Desperate for coffee but the “S” just hit the fan? Try these 5 substitutes instead
By Zoey Sky // Jun 05, 2018

While most preppers are ready to forego modern conveniences like refrigeration and air conditioning when SHTF, not everyone can go through every day without a cup of joe.


If you're heavily reliant on coffee but you want to prepare for various disaster scenarios where coffee won't be easily available, you can rest easy.

Even if these five substitutes don't all contain caffeine, most of them can be found in the wild if you know where to look. If you're already stocking up on coffee, you can gather these coffee alternatives to make your supplies last longer. (h/t to

The five coffee alternatives listed below are either nuts, roots, or seeds that you can dry and roast. You can then grind the final product in a coffee grinder before percolating through hot water like regular coffee.

When measuring the ground material and water, use the same brewing ratio for coffee.

  1. American beech nuts (Fagus grandifolia) – The American beech has a silvery-gray and smooth bark while its leaves have fine teeth at the end of each vein. To identify beech, look for buds that are shaped like cigars. Beech nuts fall to the ground in autumn. Each pod has about two or three nuts. Once roasted, the outer coating of beech nuts is easier to remove. After removing the husks, roast the beech nuts in a cast iron pan and then grind them up. Beech nuts are full of fat and protein and they can be used to make a hearty brewed drink. Since they come from acorn-producing oak trees, beech nuts don’t fall every year. Beech trees don’t start seeding until they’re around 40 years old and they often produce nuts when they're about 60.
  2. Chicory root (Cichorium intybus) – Chicory grows on roadsides and highway on-ramps during summer. It is identified by its gangly, woody stems and unique bluish-purple flowers. Chicory root can be roasted and ground and it is a popular coffee alternative because its taste is very similar to the caffeinated drink. Brewed chicory root can improve blood glucose, gut health, inflammation, and liver function. However, chicory can rarely be found in the woods and those found by the road could be full of the byproducts of automobile exhaust and other chemicals.
  3. Cleaver seeds (Galium aparine) – Cleavers, also called goosegrass and sticky willie, are easy to identify because they usually stick to your hands and clothes. Cleavers are covered in tiny hooks and the plant has skinny leaves that are shaped like a whorl around a limp stem. Cleaver seeds have diuretic and laxative properties.
  4. Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) – Dandelion tea has medicinal properties, and the roots of the plant can be roasted and ground up as a beneficial substitute for coffee. Dandelion root brew is not as bitter as coffee and it's less acidic. It even has probiotic effects. You can find dandelions on yards often overgrown with weeds. (Related: The Health Benefits of the Humble Dandelion.)
  5. Purple avens/water avens (Geum rivale) – The roots of purple avens are available throughout the year and they can be turned into a delicious and robust coffee alternative. Add some milk and sugar to the brew for a drink that tastes similar to hot chocolate. The leaves of purple avens are hairy and toothed, with many leaflets. The plant has droopy, reddish-purple and strange-looking buds, with long stalks and spreading clusters. Its flowers blossom into five yellowish petals that form around a purplish center. The plant's roots are purplish and aromatic. The seeds of purple avens emerge from a feathery plume or tendril.

Making coffee substitutes with these plants is also another way to help reduce the deforestation, oil consumption, and water consumption that is often linked to industrial coffee production. By foraging you can also live a greener lifestyle by minimizing the need for middlemen which often wastes resources.

Keep an eye out for these plants, which are some of the most well-known coffee alternatives that foragers have grown to love.

Other coffee substitutes

Here are other coffee alternatives that you can try:

  • Feverwort/Tinker's weed (Triosteum perfoliatum) – The ripe berries of feverwort are found in the late summer to mid-fall. Dry, roast, and grind them. Add one to two teaspoons to cold water, bring to a boil, and steep until the desired strength is achieved.
  • Kentucky coffee tree (Gymnocladus dioica ) – The Kentucky coffee tree's seeds and pulp are poisonous when fresh, but they can be used to make a caffeine-free coffee when roasted and ground. Harvest the seeds from fall to early spring.
  • Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) – You can roast and grind the sunflower seed shells to make a coffee substitute.

Learn more about other herbal alternatives that you can try when SHTF at

Sources include:

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