Everything You Need to Know: Coffee Powder vs. Cacao Powder
Ever wondered how cacao powder and coffee powder are made? Find out the differences between the two popular drinks.
The Coffea tree
Coffea trees are small trees with over 120 species that grow small fruit seeds, called coffee beans. The two most popular species are Coffea arabica (growing Arabica coffee beans), and Coffea canephora (growing what is know to be Robusta coffee beans).
The Coffea trees are covered with green, waxy leaves growing opposite each other in pairs, while coffee seeds grow along the branches. Most trees have one main harvest per year, which is done based on the cycle of rainfall as it causes the trees to bloom.
The coffee cherry is made up of several layers:
- Parchment, which is the protective outer layer
- Silverskin is the thin layer wrapped around seed
- Pulp is the layer beneath the cherry skin
- Seed, which is what we see as the final coffee bean after all layers were removed
Processing the coffee means removing all the layers of is the coffee cherry such as skin, pul and parchment, which results in the the raw ingredient that the farmer will sell to coffee roasters.
After cleaned and processed the coffee is roasted. In this phase the chemical structure of the bean changes rapidly as it roasted in very high temperatures, depending on the desired roast level. Roasted beans smell like the coffee you love and familiar with.
What is coffee powder?
Instant coffee, is the common name for coffee powder or coffee granules. It is a drink made from mixing water and dissolvable coffee. Instant coffee is manufactured by brewing coffee grounds into a thick liquid coffee mix, which is then processed by the freeze drying or spray drying methods to remove the water from the mix. Some of the advantages of instant coffee include: speed of preparation as it quickly dissolves in water, lower shipping weight and volume than whole beans or ground coffee and a longer shelf life compared to other coffee formats.
Instant coffee is used for drinking, cooking and baking. By using instant coffee you also save the coffee cleanup as there are no coffee grounds left after making your cup of joe. Contrary to some myths, instant coffee is made of pure processed and roasted coffee beans.
The cacao tree
Theobroma Cacao (pronounced "kuh-KOW") is the botanical name for the popular cacao tree. The name's origin is from Greek and it literally means "food of the gods." Unlike the smaller Coffea trees, cacao trees can grow up to 12 metres (40 feet). It take the trees about four years to produce fruit in the form of elongated pods, which then can yield up to 70 such pods annually.
Within each egg-shaped cacao pod there are about 20-40 cocoa beans, which are used in the chocolate making process. Surrounding each bean and filling the rest of the space of the pod is a sweet white pulp. To produce chocolate, this part is discarded.
After the the cacao beans have been cleaned they can be processed via cold pressing or roasting. The products of cold pressed cacao beans are raw cacao powder, cacao nibs and cacao butter (the oils of the beans).
What is the difference between cocoa and cacao?
Cocoa is the name used for cacao beans that were roasted at high temperatures (vs. cold pressed), which like with coffee beans, change the chemical nature of the bean. The manufacturing of chocolate generally consists of fermenting and heating the cacao beans at approximately 250 degrees, which lowers the antioxidant amount and the nutrient density found in the raw cold pressed cacao. Don't get confused with cacao nibs, which are small pieces of crushed cacao beans that were fermented and cracked into small dark bits.
What is cacao powder?
Raw cacao powder is made by cold-pressing unroasted cocoa beans and then drying what remains into a powder, a process which retains the living enzymes and removes the fat (cacao butter) of the bean. Cacao powder is a great ingredient in baked treats, smoothies, homemade chocolates or hot chocolate.
Roasted cacao powder can be blended into tea, smoothies, and baked goods. You can also brew the cacao powder and drink it like coffee. To brew a cup of cacao powder, place 2 tbsp of ground cacao beans in a French Press, add 1 cup of boiling water, stir and steep for 5 to 7 minutes before pressing. Feel free to drink it black or with milk or milk alternative. The cacao powder is naturally sweetened but you can also add a sweetener, if desired.
Don't get confused between hot chocolate mixes you can buy at the grocery store and cacao powder. The cacao powder is far healthier and it doesn't include artificial additives or sweeteners. However, you can make a homemade hot chocolate with cacao powder. Click here to check out a recipe for healthy hot chocolate with cacao powder.
Cacao vs. Coffee
Apart from tasting great and giving you your daily caffeine fix, coffee in moderation can be good for you. Studies have shown that coffee can lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, chronic liver disease, and even Type 2 diabetes. Additionally, those who regularly drink coffee are less likely to have heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular disease. Coffee has also helped to improve memory, burn fat, and boost your overall mood.
Cacao beans contain more calcium than cow’s milk, and they have loads of iron, magnesium, and antioxidants. It has also been shown to fight against heart disease, cardiovascular health, depression, and stress.
However, in general, cacao only has its health benefits when consumed raw. Since the cacao beans are roasted and fermented, they often lose almost all their nutritional value in the process. Additionally, when processed into roasted cocoa powder, chocolate, or cocoa butter, it can contain significantly more calories, fat, and added sugars.
The most notable (and perhaps the most important) quality of coffee is the level of caffeine it contains. On average, one cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine. The recommended daily amount of coffee per person is between 3-5 cups. Even if you prefer decaf, there are still plenty of decaffeinated options that you can buy. Best in mind the decaf options still contain some caffeine, but much less. Instant coffee has 40-108 mg of caffeine, with an average of 67 mg while the exact levels of caffeine can vary depending on the brand. To check the exact amount of caffeine in Waka Instant Coffee please visit our FAQ Page.
The main reason people drink brewed cacao over coffee is because it contains significantly less caffeine. A cup of brewed cacao uses about 2 tablespoons of cacao, so one cup of brewed cacao has only about 24 mg of caffeine. That’s only about 25% the amount of caffeine found in coffee!
The coffee drinking experience combines both smell and taste. Coffee and quality instant coffees are well known for their intense aroma, which heightens our senses because of its complex flavors. When consumed by itself, coffee is earthy, bitter, bold, and sweet all at the same time. Coffee is versatile in flavor because it can go well with sweet, spicy, salty, and even savory additions. Even when it has various additives and sweeteners, the coffee flavor still stands out.
You won’t get the same sweet taste of chocolate when you consume raw cacao. Think of cacao as very very bitter dark chocolate. Cacao is considered an alternative to coffee because it resembles that bitter taste. Similar to coffee, it’s earthy, bitter, and slightly nutty. It’s not as strong as coffee, but it does have a distinct flavor profile that can’t be mistaken.
Method and Convenience
There are many ways to make coffee these days. It all depends on your skills, time, and preference of flavor and strength. You can automatically or manually brew, use pour over, french press, or even make a premium instant coffee. Most Americans use the automatic brewing method with a coffee machine, which on average takes about 5 minutes.
The recommended, and perhaps the only method for brewing cacao powder is by using a french press. This method can take between 6-10 minutes. If you don’t have a french press, it might take significantly more time and be a little more difficult to filter and brew the cacao thoroughly.
To some, this might be worth trying, but if you’re happy with your daily coffee routine, you can stick to it. It doesn’t hurt to try cacao powder, and you can always add cacao or cocoa powder to your instant cup of coffee.