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Making Reproduction Extract of Coffee

For use in a modern-day encampment; a close copy may be made by combining instant coffee and Condensed milk. Condensed milk is the original, thick, heavy-sugar product invented by Dr.Borden in the 1830s. Although other brands may be found, I like to use “Borden’s” brand condensed milk. It brings me just a little closer to the original. Do not use evaporated milk. It is not thick enough and does not contain sugar.

After unsuccessful experiments with liquid coffee and Italian espresso, I tried present day instant espresso mixed with Borden’s or Eagle brand condensed milk. I had to go to several groceries to find instant espresso, but it is out there. I think that this mix makes a very close copy of the original. I think that coffee prepared from ordinary American roast is not quite strong enough. Nestles makes an instant dark roast if you can’t get instant espresso.


Place one half cup of instant coffee crystals in a cup and add a few drops of boiling water.

Use as little water as possible, adding just a few drops at a time. It doesn’t take much water to break down the coffee crystals. When the crystals have barely dissolved, you should have no more than a teaspoonful of water mixed into the half cupful of coffee powder. You can mix the dry crystals directly into the condensed milk but this makes the extract look spotty and it takes more labor to mix.

Next, empty one can of Borden’s condensed milk into a suitable bowl. You may heat the condensed milk slightly in the microwave or on the stove. This is not necessary but will help with the mixing. Now mix the coffee paste into the condensed milk until it is all blended together.

The resultant Extract of Coffee will be a thick paste that looks like liquid fudge. Pack the Extract of Coffee in any suitable container. One tablespoon of the Extract of Coffee, mixed into a tin cup of hot water will produce Civil War instant coffee, as made from Extract of Coffee, one of the most popular but long-forgotten food items issued to the Federal troops.

Reprinted from Civil War Reenactors Forum 

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