Food, Recipes

Homemade Extracts (Chocolate and Coffee)

These homemade extracts are extremely simple to make with only 2 ingredients. No heating, just waiting. For vanilla extracts, there are plenty of methods out there on how to make homemade extracts including using heat in a pressure cooker to speed it up (also risking exploding glass that way), but I wanted a “cold” extraction (no heat) to reduce any loss in flavor from being heated. Some manufactures believe cold extraction is best for vanilla, while some believe heat is ideal. This method I used is not heated, although, I’m not entirely sure heated extraction would even work for coffee and chocolate flavors as the heat may compromise all the flavor compounds. I haven’t tried heated extraction to compare and while many have done it successfully with vanilla extract, I prefer not to risk exploding glass.

I stumbled upon making my own flavored extracts, because every brownie recipe I’ve tried (I’ve tried many so-called “the best”) always tasted like something was missing. Although, I couldn’t put my finger on it, since I’ve tried unsweetened natural cocoa and Dutch cocoa, I’ve tried with and without melted chocolate, with and without chocolate chips, different ratios of chocolate to flour to liquids and tried fudgy and cakey brownies. Something was always missing. Sometimes I would come across a brownie that I really love, but is commercially made. I know a lot of commercially made baked goods contain what they call “natural flavoring”, which could mean a lot of things, most aren’t so appetizing. I tried replacing the 2 tsp vanilla extract in my favorite brownie recipe with my homemade chocolate extract and finally filled the missing element! It brought the chocolate flavor to a whole new level. It doesn’t make it more decadent, which can be caused by darker chocolate and is not what I was going for. Instead, it just brings out the flavor of the chocolate even more so. While this may not be the same “natural flavoring” that is used by many commercially made brownies, but it still gives it that heightened chocolate flavor that regular homemade brownies lack for me.

CHOCOLATE EXTRACT
To make chocolate extract, you’ll need cacao nibs which are easily found in health food grocery stores (like Whole Foods). What are cacao nibs? Lets start at the beginning. After cacao beans are harvested from the tree, they are fermented to develop the cacao flavor, then dried, roasted, then crushed into cacao nibs (what is used in this recipe). From there, cacao nibs are ground into a paste, then crushed further and mixed with other ingredients like milk, cocoa butter, sugar, etc… to make chocolate. Cacao powder is made of just fermented seeds processed at low temperature (not roasted) to retain nutritional benefits and bitter taste. Whereas cocoa powder is a mixture of fermented AND roasted beans that have lost those original flavors and bitterness during the high heat roasting process.

This chocolate extract recipe uses cacao nibs to bring back the original flavor of the cacao bean that is lost and mellowed during the process of making cocoa powder of high-heat roasting before being ground to a powder. In the case of Dutch processed, it’s further muted and acidity reduced by the alkalizing process. Cacao nibs are naturally bitter and retain more of the natural cacao bean taste.

This recipe does a low-heat roasting in a skillet, just enough to bring out the familiar cacao flavor. Doing so also will make the extract far more flavorful than using untoasted nibs. That said, there are some people that prefer making this extract with untoasted nibs (see recipe notes below), but there is just a higher amount of people (from what I’ve read) that prefer lightly toasted nibs. After cacao nibs are soaked in alcohol, it’s then strained (twice) after freezing the fats, it produces a dark brownish-amber, highly-concentrated pure chocolate flavor and aroma that will heighten any chocolate dessert or dish to another level. Replace vanilla extract with chocolate extract or use them both together for a truly flavorful enhancement. After 3-4 months of extracting, the extract smelled strongly of chocolate, like a tiny bottle of hot chocolate.

COFFEE EXTRACT
To make coffee extract, all you need is whole coffee beans and 80 proof alcohol. Use drinkable quality beans, as the flavor of the beans will be extracted. If you don’t like the flavor of the beans, you may not like the extract it produces. Same goes with the alcohol used for all extracts like vanilla and chocolate extracts. You can also choose to use decaf, like I did, if you just want the flavor and not all the caffeine in your treats. The process is the same as chocolate extract: combine, shake, rest, strain, freeze, strain. There isn’t much fats from coffee beans, so the freezing step may not be necessary for coffee extract, but I do it anyway to be sure I get extra clear extract, then strain through a coffee filter for a clean, filtered extract without any cloudiness. I allowed the extract to sit for 3-4 months and the cookies I make with them (my current favorite cookie: Chocolate Chip Mocha Cookies) using 1.5 Tablespoons just gives the cookies a faint hint of coffee detectable only by a few, but it gives the chocolate flavor a huge boost in addition to the chocolate extract used. I’ve read you can add 1 tsp of coffee extract with 1/4 cup hot water for “brewed” coffee, but when I tried, it tasted boozy.

Although, I can get pretty wordy with my recipes, it doesn’t mean it’s a complicated recipe. For this, it’s simply: crush, combine, shake, rest, strain, freeze, strain. Ok, that does sound like a lot, but it really isn’t if you think about what each of those steps are.

