An alternative to bean coffee is lupine coffee. It’s caffeine-free and less acidic than regular coffee, but just as tasty.
Lupine coffee is much more than a substitute coffee
Like grain coffee, lupine coffee is counted among the coffee-like beverages. They are all also referred to as substitute coffee, coffee surrogates, or muckefuck (French mocca faux means wrong coffee). Coffee-like drinks are characterized by the fact that the respective ingredients such as coffee beans are roasted, ground, and prepared as an infusion and also come close to coffee beans in terms of aroma and taste.
Of course, the term substitute coffee only came up after people knew about coffee beans. In the 14th century, slave traders brought him from Ethiopia to Arabia and slowly but surely conquered the whole world from there. For a long time, however, coffee was considered an absolute luxury item reserved for the rich and powerful. The poorer sections of the population, therefore, prepared inexpensive coffee-like drinks.
Lupine coffee is significantly older than coffee beans
However, it was completely forgotten that thousands of years ago, roasted plant parts were used all over the world to make tasty drinks from them – long before the first cup of coffee was drunk. For example, sources show that people in Babylon and ancient Egypt enjoyed beverages made from roasted grains. In addition to grain, for example, acorns, chestnuts, dandelion roots, the kernels and stones of fruits, tigernuts, potatoes, and lupine seeds were used.
Of course, these drinks were not called grain or lupine coffee at the time – simply because the word coffee was not yet known. Maybe they were called chestnut drink, acorn miracle, dandelion brew, or hot lupine juice. Nobody expected them to taste like coffee beans. Each drink had its specific taste and aroma.
Lupine coffee – The most popular coffee substitute
Today, on the other hand, more and more people are looking for coffee alternatives – and are rediscovering the recipes for all these drinks that our ancestors drank. Because they are not only regional but also caffeine-free, less acidic, and extremely tasty. Since lupine coffee is said to come closest to the taste of coffee beans of all drinks, it is one of the most popular coffee substitute drinks.
Lupine: The raw material for lupine coffee
Lupine coffee is made from the seeds of a very beautiful flowering plant, the lupine. Lupins (genus: Lupinus) are also known as wolf beans or fig beans and, like peanuts, peas, or chickpeas, they belong to the legume family. You have probably marveled at one or the other lupine with its lush, colorful flowers in a garden or along the way, without knowing that its seeds have been used as food and medicine for thousands of years.
But there is not just one, but hundreds of lupine species and even more lupine varieties, including wild plants, ornamental plants, forage plants, and vegetable plants. Of these, four annual varieties have been cultivated over time for intensive seed use. Only the seeds of vegetable plants are of interest for human consumption, such as the white lupine (Lupinus albus), the blue lupine (Lupinus angustifolius), and the yellow lupine (Lupinus luteus), all three of which come from the Mediterranean region and the South American Andes – Lupine (Lupinus mutabilis).
Snacks, tofu, milk, and flour from the lupine
In some countries around the world, e.g. B. in Italy, Greece, and Spain, boiled and pickled lupine seeds are still a popular snack. In addition, from the lupine seeds u. a. Lupine milk, lupine tofu, lupine flour, and lupine coffee.
Since when lupine seeds have been used to produce coffee-like beverages can no longer be answered due to a lack of sources. In any case, lupine coffee has been mentioned in writing since a distinction was made between coffee beans and substitute coffee. In terms of quantity, lupine coffee was of little importance compared to other coffee surrogates, but it was very popular and enjoyed drinking.
The rediscovery of lupine coffee
In Tyrol (Austria), lupine coffee used to be called farmer’s coffee. In fact, it was made by farmers – more precisely mostly by women farmers – and sold to the surrounding villages. It should be said that “real bean coffee” only became established as an everyday drink in many rural, remote areas in the 20th century.
This is also the case in Altrei, a small mountain village in South Tyrol (today Italy), where lupine coffee – the so-called Altreier Kaffee – was only gradually replaced by coffee beans from the 1960s and then gradually fell into oblivion. However, some women farmers have preserved the 150-year-old tradition of making lupine coffee in Altrei to this day. And when the student Andrea Heistinger came to Altrei in 1998, things started rolling. She did the research for her diploma thesis on old cultivated plant varieties at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna.
Not only the hairy or Altreier lupine (Lupinus pilosus), a botanical rarity, but especially the Altreier coffee was rediscovered. In the course of this, the association of Altreier lupine growers and the production and marketing initiative of Altreier Kaffee was founded. Finally, in 2003, as part of an EU project, the revival of the production and marketing of Altreier coffee was started. Since 2010, the local specialty can be purchased under the regional name Voltruier coffee.
