Espresso powder is also called instant espresso powder and is a common ingredient in chocolate recipes. Its concentrated nutty flavor and rich bitter notes can greatly improve chocolate desserts and some savory dishes. You won’t be able to find espresso powder in all brick and mortar grocery stores. If going to a store is out of the question for you, you can try ordering it online but it can be hard to find there too so you may need to go with an alternative. Several products can be effective espresso powder substitutes, such as:
Your best bet: Instant coffee
You can use instant coffee to get a flavor that is a lot like that of espresso powder. The two are made in similar ways and are intended to give you roughly the same result: water-soluble coffee powder. Instant coffee is a little different in that it will dissolve completely in liquid, which may be desirable in some beverages. It won’t give you the slightly chalky mouthfeel that may be undesirable in a drink made with espresso powder. It is an excellent alternative in chocolate desserts but it is not as strong as espresso powder so you will need to use about half as much more.
If your recipe requires 2 tablespoons of espresso powder, you will need to use about 3 tablespoons of instant coffee granules to get a similar level of flavor.
You will need to dissolve instant coffee granules first if you plan to add it to something like cookie dough since it won’t mix right in the way espresso powder does. You should also choose dark roast instant coffee granules to get the closest possible match for the espresso powder flavor.
A decent second choice: Natural cocoa powder
If you want the bitterness of espresso powder, natural cocoa powder will do a reasonable job. It hasn’t been alkalized like dutch process cocoa powder so it brings the sharp fruitiness of cocoa beans to your dish. It is especially effective in chocolate recipes where it can help to intensify the flavor like espresso powder. If your recipe already calls for natural cocoa powder, add some more of it to replace the missing espresso powder.
In a pinch: Brewed coffee
If your recipe has a liquid in it, you can replace all or some of it with brewed coffee. Use the darkest roast you can find. Keep in mind that any coffee that you use in place of espresso powder will have to be very strong. Make coffee using about a quarter or less of the water that you would normally use.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder has been alkalized so it lacks the bitterness that you would get from natural cocoa powder or espresso powder; however, it can provide some of the desired depth and intensity.
Regular ground espresso can work in some recipes as an espresso powder substitute, but you will have to use it carefully. For starters, it is stronger since it hasn’t been brewed so you will need to use less of it. To keep the grains from affecting the texture of a dessert, you can try grinding it again to get them even finer.
Make your own espresso powder. The process for making it is simple but time-consuming. You start by brewing regular coffee grounds then drying them out. You can dry them on a cookie sheet in a low oven. Once the grounds are as dry as you can get them, you will need to grind them to a fine consistency.