Coffee is a beloved drink for many people around the world. The robust, invigorating flavor makes for an ideal start to the day. But some find plain black coffee to be too bitter or harsh on its own. If you're looking for ways to enhance your morning cup of joe, adding cacao powder is an option worth considering.
Cacao powder brings out coffee's inherent chocolatey notes while adding some nutritional benefits. The flavor combo is reminiscent of a luxurious mocha latte but without all the added sugar.
What is Cacao Powder?
Before getting into using cacao powder in coffee, it helps to understand exactly what cacao powder is. Cacao powder is made by cold-pressing raw cacao beans that have been fermented and dried. The fats are removed from the pressed cacao, leaving behind a powder with an intense chocolate flavor.
Cacao powder is not the same as cocoa powder, though they are similar and sometimes confused. Cocoa powder undergoes more extensive processing and heating, which changes the flavor profile. Cacao powder has a more pronounced bitter taste like dark chocolate or baking chocolate. It contains higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients since it is less processed.
Some key advantages of cacao powder include:
- High antioxidant levels - Contains polyphenols, flavanols, and other compounds that combat free radicals.
- Anti-inflammatory effects - The antioxidants in cacao can lower inflammation in the body.
- Cardiovascular benefits - Flavanols improve blood flow and may lower blood pressure.
- Mood enhancement - Cacao raises serotonin and endorphin levels to boost mood.
- Low sugar - Unlike cocoa powder with added sugar, cacao powder has no sugar naturally.
Cacao powder delivers health perks along with a strong chocolate flavor, making it a smart addition to coffee.
Why Add Cacao Powder to Coffee?
There are several excellent reasons to add cacao powder to your morning mug of joe:
1. Improves the Flavor
First and foremost, cacao powder can drastically improve the taste of your coffee. The nutty, bittersweet cacao flavor balances beautifully with coffee's acidity. You get a luxurious mocha flavor without overwhelming the distinct coffee taste.
Just a teaspoon of cacao powder in an average cup of coffee is enough to give a hint of chocolate. You can gradually add more if you like a very intense chocolate coffee.
Cacao enhances coffee but doesn't overpower it. The complexity of both cacao and coffee comes through.
2. Boosts Nutrition
As mentioned earlier, cacao powder contains antioxidants, fiber, and other beneficial plant compounds. Stirring it into your coffee is an effortless way to boost your intake of these nutrients.
Cacao provides vitamins and minerals your body needs, including:
It also has plenty of fiber to support healthy digestion. The antioxidants help fight cellular damage from free radicals that leads to chronic disease and accelerated aging.
3. Natural Energy Lift
Coffee gives you a caffeine jolt to start your day. Cacao contains compounds like theobromine that provide gentle, sustained energy without the crash later on.
Adding cacao powder can smooth out your energy levels, working synergistically with coffee's caffeine. The healthy fats in cacao support cellular energy production as well.
4. Elevates Your Mood
If you thought chocolate could improve your mood, cacao offers even more potent benefits. It is one of the highest sources of tryptophan, an amino acid crucial for serotonin production.
The flavonoids in cacao boost endorphin and serotonin levels in the brain. This helps elevate your mood and reduce anxiety and stress. Cacao even improves blood flow to your brain for better cognition and focus.
How to Add Cacao Powder to Coffee
Cacao powder works best when you add it a certain way to coffee. Because it contains cocoa butter fats, cacao powder can clump up or sit at the top of your coffee if you just sprinkle it in.
Follow these tips for incorporating cacao powder into coffee successfully:
Make a Paste
The easiest way to integrate cacao powder into coffee is to make a quick paste first. Here's how:
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of cacao powder to your empty mug or cup.
- Add just a small amount of very hot coffee and vigorously whisk or stir the cacao powder.
- It will form a thick, smooth paste as you mix in the hot coffee.
- Then add the rest of your coffee, continuing to stir as you pour.
This paste incorporates the cacao powder fully without clumping or sitting on the surface. The hot coffee melts the cocoa butter enough for blending.
Mix With Grounds
You can also add your cacao powder directly to the coffee grounds before brewing. Simply stir the powder in thoroughly with the grounds.
Use a ratio of about 1 teaspoon cacao powder per 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds. This gives a nice chocolately kick while still allowing the coffee flavor to dominate.
Mixing cacao powder with the grounds before brewing infuses the chocolate flavor throughout. Just be sure not to pack the coffee maker basket too tightly when brewing.
If you're making a cappuccino, latte, or other milk-based coffee drink, incorporate the cacao powder into the frothed milk. Whisk the powder vigorously into the steamed milk until fully blended.