COST
Why go all the trouble in waiting months for a product you can go out and buy pre-made? Besides it being hard to find in grocery stores, the price for reliable, high quality brands can be exorbitantly expensive. Homemade costs not only a fraction of store-bought brands, the quality and intensity is equal (if not better) than store-bought brands.

Total cost comparison:
8 oz Chocolate extract:
Homemade = $6.49
Nielsen-Massey = $28

8 oz Coffee extract:
Homemade = $4.88
Nielsen-Massey = $30

Cost breakdown: (includes Washington state’s alcohol liter tax)
Alcohol: $3.63/cup ($19 + tax for 1.7 liter Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka contains a little over 7 cups)
Coffee Beans: $1.25/half cup ($10 for 12 oz bag of whole coffee beans contains slightly over 4 cups)
Cacao Nibs: $2.86/half cup ($10 for 8 oz bag of organic raw cacao nibs contains 1 3/4 cups)

DARK BOTTLES, DARK PLACE:
To prevent extracts from becoming cloudy, keep them stored in an amber bottle and in a dark, cool pantry — not refrigerator. Regular exposure to light and heat can cause evaporation within the bottle causing the extract to become cloudy. Same goes for storing in a refrigerator where the cold temperature will turn it cloudy. But cloudy extracts are still good to use as long as it smells normal.

Note: Products and links listed on this post are products that I personally purchased and use. I am not associated with nor do I get any compensation with the products or links listed.


Homemade Extracts (Chocolate and Coffee)

Super simple and only 2 ingredients for each version. This chocolate extract will heighten any chocolate dessert to another level bringing back the original flavor of the cacao bean. This coffee extract will enhance the chocolate flavor even further when combined in a baked recipe.
Prep Time 5 mins
Resting Time 90 d

Equipment

  • Airtight jar, like a mason jar
  • Freezer
  • Coffee filter
  • Funnel
  • 8 oz Amber bottle, or two 4 oz bottles

Ingredients

Chocolate Extract

  • ½ cup Cacao nibs, lightly crushed *see note
  • 1 cup (8 oz) 80 proof (40% ALC by VOL) Vodka, (like Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka) **see note

Coffee Extract

  • ½ cup Whole coffee beans (regular or decaf, medium or dark roast), lightly crushed ****
  • 1 cup (8 oz) 80 proof (40% ALC by VOL) Vodka, (like Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka) **

Instructions

Chocolate Extract

  • Lightly Roast Cacao nibs: (optional, but strongly recommended as it enhances the cocoa flavor)
    Toast in a dry skillet over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, while stirring to prevent burning. Allow to fully cool.
  • Crush: Very lightly crush cacao nibs with a mortar and pestle or rolling pin, helping them to release their flavor. Pour crushed cacao nibs in an airtight glass jar, like a mason jar.
    Pour alcohol over the cacao nibs. Seal jar and vigorously shake.
  • Store in the dark and shake: Store the jar in a dark cabinet for 3-4 months, at least. Occasionally give the bottle a vigorous shake***.
    Tip: I like to shake for 30 seconds everyday for the first week, then once every few days, then once a week. Frequency is up to you.
  • First Strain: After 3-4 months, at least, and the extract is ready to be bottled, strain the cacao nibs with a mesh strainer. Use a spoon to press and stir the solid pieces in the strainer to extract as much liquid from the nibs as possible. Discard solids.
  • Freeze fat: Place in a freezer safe container. If using a jar with a lid, make sure there is at least 1 inch head space before closing lid. Freeze for 4 hours or overnight.
  • Second Strain: Remove from freezer. Place a coffee filter inside a funnel set over an 8 oz amber bottle or something with a spout if transferring into two 4 oz bottles. Pour extract in the coffee filter. Allow it to fully drain (can take 30-60 minutes). This step removes solidified cocoa butter. Discard coffee filter after it has fully drained.
    Note: This step is crucial as the fat can hinder how well it works in baking.
  • Store: Keep in a cool, dark pantry. Keep away from cold temperatures (refrigerator), heat, and constant light exposure to prevent cloudy extracts.

Coffee Extract

  • Crush: Very lightly crush whole coffee beans with a mortar and pestle or rolling pin, helping them to release their flavor. Pour crushed beans in an airtight glass jar, like a mason jar.
    Pour alcohol over the beans. Seal jar and vigorously shake.
  • Store in the dark and shake: Store the jar in a dark cabinet for 3-4 months, at least. Occasionally give the bottle a vigorous shake***.
    Tip: I like to shake for 30 seconds everyday for the first week, then once every few days, then once a week. Frequency is up to you.
  • First Strain: After 3-4 months, at least, and the extract is ready to be bottled, strain the coffee beans with a mesh strainer. Use a spoon to press and stir the solid pieces in the strainer to extract as much liquid from the beans as possible. Discard solids.
  • Freeze fat: Place in a freezer safe container. If using a jar with a lid, make sure there is at least 1 inch head space before closing lid. Freeze for 4 hours or overnight. (This step is optional for coffee beans, but important for chocolate extract)
  • Second Strain: Remove from freezer. Place a coffee filter inside a funnel set over an 8 oz amber bottle or something with a spout if transferring into two 4 oz bottles. Pour extract in the coffee filter. Allow it to fully drain (30-60 minutes). This step removes any solidified fat (probably not much from coffee beans). Discard coffee filter after fully drained.
  • Store: Keep in a cool, dark pantry. Keep away from cold temperatures (refrigerator), heat, and constant light exposure to prevent cloudy extracts.

