How To Cook With Coffee

How To Cook With Coffee

Most crave a hit of coffee, whether it’s an early morning espresso to kick start your day, or a mid-afternoon Americano to help you hit those deadlines. But the benefits of coffee are not simply limited to perking us up, it has many culinary uses with its robust flavour enhancing both sweet and savoury dishes. And you can even use the grounds.
Here, a handful of our favourite chefs show us how it’s done…

Coffee Adds Another Dimension

For those who have used coffee exclusively with milk and two sugars for most of their lives, using coffee in cooking can be a little bit daunting. But coffee can go way further than just the standard Tiramisu – it’s perfect in savoury cooking, too. “I like using coffee in cooking especially savoury foods as it adds another dimension you wouldn’t expect,” says Chris Tate, Executive Chef at Tate. “Using it as a simple seasoning often has the most effect.”

Jon Atashroo, Head Chef at Tate Modern, agrees. “Coffee adds a hit of bitterness where needed, and I like the subtle extra flavours that it can impart and suffuse into a dish.”

Coffee In Savoury Dishes

Coffee goes really well with red meat, and there’s a number of ways to infuse your dishes with a subtle hit of flavour. “You can use coffee in sauces, stews and casseroles, dressings, curing meat, seasoning and meat rubs,” Chris says, and the list goes on. Tip in a teaspoon to your homemade baked beans, beef stew or even your chilli to balance out the other flavours in the dish. Graham Long, Head Chef and Co-Founder of Holborn restaurant Gezellig, says the bitterness of coffee is a good foil for game or umami-rich foods like mushrooms, especially ceps or morels: “As long as it’s used sparingly, it can enhance food as a seasoning rather than a big smack of coffee!”

Jon also likes to use it for rubs and marinades for meats – just “blitz it in spice mixes” before rubbing over the meat – and for smoky, slow-cooked meats or red wine sauces, always use a dark roast.

Coffee In Sweet Dishes

Despite its bitterness, coffee also does well in sweet dishes, too. Besides Chris’s favourite, tiramisu, he says you should add coffee to milk when baking chocolate cakes, banana loaves and brownies. “You should also try adding coffee to Greek yoghurt with your granola in the morning,” he adds. “Coffee also goes really well with cherries, caramel, blackberries, mascarpone and custard tarts.”

Graham is also a big fan of coffee in sweet treats: “For me, coffee works best in desserts that you need a bit of bitterness to cut through the sweetness or richness – for example, caramels or heavy cream (tiramisu is a prime example). It also works well with most nuts especially walnuts.”

Spent Coffee

The great thing about coffee is that it plays by the rules of ‘waste not, want not’. Your leftover coffee grounds – AKA, the spent coffee – is ideal for repurposing in your meals. When you’ve brewed up a bit in the morning, save that bit you always have left over and pop it on the spice rack instead of chucking it in the bin. Combine it with salt and paprika for a kicky little spice rub, and rub it over the meat of your choice - we like a spice crust on a rack of lamb, or sprinkled on burgers before they’re cooked.

Alex Bond, chef patron of Alchemilla in Nottingham, uses spent coffee grains in desserts: “One of the dishes I make in the restaurant is a chocolate gelato served with salted liquorice custard and beetroot sorbet. The gelato is made from a light, simple syrup infused with spent coffee grains, dark chocolate, cocoa powder and oat milk. The coffee grains provide a nutty, caramel and almost chocolate flavour.

If You Want To Give It A Go…

Now we know the uses for coffee know no bounds, it’s time to try it for yourself. For Graham, his key recipes are all about the meat: “At the restaurant we cook a lot of our meat in soft flavoured bread crumb coatings. We take a lean piece of venison loin, season it with salt and pass it through egg white. Then it’s dipped in a blend of breadcrumbs, coffee grinds and a touch of cocoa, before cooking in warm butter. This creates a coating around the meat that contrasts the rich sweet venison. Served alongside roasted beetroots you get a really harmonious combination.” Of course, if venison isn’t your jam, as previously stated, this kind of crumb goes well with other rich meats like beef or lamb.

