Today the house is full with a rich, chocolatey aroma, as I have been roasting roots for dandelion coffee—a non-caffeinated beverage once used widely as a coffee substitute. Dandelion coffee is certainly reminiscent of the real deal, but has a deep, fruit-nutty flavor all its own. It is nice black or light and sweet, and extra special with frothed dairy or nut milk on top. It also helps that dandelion is good for you—a time-tested herbal tonic and remedy that cleanses the system while providing nutrients the body needs.
I dug these roots a few weeks ago after a good rainfall, which makes roots easier to dig. Where I live the land is dry and rocky and one has to be strategic. My best spots are recent garden beds with loose, deep soil, and areas that receive regular water. Dandelion roots tend to be bigger and/or easier to dig in these areas. For those with lawns, the best dandelion roots are found, not in the middle, but escaped from its edges into good soil where the plants appear to be thriving.
I usually dig dandelion roots during the spring weeding season and again in fall, though they can be enjoyed year round. It doesn’t matter if they are gnarled and hard with woody brown spots or clean, young, and whitish. After digging, I rinse them heavily with the hose and scrape or rinse off residual dirt, but I don’t get nitpicky about scrubbing them since the coffee will be filtered.
After chopping them into even pieces, I dry my dandelion roots in one of two ways. The slow method involves tossing them into a basket or cardboard flat to dry, which may take a couple weeks. The fast method is a night or two in the dehydrator at a low setting, until they are crack-dry.
Once dry, it’s time to roast! The method I’ve settled on is 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until they turn brown and smell amazing. How dark you roast them is a matter of preference. Roasted roots can be stored, and ground when you want to use them. To use, buzz gently in a coffee grinder.
Brewing & Filtering
Dandelion coffee can be brewed in a coffee pot or French press, although I’ve taken to Sam Thayer’s process, which is to boil the grounds for 3-4 minutes before filtering (Nature’s Garden, 2010). The grounds can be reused a couple times, until the coffee runs clear. I usually wing it on the quantity, throwing a few spoonfuls of ground coffee into the pot with a couple mugs’ worth of water.
Then for filtering I’m fond of a one-cup filter I purchased for pennies online, that you set into the cup and pour through. This catches less than a paper coffee filter but is faster, and I don’t mind a wee bit of residual sediment. Of course, coffee filters are also fine.
Drinking Dandelion Coffee
Dandelion coffee is great hot or iced, dark or light, sweetened with maple syrup, honey, sugar, stevia, or monkfruit. Recall that it is a diuretic, so if you drink multiple cups on your road trip, you may have to pee often.
Iced dandelion coffee—as well as dairy or nut milks infused with the roasted grounds—can be used for lots of fun dessert ideas, from popsicles to ice creams and puddings.
Just Do It
The thrifty among us recognize that dandelion coffee is a terrific side benefit of weeding. Even though Busy Me may bemoan the time spent processing, I know Future Me is always thrilled to have them at the ready.
Be kind to your future selves! Put up some dandelion roots for coffee today.