UPDATE: While I have made 7 successful batches, it appears that many folks are running into trouble with this recipe. I recently made an 8th batch and it failed to gel. I will do my best to sit down and trouble shoot this recipe. In the meantime, a failed batch can be thickened and then re-canned by brewing an extra strong double batch of coffee and chilling it. You can whisk 1/2 cup of Clear Jel (not instant) or another canning starch into half of the cooled coffee, then whisk THAT into the batch of jelly in the pan. Place over high heat and stir constantly to bring to a boil. The Clear Jel should thicken it to spreadable consistency. If it is still not ‘gelled’, you can repeat with a one-tablespoon-to-one-tablespoon addition of Clear Jel to cold coffee, returning to a boil, until it reaches desired consistency. This will thicken it without adversely affecting the flavour. This can then be canned.
My husband lives, breathes, sleeps, drinks, and eats coffee. I mean REALLY. We tea drinkers often get a reputation as being high maintenance, but my husband takes the cake with his coffee rules. The guy opts to drive rather than fly on all business trips under 12 hours so he can take HIS coffee and HIS coffee maker with him. He gets it delivered automatically every month through Amazon.com because running out of coffee? Well, that’s simply unacceptable.
His love for coffee runs to all things coffee related with the singular exception of coffee yogurt which just “isn’t right”. So after our grand trip to the Western Caribbean a couple of months ago which included a stop in Honduras where they had roughly 4 million coffee related gift shops he was in coffee lover’s heaven. One of the shops in Roatán sold coffee jelly. The moment I saw it, I knew I’d be making it at home. How could I not?
I got home and started experimenting, beginning with my go-to pectin: Pomona’s Universal Pectin. I use Pomona’s for all the jams and jellies I make here during the summer and fall months. It has never failed me and so I expected it to perform like a treat here. I was beyond shocked when my first 4-cups-of-coffee batch failed to set. “No problem! It’s coffee syrup!” I thought, and handed it out to friends as such. I increased the pectin in Batch 2, and had a slightly thicker syrup, but still no set! What the heck? Batches 3, 4, and 5 were made after consulting with their helpline, but still yielded a thick syrup that was most certainly not a jelly. At this point, I had blown through 14 cups of coffee (the last two batches having been smaller, experimental sized batches) and finally decided to throw a Hail Mary by using a box of my long-ago-abandoned SureJell. I went all in with another 4-cup batch (because SureJell doesn’t lend itself to increasing or decreasing the batch size) and held my breath after removing the processed jars from the pot of hot water.
It was PERFECT. It had the ideal jelly texture and viscosity and was a sight to behold.
Upon reflection (and discussion with my sister who is also a devoted Pomona’s user), I think the reason Pomona’s failed here when it has never failed before is a quirky one. Pomona’s gelling action is activated by a low sugar environment (which I used in my experiments) and the addition of calcium water. Coffee has been proven to leach calcium from bones (it’s on the watch list of foods to avoid if you have osteoporosis) so my theory is that it prevents the calcium water from activating the pectin. Like I said… it’s a theory, but it’s the only reason I can think of that Pomona’s wouldn’t do the job it’s so good at doing.
…And that is the story both of how SureJell found a small place on my shelves (next to the Pomona’s) for one single use, and how I blew through a 32 ounce bag of my husband’s coffee beans and he was relegated to eating a jar of Coffee Jelly for breakfast and was quite surly until I overnighted a new bag here the next day from Amazon. Ahem. Whoops. Sorry, honey.
- I’m going to go ahead and say it. SureJell is the best option for pectin here. Pomona’s failed absolutely in every single variation I tried. I have not experimented with Dutch Gel, but that might work! Please let me know if you try it with that.
- Dont’ get weirded out by the presence of lemon juice in the recipe. For starters, it’s absolutely necessary to make this a safe item to can. The acidity is what prevents microbial growth in the jar, so it’s not optional to omit it. Secondly, though, you really don’t taste it. It does a good job of brightening the coffee flavour without being overtly lemony. (Besides this, there are nations in the world where serving lemon with coffee is pretty standard!)
- Don’t be tempted to diminish the amount of sugar in the recipe. SureJell is designed to work with a specific range of sugar and this recipe was tested using exactly 5 1/2 cups of the sweet stuff. In order to make it lower sugar, you have to use a low-sugar pectin, and my experiments with that (specifically Pomona’s) were abject failures. Think of this as a sweet treat.
- Are you wondering what to do with a batch of Coffee Jelly? Do you have coffee lovers in your life? Give them a jar for the holidays! Coffee Jelly is a great Christmas stocking stuffer! You can spread it on toast or do like my husband loves: spoon onto Simple French Toast then top with whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder!
- This jelly is a great beginning canning project. If you need help with canning basics, SEE THIS PAGE.
- 4 cups VERY strongly brewed coffee, preferably a darker roast
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 5 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 box SureJell Pectin
- 5 to 6 (8 ounce) jelly jars with new two-piece lids.
- Stir the coffee and lemon juice together in a 4 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and SureJell Pectin. Add the sugar to the boiling coffee mixture all at once, and whisk vigorously for 2 minutes, or until the pectin and sugar are fully dissolved into the solution. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil, and boil for exactly 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, ladle into clean 8 ounce jars, wipe the rims with a damp paper towel, and screw on new, two-piece lids until fingertip tight.
- Use the Boiling Water Bath method to process the jars for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer to a cooling rack or a tea towel on the counter and let cool, undisturbed, overnight. After the jars are cooled, remove the rings, wipe clean, and label. The jelly should be stored in a dark place -preferably a cool one- free of temperature fluctuations. It is best used within the year.