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My husband has been obsessed with chocolate coffee beans ever since we visited the Mountain Thunder coffee plantain on the Big Island of Hawaii. Because the last jar of the treats he bought was from some random company and a little disappointing, we decided to make our own. The first time we made them, we started by individually removing each bean with a fork. Can you say tedious? Then we got the awesome idea to make chocolate coffee clusters instead of battling with individual beans and, finally, I got the idea to add a honey caramel sauce. This recipe is the result of several batches of experimentation to create delicious chocolate coffee clusters that costs less than buying them from the store and tastes far better!
As you may know, my husband is a Navy nuke. He’s currently in PNEO (a two month long school he has to attend) and these chocolate coffee beans are his secret weapon to staying awake though day after day of working problems, diagrams, and studying. He stays at his desk through lunch, munching on these guys and eating other items brought from home, and leaves earlier than everyone else who went out to lunch and couldn’t stay awake during the day! His being home at a normal, human time is a pleasant change from usual submarine hours, and I’m happy to keep on making chocolate coffee clusters for as long as it helps. =)
Because the caramel is made with honey instead of corn syrup, the honey tends to separate out slightly and form a sort of honey layer on top, which I think is pretty awesome! It does mean, however, that this particular caramel recipe isn’t as useful for creating caramel candies. If you’re interested in that, please check out my pecan bourbon caramels recipe. We’ve used milk chocolate, which chocolate, and dark chocolate to make these clusters, but I like Hershey’s Special Dark best. It has more flavor than milk chocolate, but more sweetness than true dark chocolate. This helps balance the coffee beans‘ bitterness to create an amazing flavor.
You can, of course, not add the caramel, but it is super delicious. Because the quantity is small, it’s pretty quick and easy to make up, and you don’t have to stress about temperatures as much because it doesn’t have to solidify into something you can cut into candies. If you do want to add the caramel, I recommend making the clusters and then starting on the caramel. This will make your life much easier because you won’t have three different pots on the stove at once!
As a side note: If you ever visit Big Island, make sure to stop by a coffee plantation. I’m sure they’re all fine to visit, but we went to the upland Mountain Thunder plantation (they have two) and enjoyed a wonderful, complementary tour led by a very enthusiastic lady who does all their roasting. They are a small operation and only have two roasters, if I remember correctly, and do not wholesale their coffee to many places outside of Hawaii because they believe coffee shouldn’t sit on a shelf and go stale. Instead, you can order it directly from them and they’ll mail it to you, freshly roasted and packaged just for you.
In case you’ve ever wondered, these are the coffee “berries” before they’ve been processed into what we recognize as coffee.
Aren’t they cool looking? But, anyway, on to the recipe!
For the clusters
For the caramel
For the clusters
For the caramel
You can allow the clusters to cool at room temperature, but it will probably take a maddeningly long time. It’s incredible how quickly chocolate melts and how long it takes to resolidify! Of course, being in Hawaii without air conditioning probably contributes to the length of time my chocolate takes to cool, so you may not need the fridge.
Once the clusters are cool, you can simply peel them off the paper. They keep best in an air tight container or zip top bag. If it’s warm in your home, you can keep them in the fridge, but it isn’t particularly necessary. I have no idea what kind of shelf life they might have because a batch hasn’t lasted more than a week at home!
Do you enjoy making your own versions of store-bought items? What’s your favorite thing to make that other people tend to buy?