fedak with the idea for CoffeeFlour.
Dried coffee cherries. Photo: Rachel Tepper
The duo believes that roughly 8 billion pounds of discarded cherries can be converted into flour, and every person who works on the supply chain stands to benefit from it in the form of cold, hard cash. In the case of some coffee farmers, the additional income could amount to “anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of their total income, so this can have a massive impact.”
Granted, CoffeeFlour does have some drawbacks. It’s extraordinarily fiber-rich, which means that it needs to be mixed with more traditional flours to produce baked goods with a palatable consistency. Using CoffeeFlour alone would result in a super-dense log, so the company recommends using 30 percent CoffeeFlour in a recipe.
Coffee cake made with CoffeeFlour. Photo: Ethan Covey
Still, the company claims various health benefits. CoffeeFlour is said to have three times more iron than fresh spinach or grain in the USDA database; five times as much fiber as whole grain wheat flour; three times the amount of protein as fresh kale; and twice the amount of potassium as a banana.
You may be able to experience CoffeFlour firsthand very soon. The company has already begun partnering with food service companies to create and sell products made with it: In January, Nicaragua’s largest chain of coffee shops, Casa del Café, introduced a CoffeeFlour product line that includes carrot muffin, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies. More companies in the U.S. are to follow.
Brownies made with CoffeeFlour. Photo: Ethan Covey
Fedak hopes, down the line, to partner with other companies to produce CoffeeFlour-infused consumer packaged goods to be sold in stores. Eventually, he wants to see bags of CoffeeFlour in grocery store baking aisles. But the product’s social mission will remain a top priority.
Fedak recalled a poor coffee farmer who had received a check for cherry pulp he might have otherwise chucked in the trash. “We have the opportunity to do that hundreds of thousands of times all over the world,” Fedak said. “We’re going to make sure everyone benefits.”
More fascinating food innovations:
Would you bake with CoffeeFlour? Tell us below!