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Many recipes for chocolate baked goods call for instant espresso powder. I rarely bake, but I always have coffee in the house. What might I use as a rule of thumb for substituting for instant espresso powder?

I know I could substitute regular coffee for any liquids, but that could add too much liquid to some recipes. Would double or triple strength brewed (or French Press) coffee work? Is the flavor significantly different in the instant powder than in brewed coffee? Or is it simply the quick dissolve and the lack of liquid that makes the powder appealing in baking?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

I've struggled with this issue as well because I live in a moist climate and instant espresso powder cakes up on me between uses.

Generally recipes which use instant espresso power are trying to add a kick of bitter and roasted flavors to deepen chocolate flavors and make them richer. You can try substituting instant coffee 1:1, but the flavor of the baked good will certainly suffer a loss of richness. Increasing the amount of instant coffee, however, would likely add more bitter or acidic flavors -- and caffeine -- to the cookie or cake than you want. Also, instant coffee takes longer to dissolve, so it needs to be added straight to a liquid.

There's no real way to substitute liquid coffee in most recipes, such as chocolate cookie or brownie recipes, because the recipe has no water in it in the first place. In the rare recipes where there is water, you could substitute strong-brewed coffee for an equal quantity of water+espresso powder, and this would likely work fairly well.

So, summing up: there's no really good substitute for instant espresso powder in recipes which call for it that I've found with some significant experimentation. Hopefully someone else has had better ideas than me.

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Wait, there is a difference between "instant coffee" and "instant espresso" powders? As a non-coffee-drinker, I didn't know that. I don't even know where I can get espresso powder. –  rumtscho Apr 29 '12 at 10:32
    
The instant expresso powder I have (which is horrible) is 1-cup sachets, so avoids the caking problem. –  Peter Taylor Apr 29 '12 at 22:05
    
rumtscho, yes, they're different. Instant espresso has a more intense, richer flavor, which is why it's used as an intensifier for chocolate. Regular instant coffee has a less intense flavor and more caffeine. And I personally wouldn't recommend drinking either; they're pretty vile compared to the read thing. –  FuzzyChef Apr 30 '12 at 5:07
    
Pete, do you have a brand name for that? –  FuzzyChef Apr 30 '12 at 5:07
    
Hacendado, which is the own brand of local supermarket chain Mercadona. I don't know whether they have any stores outside Spain. –  Peter Taylor Apr 30 '12 at 9:43

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