The hot, foamy milk helps dissolve the cacao powder completely. Pour the milk over your espresso, and you have an easy homemade mocha!
How Much Cacao Powder Should You Add?
The amount of cacao powder you should add depends on how intense you want the chocolate flavor to be. Just a small amount will give a hint of chocolate depth without overwhelming the coffee.
Here are general guidelines for how much to use:
- Subtle flavor - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup
- Mocha flavor - 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup
- Intense chocolate - 2 to 3 teaspoons per cup
Keep in mind that a little cacao powder goes a long way since it has a strong flavor. Start with less and add more to suit your tastes.
Use higher ratios for milk-based drinks to stand up against the milk. And use less for concentrated coffee like espresso.
Don't be afraid to experiment to find your ideal cacao to coffee ratio!
Cacao vs. Cocoa Powder in Coffee
As noted earlier, cacao and cocoa powder differ in how they're processed from cacao beans. You can use either one to add chocolate flair to coffee, but there are some key differences:
- Made from raw, minimally processed cacao beans
- Higher antioxidant and nutrient content
- Stronger bitter dark chocolate flavor
- Mixes best when made into a paste first
- Made from roasted, heavily processed cacao beans
- Sweeter, milder chocolate flavor
- Sometimes contains added sugars
- More water-soluble so blends into coffee easily
Cacao powder is the less processed option and offers more benefits. But cocoa powder provides great flavor too, especially Dutch processed varieties.
The best option comes down to your flavor preference and health priorities. Both transform your daily coffee into a unique chocolate coffee treat!
Delicious Cacao Coffee Recipes to Try
Once you get the hang of incorporating cacao powder into coffee, you can start experimenting with fun caffeinated coffee recipes.
Here are a few delicious cacao coffee drinks to whip up at home:
This warming coffee treat will transport you south of the border!
- 1 cup hot brewed coffee
- 1 teaspoon cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Dash cayenne pepper
- Whipped cream to top
- Dissolve cacao powder into a bit of hot coffee until smooth.
- Add remaining coffee along with brown sugar and spices.
- Top with whipped cream and dash more cinnamon.
Coconut Cacao Latte
A touch of coconut gives this creamy latte even more flavor dimension.
- 1 shot espresso
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch cinnamon
- Whipped coconut cream to top
- Heat coconut milk until steaming. Whisk in cacao and spices.
- Pour frothed cacao coconut milk over espresso.
- Top with whipped coconut cream.
For a decadent dessert in a cup, try this chocolate-espresso affogato.
- 1 shot espresso
- 1-2 scoops chocolate ice cream
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- Chopped nuts to top
- Scoop ice cream into glass. Dust with cacao powder.
- Pull espresso shot directly over ice cream.
- Top with chopped nuts and serve immediately before ice cream melts.
Key Takeaway: From spiced Mexican coffee to chilled affogato, cacao powder allows for endless gourmet chocolate coffee concoctions!
Does cacao powder dissolve in coffee?
Cacao powder contains cocoa butter that makes it resistant to dissolving in water. It won't fully dissolve in coffee, but making a smooth paste first ensures it blends thoroughly. Adding very hot coffee helps melt the fats for better integration.
Is cacao powder good for you?
Yes, cacao powder provides many health benefits! It's loaded with antioxidants and nutrients that boost your cardiovascular health, decrease inflammation, and enhance your mood. Just be sure not to go overboard on the cacao since it does contain some caffeine.
Does cacao powder have caffeine?
Cacao beans naturally contain a very small amount of caffeine. But most is lost during processing into cacao powder. There is approximately 10-25mg of caffeine in one tablespoon of cacao powder. So while not entirely caffeine-free, it won't give you nearly as much of a jolt as coffee itself.
Can you add cacao powder to cold brew?
It's best not to directly mix cacao powder into cold brew, since the cocoa butter fats won't blend well in cold liquid. You can gently heat up some of the cold brew first to dissolve the cacao powder, then add that mixture to your full portion of cold brew. Stir thoroughly before drinking to fully incorporate.
Adding cacao powder to coffee is an easy way to give your daily cup an extra dimension. The nutty bitterness balances beautifully against coffee's bright acidity, bringing out subtle chocolate notes. Beyond flavor, cacao packs in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and compounds for sustained energy and mood enhancement.
By making a smooth paste first or blending into hot coffee grounds, you can properly incorporate cacao powder so it blends smoothly. The optimal amount to use ranges from 1/2 teaspoon for a hint of chocolate up to 3 teaspoons for full-on chocolate coffee. Feel free to get creative and whip up spiced, creamy, chilled, and decadent cacao-spiked coffee drinks.