Recipe Notes

Chocolate Extract Notes:
  • *Cacao Nibs: It has a bitter, unsweetened chocolate flavor that is firm and yet chewy, almost crunchy texture, similar to coffee beans. Toast the nibs on low heat in a dry skillet to tame the bitterness and give them a nuttiness and more crunch. Try health food stores like Whole Foods, or buy online.
  • Raw or Roasted: Either works for this, but after researching, I found that while many people found “raw” cacao nibs to work well for them, more often than not people say “raw” doesn’t give as much chocolatey flavor and sometimes will smell like balsamic vinegar. More people seem to prefer roasted cacao nibs for a stronger chocolate flavor in the extract. Cacao nibs are fermented and heated with low temperatures so they aren’t technically “raw”, but the term is used to differentiate between this form versus a high-temperature “roasting”. I use “raw” nibs then lightly roast them myself.
  • **80 proof alcohol: Vodka is a typical choice and more versatile, but Bourbon and dark or clear “white” rum are used for a different flavor profile, but aren’t as versatile for all types of recipes. Must be at least 80 proof (40%  ALC by VOL). Some think any quality works, but others say spirits matter. Examples from taste tests from vanilla extract: Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka (80 proof, about $10 for 750ml), Maker’s Mark Bourbon (45% ABV, about $24 for 750ml), and Captain Morgan White Rum (80 proof, about $10 for 750ml).
  • ***Agitation by Shaking : Commercial vanilla extracts, like at Nielsen-Massey, uses a cold extraction process that can take up to five weeks. Shaking the jar of extract vigorously for 30 seconds for the first week, then once every few days or once a week thereafter, help emulate the movement used for extraction in facilities. This method isn’t scientifically equal to commercial processes by any means, but if making it at home, it’s a simple substitute and produces fantastic results.
  • 750ml: A bottle of 750ml of alcohol contains 3.17 cups. If measured out three even cups for three (8oz) batches, there will be some leftover. You can add a little more than 8 oz per jar since about 1 oz will be lost during filtering and the cacao nibs absorbing some of it.
  • Cost: Compared to Nielsen-Massey Pure Chocolate Extract costs about $14 for 4 oz, making 8 oz $28 (as of 8/2021)
    • Alcohol: $3.63/cup ($19 + tax for 1.7 liter Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka contains a little over 7 cups)
    • Cacao nibs: $2.86/half cup ($10 for 8 oz bag of organic raw cacao nibs contains 1 3/4 cups)
    • Total: Approximately, $6.49 per 8 oz (after Washington’s alcohol liter tax)
  • Uses: Chocolate Chip Mocha Cookies. 1 tablespoon chocolate extract = 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder. 1 tablespoon + 1 tsp sugar = 1/2 oz semi-sweet chocolate. Use in any baked chocolate recipe (like cookies or cakes), with or without vanilla extract. Can also use in drinks or savory dishes.
 
Coffee Extract Notes:
  • ****Coffee Beans: Use quality coffee beans. The better the coffee beans, the better the extract. Try decaf to reduce caffeine.  I used Tony’s Coffee that sells for around $10 at the grocery store (QFC) for a 12 oz bag of organic medium roast decaf whole beans. Use decaf if you just want the flavor of coffee without the caffeine in your treats.
  • Cost: Compared to Nielsen-Massey Pure Coffee Extract costs about $15 for 4 oz, making 8 oz $30 (as of 8/2021)
    • Alcohol: $3.63/cup ($19 + tax for 1.7 liter Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka contains a little over 7 cups)
    • Coffee Beans: $1.25/half cup ($10 for 12 oz bag of whole coffee beans contains slightly over 4 cups)
    • Total: Approximately, $4.88 per 8 oz (after Washington’s alcohol liter tax)
  • Uses: Chocolate Chip Mocha Cookies. 1 tsp coffee extract = 1 tsp dry espresso powder. 1 tsp coffee extract + 1/4 cup water = 1/4 cup brewed coffee. Use in frozen desserts like ice cream, frosting, and baked goods especially chocolate goods, as well as savory foods like gravy, soups, tomato based sauces and more. When used for baking, some of the flavor compounds are baked out, for instance using 1-2 TBLS of coffee extract in a cookie or brownie recipe, you won’t detect coffee flavor. But it will taste strong when its not baked, like for frosting.
 
Product links: (I have no affiliation, so I get no profit from these links. These are just the products that I use myself that I’ve purchased with my own money)

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