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.
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 pure olive oil (not extra virgin). 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 overnight to cool.
The cold infusion method is probably better for herbs and flowers, and anytime you want to get the most health benefits from the ingredients. That was a good choice for my wife’s infusions, where she is looking for the healing properties of calendula and the anti-itch action of plantain and nettles. 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.
After straining out the grounds, they went into the compost pail where they will ultimately wind up enriching the garden. Some of the oil was absorbed by the coffee and the filter, but I wound up with almost a pint, which will be enough to make a batch of soap and still have some for lip balm and other projects. I am very pleased with how it turned out. The oil is a dark brown, almost black color and the aroma is like a cup of fresh-brewed coffee.
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. I’ll be back soon with an update on what we did with this coffee oil. Now I’m off to other things, like taking care of a whole lot of little baby seedlings that are needing my attention!