How to Make Chicory Coffee from Scratch

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A cup of chicory coffee
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

For a time, my favorite coffee was New Orleans style, where the coffee is cut with roasted, ground chicory root. Chicory coffee is smooth, a little more acidic than normal coffee, with a taste and aroma similar to a mocha — and it makes a drink darker than the inside of a cow.

I used to Ozark it up even more by drinking it black, sweetened with molasses, not sugar. Definitely a manly drink, and probably the reason I have so much hair on my chest. I imagined lumberjacks or pioneers drinking this between cutting wood or fording wild rivers.

I was not in the habit of doing either, so I ultimately switched back to straight coffee. Actually I stopped because the canned chicory coffee I’d been buying grew pretty grim on my tastebuds over time; stale and dusty tasting. I never found anyone who made a premium version, so I left chicory coffee by the wayside.

I knew I could make my own by digging up the raggedy sailors — chicory is that weedy azure-blue flower that grows on a roadside near you. But I’d never bothered with it, as you need to dig in fall, and I only really notice this plant in summer when it’s flowering, or in early spring when I eat the greens.

But then I bought some “root chicory” seeds and planted them. Now I had absolutely no intention of making chicory coffee from them. I have a thing for crazy root vegetables, and it is my contention that if more locovores living in Northern climates grew a wider variety of roots, their winter menus would be far more interesting. I wanted to test this root out as a vegetable, so I planted it in my root bed next to the scorzonera I experimented with this year.

And then, as typically happens, life got in the way. I looked up and it was May already — while the chicory roots had not yet sent up flower stalks (except for one), they would be far too bitter and “hot” to eat as a veggie. Damn.

What to do with these things? I pulled one and was astounded at how large it was: A good 30 inches, with a base about two inches across. Christ, that’s a big root. And then I remembered my lumberjack coffee. But just how do you make chicory coffee?

I’d read a few sets of instructions that say just wash and dry the roots, then roast them in a moderate oven until “ready,” then break into pieces and grind into coffee-like grounds. I knew intuitively that this was false. I could not imagine breaking a root that was two inches broad into pieces small enough to not kill my grinder.

chicory roots fresh from the garden
Photo by Hank Shaw

Other sets of instructions, mostly for making dandelion coffee (basically the same thing), call for slicing the roots into thin discs, then drying them, then roasting them, and then grinding them. This sounded more sane.

So I began slicing up the 20-or so large chicory roots I’d managed to pull. I ate a few raw, and they weren’t terrible: If something can manage to be sweet and bitter at the same time, these roots achieved that feat.

When I was doing this, it was 104°F outside. Not ideal oven drying weather, but perfect weather to dry things outside. And my “drying rack” of choice is the hood of my pickup. So I sat these sliced roots out in the sun, and they dried nicely in two days.

When it came time to roast the chicory, I found even more misleading instructions on the internet; yes, I know — misleading information on the internet?! Heavens! Everyone seems to say roast dandelion or chicory root in a 350°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Uh, yeah. You then have slightly warmer dried chicory roots. Nope, instead of 15 minutes, try 90 minutes, or even two hours. I might try 2 to 3 hours at a lower temperature next time.

roasted chicory root
Photo by Hank Shaw

I’d just like to say that even if you have no intention of actually drinking chicory coffee, it is worth roasting the roots this way. The whole house smelled wonderfully malty, chocolatey, warm. So lovely.

I let the roots cool overnight and ground them. Unfortunately they don’t seem to grind evenly, so I have powder mixed with chunks. But I use a press pot for my coffee, whose filter is enough to strain it all out.

I decided to brew myself a straight cup of chicory coffee. I put about a 1/4 cup into my press pot, the same amount I use for coffee, boiled some water and steeped the inky brew for about 5 to 8 minutes. I drank it black, with sugar.

