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Top Four Types of Alternative Coffee - What Makes Them Different, and Who Should (and Shouldn’t) Try Them

There are a wide variety of alternative coffees available on the market today. These products contain mushroom and plant extracts and roasted beans and roots such as chicory, dandelion, and cacao.

Each Coffee alternative option has its own set of proven, rumored, or anecdotal benefits. Each variety also has a distinct flavor profile and method of preparation. This article should help explain the four main types of alternative coffee, who might (and might not) want to try it, and the average cost per serving.

Mushroom Coffee

Mushroom Coffee comes in powder form, much like instant coffee. Many types of mushroom coffee contain instant coffee with the ground up extracts of mushroom mixed in, so the buyer should be aware of this if they are looking to eliminate coffee or caffeine from their diets completely. Other more recently made popular varieties contain no coffee but a combination of mushroom extracts and various spices such as chai and cinnamon. Mushroom coffee is nothing like mushroom broth or even dried mushrooms steeped like tea. The process of making mushroom coffee dries and grinds an exotic variety of mushrooms from Cordyceps and Lion's Mane to Reishi. Many tout these ingredients for their "adaptogenic" properties. Put simply, Adaptogens are chemical substances that help promote balance, resist stress, and stave off fatigue.

Taste profile: mild, earthy, coffee flavor without bitterness.

Possibly beneficial for: People with inflammation and people in need of an immunity boost

Avoid or seek medical advice for: People with bleeding/clotting disorders or low blood pressure.

Price Range: $1-$3 per serving

Dandelion Coffee

Dandelion coffee contains roasted dandelion root alone or a combination of other plant-based ingredients such as barley or chicory root (see Chicory Coffee below). Dandelion coffee is prepared similar to tea or coffee, depending on whether it is in leaf or powder form. People drink dandelion coffee because it is free from caffeine and is known for its health benefits, such as detoxifying the liver. Depending on the type of preparation, dandelion coffee can be enjoyed with honey and lemon, creamer and sweetener, or blended in smoothies and shakes.

Tastes like: Slightly sweet, floral coffee flavor without acidity or bitterness.

Possibly beneficial for: People prone to urinary tract infections and digestive problems.

Avoid or seek medical advice for: People allergic to dandelion or similar plants.

Price Range: $0.16- $1 per serving

Chicory Coffee

Chicory Coffee contains roasted chicory root- the root of a flowering herb from the dandelion family. Chicory Coffee can be prepared in your standard coffee maker or a french press and enjoyed in the ways of traditional coffee. The benefits of Chicory coffee are that it is entirely caffeine-free and contains a fair amount of fiber, manganese, and vitamin B6

Tastes like: Woody, nutty, flavor similar to coffee

Possibly beneficial for: People with constipation or swelling issues.

Avoid or seek medical advice for: Pregnant women and people with gallstones or diabetes.

Price Range: $0.35-$0.75 per serving

Brewed Cacao

Cacao alternative coffee products contain slow-roasted beans from the cacao plant and shouldn't be confused with cocoa (which is roasted at a higher temperature and more heavily processed). Cacao powder can be brewed and prepared just like traditional coffee but contains about a quarter of the caffeine. Cacao contains the same well-known and highly touted benefits of dark chocolate, but in a higher concentration due to its limited processing and no fat or sugar. The amount of fat and sugar you add after the brewing process is up to you! Cacao is also high in magnesium, which is known for its calming role in the body.

Tastes like: Unsweetened Dark Chocolate with the same pleasant aroma as chocolate

Possibly beneficial for: People with depression and other mild mood disorders

Avoid or seek medical advice for: People sensitive or intolerant to caffeine.

Which Alternative Coffee Should You Try First?

The type you try first depends on your flavor preferences, the preferred method of preparation, budget, and sought benefits. Trial and error may have to be a part of your journey to replace coffee with something less or not at all caffeinated. This article and the other articles on this site should help to point you in the right direction.