There’s no doubt that for many people, coffee is the number one hot beverage to start the morning; and then there’s those cups during meetings, a lunch date, the 3 p.m. hit-the-wall moment – well, you get the point. Too much coffee can cause the jitters and digestive issues. That’s when people search for a coffee substitute to fill the void if they are trying to quit their coffee habit for a caffeine-free alternative.
While it may not have the exact taste and flavor of genuine coffee, many coffee alternatives come close, providing the comfort and familiar warmth of a cup of Joe. Most can be prepared in a traditional coffee pot or French press, so there is no need to purchase special equipment. And with some added creamer and sweetener, a good coffee substitute can get you through caffeine withdrawal and soon become your morning drink.
We feature seven coffee substitutes you can purchase online. Read on to find one that best suits your taste.
Top Pick Best Overall: Nestlé Caro Original Coffee Substitute
If you like a mild-flavored coffee that’s not too strong or bitter, you may want to consider this coffee substitute from Nestle. Imported from Germany, the beverage is caffeine and fat-free and low in sugar. Made from a blend of barley, barley malt, chicory and rye, it offers up a mild taste with no bitterness.
Finely milled, it dissolves nicely in water, leaving no clumps or residue. To make a rich-tasting hot beverage, you can add a bit of milk, dairy substitute or creamer with some sugar to a half-teaspoon of Caro for a mild, satisfying flavor. Or, for a slightly bitter or stronger taste, use one-and-a-half teaspoons.
- Caffeine free
- Mild flavor
- Made from barley, barley malt, chicory and rye
- May not be good for anyone sensitive to grains
- Contains milk
Top Pick Best Dark Roast: Capomo Coffee Alternative and Substitute
If you’ve been enjoying a rich dark roast coffee and still want that special taste, then this product may be for you. This coffee alternative is a dark roast that is caffeine and gluten free and derived from the Maya nut, with cinnamon added. The Maya nut is one of the richest plant sources of amino acids and naturally occurring protein, making this coffee substitute more than just a drink. High in potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, tryptophan, and vitamins A, B, C and E, it’s also good for you.
The taste is similar to coffee with hints of cinnamon and chocolate (but there is no cocoa in it), and you can add a touch more cinnamon or some vanilla, nutmeg or chocolate for an enhanced flavor. You can prepare it in a coffee pot or French press, using two to three teaspoons of ground Capomo per cup of water. It can also be made like a tea and simmered in hot water for four to five minutes. Drain the grounds, then enjoy.
- Caffeine and gluten free
- Tastes similar to coffee
- Can be prepared in a French press
Top Pick Best Low-Acid: Pero Instant Natural Beverage
This natural alternative to coffee from Pero is a 100 percent natural caffeine-free drink with a coffee-like taste, blended from select malted barley, chicory and rye. The low acidity of this coffee substitute means you can drink it any time of the day or in the evening without worrying about it upsetting your stomach or keeping you up at night.
Finely ground and quick dissolving, just mix a heaping tablespoon of this light-medium roasted grain-derived coffee substitute into a mug of water, stir and enjoy. Add cream, sugar, almond milk or other ingredients to personalized your drink. Or follow the recipe on the package for iced cappuccino for a refreshing surprise. Yum.
- Caffeine free
- Made from malted barley, chicory and rye
- Quick dissolving
- May not be suitable for anyone sensitive to grains
- Mild bitter taste
Top Pick Best Versatile: Herba Organica Spelt Coffee Substitute
For a uniquely flavored coffee alternative, this one from Herba Organica is worth trying. This coffee substitute is 100 percent natural without any additives, and made from triticum spelta L, or spelt, which is a form of wheat.
This coffee alternative has a mild, pleasant taste and can be prepared in various ways, including cold, warm and hot. Customize your beverage with milk or sugar, the addition of spices or served with cinnamon, vanilla or cocoa. With such variety, you can have a different taste with each cup.
To prepare, use one to two heaping teaspoons per 200 ml of water and place in a pot. Boil for two to three minutes, take off the heat and let stand for five to 10 minutes. Strain, pour into a cup and add milk, cream, sugar or other ingredients to taste, and enjoy.
- Caffeine free
- Easy to make without a coffee pot
- Mild taste
- Contains wheat, not gluten-free
Top Pick Best Plant-Based: Health Embassy Jerusalem Artichoke Coffee Substitute
This coffee substitute made with Jerusalem artichokes and dandelion root produces a healthy and tasty drink as an alternative to a regular coffee. Jerusalem Artichoke, known also as sunroot, earth apple, or topinambur, looks similar to ginger, but it has mildly earthy flavor and a smooth consistency. Other ingredients in this coffee alternative to enhance its flavor include 1.5 percent each of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.
