Humanity runs on coffee, or at least one anonymous coffee lover would have it so. In Canada, we seem to embrace that sentiment as an entire nation. We are, of course, famous for our Tim Horton’s coffee. So it’s not surprising that in 2015, we ranked first among 80 countries for the amount of coffee drunk at cafes or the drive thru, and third for the amount of coffee we drink between home and our favourite food service locations. Canadians drink an average of 152 litres of coffee per person, with only Finland and the Netherlands drinking more Java than us per capita.
10 Creative Ways to Repurpose Leftover Coffee
With all the coffee being brewed in Canada, we also have a lot of leftover coffee to deal with. You may already be aware that Tim Horton’s went out of its way to prove its coffee was always fresh by recording the brew time and discarding any leftover coffee after 20 minutes had elapsed. Other stores and cafes tend to similarly throw away coffee that’s been sitting too long, as it tends to get bitter and if left on a hot plate the coffee will thicken into a burnt-tasting syrup.
But what about the coffee we brew up at home? Even if you’re pretty good at estimating how much coffee you need at any one time, there’s usually a bit of coffee leftover at the bottom of the pot. Sometimes we’ll brew a fill pot, drink one cup of coffee, and then have to run out of the house. That leaves several cups’ worth of good coffee sitting in the carafe turning bitter. I don’t know about you, but throwing anything away makes me feel bad. Especially since good coffee is a pricey item.
The best thing to do is to plan ahead for such occasions. Remove unused coffee from the hotplate or the French press promptly and use a thermos or insulated carafe to keep it warm. If you know you won’t have a chance to use the coffee within a reasonable time frame, consider one of more of these frugal ways to upcycle your coffee leftovers.
Learn how to make coffee ice cubes: Flash freeze freshly brewed coffee in ice cube trays and then store the coffee ice cubes in a sealed container. Add to cold brew iced coffee, home versions of iced coffee caramel macchiato or frozen iced coffee, and all your other favourite iced coffee drinks;
Store cold brew coffee in the fridge: It doesn’t work as well with coffee that’s been made using hot water, but if you find you’ve made too much cold brew, simply put it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for up to one week;
Bake a coffee cake: While “coffee cake” often means a cake intended to be eaten with coffee, sometimes the cake is actually flavoured with real coffee. Look for a mocha coffee cake recipe that uses brewed coffee and not instant coffee granules. This kind of cake is the perfect accompaniment for a steaming mug of homemade cappuccino;
Bake a fruitcake: Brewed coffee can be used as a substitute for brandy in fruitcakes and other baked goods. You can also use coffee to soak raisins or dried fruits like dates, apricots, and currants. This plumps up the fruit and contributes to a more moist cake. Use this trick when baking war cake and in other recipes that use the fruit to help replace some of the fat in the cake;
Make tiramisu: Literally a “pick me up,” tiramisu is lady fingers dipped in chocolate and layered with a whipped mascarpone cheese filling. Gordon Ramsay shows you how to make a fast and easy version in the video below. Want a slightly different flavour? Try a raspberry chocolate trifle instead.
Add coffee to a stew or gravy: Years ago, a girlfriend told me the secret to the best gravy was to add a little tea or coffee to the pan drippings. I thought she was nuts, but I tried it. Do you know what? It works! A little coffee will add depth of flavour to your stew, pot roast, or gravy. Just try it!
Make coffee ice cream, pudding, or frosting: Use that leftover brew to flavour something just a little decadent. Whip up a batch of no-churn ice cream, or add a little freshly brewed coffee to your favourite chocolate pudding or frosting recipe: now you’ve got mocha!
Add coffee to spaghetti sauce or chili: A couple of years ago, supermarket chain Sainsbury’s rocked the UK when in-store advertising suggested adding coffee to a classic spaghetti Bolognese (aka “spag bol”.) BuzzFeed picked up the story when a social networking frenzy ensued. But some cooks had already been doing it for years! If you’ve ever added cocoa to your chili, it’s a similar concept. Again, try it and see for yourself.
Use coffee to tenderize meat: This is actually a bit of a controversial subject, as is marinating meat in general. Coffee contains acids that denature the stiff collagen proteins in meat, which then turn into smooth gelatin. Acidic marinades can cut down on cooking time for a tougher piece of meat and help to prevent moisture loss during cooking.
