Cooking Tips

Use Instant Espresso Powder to Take Your Brownies from Good to Great

It’s the brownie baker’s secret weapon.

Published May 18, 2023.

When we set out to make a brownie recipe with the same chew as boxed-mix versions but far superior chocolate flavor, we already knew what secret ingredient to turn to for the latter: instant espresso powder.

Instant espresso powder is a brownie baker’s secret weapon. Just a pinch amplifies chocolate flavor considerably, making it more intense and complex. In addition to brownies, we also use it as a background ingredient in chocolate cakes and cookies.

200+ Recipes

Everything Chocolate

A recipe collection that covers it all—in chocolate. This is the definitive guide to any chocolate treat you crave, for any time of day.
Save 43% Right Now

So what exactly is instant espresso powder? There’s regular instant coffee and then there’s instant espresso. It’s made by brewing espresso-style coffee, dehydrating it, and grinding the solids into a fine powder. (And no, it won’t make your baked goods taste like a cup of joe; in side-by-side tests, we’ve found that a small amount pumps up the chocolate flavor without imparting a noticeable coffee presence.)

We also found that the specific espresso powder you use actually makes a difference. When our expert taste testers reviewed espresso powder, the product from Civilized performed best.

How Much Espresso Powder to Add to Brownies

Next time you make a batch of brownies—whether it’s homemade or boxed mix, vegan, or triple-chocolate—try mixing just a small amount into the batter to pump up the chocolate flavor. All it takes is 1½ teaspoons per 9-by-13 batch.

If you want to try this but don’t have instant espresso powder, you can replace it with the same amount of instant coffee or ground espresso beans. But don’t try using regular ground coffee; it’ll leave a clear taste of coffee and gritty grounds that you’ll be picking out of your teeth.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

This is a members' feature.