But energetic farmers in Germany, which is also the largest lupine-growing country in the EU, have discovered lupine coffee for themselves and are enriching the market with high-quality products – whether it’s ordinary “coffee”, mocha or espresso, almost anything is possible from lupine.
It was a long way from bitter lupins to sweet lupins
Maybe you know a bit about botany and know where you can collect lupine seeds in nature or even have the lupine in your garden. The plan is already born to collect the small beans and to make lupine coffee by hand. But before you go, you should know that lupine seeds are naturally high in alkaloids and are toxic if left untreated. They, therefore, taste very bitter. There is a whole range of alkaloids in lupine seeds, e.g. B. lupinine and sparteine. But our ancestors found ways to almost completely rid the lupine seeds of said toxins and make them edible.
However, this is an extremely lengthy process, since the seeds have to be watered for a long time (depending on the method and variety up to 14 days) and then boiled. By repeatedly pouring away the soaking or cooking water, the water-soluble toxins and bitter substances can be washed out – at least to a considerable extent.
Poisoning and deaths have repeatedly occurred in humans and animals as a result of improper handling. This is also the reason why lupine seeds never really caught on as food or a substitute for coffee. In the course of history, countless attempts have therefore been made to breed low-alkaloid lupine varieties, which in some cases had to be paid for with death. Because it was not known how to determine the alkaloid content of lupine seeds. The Berlin chemist Ernst Otto Beckmann tested the alkaloid content on himself and died in the process in 1923.
About 10 years later, the German breeder Reinhold von Sengbusch succeeded in developing a rapid chemical method, which enabled him to determine the alkaloid content of an incredible 1.5 million plants in a relatively short time. He only found three (!) plants that were practically alkaloid-free and thus created the conditions for successfully breeding low-alkaloid lupine varieties (e.g. the “Münchenberger Süsse Blaue”).
Lupine seeds and their alkaloid content
Since there have been low-alkaloid lupine varieties, a distinction has to be made between bitter lupins (alkaloid content: 0.3 to 8 percent) and sweet lupins (alkaloid content: less than 0.05 percent). Unfortunately, it is still firmly anchored in many minds that lupins are basically poisonous. But the low alkaloid content of sweet lupine seeds is absolutely harmless and so the products made from them, such as lupine coffee, can be enjoyed carefree.
This is supported by a Dutch study at Wageningen University. Because lupine seeds can only lead to death if children consume 10 milligrams of alkaloids per kilogram of body weight and adults 25 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. According to a statement by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), adults can tolerate a daily dose of 0.35 milligrams of lupine alkaloids per kilogram of body weight without any undesirable effects.
So if you want to grow lupins yourself and process them into coffee, look out for lupine seeds that are clearly and unambiguously identified as sweet lupine seeds, and only use seeds from trustworthy suppliers. Consumers are also strongly discouraged from debittering bitter lupine seeds themselves. Poisoning is usually due to insufficient debittering.
In countries such as B. Italy, although the old, alkaloid-rich varieties are still cultivated in many places and the seeds are traditionally or in a modern way before processing – e.g. B. with the help of chemicals – debittered. However, lupine products made from German raw materials only contain sweet lupine seeds, which you can usually find on the label on the packaging of lupine coffee and co.
Lupine alkaloids: The dose makes the poison
Incidentally, alkaloids are a very good example of the old saying: the dose makes the poison. Because it is often precisely these substances that have great healing potential. Although they are usually poisonous and have a bitter taste, whether they cause poisoning or have a healing effect depends on the dose. Lupine seeds have long been used as a traditional remedy, e.g. B. to strengthen the heart and gastrointestinal problems.
In the meantime, it has been scientifically proven that the alkaloid sparteine increases urine excretion through the kidneys and has a stimulating effect on the intestines, the circulatory system, and the heart. The drug is still used for cardiac arrhythmias.
There are already some studies that have clearly shown that the consumption of lupine seeds has a positive effect on blood sugar and insulin levels due to their very high protein content. However, researchers from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador were able to prove that this effect is also due to the lupine alkaloids.
The scientists divided the subjects suffering from type 2 diabetes into two groups: one received cooked lupine seeds, and the other received purified lupine alkaloids. Blood sugar and insulin levels were reduced in the patients of both groups. According to Dutch researchers from the aforementioned Wageningen University, lupine alkaloids also help to naturally lower elevated cholesterol levels.
