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The Best Espresso Powders and How To Use Them

spilt espresso powder

Did you ever think about whether coffee grounds can be used only to brew coffee? As a drink, then?

Well, think again!

There’s a product that is made from the same coffee beans that we all normally use to make coffee drinks that is instead used to make food, not beverages: the espresso powder.

But what is it? 

Let’s discover its properties, how to use it, and what are the best espresso powders on the market.

What is espresso powder?

In a way, espresso powder may be considered like super-concentrated instant coffee. It is not instant coffee, as it is much stronger. 

Not all espresso powders are thought to be drunk straight. Espresso powder is not an alternative to instant coffee, but its main target use is in baking and food preparation.

To make espresso powder, actual coffee is brewed first, then the beans are dried and crushed into a very fine powder. The espresso powder is so fine that it looks like minuscule, black, crystals of concentrated coffee. 

Once liquid is added, these crystals dissolve very quickly, as any other instant coffee would. But as they are much more concentrated, the resulting coffee will be way stronger. You may drink it, of course, but the uses of espresso powder go well beyond what is normally coffee brewing.

If you’re inclined to try it as a coffee to drink, you may be happy to know that espresso powder generally has a lower acidity than instant coffee. So if you’ve got an upset stomach, choose one of the best espresso powders below for your next “instant coffee” and you will experience fewer issues with your stomach.

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Bakers especially love espresso powder, as it is a great and richer substitute than normal coffee grounds or instant coffee. It gives you a stronger coffee flavor to any cake or dessert, without being harsh as an instant coffee often is. Or disappearing among the other ingredients, as sometimes not too strong brewed coffee does. 

It naturally pairs well with chocolate in cakes, enhancing the chocolate notes while donating a twist of coffee flavor to them.

There are plenty of uses of espresso powder in the kitchen. We will see how to use it in your food preparation at the end of this article. First, let’s see what are the best brands of espresso powder you can find on the market so you will know what to buy next time you’re at the supermarket.

Best Espresso Powder Brands

As you can imagine, on the market there are plenty of “instant espresso” or “espresso powder” available. Sometimes the difference between what is an instant coffee and a proper espresso powder blurs as the processes that are used to make either are similar. It’s not easy to exactly know what is more properly an instant coffee powder and an espresso powder. The uses are quite similar, after all.

Therefore, we have selected those which are of outstanding quality and that will give you excellent results. Buy them with the confidence that any of these are much better than your regular instant coffee, but have the qualities and features of a real espresso powder.

Medaglia D’Oro Espresso Instant Coffee OUR TOP PICK

Medaglia D'Oro Instant Espresso Coffee, 2 Ounces

Let’s start directly from our top pick. Medaglia D’Oro Espresso is superbly rich, delicious and aromatic. It is double roasted and easy to prepare. The powder is geared towards making espresso-like coffee, if you are going to use it as a drink. The low acidity content makes it very digestible.

Otherwise, the rich flavor of coffee will make it a magnificent addition to your baking experiments, sauces, and desserts alike. It is not super high in caffeine, so you can drink or cook with it without worrying about getting jittery

It is strong? Absolutely! Yet more in flavors than in caffeine. As a good espresso powder should be.

Java & Co. Espresso Powder

Espresso Powder by JAVA & Co., French Square Glass Bottle

Coming in a small, airtight, glass jar, Java & Co. Espresso Powder is made of fully Arabica beans for an enhanced flavor. This powder doesn’t include any fillers or preservatives: it’s pure coffee. The jar helps to preserve the freshness even after the first opening, a nice touch.

This specific espresso powder is made for baking more than drinking. It can be drunk, but it won’t completely dissolve into water, and will take more swirling to do it, anyway. 

If you need an espresso powder for sauces, cakes or general baking, this one has a strong, rich aroma of coffee and chocolate that will enhance any of your endeavours in the kitchen. It is not a more flavorful alternative to instant coffee, so if you’re looking for something that can be easy to drink, you have to look elsewhere.

King Arthur Flour Espresso Powder

King Arthur, Espresso Powder, Certified Kosher, Reusable Plastic Jar, 3 Ounces

King Arthur is not a new name for any serious baker out there. It is the oldest and probably the most famous flour company in the US, and it is only natural that they expanded into creating an excellent espresso powder too, for your cakes!

