Good Morning! 12 Coffee Alternatives With And Without Caffeine

Can’t stand coffee or have other reasons to say goodbye to the black elixir, even if it’s just for a while? No problem: We present twelve coffee alternatives – about half of them without caffeine. You will see some old acquaintances again, but you will also rediscover one or two trendy drinks.

There are many reasons to prescribe a coffee detox or not to appreciate the pick-me-up in the first place. Maybe you have the impression that coffee makes you nervous or upsets your stomach, maybe you just don’t like the taste or you want more variety on your (office) drink menu. You may be bothered by the diuretic effects associated with caffeine, or your doctor may have advised you to drink less coffee.

It’s a good thing that numerous coffee alternatives are available – some of them are well-known, others have made a name for themselves as trendy drinks. The health effects and possible pollution of coffee are frequently reported, also by ÖKO-TEST. But that doesn’t mean coffee is automatically unhealthy, and it doesn’t mean that teas and other alternatives to coffee don’t have their own problems to contend with. Pollutants can also be produced when roasting grain coffee, for example, as we criticize in coffee beans (more on this at the end of the article).

12 coffee alternatives with and without caffeine

We have divided the following coffee alternatives into two blocks: In the first half, we serve you six hot drinks from green tea to guarana, which have what it takes to replace coffee as a stimulant – mostly because they also contain caffeine.

And in the second half you will find six coffee alternatives that are more or less reminiscent of bean coffee because they look, smell and of course taste similar.

Coffee substitute: These hot drinks are also stimulants

What do you miss most about coffee is the caffeine boost that carries you to your desk in the morning? Then your new favorite could be among the following coffee alternatives.

1. For many, green tea is a delicacy that sometimes scores with fruity, sometimes with floral notes. Green tea is also considered healthy: there is evidence that the risk of cancer or cardiovascular disease decreases if you drink a lot of green tea. Science assumes that so-called polyphenols – secondary plant substances found in green tea – are responsible for this.

But: Tea is also one of the foods that are relatively frequently contaminated with pollutants. When we last tested green tea a few years ago, we were only able to give good marks to a few brands. Green tea is a good alternative to coffee because it contains caffeine. And thus the same substance that also makes coffee the number one stimulant in German kitchens.

Tip: Do not pour boiling water over green tea, but let the water cool down a bit first. And: In contrast to black tea, green tea leaves can be infused a second time.

2. Guarana powder: The guarana plant comes from the Amazon basin and has established itself as a hip pick-me-up in this country. The reason here too: the seeds of the soap tree plant contain a lot of caffeine. They can be ground into a light brown powder, which is then infused with (hot) water.

Since the guaraná seeds taste very tart to bitter, the resulting drink is not to everyone’s taste. It is therefore advisable to sweeten the infusion, for example with cane sugar, coconut blossom sugar or other types of sugar. Alternatively, you can add exotic caffeine powder to other (hot) drinks or foods.

Tip: Guaraná powder is also available in organic quality.

Coffee substitute: Sharpness also has an invigorating effect

3. Ginger tea is the first hot beverage in this list that doesn’t contain caffeine. Ginger water or tea is not only a home remedy for nausea, the infusion is also said to have an invigorating effect. The reason is the pungent substances, especially gingerol, which give the tuber its typical taste. The pungent substances in the ginger root heat up the metabolism because they promote blood circulation and even ensure that the ‘happy hormone’ endorphin is released.

Here’s how it works: You can easily prepare ginger tea yourself – simply pour boiling water over a piece of roughly chopped ginger root, let it steep (and cool if necessary), done.

4. Matcha tea: The intensely tasting and bright green matcha tea is also a trend drink and can now also be found in smoothies, iced tea, biscuits and sweets. It is only the further development of an already mentioned classic, because: Matcha is only unfermented green tea grown according to a special process, the leaves of which are ground into a powder, which is then stirred into hot water (or frothed with it). The extract tastes tart-bitter to fruity and has an invigorating effect. Of course, Matcha also contains caffeine, which is even more concentrated in the green tea powder than in conventionally cultivated green tea.

What you should know: In 2019, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) found high aluminum levels in individual Matcha tea samples. According to the BfR, anyone who regularly drinks matcha with the maximum measured levels (in amounts similar to green tea) can exceed the tolerable weekly aluminum intake in the long term. Read more: Matcha tea: Federal Institute for Risk Assessment warns of aluminum

Mate and black tea as coffee alternatives

5. Mate tea: The third fashionable drink on the list is mate, which is also advertised as a pick-me-up and is often mixed with other drinks. The combination of the ingredients caffeine and theobromine and theophylline, which are related to caffeine, is primarily responsible for the stimulating effect. The stimulating effects of mate are not as strong as those of coffee, but last longer, according to research.

However, mate teas can also be contaminated with pollutants – according to the result of our test from 2017, in which most teas failed with a bang. Anyone who buys their mate in organic quality can at least assume that higher environmental standards were observed during cultivation.

6. Black tea: For many, black tea is the ultimate coffee alternative. The taste spectrum ranges from strong to malty to sweet. Black tea scores with caffeine, as does coffee, with which it competes. Two cups of tea roughly correspond to the caffeine content of a coffee cup.