A lot of recipes for coffee marinade suggest soaking the meat overnight or even up to 24 hours. But this might actually be long enough to start toughening the meat up again. It’s a delicate balance, so start with just an hour or two and experiment with your favourite meat recipes to see how much time each cut of meat really needs to sit in the marinade.
Smaller pieces of meat like cubes of stewing beef or thin strips of chicken or pork for a stir fry will get the best results because marinating works by adsorption and not absorption. This means the marinade sticks to the surface of the meat and doesn’t penetrate it very deeply. Some marinade recipes add salt or alcohol to improve penetration. You can also poke holes in the meat or inject the marinade into a thicker cut, to expose the inside of the meat to the marinade. Finally, for a simpler approach, chef Josiah Stone recommends replacing half of the broth in your recipe with strong coffee when you braise tougher cuts of lamb or beef.
Boil eggs in coffee: Yes, I know this sounds weird. But apparently it’s a thing. If you’ve ever had a Chinese tea egg, it’s a similar concept. Boil eggs in strong coffee for 30 minutes and they’ll take on a subtle coffee flavour. This recipe suggests dipping the cooked eggs in a mix of salt and cumin for an authentic Lebanese flavour.
Chef Alton Brown: Brew Better Coffee & Eliminate Waste
Want to make a really great cup of coffee? Celebrity chef Alton Brown has some great tips for brewing a great tasting cup of coffee in his coffee drinker owner’s manual. Making a cup of coffee that you’ll love is key to you wanting to drink every last drop in the pot. But Alton Brown’s advice will also help you to keep your coffee fresher before you brew it up. And will eliminate waste due to bitter-tasting coffee.
Buy coffee beans: Whether you just get an affordable roast at the grocery store or go all out on a pound of organic fair trade coffee from your coffee of the month club, buy whole coffee beans and don’t grind them until just before you make your coffee;
Store coffee in airtight containers: In other words, not those paper bags with the built-in twist ties!
Store coffee at room temperature: This one came as a bit of a surprise to me, because I’d always been told that coffee lasts longer if stored in the fridge or freezer. According to Alton, it’s OK to freeze coffee that you don’t plan to use for a while. But if you’ve opened a bag of coffee beans and you’re using them daily, repeated chilling and warming causes condensation to form on the beans and degrades their taste. Makes sense, but I guess it needs to be said after all the advice to the contrary;
Don’t use the overnight brew timer: It means you’ll have to rub a few brain cells together before you can have that first cup of morning brew. But you’ll have a better cup of coffee if you use fresh water, as opposed to water that’s been sitting around in the reservoir of your coffee maker all night. At 24 Carrot Diet, we prefer coffee made in a French press. And that means we have to use freshly boiled water, anyway. For a better taste, use filtered water. Or at least boil your tap water a few minutes to get rid of some of the chlorine;
Use enough coffee: The ideal ratio for pressed or drip coffee, according to Alton, is 2 heaping tablespoons ground coffee per 6 ounce cup of coffee. If you skimp on the coffee in an effort to create a milder brew, you’ll actually end up with bitter coffee;
Don’t let the coffee sit: Once brewed, consume coffee promptly or remove it to an insulated carafe or thermos. Coffee that continues to be heated after it’s brewed just tastes nasty.
As for Chef Brown’s advice on using a 1/4 tsp salt for every 6 tablespoons of ground coffee, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Alton swears that it’s not enough to taste, but I know that even with just a tiny take-out packet of salt for the whole pot, I can most definitely taste it. I’ve tried it several times over the past 25 years or so, and I always taste the salt. And apparently, I’m not the only one. So if you like salt or can’t really taste it when added to your coffee, by all means follow chef Alton Brown’s advice. As for me, I’ll stick to buying good quality coffee, grinding it fresh and brewing it right – and adding a little milk and sugar!
How do you like your morning coffee? Do you have any special tricks for brewing up the best tasting cup of Java, or maybe some creative ways to use up the leftover brew? Let me know all about your tips, favourite coffee brands, and more in the comments below!
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Original content © 2017 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
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