This powder is processed using premium coffee beans, and it is easy to dissolve. You can drink it, even if its intended use is for baking. It is Kosher verified, non-GMO, with no additives. The exceptional quality that you can expect from any King Arthur product comes at a price, and this espresso powder isn’t the cheapest you can find. 

It’s for serious bakers.

Café Pilon Instant Espresso Powder

Cafe Pilon Instant Espresso Coffee 1.75oz (2pack)

Those who like strong, intense, dark and very roasted coffee will appreciate the taste profile of Café Pilon Instant Espresso Powder. It is made of authentic Cuban coffee, which is typically very strong, heavy-bodied and bitter. It is easy to dissolve in hot water, making it a perfect substitute for instant coffee.

Despite having a distinct coffee flavor, when used in baking it doesn’t overpower your other ingredients but instead is great at highlighting them. It works very well in chocolate cakes or sauces.

The coffee brewed with it may require a bit more powder than other espresso powders on this list, as it may turn out watery. But as it is reasonably priced, that won’t be much of an issue.

Ferrara Instant Espresso

Ferrara Espresso Instant Coffee 2 oz set of 2

With a name coming from Italy (Ferrara is a city in the Po Valley), you can think of this as an Italian-inspired instant espresso. The aim of this espresso powder is indeed to recreate an Italian espresso at home, with ease. 

The coffee is selected across Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Ecuador, it follows an authentic recipe with high-quality beans to achieve an espresso-like result.

It has an intense chocolate flavor making Ferrara Instant Espresso good for both drinking and baking. We doubt it comes truly to match a real espresso, but it is flavorful, rich, and not watery. It’s also balanced enough to work very well in cakes, sauces, on grilled meats as in simply drinking.

Tips for using espresso powder

As we have just seen with the reviews, a good espresso powder can be used in many ways. You can use it as an instant coffee substitute, or in baking or to make sauces. Any of these uses are legitimate and some espresso powders will work better in one over the others. For those who are wary of using an espresso powder in savoury dishes, or generally for those wanting to know how to best use such a powder, let’s see some useful tips on how to get the best out of these espresso powders.

Baking Goods

Nearly all of the espresso powders on the market are meant to be implemented in your baking recipes. Not in any, though.

If you are making a chocolate-based recipe, like a good chocolate cake or a classic Sachertorte, a bit of espresso powder will do wonders to enhance the chocolate flavors in it, giving them a strong twist that resembles coffee as well.

It goes without saying that any chocolate desserts will benefit from a pinch or two of espresso powder. Think of a Tiramisù, and how it perfectly balances the cocoa and coffee flavors. 

Using a bit of espresso powder seems like a perfect marriage to taste more of both the cocoa and coffee notes.

chocolate cake

That’s just the quickest example that came to mind. Countless recipes that use chocolate, like a pudding, a Black Forest cake, a chocolate muffin, and so on and on, can greatly benefit from espresso powder. 

Experimenting with the right one for your recipe can take time, but that’s part of the fun of cooking, isn’t it?

Drinks

Cocktail makers will find an espresso powder, an invaluable ally in making deliciously coffee-flavored cocktails and smoothies without watering them down. Unlike classic instant coffee or brewed coffee, using espresso powder in your mixes doesn’t mean adding any water. 

You can keep your cocktails or shakes concentrated, not diluted yet still tasting of coffee. That’s a tremendous advantage that espresso powder has over normally brewed coffee. 

Home bartenders around the world have been exploiting this advantage for years, always wary of not ruining a well-crafted cocktail with too much water.

Also, a bit of espresso powder won’t be like adding a whole espresso coffee to your smoothies. It will give a more nuanced and less intense flavor of chocolate/coffee to them, without having to deal with the caffeine intake’s consequences.

 Those who don’t tolerate high amounts of caffeine can give their smoothies and cocktails a coffee twist without worrying about getting jittery.

Any cocktail that is chocolate or coffee-based will immensely benefit from a pinch of good espresso powder. It is easy, doesn’t add any water, and is a relatively cheap way to have a more richly flavorful drink.

Do try it in your hot chocolate! It is delicious to have more notes than the cocoa powder can possess on its own.

Stovetop

As we said multiple times throughout our espresso powder reviews, it can be an instant coffee substitute. You can brew it as you would any coffee grounds, on a stove. The powder will dissolve, as with instant coffee, and give the coffee a quite strong, concentrated taste.

