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But Will It Caffeinate My Pastries?

Baked goods made using coffee flour look the same as those made with conventional flours, but they can have more complex flavor profiles. Photo by Ethan Covey
Baked goods made using coffee flour look the same as those made with conventional flours, but they can have more complex flavor profiles. Photo by Ethan Covey

In the 1990s, Dan Belliveau worked for Starbucks. His job was to automate the company's roasting facilities. In 2012, Belliveau, fired from Starbucks for his attempts at innovating the bean-to-consumer process, had an idea. Our global coffee habit turns out billions of pounds of waste, of which only about 15 percent ends up recycled (mostly as fertilizer). Why not reuse the remaining discarded byproducts as a new food product?

Belliveau secured investment from Seattle-based Intellectual Ventures and two coffee industry giants, ECOM Agroindustrial Corp. and Mercon Coffee Group, and founded Vancouver-based startup CF Global Holdings. By the end of 2013, Belliveau had filed for a patent on the composition and preparation method for coffee cherry flour.

Coffee flour is literally flour ground from coffee — but not from the coffee bean. Coffee comes from roasted and ground coffee beans, but those beans come from a fruit. The beans are actually pits of a cherry-like fruit known as a coffee berry or coffee cherry. Coffee cherry pulp is the red fruit of the coffee berry, a byproduct of coffee bean processing and milling, and it's this waste from which Coffee flour is made.

Coffee flour is described as having a subtle, fruity flavor, but flavors actually vary greatly depending on the country of origin (some introduce smoky tobacco notes to foods), and the ratio of coffee flour changes the flavor and texture of the end product. What it doesn't taste like, though, is coffee. "Coffee is usually added to accentuate the flavor in chocolate-based desserts. However, this doesn't add the usual notes that coffee would," says Renato Poliafito, co-owner of Baked NYC, in an email.

Coffee flour offers more than a subtle flavor and texture change to food. Coffee is low in calories, and the pulp is naturally high in antioxidants. Its anti-inflammatory attributes have been linked with a reduced risk of developing certain diseases and a boost to cardiovascular health. And because coffee flour contains the skin of the berry, it has five times more fiber than whole-grain wheat flour, and 42 percent more than coconut flour. Compared to non-flour foods, gram-per-gram coffee flour has three times more protein than kale and three times more iron than spinach. And, just one ounce of coffee flour contains twice the potassium found in a banana.

And, yes, coffee flour does contain caffeine, but toasted bread containing coffee flour isn't going to match the caffeine in a cup of coffee. In fact, two slices of bread would be closer to what would be found in one-quarter of a cup of coffee. To consume 95 milligrams of caffeine — the amount in a single cup of black coffee — you'd need to eat as many as 7 slices to 16 slices of bread containing coffee flour.

Belliveau believes coffee flour won't just change the way we look at the ingredients we bake and cook with, but that it can change the world. Coffee flour is revolutionary in the coffee industry; it's built on ideas of conservation and sustainability, reducing the environmental impact of our coffee bean habits, as well as creating revenue sources for coffee farmers, coffee-cherry pickers and those involved in green coffee production.

Coffee flour is currently being produced worldwide, with factories located in Guatemala, Hawaii, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Vietnam, among others. CF Global predicts that there's potential for flour millers to produce as much as 8 billion pounds (3.6 billion kilograms) of coffee flour annually. By the end of 2015, coffee flour will hit retailers worldwide.

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