Straight chicory coffee is some powerful stuff. it tastes like it is loaded with caffeine, but it isn’t. It looks a lot like motor oil, has that malty-chocolate aroma, a brighter acidity than coffee and a flavor I really am having trouble describing as other than with the cliche “earthy.” Guess that’s what I get for roasting a root.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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111 Comments

  1. How have I never found this in the past few years I have been searching for chicory information occasionally? Anyhow, I found it now. Thank you! I always thought the roots of the chicory flowers would be a little skimpy. The stuff in the orange can has started tasting really soapy to us, but we can buy chicory in the bulk foods sections of several natural foods stores here in Eugene, Oregon. Still, I want to try this! We mix it half and half with regular coffee all the time.

  2. like/love yer writing style brother! I’m in my first week of chicory testing for either stretching my whole bean coffee mixes or alone altogether.
    thanks for some rhetorical headsups…

    Be well,
    dannydan of Bubble City in the Midwest just west of the circle!

  3. Hank…I’m new to ur site but found this amazing!
    “Seeds from Italy” have tons of varieties of chicory. Can u suggest 1-2 both for coffee and for the edible greens?
    Thx and I enjoyed the education!

  4. Hey, guys, I got here trying to investigate why Starbucks’ whey protein used in their smoothies contains chicory extract. For flavor, no doubt. Any ideas? I was trying to make a Starbucks compatible mango smoothie as they tragically, for me, discontinued that item recently. This thread is great and has motivated me to look into growing the Italian ‘root seed’ to experiment with my own extract or essence. Many thanks!

  5. I’ve been drinking “Dandy Blend”. The ingredients listed are “extracts of roasted barley, rye, chicory root, dandelion root and sugar beet. No GMOs.” I like the instant variety although there is another kind that you steep like tea. The only problem is that it’s $32.95 at the local health food store. I would love to create my own chicory concoction by growing it myself and adding a few of the grains and/or the other ingredients. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

  6. On our place in montana these rascals are a pain.They trive and left alone soon make a hay bale full of sticks. Funny enough cows & horses seem to gobble them up as no sticks are left.Reading westerns as I do chicory drink is often said used for coffee,thus my interest in the process its done. Thanks Jeff, Hot Springs Mt.

  7. I should probably tell you that you are responsible for one beautiful smelling day at my house last fall and many scrumptious mornings. I share this link more than any other on the entire web! Thanks!

  8. I, too, was wondering what are the best varieties and if seeds of improved varieties of chicory could be purchased. I know that wild types may be smaller, tougher, more bitter, etc.
    I have found that most varieties have been developed for leaves as salad greens or cooked vegetables. But a few notable varieties exist for root production. Chicorium i. var “Soncino” and Chicorium i. var “Magdeburg” are long time favorites for their large, long roots. It looks like parsnip. Chicorium i. var “Brussels” is a variety that was developed from a large rooted ancestor called “Barbante” It is the one whose tops are commonly sold as blanched endive or witloof in the supermarket. The Brussels variety is the most readily available seed in the U.S. The Soncino variety follows.

  9. Found good information about planting chicory on some deer management sites. Planted seeds on one of our food plots. Wanted to feed deer and try making coffee

  10. Hi Hank, really enjoyed reading this post! We are about to plant our chicory seeds, but I can’t find sound advice… on the internet… you know what I’m talking about… Can you tell me what your seed depth and spacing is when planting? I read 2″ deep, 12″ spacing somewhere but that doesn’t seem very efficient, or sane. Thanks!

    1. Yep, that’s silly. I went 1 inch deep and about 4 inches apart. You could even go narrower than that, but you’d need to thin.

  11. Thank you so much for your detailed posting. In spring of 2013 I planted dozens of seeds that I acquired through a seed swap, but got busy with my house construction and couldn’t remember what I had done. One mysterious plant survived drought, wind, and winter. So I planted these little rascals and then could not for the life of me figure out what they were. Lettuce, but not lettuce. Maybe chicory? But I couldn’t find pictures on the net. It’s now bolting and I was simply going to pull it all out to make space for something else and leave one to flower, so I could try to identify it. I just found your posting and YES! this is it!! I can’t wait until the fall when I can roast the whole lot. Gratefully!! Thank you.

  12. I stumbled upon this post while searching for info on dandelion root. Love your candor and humor, along with the helpful tips.

  13. I use to drink this coffee when I was young and was a delicious coffee to me .My mom use to make it almost every day and put milk and sugar in it .Has no caffeine in it .