Coffee husks: uses and benefits

In the world of coffee, as consumers, we perform a number of routine operations on a daily basis that we do not pay any attention to. To give a few examples: emptying the water tank, removing the coffee grounds from our coffee machine, and so on. Sometimes, this causes some elements of our industry, such as the so-called coffee by-products, to go unfairly unnoticed. This is the case of the coffee husk, a curious ingredient that we will try to better divulge in today’s article, and which should not be confused with parchment, a layer that covers the bean (not the cherry) and is sometimes also referred to as husk.

The fruits of the coffee tree are known as cherries or coffee berries and are the ones that contain the beans inside (we usually find a couple of beans inside each fruit) that we then use to prepare coffee. The name cherry comes from the characteristic red colour of the husk, which is removed after harvesting to gain access to the beans. It is precisely this red husk that we know as the coffee husk, the protagonist of these lines.

To be able to use the coffee husk, it has to be left to dry so that the red colour turns into a much darker coppery-brown. It is more difficult to obtain it because it is not usually sold to the general public (although this trend is changing). The easiest way is to have a producer nearby who you can contact to reserve some of the coffee husks for you before discarding them.

coffee plant coffee beans

What exactly is a coffee husk?

The husk is a by-product of coffee. It is the outer fruit layer of the coffee cherry, known as the coffee husk. Traditionally it was considered a waste product, which was removed from the coffee bean after harvesting before the beans were put to dry. It ended up being discarded because it was not known what to do with it.

But, as we will see throughout this article, in recent years, its use has become widespread and popularised through different techniques, and the time has come to reclaim it.

Coffee husks may seem exotic to us, and in fact, throughout Europe and the United States, they are still an unknown product. However, in other regions of the world, such as Bolivia or Ethiopia, it is processed and consumed on a regular basis.

What to do with the coffee husk? Well, once we get hold of it, it can be used for many things, not only to consume it directly, as we will see below:

What is coffee husk used for? Main uses

If you are wondering what the coffee husk is used for, the answer can be very varied. In this list, we summarise some of the main uses of the coffee husk, which are not only in gastronomy as we might think at first glance.

  • The most common way of using coffee husks for plants is to use coffee husks as fertiliser, as they are a powerful natural fertiliser. On the land where the coffee plant has been harvested, the husk is left as fertiliser and coffee is planted again the following season.
  • Coffee husks are used to stuff cushions, pillows or similar household items. Exactly the same as with wheat husks or other similar ingredients.
  • Coffee husks for tea: this is something we explain at the end of this article, it is very common to use coffee husks for infusions. These preparations are also known as coffee husks.
  • Coffee husks can also be used as livestock feed, mainly because of their high fibre content.
  • Pressed coffee husks are increasingly being used to make fuel components for fireplaces, barbecues, etc.

Does the coffee husk contain caffeine?

Yes, removing the coffee husk from the fruit preserves part of the coffee molecule (not all of it). Therefore this caffeine will be present if we drink it, for example, in an infusion, as described in the following section. The caffeine in coffee is not an exclusive component of the bean.

In short: coffee husks have caffeine, but not as much as a cup of coffee.

Coffee husk: Benefits and properties

When we talk about the benefits of coffee husk, we have to differentiate between two key aspects. On the one hand, there is the inherent benefit of using the whole raw material and the sustainability of the industry. If the use of coffee husks becomes widespread, the waste generated by coffee producers will be significantly reduced.

On the other hand, there are the benefits of drinking coffee husks in infusions or similar preparations. That is: ingesting it. These are related to the organoleptic properties of this product. Among these properties of coffee husk are:

  • Antioxidant power.
  • The energy provided by the presence of caffeine.
  • High fibre content and phenolic compounds.
  • Coffee husks contain a large amount of minerals, potassium and chlorogenic acid.

Is it possible to remove the husk from coffee?

The hulls of coffee are usually removed by manual and often rudimentary techniques, both the actual hulls (the cherry hull) and the husk or parchment of the dried bean.

How to dehydrate the coffee husk?

If you get a fresh coffee husk (still red in colour), you need to dry it in order to make use of it. The easiest way is to use a food dehydrator, but if you don’t have one at home, the most effective and natural method is to let the coffee husk dry in the sun until it gets the colour you see in the picture:

coffee husk

Coffee husk tea: benefits and preparation

This infusion is also known as husk coffee and has some important benefits, which are summarised below:

  • Coffee husk coffee is an energising drink, as it contains a high amount of caffeine. You won’t find many infusions with this strength.
  • The benefits. It is a beverage that is on the rise and, if this growing trend continues, it will greatly reduce the waste and residues generated during coffee production. It should be remembered that producers waste many tonnes of coffee husks every year because they cannot market them (nobody buys them).
  • In addition to reducing waste and therefore collaborating in environmental sustainability, the consumption of coffee husks allows coffee producers, who are normally the weakest link in the production chain (those who assume the most risks and obtain the least benefits), to make an extra profit.
  • The infusion of coffee husks is diuretic and has high antioxidant properties.
  • It has a sweet and mild taste, so there is no need to add sugar, and is therefore an ideal alternative for those who need to lose weight or eliminate extra sugars from their diet.

How do you make coffee husk tea? Step by step

The time needed: 5 minutes.

Making a coffee husk infusion is really simple if you know the method. It is not much different from making any other conventional brew, and you will only need to check or adjust the steeping times. Apart from the coffee husk, you will also need hot water and a gooseneck coffee pot to serve it in.

1. The first step in making our husk coffee is to put the husks or pulp in the infuser

If we are using a plunger coffee maker, then we will put the product in the bottom of the glass. The correct ratio for reference is approximately 10-12 grams of coffee husks per 300 millilitres of water if you use an infuser, or even a little more if you use a French press for the infusion.

2. Add hot water

In general, the pouring should be slow, and we should use a generous amount of hot water. By slow pouring, we mean pausing several times during the process so as not to pour the hot water all at once and to allow the peels to release their aromas and nuances more easily.

3. Let it stand for 2-3 minutes

To allow any water that may be left in the infuser to drip into the kettle. In case you are using a French press, you will have to wait a few minutes longer.

What does the infused coffee grounds taste like? Well, as you can imagine, it doesn’t taste exactly like coffee. It is very sweet and fruity, as it has a lot of carbohydrates, and it is not usually necessary to sweeten it, although of course, this is a matter of taste. Remember that coffee husk can only be prepared as an infusion. This method has nothing to do with filtering or espresso coffee, which extract completely different nuances from the fruit.

You can use a classic plunger coffee machine or even a teacup with an infuser, the kind used to prepare normal infusions that have nothing to do with coffee. Remember that this preparation is also known as coffee husk coffee or coffee husk tea.

The coffee latte husk: Fad or extravagant?

The husk latte is really the only husk coffee worthy of being called as such, as the previous ones are really more like a traditional tea or infusion.

As you can see, the preparation of the husk coffee latte is very simple as long as you have mastered the infusion we have seen in the previous section. It involves making an infusion or coffee husk tea on the one hand and preparing a traditional espresso on the other. We mix the two in the proportions that we like best, and we top the preparation (always in a large glass or cup) with a layer of hot milk with foam, which is where this drink gets its final name.