Chaff is a bit of a maligned byproduct of coffee production. The husk of the coffee seed, chaff is the tannish papery stuff you find in your coffee, often still stuck in the little fold-looking section of the bean. Chaff isn’t necessarily great for the flavor of a cup of coffee, and some go through great lengths to remove it before brewing—including 2019 World Brewers Cup champion Du Jianing, who ground her coffee twice, one very coarsely and then again to a more fine grind, so that she could more easily remove the chaff before brewing.
But that doesn’t mean chaff is useless—it’s great for composting—or tastes bad even. New Zealand coffee company Kōkako has put that last assertion to the test by creating sweet treats using the roasting byproduct. Step aside, sprinkles, coffee chaff is the new ice cream topping du jour.
Originally appearing at Auckland’s first-ever Ferment Festival, Kōkako collaborated with chef Plabita Florence of Forest Pop-Ups (and the former head of kitchen at their flagship Grey Lynn cafe) to create a fun way to “serve chaff to a larger audience in more of a bite-size manner.” And what’s more fun than ice cream? Nothing, that’s what. The team ultimately landed on “a fermented feijoa coconut ice cream with a dusting of coffee chaff and sea salt,” which sounds absolutely wild and divine all at the same time.
While the ice cream might be their most delicious confectionary use of chaff, it is by no means Kōkako’s first use of a coffee byproduct. The company has for years worked with coffee’s most popular byproduct—cascara—to create a variety of kombuchas, creating new revenue streams for producers, and their chaff has been a go-to compost material for local gardeners for some time now.
With the Ferment Festival now in the rearview, so too is the chaff-topped ice cream, but perhaps not forever. Kōkako has a new cafe expected to open September of this year in Auckland’s Commercial Bay precinct where chaff “will likely make it onto the menu of our new espresso and brew bar,” per Managing Director Mike Murphy. And yes, some iteration of the coffee chaff ice cream is most likely to make a triumphant return with the new location.
As the coffee industry continues to struggle with the impact it has on the world, it's good to see companies like Kōkako finding new and inventive ways to use byproducts that would otherwise end up in the trash. Will eating coffee chaff ice cream empty the landfills, clean out the oceans, and patch the hole in the ozone? No, but it is this sort of mindfulness that will help boost coffee's sustainability quotient. And who can be mad about eating ice cream to help save the planet?
All images via Kōkako