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Pro Baker’s Secret to the Richest Chocolate Flavor Ever — Just Add a Pinch of *This*

It's amazing how a little ground coffee can bring up the chocolate notes in baked goods

There’s nothing quite like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie still warm from the oven — slightly crispy, a bit chewy and full of buttery, sugary, chocolaty goodness. We love enjoying one (or two!) with a cup of hot coffee, but as it turns out, coffee and cookies go together in more ways than one. In fact, many pro bakers add a bit of java right to their batter and consider it a secret ingredient for the best-ever cookies. And when we tried the easy trick, we had to agree. Read on to learn how coffee works to enhance flavors like chocolate, then keep scrolling for coffee cookie recipes to satisfy any craving.

Why coffee pairs well with chocolate

The main benefit of adding coffee to your cookies isn’t to make your cookies taste like coffee. In fact, adding coffee to certain cookie recipes won’t actually add a coffee flavor at all. So what’s the point? Like salt, coffee is a flavor enhancer, especially for chocolate. Research at Aarhus University in Denmark in 2020 found that the bitter compounds in coffee intensify the flavors in chocolate. Adding coffee to recipes that use chocolate makes them taste more ‘chocolaty’ without additional sugar.

How to add coffee to baked goods

Coffee is such a great add-in for chocolate baked goods that King Arthur Flour (KAF) created espresso powder — a finely ground coffee powder made specifically for adding to baked goods, and all you need is 1 tsp. for a whole batch. The company raves that you can think of espresso powder “as a supporting actor that helps the star ingredient shine, much like a pinch of salt takes the flavor of cookies from flat to robust.”

That said, you don’t have to go out of your way for a special ingredient: “Instant coffee is a popular choice because it dissolves easily and is also bitter,” explains chef Jason Phillips, recipe developer and contributing editor for Also The Crumbs Please. “Bitterness is key to the cookie because of the balance of flavors.” You can take your pick from brands available in the supermarket.

You can also use decaf coffee, says Daniel P. Craig, chef and founder of Kitchen Deets, though the amount of caffeine in cookies made with regular coffee isn’t enough to give you a buzz if you only eat a few. “It’s more likely that the sugars and carbohydrates in the cookie itself will offer more energy than the caffeine from the coffee,” adds April Brown, creator of Level Up Bakes. Still, decaf coffee is a good choice for those who are sensitive to caffeine.

Recipes for chocolate coffee cookies

Want to see the power of chocolate and coffee in action? Simply add 1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder to your favorite recipe. Or bake up a batch of one of the cookies below. (And click through to see how you can pair chocolate and coffee in another way: the chocolate espresso martini.)

1. Rich Chocolate-Espresso Cookies

close up of chocolate coffee cookies on white plate
Chatri Attanatwong/Getty

Why bake ordinary chocolate-chip cookies when you can have these ultra-indulgent treats?

Makes 28 cookies.


  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. instant espresso powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt


  1. Heat chocolate in microwave on High in 30-second intervals, stirring occassionally, until melted.
  2. At medium speed beat butter and cocoa until combined. Increase speed to medium-high; beat in sugars until fluffy, 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in flour, espresso powder and salt. Stir in chocolate. Refrigerate dough until firm, 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into balls; place at least 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Press remaining candy onto cookies. Bake 9-10 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute. Transfer to racks; cool.

2. Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip coffee cookies on a table

Coffee punches up the flavor factor in these classic chocolate chip cookies to make them the best ones ever.

Makes 24 cookies


  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips, 2 cups


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine flour, wheat germ, baking powder, soda and salt; reserve.
  2. In small bowl, combine vanilla and coffee granules until dissolved.
  3. In large bowl on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla mixture until smooth.
  4. Gradually beat in flour mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Drop dough by rounded 2 tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  6. Cool 2 minutes. Transfer from pans to racks; cool completely.

Bonus for coffee lovers: coffee-flavored cookies

Got extra espresso powder or instant coffee, and inspired to try it in other baked goods? Give these coffee cookies a go. They’re exactly what they sound like: cookies using coffee as an ingredient and as a primary flavor. If you love coffee ice cream and other coffee desserts, they might be your among new favorites. The only thing better than having some cookies with your coffee? Combing the two in one delicious treat! Check out the coffee cookie recipes below.

1. Coffee Cookies

Overhead view of coffee cookies next to cup of coffee

These coffee cookies from Bonni Bakery are packed with straight-up coffee flavor, and they’re ready in under 20 minutes.

Makes 12 cookies.


  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs. espresso powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt


  1. Melt the butter in the microwave, then pour into a bowl with both the sugars and mix together.
  2. Mix the espresso powder with some hot water. Add the sugar/butter mixture to the espresso paste and stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the egg, vanilla and dry ingredients and mix into a soft dough.
  4. Chill for 30 minutes, and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Spoon walnut-sized scoops of dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes, let cook for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, and transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

2. Cinnamon-Coffee Cookies

These cinnamon-infused coffee cookies by Crissy Page of Dear Crissy are the perfect cozy treat.

Makes 36 cookies.


  • 1 Tbs. instant coffee crystals
  • 1 Tbs. hot water
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour


  1. Dissolve the coffee into hot water.
  2. Mix butter and shortening until combined, about 45 seconds. Add sugars, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and cloves.
  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla and coffee mixture.
  4. Slowly beat in flour until combined. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, stir together ⅓ cup granulated sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon.
  6. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, roll in cinnamon sugar to coat, and place 3 inches apart on lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool for 3 to 4 minutes before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling.

Click through for more delicious desserts:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies Are *The* Ultimate Fall Treat — 2 Delicious, Easy Recipes

Peanut Butter Desserts Everyone Will Go Nuts Over — 8 Best-Ever Recipes

Blueberry Cookies Are the Ultimate Soft and Chewy Treat — 3 Success Secrets + 2 Recipes

Our Test Kitchen Director’s Favorite Chocolate Fudge Cake Recipe — Plus 7 Bonus Desserts You’ll Love  

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