Not all espresso powders are thought to be brewed and meant to be used in cooking dishes on a stove. Check the one you’re thinking of buying first, as it may be more appropriate to use it in baking for example. 

If it is specifically stated that it can be brewed coffee with, then go on and see if you like it more than instant coffee.

Outside of brewing the espresso powder itself, many cooks use it to enhance their stews and braises. There’s something quite fitting to add chocolate/coffee flavors to a good, slowly cooked, chunk of meat that cooks worldwide have been using for a long time. 

As any brewed coffee has a different taste profile, so does any espresso powder. Check what your specific powder is supposed to taste like and see if it matches the recipe you’re following. Just a pinch of it in your stew can give a richness that can make you go wow!

If you’re not into slow cooking your meats but quickly burning them (on the outside only, hopefully), why not add espresso powder to your steak rubs? It definitely sounds strange, yet the smoky, chocolatey flavor that it can give to your steaks is unparalleled. 

Pairing it with your favorite spices, perhaps with some chili or cayenne pepper, it will not only deeply enrich the taste of the meat but also give it a dark-brown color that would be hard to obtain otherwise. 

If you fear that your steak is going to taste like coffee, try it first and thank us later!

Sauces

Sauces and dressings are also made with espresso powder. You know those sweet sauces that are used over grilled meat or as salad dressings? They can work great with a small addition of espresso powder in them. Not too much as to make them taste like actual coffee, yet the dark powder can greatly enrich such sauces.

After all, the coffee can definitely taste savory when unsweetened. So why not incorporate an espresso powder in your sauces and dressings as well? The flavor twist that it can give is surely going to surprise many guests you may host at home.

Espresso fine ground vs Espresso powder

It is common to think and wonder: isn’t espresso powder just finely ground coffee? Why can’t I simply grind my coffee beans I already have?

Well, surely you can do that, but these grounds won’t be able to dissolve in water as espresso powder can. You’ll simply brew them, leaving them to drop to the bottom of your cup, undissolved. 

varying coffee grind size

Espresso powder is intended to be dissolved, like a fine spice, and is made by coffee that was already brewed once, and then dried and finely ground. The beans that you have simply won’t have the same properties as espresso powder.

There’s instead a method to make your own espresso powder at home, which we will see how it works in a moment.

Can you substitute for instant coffee

For drinking, most probably yes. Even the espresso powder that is specifically meant to be used in food preparation can still be brewed and give you quite excellent coffee. 

Most probably a stronger, less harsh, heavier bodied coffee than any instant coffee. It may be an acquired taste though, not everybody is accustomed to drink such strong coffee.

What you surely can’t as easily do is the opposite: use instant coffee in your recipes instead of espresso powder. Instant coffee has in most cases a wholly different taste profile. It’s harsher, made with lower quality coffee beans, more pungent and less rich and smooth. 

It is not meant also to be used solid in your recipes, but to be dissolved first and then added as a liquid. Therefore, you will have to tweak your recipe to accommodate for the increased water content in it. It won’t be possible with all recipes.

On the contrary, espresso powder doesn’t necessitate being dissolved first. It is an optional step. Espresso powder is not only richer in flavors but more versatile than instant coffee.

How to make espresso powder

Recipe time. What if you want to make espresso powder at home? It is certainly doable, but it does require a few steps. Have the patience to carefully follow them and you’ll have your homemade espresso powder in a short time.

First of all, you’ll need:

  • Baking sheet
  • Leftover coffee grounds (generally a medium/dark roast is to be preferred). Don’t use grounds that are 1 week old or worse. Try to use relatively fresh grounds, that still have much of their original flavors.
  • A mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder that can grind very fine
  • A spatula
  • An airtight container
  • The actual instructions are as following:
  • Preheat the oven to 170°F or the lowest setting available.
  • Spread the grounds with the spatula over a baking sheet.
  • Put the grounds into the oven once it’s hot. Set the timer to 1 hour.
  • The grounds will be ready when they become thoroughly dry and look crunchy.
  • Remove them from the oven and let them cool.
  • Grind them with your mortar and pestle or coffee grinder to a very fine ground. Make sure it is also very uniform (this is the step where the most patience is needed).

Time to store your new-made espresso powder or use it! Do remember that it can last a long time if kept properly in an airtight container, but don’t use it later than 1 year after it has been made.