How To Make Coffee Substitutes

Life around a campfire is surely one of the most cheerful and happy traits of spending time in the Great Outdoors. So vivid, so peaceful, and yet, it fills you with so much energy.

The campfire itself,  according to Survival Instructor and Expert Dave Canterbury, is”the television of the woods.” It provides us with a feeling of reassurance and relaxation no matter how worse things may seem to be going.

Cooking in the wilderness is surely one of the best experiences ever. In fact, food happens to be even more tasteful when you’re cooking it over an open fire.

From a survival perspective, the power of these simple experiences provides a great morale boost.

A campfire offers you the chance to get some relief, especially when the temperatures are miserable and when you are struggling to get something hot to drink.

In this article, we will see how and where we can still produce coffee substitutes in case we ran out of coffee.

On coffee’s origins and convenience 

on coffee's origins and convenience

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

– S. Eliot

Origins of the drink itself happen to be still uncertain, but it seems that the systematic cultivation of coffee actually began within the Arabic Peninsula.

The Europeans discovered coffee back in the 17th Century; they started to trade it to the Old Continent.

The success of the new drink was quite overwhelming, and it was destined to be a long-lasting one.

From private houses to public buildings, everyone started to consume them. And on a daily basis.

Coffee grains arrived in America thanks to the many expeditions seeking fortune and glory. Missionaries and travelers brought it and managed to spread it all over the country. New plantations were set up, and others came in the following decades.

We consume coffee on a regular basis, but are we aware of all its benefits? Let’s take a look.

Due to the presence of huge levels of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients, coffee still hits the top of the polls related to the most enjoyable – and, at the very same time, healthy drinks.

Some researches demonstrated that coffee drinkers do indeed experience a lower risk of developing several serious diseases.

TLW2b2But coffee has a lot more pros:

  1. It helps you burn fats
  2. It keeps your mind and body active for a valuable amount of time
  3. It provides you constant energy
  4. Coffee improves your daily life by helping you to stay fit and productive
  5. It contains some important vitamins like Magnesium and niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), and Riboflavin (B2)
  6. Coffee helps reduce the risk of getting diabetes
  7. It helps to keep Alzheimer, Parkinson and senile dementia risks low

Besides these benefits, its unique taste makes it an enjoyable drink, either hot or cold.

A mug of coffee at an easy reach has become more than a trend in recent years.

In case of no coffee 

Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”

– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

If you are off-grid, you have few chances to prepare some warm drinks unless you stockpiled various resources and provisions in a location such as a water supply, MREs, soluble coffee, and so on.

Nevertheless, you can still get some coffee from the woods when you’ve consumed all your rations.

It sounds odd, but you have to learn specifically how nature is a real supermarket if you know what to look for. And even better, it’s the most authentic supermarket out there.

The great outdoors, in fact, is a perfect place where you can get quite all you need to have a comfortable lifestyle.

Take, for example, woodland areas. The ground itself is a wide and diversified marketplace where you can pick plants containing vitamins, mineral salts, and so on.

Additionally, if you know where to look for you can also restock your coffee provisions by harvesting some coffee substitutes.

Well, it may not taste exactly like real coffee, but it will help you to

  • restore your energy levels
  • keep your mind focused
  • get a hot beverage

Our grandpa used to produce coffee substitutes during (and post World War II). At that time, in fact, no coffee grains were available.

Let’s learn how they made it. And how many varieties of coffee substitutes still exist!

WWII Coffee 

wwii coffee

During the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s, getting an authentic coffee cup was a real luxury, so our ancestors replaced it with something else.

Some examples of self-sufficient coffee (“coffee substitutes”) were:

  • wheat coffee
  • dandelion coffee
  • beeches’ acorns’ coffee
  • figs coffee
  • chicory coffee
  • grilled beans coffee
  • rye coffee

All these were considered  a real substitute for coffee as a matter of:

  • taste
  • energy
  • vitamin (as mentioned in the previous paragraph)
  • quick and easy availability

The availability was the real convenience. The European continent, in fact, is filled and intertwined with woodlands and prairies that offer coffee substitutes.

History passed down from our ancestors showed us that they used to produce coffee substitutes, which they called “self-sufficient coffee.” The main plants they used were dandelion and chicory.