These coffee alternatives… disappoint

We advise against other caffeinated drinks such as cola, iced tea or energy drinks. They almost always have a lot of added sugar. In contrast to classic teas, matcha and mate, they are rarely available in organic quality. Also read: Soft drinks? A shocking amount of sugar

Coffee Alternatives: These are the drinks that most closely resemble coffee

Perhaps you are not even looking for a pick-me-up, but simply appreciate the taste of coffee beans? And are you therefore researching a coffee substitute (without having to reach for decaffeinated coffee right away)? The good news: There are a number of coffee-like beverages out there. They are also infused or brewed with hot water and their taste and color are more or less reminiscent of coffee beans.

In contrast to Arabica, Robusta & Co., they are of course not obtained from the roasted kernels of the coffee cherry, but from other, often native plants. Coffee substitute consists of the fruits, seeds, kernels or roots of local plants, which are dried, crushed and roasted, and sometimes also malted. Here are some trendy and some (old) well-known variants.

Acorn coffee: for those who like to experiment and self-sufficient

1. Acorn coffee consists of roasted and ground acorns. As a local product, you can make your own acorn coffee free of charge in autumn and it scores with an unbeatable eco-balance.

Here’s how it works: Heat the collected acorns in the pan, which makes peeling easier. After peeling, soak the kernels in water for a day or two (to remove the tannins), stirring frequently and replacing the water. Drain the seeds and roast in the oven at 120 °C. Then chop, grind and pour like coffee.

If that’s too cumbersome for you: In online shops you can also easily find the coffee substitute as a roasted and ground powder. The taste is described as tart and slightly spicy.

Spelled coffee: rising star among the decaffeinated

2. Spelled coffee is now the second most popular decaffeinated coffee alternative on the local market, alongside malt coffee (see below). The coffee substitute made from spelled grains can now be found in drugstores and (organic) supermarkets, where it is sold as instant coffee. Like all fruit and grain coffees from this list, it can be grown, harvested and processed in Germany in a climate-friendly manner.

In terms of taste, it should come very close to coffee beans, but – depending on the roasting – also have spicy and sweet notes.

Lupine coffee: coffee substitute with a future

3. Lupine coffee is made from the seeds of sweet lupine, which is non-toxic unlike traditional lupine. The demand for lupine coffee is only slowly picking up speed since other lupine-based products (e.g. meat substitutes) have also become better known. The dried and roasted seeds of the sweet lupine can also be brewed like coffee powder. Lupine coffee looks like cocoa powder, after infusion it should taste strongly reminiscent of coffee beans.

So if you are looking for a coffee alternative that differs as little as possible from “real” coffee, you are probably well advised here. Sweet lupine coffee is also gluten and caffeine free. And: You can also make it yourself by roasting and grinding the seeds of the plant and pouring them hot. Alternatively, the coffee substitute can be found in organic shops, health food stores and online, both soluble and as a powder (and also in organic quality).

Malt coffee – more than “children’s coffee”

4. For malt coffee, colloquially also “children’s coffee”, malted barley grains – i.e. soaked in water, germinated and then dried again – are used. Malt coffee is therefore also known as barley coffee, but should not be confused with a coffee substitute made from unmalted barley, which also exists.

Malt coffee is reminiscent of coffee beans in terms of taste and colour, but contains less bitter substances. Malt or barley coffee is widely available as instant granules or as a powder for brewing. The best-known malt coffee brand is “Caro Kaffee” from the manufacturer Nestlé.

Chicory coffee: chicory in a cup

5. Chicory coffee: A well-known coffee substitute can be obtained from the common chicory, also known as chicory. Because we eat the buds of some chicory species as chicory salad, chicory coffee is also sold under the name chicory coffee. However, the coffee alternative does not consist of lettuce leaves, but of the roasted and ground chicory roots. Roasting creates a taste reminiscent of coffee beans. You can buy chicory coffee pure or as part of coffee substitute blends that also contain rye or barley, for example.

Coffee substitute that hardly anyone knows

6. What else is there? Beverages similar to coffee are also made from beechnuts, chestnuts, figs, dandelion roots and various other grains such as corn, rye or barley (this time roasted, not malted). Also interesting: Manufacturer Naturata mixes coffee beans with German Demeter grain for its product “Grain-Bean Coffee Duo” into a creation that could make the transition to a decaffeinated life easier.

Pollutants in coffee and coffee substitutes

At the end of 2021, TEST took a closer look at around 20 coffee powders from manufacturers such as Jacobs, Dallmayr, Tchibo, and Darboven and had coffee samples examined in the laboratory. From our point of view, increased levels of the pollutants acrylamide and furan were found in a number of coffees. For these and other reasons, we advise against numerous products from our coffee test.

This does not mean that coffee alternatives are automatically the better choice in terms of possible pollution: furan and acrylamide can also be produced when roasting grain products. Grain coffee can also be “a significant source of acrylamide”, as the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture wrote in a brochure in 2016.

For example, a guideline value of 500 µg/kg applies to acrylamide in coffee preparations made exclusively from grain. In the case of coffee substitutes made from chicory, it is 4,000. Roasted coffee has a permissible value of 400 µg/kg. In our coffee test from the end of 2021, we downgraded test results from 200 µg/kg for reasons of preventive consumer protection.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top