Coffee chaff is the dry scaly protective skin of the seed of a coffee bean and falls off during the coffee roasting process. Chaff is normally thrown out but can be used in compost for gardens.
For coffee roasters chaff can be big nuisance as its produced in large amounts during the roasting process and since light it seems to everywhere. In addition, it can be a fire hazard for roasters if not removed.
The production of coffee involves a surprising number of waste products. One of the most prominent of these is coffee chaff. So, what is it? What can you do with it? Let’s take a look!
How is Coffee Chaff Made?
Coffee chaff isn’t made as such. Instead, it is a by-product of the coffee manufacturing process.
As we said, coffee chaff is the green skin on the coffee bean. Throughout the production process, the green skin will cling to the coffee bean. That is until it gets to the roasting point.
When the temperature of the coffee roaster is turned up, the coffee chaff will just fall off of the coffee bean. It doesn’t require peeling. It just falls off. This leaves the clean coffee bean and a pile of discarded chaff which would have to be filtered out.
If you roast your own coffee beans, then your coffee roaster will probably collect the chaff for you. If you buy your beans pre-roasted (i.e. instant coffee, standard coffee beans, etc.) then the chaff will have already been removed.
What is Coffee Chaff Used For?
Not a whole lot, to be honest. There are a lot of companies that will just throw the chaff away. Many people that roast their own beans will do the same.
You cannot drink any drink made from pure coffee chaff. It would have a rather foul taste. If you are roasting your own beans, then it isn’t going to kill you to a small amount of coffee chaff floating around when you make your drink. Not all of it will be removed, after all.
However, if you can pick it out before you make the drink that would be preferable. Even the smallest amount will likely impact the taste.
That being said, you can add the coffee chaff to your coffee in some way. However, it will need to have a few additives first. We will discuss that in the next section. For now, we just want to talk about the more common uses for the coffee chaff.
Even though coffee chaff is going to break down naturally over time if it is thrown away, it is still quite polluting. Even though we can’t make coffee from the coffee chaff, we can put it to use in other ways.
Perhaps the primary use of coffee chaff is as a natural fertilizer. Because the coffee chaff is part of a plant, it is still going to be packed to the brim with the natural goodness that the plant managed to pick up from the soil it grew in. If you throw this coffee chaff over your plants, then it will spread all of that nutritional goodness to your plants, boosting their growth.
It is important to remember that a little bit goes a long way when it comes to using coffee chaff. If you put too much on the soil, it acts as a sort-of ‘barrier’.
This will prevent water from reaching the roots of the plant. So, while you may think that you are doing good by spreading a ton of nutrients over your plants, all you are really doing is killing them.
If you have your own compost heap, then you could even use the coffee chaff with that. It breaks down fairly easily and, of course, the nutrients in the coffee chaff are going to be brilliant for the compost.
This may actually be a lot better than using the coffee chaff as a fertilizer, as it means the coffee chaff is not going to prevent water from hitting the roots of the plant. It will also be mixed with a few more nutrients which, of course, will also be highly beneficial.
Rarely, coffee chaff can also be used for chickens and other outdoor animals as bedding. Although, since other forms of bedding are often cheaper, this is going to be quite rare.
How is Cascara Syrup made with Chaff?
In recent years, you may have seen the term ‘cascara syrup’ floating around. Just about every single coffee place has it on sale. This is one of the uses for coffee chaff.
When making cascara syrup, the skins of the coffee fruit will be completely dried out. These skins will be added to water. Then, finally, some sugar will be added to the water. Everything is going to be brought to a boil. The result will be a sweet syrup.
Cascara syrup makes a great natural sweetener for your coffee. It can also add a hint of fruitiness to the mix. The exact taste of the cascara syrup will be dependent on the bean that the coffee chaff originates from. So, if you do enjoy the taste of the cascara syrup, then you may want to experiment with various flavor profiles to see how they can spice up your coffee.
Can You Buy Coffee Chaff?
Absolutely. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find either. In some cases, if you have a local bean roaster, you won’t even have to pay for the coffee chaff. A few of them will give it away for free as they are producing so much of it.
Nearly every coffee roaster will have chaff available. Most of them will sell it and in alot of cases even just give it too you.. You may also find coffee chaff for sale online at various websites including Amazon.com. If you head to the website of your favorite coffee roaster, then they may even sell coffee chaff there.
Once you have the chaff, you can use it as a fertilizer, compost, or even make your own cascara syrup. As we said before, the flavors will be different depending on the bean, so you may want to experiment with various roasters if you are looking to make your own cascara syrup!