Lupine coffee: the nutrients
Like all legumes, lupine seeds are also very rich in protein and are therefore considered an excellent source of protein – not least because all essential amino acids are contained in a harmonious balance.
With lupine coffee, however, you do not eat the seeds but only drink the infusion. The proteins, therefore, remain in the coffee grounds, as do the carbohydrates, roughage, and some of the vital substances.
In addition, protein and carbohydrates are converted by roasting the seeds. In the so-called Maillard reaction – as with coffee beans – aromatic compounds are formed, which provide the stimulating scent and the typical taste. Lupine coffee is therefore to be seen more as a luxury food and not as a nourishing food.
Nevertheless, lupine seeds contain valuable minerals, trace elements, and vitamins, which are of interest because they are water-soluble and heat-stable and thus enrich the brewed lupine coffee. These include the u.
- Magnesium: an anti-inflammatory mineral that is involved in hundreds of enzyme reactions and protects nerve, bone, and muscle health.
- Zinc: a trace element essential for male and female fertility, involved in detoxification, and strengthening the skin and the immune system.
- Iron: Almost every body cell needs iron for its energy balance.
- Vitamin B2: Helps convert food into energy.
- Vitamin B3: A lack of vitamin B3 can manifest itself in tiredness, weakness, and skin problems.
If you were to make lupine coffee not from sweet lupine seeds but from the original bitter lupins, then there would have to be soaked for a very long time. However, most of the water-soluble vital substances would then be lost along with the alkaloids.
The discussion about the health-promoting or harmful effects of coffee beans is as old as coffee itself and is still a topic of conversation today. Coffee can have a stimulating, performance-enhancing effect, but also u. lead to concentration disorders, poor performance, sleep disorders, headaches, and stomach problems.
There are now numerous studies that support both one and the other opinion. For example, a study at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine found that coffee can contribute to heart health. However, a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in 2015 showed that drinking coffee has a negative effect on cardiovascular risk in people with mild high blood pressure.
This example clearly shows that the effects of drinking coffee – whether positive or negative – are also an individual matter. Because while coffee leads to serious side effects for some, others tolerate it well and do not want to do without it under any circumstances. This not wanting to go without can also be attributed to the fact that the caffeine contained in coffee beans – also an alkaloid by the way – inevitably leads to psychological and physical dependence if consumed regularly.
One reason why lupine coffee was counted among the coffee-like drinks is probably due to the fact that the higher alkaloid content in traditionally produced bitter lupine coffee once had a caffeine-like, i.e. stimulating effect, which is of course no longer the case with sweet lupins.
Lupine coffee is therefore a great alternative to coffee beans, as it is caffeine-free and neither addictive nor leads to other health problems. It is not without reason that lupine coffee used to be referred to as healthy coffee in comparison to coffee beans.
Whether barley, rye, corn, or spelled: A wide variety of grain types can be used to make grain coffee. Like lupine coffee, grain coffee does not contain caffeine, but it does contain gluten – depending on the grain, of course.
More and more people have to or want to do without cereals containing gluten because they suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a cereal allergy, or celiac disease (gluten intolerance).
However, you do not eat the coffee grounds from grain coffee but only drink the infusion. The traces of gluten in it can be enough to cause problems with celiac disease. With non-celiac gluten sensitivity, however, certain amounts of gluten can usually be tolerated, so a grain coffee is often tolerated without any problems. There have also long been instant grain coffees (e.g. from Naturata) that are gluten-free – just like lupine coffee.
Manufacturing and Quality
In relation to the quality and taste of lupine coffee, the lupine seeds naturally play a major role. Only when these are fully mature can they unfold their perfect aroma after roasting and convince even stubborn bean coffee lovers.
In the past, lupine seeds were simply roasted in a pan. Of course, seeds were burned again and again, which often caused an unpleasant tart-bitter note. Today, modern roasting systems or roasting machines are used, with which an even and gentle roasting can be achieved. This is very good for the taste.
How long and at what temperature the lupine seeds are roasted depends on the manufacturer. Reiner Amort, who is jointly responsible for the roasting of the Altreier coffee, explains that the seeds are roasted at 150° C for around 40 minutes. Another method is to initially roast the seeds at 75°C and increase the temperature to a maximum of 205°C over the course of the 20-minute roast.
What applies to the roasting of coffee beans also applies to lupine seeds: the longer the roasting process and the lower the temperatures, the healthier the end product. Lupine coffee manufacturers usually attach great importance to this because they focus on quality. However, for large corporations that roast coffee beans, the primary concern is to maximize profits by saving time. In the industrial roasting process, the coffee beans are roasted at temperatures of up to 550° C for around 90 seconds!