Easy to prepare, you can enjoy this drink any time of the day. Put one to three heaping teaspoons per 200 ml of water into a pan and boil for two to three minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for five to 10 minutes. Strain through a coffee filter and pour into cups. Enjoy plain or add milk, cream or sweetener to taste.
- Easy to prepare
- No additives
- Taste may not resemble coffee
Top Pick Best Herbal: Raja’s Cup Ayurvedic Coffee Substitute
This Ayurvedic coffee substitute is not made from grains, but instead, is a blend of natural seeds and roots for a caffeine-free, gluten-free, grain-free and carob-free hot beverage that tastes similar to coffee.
Made from clearing-nut (seed), coffee senna (seed), licorice (root), and ashwagandha (root), this drink produces a full-bodied flavor that promotes wellbeing and vitality, while giving you a respite from regular coffee.
Not an instant, this bulk-pack ground coffee substitute needs to be prepared in a coffee machine or pump, and can be enjoyed anywhere you have hot water. For a special treat, mix one part double-strength, freshly brewed Raja’s Cup with one part steamed milk (soy, rice or almond milk) and sweeten to taste.
- Made from roots and seeds
- Caffeine-free, gluten-free, grain-free, and carob-free
- Prepared with a regular coffee machine
- Slightly bitter
Top Pick Best Set: MaCafe Maca Magic Coffee Substitute Gift Set
This awesome gift set contains two wide-mouth jars of a coffee substitute made from caffeine-free 100 percent roasted whole maca root naturally grown in Peru’s Magic Valley.
Fine ground with a full-bodied flavor similar to coffee, this instant beverage is buzzing with maca sterols and alkaloids for a quick pick me up, without the caffeine rush. Roasted like a fine coffee, you can prepare and serve this drink in a number of ways, including cappuccino style. To make a latte, simply whisk one teaspoon of MaCafe into ½ cup of hot water. Add one cup of hot milk or soymilk, sweeten to taste, and enjoy.
- Caffeine free
- Includes two wide-mouth jars
- Can be prepared and served in different ways
- Full-bodied flavor similar to coffee
- Set includes a 5.2 ounce MaCafe jar and 7.1 ounce Maca Magic jar
- More expensive than other brands
Things to look out for:
Consider these things when looking for a coffee substitute so you will choose one that best suits your tastes:
Taste: The most important thing to accept before choosing a coffee substitute is to not expect it to taste exactly like the rich, full-bodied coffee you are used to having and need to give up. While you could opt for decaffeinated coffee, which does taste like the real thing, it’s important to realize that decaf still contains a small amount of caffeine. According to USDA regulations, decaffeinated coffee only needs to be 97 percent caffeine free. That extra three percent may not sound like a lot, but for anyone who is sensitive to caffeine, or who truly wants to quit coffee, that small amount may be too much. Luckily, there are many hot beverage alternatives to coffee that do come close to the genuine taste, so if that is important to you, choose a brand that claims to have a coffee-like taste.
If you’re looking for an alternative but are not looking for a close facsimile in taste to your old cup of Joe, then it opens up the playing field. Many coffee substitutes offer up delicious and flavorful options to start the morning and drink throughout the day, with their own unique taste that will make you forget your coffee cravings.
Ingredients: It’s always a good idea to check the ingredients of whichever coffee substitute you are looking at before purchasing it. Just because it’s caffeine free, it doesn’t mean it has healthy ingredients, or substances that you can be sensitive to. Many delicious-tasting coffee alternatives are made from wheat derivatives such as barley, chicory, spelt and rye. These can have delicious, coffee-like flavors, but should be avoided by anyone with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Other brands are made from nuts and seeds, so again, if you have a nut or seed sensitivity, this would not be a good choice.
Other ingredients in some coffee alternatives contain superfoods like maca root and ashwagandha, which add nutrients to every cup. While this may be an added benefit, the taste and flavor of these choices may be further away from a genuine coffee experience.
Preparation: Before purchasing a coffee substitute, find how it should be prepared. If you want convenience, look for a brand that you can use in a coffee pot or French press. There are some brands that work more like instant coffee. In this case, choose a brand that dissolves well in hot water and doesn’t clump or leave any residue. Some products take a bit longer to prepare and require setting the mixture aside to let stand for a few minutes before pouring.
Price: Coffee substitutes come in a range of prices, although they tend to be more expensive than regular coffee brands, especially if they contain exotic ingredients. It’s never a good idea to spend more than you can afford. That being said, the good news is that there are enough choices out there to find an alternative to coffee suits your budget.