Stretching Coffee with Sweet Potatoes

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By Wanda King from Deep South Homestead 

How does coffee and sweet potatoes sound?  Not something I would think to add together, but when I was sipping on my morning cup of coffee, I wondered what I would do if coffee weren’t available or became so expensive that I had to cut back or Heaven forbid, do without! So, to the internet I went on a search for coffee alternatives and what people did during the depression and civil war when coffee prices were high and income was low.

Today there are many substitutes for coffee like Yerba Matte and multitudes of teas.  Most teas come from plants and those I already grow in my own edible landscape.  I do enjoy my teas but I love my coffee first thing in the morning and Yerba Matte is costly.  So, what would look, smell, and taste like coffee?

coffee sweet potatoes

I looked through articles on the Great Depression and Civil War.  Both periods of American history had information about what was used as coffee when the prices became so expensive that they had to look for alternatives.  The most common substitutes used during the Civil War were acorns, okra, chicory, English peas, rye, wheat, barley, corn, and seeds from persimmons.  But the one that was said to taste more like coffee and not be easily detected was the sweet potato.  Plus, sweet potatoes were considered the poor man’s food.  It was grown everywhere here in the south and many ate them every day.  I was intrigued because we grow lots of sweet potatoes!

The recipe stated that you take sweet potatoes and peel them, cut them up into small pieces and dry them in the sun and then parch in the oven and grindthe same as coffee. Take two thirds of this to one third of coffee to a making.  This is a way to stretch the coffee you have on hand, not a substitute or replacement for coffee.  This seems simple enough, so I tried it.


Roasted Sweet Potatoes


I peeled and sliced sweet potatoes and placed them in an Excalibur dehydrator for 5 hours.  Took them out and roasted them in the oven until brown.  I didn’t want them to burn them, so I stopped at a medium roast.  I used a coffee grinder to grind them into a fine powder.  I was so surprised with the smell!  IT SMELLED LIKE ROASTED COFFEE!

coffee sweet potatoes


In my 10-cup stainless-steel percolator pot, I placed 2 tablespoon of coffee and 4 tablespoons of sweet potatoes in the strainer and filled it with water.  As I watched the pot begin to perk, I noticed the smell and later the color of the coffee.  Was this really gonna work?  Would sweet potatoes really help me have more cups of coffee for my money?

That was the longest 20 minutes waiting on a pot of coffee to make! As I poured the “sweet potato coffee” I noticed the color.  It looked like coffee.  But what about the taste?

First Taste

Because the pot boils the coffee, I had to take tiny sips.  At that point, the taste was pleasing but I wasn’t able to determine with the sips if I would be satisfied with the results.  I let the cup cool for 5 minutes and then drank.  I liked it!  Yes, this would help stretch my coffee if the expense of coffee became an issue.  The taste was like a good old cup of coffee like my daddy made when I was a child, not the strong mocha, latte, expresso type coffee that is enjoyed today.

Coffee and sweet potatoes may sound like a crazy combination, but it is a real alternative. If something happens where I need to stretch my coffee supply, I would use roasted sweet potatoes that we grow to turn one pound of coffee into 3 pounds.   The roasted smell reminds me of coffee.  When pouring, the color looks like coffee.  The taste is close enough to a mild cup of a cheaper brand of coffee.   But it is so much easier and a lot more frugal to just give up coffee and drink teas from the fresh herbs I have growing in my yard.

Watch Wanda’s full video here:


Wanda DSH frugalfamilyfood.comWanda King is co-owner of Deep South Homestead, a working farm, dedicated to teaching others to live off the land.  She coordinates her daily routine with her videos on YouTube.  Wanda is the crazy cook and candy corn collector from Mississippi.  Please email or visit her YouTube channel, Crazy Dazes.  


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  1. Okay I admit when I saw the beginning my whole insides screamed “No way!” — but I am really intrigued. The health reasons alone would be interesting!

    • I agree! One day I will be trying this. It sounds really interesting and I don’t think I will be satisfied until I have tried it!

  2. OH that’s crazy! My husband would die if he couldn’t have his coffee. I’ll admit if the world as we know it fell apart tomorrow, I’d be ok in the coffee and toilet paper department. I just can’t bear the thought of running out of either. I also tend to buy my coffee during the deep sales, so I have gobs in stock for those rainy days. I wonder if I could pass this over on my husband and stretch our coffee even further….

    • I have about 11 canisters of Folgers waiting to be used. Always ready to snag a bargain 😉 But I also am always ready to stretch what I have. My husband may freak out a bit, but he also may not notice. 😉 ~Amanda

  3. Interesting idea 🙂 I was just wandering what is the actual cost of the sweet potato additive – even if you get your potatoes for free (and not all can), you do pay for the electricity/gas to run the dehydrator and oven (and those prices can vary greatly depending where you live). And how much powder you get per pound of the potatoes? Is it still more cost effective than getting a good deal on the real thing?
    I might try it though, just to see how it tastes :).

    • I will see if I can’t price it out. We usually stock up on sweet potatoes when they are 29 cents a pound at Thanksgiving. I still have some in my cabinet from last year, and it’s May. So, they can be gotten inexpensively. I bet, even accounting doe dehydrating and roasting, it is probably significantly more cost effective than coffee which averages around $6.50 per pound.

    • This is a great way to stretch your coffee supply provided you have the sweet potatoes that you grow or can obtain at a reasonable price. The taste is at least comparable to a nice mild cup of coffee and when roasted a little darker and boiled a little longer, it would be a stronger cup of sweet potato coffee. Thanks Wanda

    • The idea is “if coffee is too expensive” or unavailable except for your survival stash, what do you do to stretch your coffee. We grew over 600 pounds of sweet potatoes last year. It is something I have readily available. When buying sweet potatoes vs coffee, I would just stock up on coffee. This is work, but a doable alternative when coffee is too expensive. It happened in the last 1800s during the Civil War and during the great depression in the 1930s.

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