In order to get some relief from dismal and physical fatigue, they used coffee substitutes as they were convenient, cheap, and effective.

Our grandparents’ efforts, additionally, were totally in line with the ongoing government ruling at that time. Many of which favored only the trade of national products.

The main motive beyond national products buying and selling propaganda was the embargo. As a matter of fact, the embargo triggered a self-sufficiency necessity that spans from cooking to clothing.

Even tea had its own surrogate, the “carcade tea.”

In 1760, the first chicory coffee company was established in Germany. By 1846, the German Custom counted 3475 chicory coffee companies. This type of coffee substitute was known as “Franck Kaffee.”

Other resources stated the fig coffee (made with dried figs) was even tastier than classical coffee.

Fig coffee was dark, intense, sweet, and it was sometimes mixed with chicory.

In 1918, the Austrian Government approved an ordinance promoting the extensive trade of coffee substitutes. The ordinance mentioned barley, figs, rye, lupins (but they need to be “dearomatized”), and acorns as prime ingredients.

Bauern Kaffee” (Coffee of the farmer) and Roggenmalz Kaffee,” made out of millet and rye, were two of the most famous substitutes. These coffee substitutes, tasty and extremely sweet, became soon popular among the population.

How to produce coffee substitutes 

lbor123Substitutes came recently back in style, and they are selling at very high prices.

At organic/bio shops,  like Wholefoods and Natural Groceries, you can buy several of them, and they seem to be very fancy drinks!

You can actually give them a chance and taste them before trying to produce substitutes by yourself.

However, producing them yourself is an experience that will teach you a new skill and fits the prepping mindset.

Let’s see what you need to look for.

Dandelion and Chicory coffee 

You can find these two plants in wide-open prairies, with direct sunlight. Dandelion is a very common and easy to identify plant. In the same manner, chicory can be picked up quite everywhere, including some suburban areas.

While both plants have medicinal value, for your coffee needs, you only need to use their roots.

Make sure to wash the roots of both plants very carefully in order to remove any pesticides and pollutants.

Once you’re done with the washing, roast the roots and ground them into a powder. You will obtain your coffee substitute using the powdered roasted root.

Barley, rye, wheat coffee 

These are commonly cultivated crops in many parts of the country, and in theory, they should be in reach all the time. Pick the seeds and roast them in a pan, then use a coffee grinder to obtain your coffee substitute. 

Acorns coffee 

Forests of beeches and oaks will provide you with acorns needed to make the needed dark beverage.  The hairy shell needs to be removed, so you can roast the inner part.

Acorns from beeches and oaks need to be stored in a very dry place and grounded into flour before using them. The same flour can also be used to make bread or added to soups.   

Figs coffee

figs coffee

Fig trees usually grow good quite everywhere. Their capacity to adapt is, in fact, remarkable. All you need to make your coffee is a couple of dried figs.

In the case of figs, let fruits dried and process the core in order to get, again, a powder out of it. Bear in mind to save some dried figs: they taste excellent even as a dessert.

When searching for coffee substitutes, my suggestion is:

  1. to scout as much as possible an area you feel comfortable exploring
  2. map it with a list of your findings (natural resources, wild edible and medicinal plants, etc.) from woodland to prairies.

By doing so, you will surely save time and energy for the time to come.

Once you get the powdered coffee from one of those substitutes, you just need to add it to boiling water.


Keep in mind to preserve and store roots, fruits, and seeds as best as you can. You need to ensure the right level of temperature and humidity to prevent spoilage, but also keep them out of reach of animals to make sure your stash is still there when you need it. Bears, in fact, will be drawn to figs since they have a very distinctive odor.

Make some provisions out of several types of prime materials to make sure you’ll always get your coffee needs. Keep and update your journal with the number of resources you’ve harvested and processed to make your coffee substitutes. Explore the wild areas around you and enjoy your off-the-grid brewing experience!

Kyt Lyn Walken has written this article for Prepper’s Will.

Recommended resources:

Preserving Food and Cooking like in the Old Days

How To Build The Invisible Root Cellar

The #1 food of Americans during the Great Depression

If you see this plant in your backyard, don’t touch it!

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