Coffee Substitutes

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Now then some of these coffee substitutes are going to sound really gross, but if you can't afford coffee beans or there is a shortage, you will need to know this information.
Some of these subsititutes have been around in the United States since the Civil War era.

Sweet Potato Coffee

Peel your potatoes and slice them rather thin; dry them in the air or on a stove; then cut into pieces small enough to go into the coffee mil, then grind it. Two tablespoons full of ground coffee and three or four of ground potatoes will make eight or nine cups of coffee, clear, pure and well tasted.
Recipe from: Albany [GA.] Patriot, December 12, 1861

Okra--A Substitute for Coffee

Mr. Archer Griffeth, of Ala., gives us the following directions for preparing okra seed as a substitute for coffee. He expresses himself as highly pleased with the beverage:

Parch over a good fire and stir well until it is dark brown; then take off the fire and before the seed get cool put the white of one egg to two tea-cups full of okra, and mix well. Put the same quantity of seed in the coffee pot as you would coffee, boil well and settle as coffee.
Recipe from: The Southern Banner [Athens, GA], February 11, 1863

Sweet Potato and Persimmons

But another important item is, to save the seeds of the persimmons after they have boiled, and you let out the slop, for they are excellent for coffee, rather stronger or rougher than the genuine Rio; hence, I mix two parts of dried sweet potatoes to one of persimmon seed. Dr. Buck says this coffee is equal to Java coffee! By boiling the seeds are rid of all mucilaginous * substances, and just right for coffee or buttons. If you use them for buttons, the washer woman will hardly break them with her battling stick. For coffee they should be parched twice as long as any other substitute, so as to make them tender to the centre.
* Musilage: A gummy secretion present in various parts of vegetable organisms. Recipe from: The Southern Banner [Athens, GA], October 28, 1863

This next one sounds really nasty. It is a wonder that anyone survived these trying times

Adulteration of Coffee

Molasses when boiled down until it scorches, is converted into an intensely bitter substance, called by chemists caramel. Our method is to put a quart or more of sorghum syrup into any convenient vessel, and stew it down over a slow fire, as if making candy, stirring constantly until the syrup is burnt black; then pour it out into a greased plate to cool. The blackish porous mass thus obtained is pounded, when quite cold, in an iron mortar. We mix it with twice its bulk of ground coffee, and use a teaspoonful of this mixture for each person; thus one teaspoonful of caramel and two of coffee will make six cups of a beverage which, as far as taste is concerned, is far preferable to pure Rio coffee. The burnt molasses or caramel, attracts moisture when exposed to the air, and must, therefore, be kept in a close vessel. It would be well, for the same reason, to prepare it in small quantities. If the molasses is burnt too much, it is reduced to charcoal and loses all taste. By the way, though a very simple matter, many housekeepers do not know that it is perfectly easy to clear coffee by adding a small quantity of cold water, just as it "comes to a boil."
Recipe from: The Southern Banner [Athens, GA], March 15, 1865

Beet Coffee

I enclose you the receipt--the very latest--for making the very best domestic coffee. This coffee, when made by the receipt, is of excellent flavor, and very nutritious. It is of sufficient strength, and not excitable in its action. It is mild, healthy, persuasive, and sufficiently exhilarating for any epicure. When you smell it, you will say, "I believe it's _Java_;" when you taste it, you will taste (?) it, you will say, "I think _it is_ Java;" when you drink it, you exclaim (foreignly) ?? shure it is Java." It is true, it has not that foreign _accent_; but by adding a little milk or cream, it _speaks_ almost the foreign tongue ?? it, as an antidote for the blockade.


Take the common garden beet, wash it clean, cut it into small pieces, twice the size of a bean of coffee; put into the coffee toaster or pan, and roast as you do your coffee--perfectly brown. Take care not to burn while ??ing it. When sufficiently dry and hard, grind it in a clean mill, and take half a common size coffee cup of the grounds, and boil in one gallon water. Then settle with an egg, and send to the table, hot. Sweeten with very? little sugar, and add good cream or milk, ??? coffee can be drank by children with impunity, and will not (in my judgment,) either impair sight or nerves. Col. Wm. W. D. Wea??? and myself have tried it, and find it almost equal, when properly made, to either the Java, Brazilian or Mocha coffee. I am indebted to the Colonel for this excellent substitute; and as every man has his beet orchard, so has he his coffee.
Note: There is a percentage of water in the beet, which is extracted as you toast the particles to a nice brown.
Recipe from:Greensboro', Ga., Aug. 23, 1861.

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