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The 14 Best Instant Coffee Substitutes in Baking

This article will list the top 14 instant coffee beverage alternatives for baking, both caffeinated and caffeine-free.

The best instant coffee substitutes to drink include brewed coffee, espresso, black tea, chai, green tea, matcha, yerba mate, cacao powder, herbal teas, hot chocolate, chaga, Orzo, chicory, etc. Try extra strong brewed coffee, instant espresso, coffee concentrate, or coffee extract for baking.

The list below is organized loosely by caffeine content and flavor. The alternatives most similar to coffee in flavor and caffeine content are at the top.

A bag of instant coffee with a scoop nearby

Best Instant Coffee Substitutes That Contain Caffeine

1. Brewed Coffee

This instant coffee substitute might seem like a no-brainer, and that’s because it is. Brewed coffee is by far the best alternative to instant coffee. It has equal caffeine to instant coffee at around 95 mg per 8 oz (237 mL). It also has a fuller, smoother taste profile. 

You can purchase canned or bottled brew at your local grocery store or gas station market if you don’t have a coffee pot or grounds handy. You can also brew a single cup using a small sifter and some boiled water in a pinch.

2. Espresso

Two shot glasses of espresso coffee

Espresso is another perfect instant coffee substitute with all the rich coffee flavor and caffeine you could ask for. Not everyone has an espresso maker at home. Still, you can brew espresso in any type of coffee maker, including a drip maker or a french press. 

However, remember that espresso has a much bolder flavor than instant coffee, so you won’t need to use it as much. Double-strength brewed coffee should provide flavor equal to instant coffee. However, you will need to adjust your liquid ingredients (like milk and water) to account for the added liquid of your coffee. Otherwise, your batter will be too wet. This is also true with brewed espresso, although to a lesser extent.

Related The 11 Best Alternative Sweeteners For Coffee.

3. Black Tea

A container of black tea with a small teapot nearby

If you don’t mind giving up that bold coffee flavor, black tea is an excellent alternative to instant coffee. It still has a good punch of caffeine at around 47 mg per 8 oz (237 mL). When brewed strong, it has a full-bodied, caramelly, slightly bitter flavor most coffee drinkers enjoy. 

Black tea is also routinely diluted with milk or cream, making it a good substitute for those who prefer creamer in their coffee. 

4. Chai

Chai is another type of black tea that makes an excellent instant coffee alternative. Spiced heavily with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, star anise, clove, and sometimes other spices, this traditional Indian milk tea packs a big punch of flavor. It also contains a moderate amount of caffeine, usually around 25-55 mg per 8 oz (237 mL) cup. 

The addition of so many spices also lends chai health-boosting effects. Studies have shown regular chai consumption can improve heart health, lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and blood sugar (when unsweetened), and more. 

Finally, chai is traditionally brewed in milk rather than water. It has a rich and creamy flavor that easily satisfies those who enjoy flavored creamer in their coffee.

Related The 12 Best Substitutes For Milk In Coffee.

5. Green Tea

Green tea is an ideal instant coffee substitute for those who want to reduce their caffeine intake and choose a healthier alternative. With around 35 mg of caffeine per 8 oz (237 mL) cup, it still provides a nice energy boost while limiting the dehydrating effect of stronger caffeinated beverages. 

In addition, green tea contains copious antioxidants and flavonoids. It has been clinically proven to improve cardiovascular health, reduce blood clotting and inflammation, lower blood pressure, and more. 

6. Matcha

Matcha is a green tea from Japan that makes another great alternative to instant coffee. However, unlike traditional green tea, matcha comes in a powder that can be mixed into hot liquids like water, milk, or milk alternatives, just like instant coffee. 

It typically has a grassy, earthy and bitter flavor with a hint of creaminess. Its flavor is best complimented by the use of dairy or oat milk and a frother. Matcha’s caffeine content is moderate at about 20-45 mg per 8 oz (237 mL) cup, depending upon the manufacturer and how it’s brewed.

Matcha also has considerable health benefits similar to other green teas. In fact, it has even more antioxidants and flavonoids than regular green tea. Plus, it has 1g of protein per serving.

7. Yerba Mate

Yerba mate is another tea that can be used as a substitute for instant coffee. However, yerba mate is in a class all its own. The average 8oz (237 mL) cup has around 70 mg of caffeine, but depending on how it’s brewed, it can contain up to 180 mg. That’s nearly twice as much caffeine as coffee.

However, that’s not the only amazing thing about yerba mate. The caffeine in this unusual tea differs from what you get in coffee and other teas. While coffee drinkers may experience a “crash” when the caffeine wears off, drinkers of yerba mate do not. This is because yerba mate contains high levels of theobromine. This alkaloid functions similarly to caffeine but has a more prolonged, steadier effect, providing energy and focus for extended periods. 

