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You may have seen some cold brew companies touting chicory in their coffee. Chicory is often part of New Orleans style coffee, which is a mixture of a coffee/chicory concentrate, a sweetener, and milk.
Chicory is a plant that is part of the dandelion family. The roots are harvested, cut, dried, ground and roasted. Chicory can be used straight up as a caffeine free coffee substitute, or it can be blended with coffee. Blending can reduce the amount of coffee needed, and modify the final flavor of the coffee.
The connection with New Orleans is thought to have originated during the Civil War, when soldiers couldn’t afford to buy coffee so they added chicory to extend it (Source). The people of New Orleans may have been inspired by their ancestors in France who did the same when coffee was scarce in Napoleonic times (Source)
Flavors and uses in coffee
For cold brew beverages, while using chicory is strongly associated with the sweetened New Orleans coffee, it can also be used to modify the flavor of black coffee.
Chicory has an earthy flavor which is apparent in the final brew. Some feel it offsets the bitterness and results in a smoother taste (pmkchicory.com). Because it is more soluble in water than coffee, adding chicory will reduce the amount of coffee needed to get the same “strength.” In my experiments with adding it to cold brew, I found that it added a distinct earthy aroma that could quickly overpower the coffee flavors.
In searching the web for recipes with chicory, many offered a ratio of 1 part chicory to 3 parts coffee. In my testing, I found this ratio to be too much as it drowned out the coffee flavor. Caution must also be exercised as too much chicory could cause, errr–stomach disturbances.
Blue Bottle Coffee offers a recipe with 42 g of chicory per 1 lb. of coffee (which is 452 g). This is roughly 1 part chicory to 10 parts coffee. My experiments founds this to be a better level for black coffee.
Personally, I settled on about 1/3 to 1/2 c. of coffee, 1-2 tsp. of chicory and about 2 c. of water. Those proportions produce a beverage that has just enough chicory to notice it without being overwhelmingly earthy. As you can see, at that ratio we are not extending the coffee, but rather enhancing the flavor. I do find it to be true that I can use slightly less coffee when adding chicory.
Benefits of Chicory
Chicory is high in inulin, which is a complex sugar and prebiotic fiber. As such it can be beneficial to GI health. In my research, I found it curious that drugs.com reported that “Upon roasting, inulin is converted to oxymethylfurfural, a compound with a coffee-like smell.” This seems to imply to me that roasted chicory does not contain inulin. As of publication, I am still searching for an answer to this and will update this article if I do find a good explanation.
The other benefit of chicory in coffee is that by substituting some of your coffee grounds with chicory you can cut the caffeine content of your cup. Chicory does not contain caffeine so when we mix it with coffee, we reduce the amount of coffee used and therefore the caffeine count. Obviously, the more chicory you include, the greater the benefit in this respect.
Safety: Chicory should not be used while you are pregnant as it can stimulate menstruation and also may induce miscarriage. If you have gall stones, you should ask your doctor if it is okay to use chicory.
If you are like experimenting with your coffee, then chicory is worth playing around with. I purchased a whole pound of it (which will last me ages) at ChicoryUsa.com. It is also available from herbal suppliers such as Mountain Rose Herbs and Monterey Spice Company. Both are companies I use and respect.