If you’re looking for something a little simpler (i.e. something that’s not so easy to ruin completely), Jamie Oliver has a great chilli recipe which is enhanced by a hit of coffee – this time, it’s hot and already mixed with water, adding to the liquid. (He also has a top-notch coffee and walnut cake recipe, infused with espresso). Or, if you’re a big coffee fan, try grating a coffee bean over your favourite coffee dessert for an intense finish, Chris advises.

If you like the sound of adding coffee to your granola in the mornings, Aidan Mannion, Head Chef at Mill & Brew in Mill Hill, has curated this coffee and orange granola that will spice up your mornings:

Coffee & Orange Granola


- 120g of oats
- 20g of cocoa
- 50g of hazelnuts
- 50g of coffee grounds
- 20g of sesame seeds
- 20g of coconut oil 
- 60g of honey

Serve with:

- 200g of organic yogurt 
- 70g of granola
- 3 orange segments 
- 15g of agave syrup


1. Add all nuts and grains to a bowl, in a separate pan melt your liquids together, next add everything together and then bake at 160 degrees, turning the granola every five minutes to ensure an even roast throughout.
2. Once baked add one orange zest. 

The experts at Califia Farms, the plant-based cold-brew experts, also have a couple of really good sweet recipes for all your left-over cold-brew – starting with banana and coffee ice cream, which is ideal for summer, super easy and vegan-friendly.

Banana & Coffee Ice Cream


  • 3 ripe bananas sliced and frozen

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • ½ cup cold brew coffee

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • Vegan chocolate chunks for serving


  1. Add bananas, vanilla extract and cold brew coffee to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary.

  2. After a one to two minutes of blending, add the cocoa powder and blend until it’s well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary.

  3. Pour into a freezer-friendly airtight container. Sprinkle chocolate chunks on top if desired, and freeze for at least two hours until the mixture is solid. Allow the ice cream to thaw for a five to 10 minutes before scooping.

And if you’ve got a real sweet tooth, these coffee brownies are perfectly rich and indulgent:

Mocha Brownies from Califia Farms


  • 2 eggs (substitute for vegan options like banana, flaxseed or egg replacer)

  • ¼ cup of coconut flour

  • 1 tsp of baking powder

  • Pinch of sea salt

  • Pinch of cinnamon

  •  ⅓ cup of raw cacao powder

  • ½ cup of hulled tahini or almond butter

  • ¼ cup of maple or rice malt syrup

  • ½ cup of Califia Farms XX Espresso Cold Brew Coffees

  • 2 tbsp of chia seeds

  • ⅓ cup of dark chocolate (70-85%), chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Line a baking tin with baking paper. Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Once whisked, add the coconut flour, baking powder, sea salt, cinnamon and raw cacao powder. Stir to combine. Add in the tahini, maple or rice malt syrup, Califia Farms Cold Brew Coffee XX Espresso and chia seeds. Mix until combined. Stir through the chopped dark chocolate.

  2. Spoon the mixture evenly into the lined baking tin. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes. To check if the brownie is cooked, insert a skewer. If it comes out clean, the brownie is ready.

  3. Remove the tine from oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut into squares and serve warm with a dollop of Greek yogurt or coconut ice-cream. Makes 8-10 slices. 

If you like your coffee Irish – and by that, we mean in the form of an espresso martini – then try this Shipwrecked cocktail from Baboo Gelato:

Shipwrecked Cocktail


  • Small scoop of hazelnut gelato

  • 35ml of Somerset cider brandy

  • Dash of bay leaf syrup

  • 25ml of fresh lemon juice

  • 50 ml of cloudy apple juice

  • Sprinkle of coffee powder


  1. Add to a cocktail shaker the gelato, cider brandy, bay leaf syrup, lemon juice and apple juice and shake hard to combine.

  2. Pour into a large tankard filled with cubed ice and garnish with coffee power – drink through the froth.

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