How To Grow Chicory For Coffee: Best Cultivation Tips & Tricks

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Key Takeaways

  • Chicory can be a great coffee substitute, and it’s possible to grow it even in urban spaces.
  • To start, you need to understand chicory’s role in coffee and select the right variety for cultivation.
  • Choosing a good location with rich or adaptable soil is crucial for chicory growth.
  • Sowing seeds properly and caring for the seedlings will ensure a healthy chicory plant.
  • Harvesting at the right time and roasting the roots are key steps to creating your own chicory coffee.

A Seed-to-Cup Guide for Chicory Coffee Lovers

Ever thought about where your coffee comes from? Or, have you considered an alternative that you can grow right at home? That’s where chicory enters the scene. Known for its rich, slightly woody, and nutty flavor, chicory has been used as a coffee substitute or complement for ages. And the good news is, it’s something you can grow in your own urban garden.

Let’s dive into the world of chicory and transform your coffee routine with a homegrown twist!

Understanding Chicory’s Role in Coffee

First off, what exactly is chicory? It’s a flowering plant in the dandelion family, with roots that, when roasted and ground, have a similar flavor to coffee. Some people blend it with coffee to add depth and reduce caffeine, while others use it as a standalone caffeine-free alternative. It’s especially popular in New Orleans, where chicory coffee is a local staple.

Why grow chicory for coffee? Besides its unique taste, chicory is rich in inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that can benefit digestive health. It’s also adaptable to various growing conditions and can be a rewarding project for urban gardeners looking for something a bit different.

Steps for Cultivating Your Own Chicory

Ready to start your chicory journey? Here are the steps we’ll cover to grow and prepare your own chicory coffee:

  • Selecting the right location and soil
  • Choosing the best chicory variety for coffee
  • Sowing seeds and caring for seedlings
  • Maintaining your plants and troubleshooting common issues
  • Harvesting and roasting chicory roots
  • Grinding and brewing your chicory coffee

Chicory Unearthed: A Coffee Alternative

Chicory’s history as a coffee substitute dates back centuries, especially during times when coffee was scarce or expensive. Its roots, once dried and roasted, produce a beverage with no caffeine and a flavor that’s reminiscent of coffee but with its own distinct character.

Most importantly, chicory is more than just a backup option for coffee; it’s a standalone drink with a loyal following. And when you grow it yourself, you get the added satisfaction of knowing exactly where your morning cup comes from.

The Roots of Coffee’s Companion Plant

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a hardy perennial that’s not only useful for its roots but also offers edible leaves and beautiful blue flowers. It’s a plant that keeps on giving throughout its growth cycle.

Therefore, when you decide to grow chicory for coffee, you’re also adding a versatile and attractive plant to your urban garden.

Preparation for Planting: Chicory Cultivation Basics

Before we get our hands dirty, let’s set the stage for a successful chicory crop. You’ll need to think about the location, the soil, and the variety of chicory you want to grow.

Selecting the Ideal Location

Chicory isn’t too picky, but it does best in a spot with full sun to partial shade. If you’re working with a balcony or small urban garden, find the sunniest spot you can. The plant will also need well-drained soil to thrive. If you’re dealing with less-than-ideal soil, don’t worry—chicory is quite adaptable and can even improve your soil over time.

Because chicory has a deep taproot, it’s important to choose a location where the soil is loose and deep enough to accommodate this growth. If you’re planting in containers, make sure they’re deep enough for the roots to fully develop.

Choosing Chicory Varieties for Coffee

Not all chicory is created equal when it comes to making coffee. You’ll want to look for varieties known for their large and fleshy roots, as these are the best for roasting and grinding. ‘Magdeburg’ and ‘Witloof’ are two popular choices for coffee production.

When you’re ready to purchase seeds, make sure they’re from a reputable source. This ensures that you’re getting the right variety and that the seeds haven’t been treated with any chemicals that could harm your health or the environment. For more guidance, check out this article on how to grow chicory from seeds.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of growing your own chicory. From seed to harvest, every step is an adventure and a lesson in patience and care.

Sowing Seeds for Success

With your seeds in hand and your spot picked out, it’s time to plant. The best time to sow chicory seeds is in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. Sprinkle the seeds onto well-prepared soil and cover them lightly, about a quarter-inch deep. Keep the soil moist but not waterlogged, and you should see sprouts in 1 to 2 weeks.

Remember, chicory seeds need light to germinate, so don’t bury them too deep. Space your seeds or thin your seedlings to about 6-8 inches apart, as chicory plants need room to spread their leaves and roots.

