I’m taking a break from gardening and cooking today to talk about something completely different: infusing coffee in oil. Before I get into the how-to part, the first thing you might be wondering is ‘why on earth is he doing this and what is he going to do with it?’ I’ll get to that in a minute. While infused oils are popular in the kitchen, flavored with things like garlic and herbs, many people are unfamiliar with their use in other ways. And this coffee oil is not destined for eating or cooking, though it is possible some of it will wind up on my body!
For background, my wife and I have been making soaps, lotions, balms and other personal care products for several years now. And occasionally, coffee has a starring role in them. For Christmas in 2011, she made some awesome coffee flavored lip balm to give away as homemade presents. Of course we used it too. And recently she made some coffee hand cream, which I absolutely love. With all that coffee action going on, I had the bright idea to try and make a coffee bath soap, plus some more coffee lip balm. So a coffee infused oil seemed like a good thing to make for both projects.
I chose olive oil this time, but any carrier oil can be infused. Other popular choices include almond, coconut, and jojoba oils. And all kinds of herbs and flowers can be infused too. My wife is currently making separate infusions of calendula flowers, nettle leaves, and plantain. For her infusions she is using either almond oil or coconut oil. I picked olive oil because it is a major ingredient in all of our soap recipes, and it is a good choice for lip balms as well. Olive oil is one ingredient that is great for your body both on the inside and outside. But then, so is coconut oil for that matter, and I love it for lip balms.
UPDATE: Check out my recipe for Coffee Lip Balm.
To infuse the coffee in oil, you can use either one of two methods. If you have plenty of time, you can use the cold infusion method by adding the coffee and oil to a clear glass jar and letting it sit for a few weeks (up to a month). I’m anxious to get my projects done sooner than that, so I chose the hot infusion method. I used equal parts of medium grind French Roast coffee and a good quality, mild-flavored olive oil. I put the coffee and olive oil in a small crockpot and turned it on low for about 8 hours, stirring occasionally. After that, I turned it off and let it sit until it was cool.
The cold infusion method is generally recommended for leafy herbs and flowers, though I haven’t found any science to back that. So that was a good choice for my wife’s infusions, where she is looking for the healing properties of calendula flowers and the anti-itch action of plantain and nettle leaves. I’m mainly interested in the aroma, color and flavor of the coffee in the oil, though it is supposed to be good for your skin as well. And besides, coffee grounds are pretty tough, and brewing with hot water is the usual method of ‘infusing’ them before they wind up in a coffee cup!
After infusing with either method, the coffee grounds need to be strained out from the oil. I placed a coffee filter into a fine mesh strainer set over a glass measuring cup, and carefully poured the oil in. It took several hours to drip through the filter and strainer, but the result was an infused oil that was free of any bits of coffee. You can use old, clean nylon stockings to strain the oil from an herb or flower infusion, and that process will go much quicker, though the oil may still have some coffee residue.
After straining out the grounds, they went into the compost pail where they will ultimately wind up enriching the garden. The oil is a dark brown, almost black color and the aroma is like a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. I am very pleased with how it turned out. Quite a bit of the oil was absorbed by the coffee and the filter (about half of it) so be sure and start with about twice more oil than you need for your project.
The shelf life on these non-edible infused oils is about the same as the shelf life of the plain oil. In my case, olive oil has a shelf life of about a year, if kept in cool dark place. For coconut oil, you should be able to go by the expiration date on the label of the oil you use.
I want to emphasize the need to use high-quality ingredients for this coffee infused oil. Be sure and use a coffee you would drink, not some cheap brand. And the same goes for the oil. I use extra-virgin and organic coconut and olive oils for all my homemade skin care products, and an expelled-pressed food grade sweet almond oil.
UPDATE: Since I first wrote this, I have done several more batches of coffee infused oil. My current favorite for lip balm is a medium roast coffee infused for about two hours in extra-virgin coconut oil. For a coffee skin salve, I use either almond or olive oil, and for soap I use olive oil. The coffee infused oil can be used to color soap, but the aroma is lost during the saponification process.