After roasting, the lupine seeds are ground into lupine coffee powder.
Gentle roasting is not only important for the aroma and taste, but also for health. Rapid industrial roasting at high temperatures produces many more pollutants such as B. Acrylamide, which directly attacks DNA and has already been classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Lupine coffee that has been roasted at temperatures below 180°C is preferable because the acrylamide content increases dramatically from 180°C. If you are interested, contact your lupine coffee manufacturer to find out about the respective roasting temperature.
In any case, gently roasted lupine coffee has a lower acrylamide content than industrially produced coffee beans and many grain coffees. Frequently, the legal limit is undercut by a multiple.
Many people cannot tolerate coffee because it causes heartburn and stomach pain. This can be caused by stomach-irritating acids that are naturally contained in coffee beans, or substances that are produced during roasting, e.g. B. Melanoidins. These stimulate gastric acid production and can lead to irritation.
The same applies here: the higher the roasting temperature, the more melanoidins are formed. Since lupine coffee does not contain any irritating acids and is gently roasted, even people with sensitive stomachs can enjoy it. Lupine coffee is therefore considered less acidic than coffee beans. Whether it is a good or bad acidifier depends – as is usual with stimulants – on personal tolerance, preparation, roasting, and the amount consumed.
A special aroma
Even die-hard coffee drinkers appreciate lupine coffee because it simply tastes great. The aroma is strongly reminiscent of classic coffee, but the complexity of the different aromas is even more evident in lupine coffee.
Lupine coffee convinces with its cocoa-like, nutty note and only has a hint of bitterness. Whether enjoyed for breakfast, as a classic filter coffee, with afternoon cake, or as an espresso in the evening after a delicious meal: lupine coffee knows how to convince on every occasion.
What is the risk of a lupine allergy?
However, it is said again and again that lupine seeds are an allergen and are among the 14 most common causes of food allergies. Therefore, lupine also falls under the EU labeling obligation for allergens. But that is by no means anything special. Because the 14 most common causes of food allergies also include dairy products, eggs, fish, peanuts, celery, mustard, and sesame – foods that nobody would generally warn about. There is therefore no reason to fear the lupine.
People who are already allergic to legumes such as e.g. B. peanuts or soybeans are allergic. A French study with over 5,000 participants showed that around 17 percent of patients with a primary peanut allergy also had a cross-reaction with lupins (in this case lupine flour). A lupine allergy occurs comparatively rarely in isolation. So if you have a soy or peanut allergy, it is better to consult your allergist before consuming lupins. As a non-allergic person, however, it would now be about time to brew a cup of lupine coffee.
How is lupine coffee prepared?
Don’t worry, you don’t even have to get used to it, because lupine coffee can be prepared just like good old coffee beans, regardless of whether it’s brewed with hot water or filtered, in the coffee machine or in a Swedish pot, as an espresso or cappuccino. The amount is about 1 to 1.5 heaped teaspoons (coffee measure) of lupine coffee powder for one cup of lupine coffee.
Since lupine coffee powder has a higher density than coffee powder, you should not press it when preparing it. Lupine coffee swells more when brewed because lupine seeds have a higher protein content than coffee beans.
Incidentally, it is precisely the habits and beloved rituals that – apart from the caffeine – certainly also contribute to the fact that some people can no longer give up coffee beans so easily.
For example, if you are used to drinking a cup of coffee in the morning after getting up or after lunch, it is difficult to give up this ritual. Thanks to lupine coffee, the ritual action can be maintained without having to forego the usual enjoyment – with the difference that the enjoyment is now more tolerable, healthier, and caffeine-free and also comes from regional raw materials. Because in contrast to coffee beans, lupins thrive best in the middle of Germany or Austria, so they do not have to be transported over long distances or imported.
Lupine coffee is organic, regional, and environmentally friendly
From the start, the coffee bean business was a bloody business that is still closely linked to slavery today. According to the Australian human rights organization Walk Free Foundation, almost 46 million people live as slaves worldwide. Many of them slave away on coffee plantations and in coffee roasting plants. In addition, it is practically impossible to grow coffee beans in an ecologically sustainable way, as they only grow near the equator.
The lupine, on the other hand, is a native plant that is cultivated without exploiting anyone – humans, animals, or the earth. So if you buy lupine coffee, you are supporting local organic lupine farmers and their commitment to regional organic farming. No wonder lupine coffee is considered the best alternative to coffee beans.