Caring for Chicory Seedlings

Once your chicory sprouts, the real work begins. Your seedlings will need regular watering, especially during dry spells, to develop strong roots. But be careful not to overwater, as standing water can lead to root rot and other diseases. For more detailed guidance, consider reading about how to grow chicory from seeds.

As your chicory grows, keep an eye out for slugs and snails, which find young leaves irresistible. A simple barrier of crushed eggshells or diatomaceous earth around your plants can deter these pests.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

As your chicory plants mature, they’ll become more drought-resistant. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore them. Regular check-ins will help you spot any issues early on.

Understanding Watering Needs

Chicory plants prefer consistent moisture. During the growing season, aim for about an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or supplemental watering. This will help the plant develop a robust root system, which is vital for a good chicory coffee harvest.

On the flip side, too much water can be just as detrimental as too little. If you notice yellowing leaves or a lack of growth, ease up on the watering and check the drainage around your plants.

Managing Weeds and Pests

Weeds compete with your chicory for nutrients and water, so keep your growing area weed-free. Mulching around your plants can help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.

When it comes to pests, aphids and flea beetles might take an interest in your chicory. A strong blast of water from a hose can knock aphids off the plants, while floating row covers can protect against flea beetles.

Harvesting: Reaping Your Coffee Rewards

After months of caring for your chicory, it’s finally time to harvest. But when and how do you do it? For a detailed guide, check out how to grow chicory from seeds.

When and How to Harvest Roots

  • Wait until the leaves start to yellow in the fall, signaling that the plant is ready to be harvested.
  • Use a garden fork to gently lift the roots out of the ground, being careful not to break them.
  • Shake off any excess soil and rinse the roots with water.
  • Trim off the leaves and let the roots dry for a day or two before roasting.

Harvesting chicory roots is a bit like digging for buried treasure. The anticipation as you loosen the soil and the satisfaction when you pull up a healthy, plump root is one of the joys of gardening.

Once you’ve harvested your roots, it’s time for the final steps in your chicory coffee journey: curing and roasting.

Curing and Roasting Chicory Roots

Curing the roots is a simple process that involves letting them dry in a warm, well-ventilated area for a couple of weeks. This concentrates the sugars and flavors, making for a better-tasting coffee substitute.

When the roots are dry and brittle, cut them into small pieces and roast them in your oven at around 350°F (175°C) until they turn a rich brown color. The roasting process is what gives chicory its coffee-like flavor, so keep a close eye on the roots as they can quickly go from perfectly roasted to burnt.

Once roasted, let the roots cool and then grind them as you would coffee beans. Now, you’re ready to brew!

From Ground Root to Ground Coffee

Brewing chicory coffee is much like brewing regular coffee. You can use a drip coffee maker, a French press, or any method you prefer. Start with a tablespoon of ground chicory root per cup of water and adjust to your taste.

And there you have it—a cup of homegrown, caffeine-free chicory coffee. This rich, earthy brew might just become your new morning ritual. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and the knowledge that you’ve created something truly special from seed to cup.

Stay tuned for the final part of our chicory coffee guide, where we’ll answer some frequently asked questions and share tips for perfecting your chicory coffee blend.


Now, let’s address some common questions you might have about growing chicory for coffee. These FAQs will help you understand the process better and ensure your chicory coffee adventure is a success.

What is the best time of year to plant chicory for coffee?

The best time to plant chicory seeds is in early spring, just as the threat of frost has passed and the soil can be worked. Chicory prefers cooler temperatures for its initial growth, so starting in spring gives the plants a full growing season before harvesting in the fall.

How long does it take for chicory to grow?

Chicory plants typically take about 120 to 150 days to mature. You’ll know they’re ready for harvest when the leaves begin to yellow and wilt in the fall. This is when the roots are at their peak for coffee production.

  • Planting to sprouting: 1-2 weeks
  • Seedling to mature plant: 3-4 months
  • Overall growth cycle: 4-5 months

Can chicory be harvested more than once a season?

Chicory is a perennial plant, which means it can live for several years. However, the roots are typically harvested only once. If you leave some root material in the ground, the plant may regrow, but for coffee purposes, it’s best to harvest the entire root after the first growing season for the highest quality brew.

Is chicory coffee caffeine-free?

Yes, chicory root coffee is naturally caffeine-free. It’s a fantastic option for those looking to reduce their caffeine intake or for those who enjoy a coffee-like beverage without the stimulant effects.

How does chicory coffee taste compared to regular coffee?

Chicory coffee has a unique taste that is somewhat similar to coffee but with its own distinct nuances. It’s known for its woodsy, nutty flavor profile and can have hints of chocolate. Some describe it as slightly sweeter and less acidic than traditional coffee. It’s a rich and full-bodied drink that many enjoy on its own or blended with coffee to add depth and complexity to the brew.

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