Yerba mate also provides many health benefits due to its high vitamin c and antioxidant content. It is even said to improve bone density for women after menopause. 

8. Cacao Powder

A bowl of cacao powder

Cacao powder, made from cold-pressed ground cacao beans, is another excellent instant coffee substitute. It has the bold, full-bodied, and bitter flavor you expect from a good cup of coffee, plus the rich and creamy taste of unsweetened chocolate. 

Its caffeine content is the lowest of all the caffeinated instant coffee alternatives at 12-24 mg per 8 oz (237 mL) serving. However, it is still enough to offer a nice little energy boost in the morning.

You can place cacao powder in a french press just as you would coffee grounds and make a delicious morning cup that’s also highly nutritious. Cacao powder contains calcium (more than cow’s milk!), plus iron, magnesium, and copious antioxidants, making it one of the healthiest instant coffee substitutes on this list.

Related The 6 Best Cocoa Powders for Cake.

Best Caffeine-Free Instant Coffee Substitutes

The best caffeine-free instant coffee substitutes include decaf coffee, chicory powder, chaga mushroom powder, Orzo or barley powder, and carob powder. You can also combine two or more of these substitutes or buy alternative coffee mixes that combine them.

The list below is organized by each drink’s similarity in flavor to coffee, starting with the most similar. However, the taste may vary widely depending on the brand, manufacturing, and brewing process. 

9. Decaf Coffee

Switching to decaf coffee, whether instant, brewed, or espresso, is the best alternative for those who want authentic coffee flavor without the caffeine. However, it’s essential to know that even decaf coffees aren’t 100% caffeine free. Most contain traces of caffeine (around 2 mg per serving). 

In addition, the process that removes caffeine from coffee beans also affects the flavor, resulting in a slightly more sour and less robust taste than regular coffee. However, the difference is considered negligible by most. It’s only apparent if the coffee is low-quality or if the drinker has an especially sensitive palate. 

10. Chicory

The next best caffeine-free instant coffee substitute is chicory. Chicory is made from the roots of an herb and tastes very similar to coffee. However, it has absolutely zero caffeine and provides some health benefits that coffee cannot boast. Namely, chicory contains a fiber called inulin, which can improve blood sugar levels and digestion. 

11. Chaga Mushroom Powder

Chaga mushroom powder is another common coffee alternative for those who seek coffee flavor without the caffeine. In fact, chaga is one of several mushrooms typically made into coffee alternatives. However, chaga is the one that imparts that all-important rich, earthy, and slightly bitter flavor. 

Chaga mushrooms contain antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin D, amino acids, potassium, fiber, selenium, copper, iron, zinc, manganese, calcium, and magnesium. As a result, they can provide numerous health benefits when consumed daily in place of instant coffee. They even provide a natural energy boost without the afternoon crash.

12. Orzo/Barley Coffee

Barley coffee is another completely caffeine-free instant coffee alternative. The most well-known brand is Orzo, which has been enjoyed in Italy for hundreds of years. Like chicory, it tastes similar to coffee and provides several health benefits. 

Barley coffee contains vitamins B and E, antioxidants, and complex carbohydrates that reduce blood sugar and inflammation and improve digestive health.  

13. Carob

Carob is traditionally used as a chocolate substitute. It has a mildly sweet and nutty flavor closer to cocoa than coffee. However, it’s an excellent choice for those who want to enjoy a good mocha or hot chocolate without any trace of caffeine.

Carob powder can be brewed similarly to coffee. In addition, it is high in fiber, antioxidants, and calcium, making it another healthy instant coffee alternative.

14. Coffee Concentrate or Extract

Coffee concentrates and extracts are also great substitutes because of their robust flavor. A little goes a long way.

In addition, because of how highly concentrated they are, you shouldn’t have to adjust the liquids in your recipe as you would with brewed coffee or espresso. They will, however, add a dark brown color to batters and frostings.

Related The 7 Best Non-Alcoholic Coffee Liqueur Substitutes.

Other Alternatives

Suppose you want to avoid using coffee products in your baking. In that case, almost any other item on this list will replace instant coffee in baking. The best are those with flavors most similar to coffee, like chicory, chaga, and barley powder. 

You can brew these at double strength as you would brew coffee for baking. Just remember to make adjustments for the extra liquid, so your recipe doesn’t become too watery.

Final Thoughts

The best instant coffee substitutes for baking include instant espresso, brewed espresso, double-strength brewed coffee, coffee concentrate, or coffee extract. However, carob powder, chaga mushroom powder, and other coffee alternatives can be used where caffeine must be avoided. 

Most bakers, novice and expert alike, know that adding a little coffee elevates specific recipes to a new level. Tiramisu, espresso brownies, and chocolate cake, to name a few.

Instant coffee is the easiest way to inject your coffee confection with extra flavor. Still, almost any coffee product can be used in a pinch. 

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