March 15, 1865: Coffee substitutes again

Coffee Beans

As we’ve seen
, the blockade caused at least one really severe hardship, a lack of coffee. Here’s yet another substitute. It’s no wonder they surrendered.


SOUTHERN BANNER [ATHENS, GA], March 15, 1865, p. 1, c. 4

Substitutes for Coffee.

Editor Southern Cultivator:–Nobody has had more occasion to mourn over the blockade than that numerous and highly respectable class, the coffee topers. Many a one would cheerfully munch his dry crusts at breakfast, if he could wash them down with the cheering beverage which used, in former times, to atone for the short-comings of cooks and fortify him against a day of vexations. For the stimulating property to which both tea and coffee owe their chief value, there is unfortunately no substitute; the best we can do is to dilute the little stocks which still remain, and cheat the palate, if we cannot deceive the nerves.

The best substitute which we have yet found for either tea or coffee, is plenty of good, rich milk, which is at least nutritive, if not stimulating. But alas! the price of butter plainly tells that milk is almost as scarce as coffee, and many persons want something hot to drive off the fogs of the morning.

After many unsatisfactory trials of rye, wheat, corn, potatoes, okra, acorns, and almost everything else that can be purchased, we have found in molasses, we will not say a *substitute* for, but an adulteration of coffee, which leaves but little to be desired, *but the stimulus.*

Don’t be alarmed, Mr. Editor, we are not about to propose “long sweetening.” Molasses when boiled down until it scorches, is converted into an intensely bitter substance, called by chemists caramel. Our method is to put a quart or more of sorghum syrup into any convenient vessel, and stew it down over a slow fire, as if making candy, stirring constantly until the syrup is burnt black; then pour it out into a greased plate to cool. The blackish porous mass thus obtained is pounded, when quite cold, in an iron mortar.

We mix it with twice its bulk of ground coffee, and use a teaspoonful of this mixture for each person; thus one teaspoonful of caramel and two of coffee will make six cups of a beverage which, as far as taste is concerned, is far preferable to pure Rio coffee. The burnt molasses or caramel, attracts moisture when exposed to the air, and must, therefore, be kept in a close vessel. It would be well, for the same reason, to prepare it in small quantities. If the molasses is burnt too much, it is reduced to charcoal and loses all taste.

By the way, though a very simple matter, many housekeepers do not know that it is perfectly easy to clear coffee by adding a small quantity of cold water, just as it “comes to a boil.”

CHEMICUS. 

This entry was posted in Blockade, Coffee. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *