If you found yourself here, then you may have heard about brewing cacao or were recommended to try it and wish to learn more. There is a lot of information out there regarding cacao brew and its health properties, but there’s also a lot of misinformation out there as well, or at least vague information at best. At Captain’s Chocolate, we have full control over our entire supply chain so we can discuss just what is cacao brew and how it’s made.
What is Cacao?
A significant percentage of the population could not tell you the difference between cacao and cocoa. We have a great article that breaks down the differences between the two products, but for now we’ll keep it short. Cacao refers to the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate originating from the cacao tree (known as Theobroma cacao). Cocoa is the processed form of cacao that’s ready to be made into chocolate products. That’s the quick and simple. Below is a photo of our raw cacao beans drying in our custom-made drying rack, soon to be roasted and shipped to our facility in Wisconsin.
Raw, or unprocessed, cacao beans are roasted and then coarsely ground into cacao nibs and then sometimes into ground cacao for brewing. You can eat whole roasted cacao beans just like you could a roasted coffee bean. However, most people prefer them to be ground up and used in other products, similar to how most people drink their coffee instead of just eating the beans.
How Does it Become Brew?
Now that you’re more familiar with cacao is, let’s talk about how it becomes a brew. Technically, you can make brew from our cacao nibs. You would need to further grind them, preferably with a burr grinder, and then you’d steep it the same way you would our ground cacao brew. For your convenience, though, we grind the cacao nibs for you with the intention to be brewed. Additionally, our cacao brew has some of the husks included in the ground cacao which provide even more nutritional value to the brew and gives the brew a deeper flavor than with just nibs alone.
How to Brew it?
There are many ways to brew cacao. The most popular and widely used is the French Press. This method is the easiest as you simply add the ground cacao to the press, some boiling water, and let it steep for 10 - 15 minutes.
Another method is using a mesh filter. You boil some water in a pot and then add your ground cacao to the pot and let it simmer / steep. Once it’s finished steeping, you can pour it through a fine mesh strainer into your mug. Some mesh filters can be placed into the mug with the brew nestled inside the filter at which point the filter can be lifted out of the water with the submerged ground for easier handling.
One other way we can provide you a convenient cacao brewing experience is we sell mesh teabags that you can fill with the ground cacao yourself and then steep it like you would a typical teabag. Each serving is two tablespoons, so this method is easy to replicate, and you can even make a handful for future brewing occasions.
Reasons to Brew Cacao Instead of Coffee
Brewing cacao has many health benefits and makes a great coffee alternative. In this write-up, we'll be going over the many benefits of cacao and why you should probably be including it into your daily routine. If you only want some fast facts, check out our previous article that jumps right into the health benefits of our brewed cacao.
For starters, cacao brew has much lower caffeine than coffee. Brewed cacao still contains caffeine, so if you cannot have any caffeine, this beverage may not be for you. Be careful when researching other companies that sell ground cacao and advertise as "caffeine-free" because nearly all cacao derived products have caffeine. This means they decaffeinate their cacao beans (and aren't disclosing it) or are outright misleading you to promote their product. Cacao husks alone can make a good cacao tea but still contains caffeine, albeit less than the fruit itself, but this should be disclosed so you can make a better choice. While cacao husk tea is very good for your health, it doesn't have the same nutritional density as brewed cacao from the nibs with the husks included. This is why we combine a mixture of the husks and the nibs in our brew, so you are exposed to a wider range of nutritional density and flavor.
Contains theobromine, the unique quality of brewed cacao. Theobromine is the compound that naturally occurs in the cacao tree, otherwise known as the "theobroma cacao". Theobromine acts much like caffeine, but there are some differences. Both are stimulants; however, caffeine is much more potent in its effects than theobromine which is why many people tend to avoid coffee and teas. Some examples being the jitteriness that accompanies too much caffeine and increased heart rate. While theobromine can also increase your heart rate, as it's still a stimulant, it's much lower than caffeine.
Theobromine has a longer half-life than caffeine, which means its benefits, such as mood enhancing and improved circulation, will last longer and require less servings than caffeine.
If you're looking for anti-inflammatory properties, then brewed cacao is what you're looking for. Theobromine helps reduce inflammation and has been shown to be beneficial to those with respiratory conditions such as asthma. Coffee has been shown to exhibit some anti-inflammatory properties as well, but not because of the caffeine but its other polyphenols.
Let's talk antioxidants. Cacao is very high polyphenols, providing another excellent reason as to why you should start including our cacao brew into your diet. Cacao has one of the highest polyphenol counts in the agricultural world, putting it higher than most berries. And if you're unfamiliar with polyphenols, to put it simply, they are compounds found in plant food that work as antioxidants in the body. And you probably already know that antioxidants have a significant impact on our health ranging from reducing risk from chronic illness, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and cellular degradation. The more antioxidants you can consistently include in your diet, the better.
Another great reason to drink our brewed cacao is it has less acidity. Personally speaking, I cannot have coffee too late in the day as the acidity will give me some heartburn. Brewed cacao has a high pH which means it has a lower acidity than coffee. While the pH can vary, it's generally agreed upon that cacao brew is more alkaline than coffee with a pH value of greater than six and coffee is below five.
For a more detailed explanation of pH levels, we'll refer you to sciencenotes.org if you'd like a reference. Here's a graph that'll paint a better picture, provided by Science Notes. To sum up the acidity benefit, brewed cacao is closer to milk in acidity while coffee is closer to wine. If you're not deeply sensitive to caffeine, you can pretty much drink our brew any time of the day.
We've covered the benefits of drinking our brewed cacao, but let's talk about how you can customize it. One of the many questions we get is can you put anything in your cacao brew and if so, what? You're in luck, you can pretty much add anything as you would your coffee, but you may need to adjust the amount. Some coffees are very strong and cacao brew may not reach those levels of boldness. We recommend going a bit lighter on your milk and sugar at first and then add more as needed. The same goes for flavored creamers. Feel free to experiment with different flavors. We like a bit of cream and sugar with our brew and on fancier occasions we'll even add some whipped cream! But for the most part, you're safe to add anything you'd like to your brew to satisfy your cacao needs. We've even had some customers add maple syrup to theirs! If you find any good flavor combinations, please let us know.
We're hoping that after reading this brew guide about our cacao drink, you'll be more informed on why brewed cacao is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to coffee and green or black teas. Before, the most common alternative was going to be herbal teas that contain mostly ginger or berries, among other herbs and spices. However, we're learning about how amazing brewed cacao is and how it gives you another choice to either replace coffee or simply increase your theobromine intake. Whether for taste or the health benefits, you cannot go wrong with a cup of brewed cacao. You can even make it a cold brew similarly to how you'd make coffee! So on the hot days you can still enjoy that delicious, smooth cacao drink.
If you have any questions regarding our cacao brew, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We read every message that comes through our contact form. We appreciate your support, and we hope we can continue to provide you with the highest quality cacao you can find. We also hope this guide cleared up any misconceptions you've read online about brewed cacao. Our goal is to be transparent and up-front with you about our product.