Coffee aka Altrei Lupine Update

Back in January, I wrote about coffee substitutes.  We bought Altrei “coffee” seeds from Richters.  There were 10 seeds in the package which is not surprising considering that this isn’t exactly a mainstream plant.  Culturally, it seems that Altrei coffee nearly died out.  We had 100% germination. Growth was so vigorous that we had to pot them up into 6 1/2″ pots.






After potting up, two of of the plants wilted and died.  The eight remaining plants were planted out on June 5 and had to be staked because they were a bit leggy from growing inside with insufficient light.  Three weeks later, we had the first flower bud and the first flower on June 27.



The flowers are spectacular. The photos don’t do them justice.  By July 9, we were seeing the first seed pod.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  The wild lupins (lupinus perennisthat we grow have as many as 8 seeds in a pod but those seeds are tiny by comparison.  If this lupin had as many seeds, the pods would be huge.  As it turned out, the largest pod contained three seeds. As the pods ripened, they turned from green to beige.

The first harvest of seeds on August 14 gave us more that twice as many seeds as we started with! We harvested the last of the seeds today for a total of 216 seeds.

Needless to say, we are quite pleased with this result.

Now it’s time for coffee.  This will take some experimenting and we don’t have a lot of seeds to experiment with.  Assuming that this year’s germination rate and seed production are repeated next year, we’ll put aside 30 seeds hoping for 650 seeds next year and process the rest.  We have barley that we grew for sprouting but we’ll probably use it with the Altrei lupins. So far so good although we’ll wait until after the first snow when the outdoor garden activity is over for the year and we have more time.

More pictures.

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46 Responses to Coffee aka Altrei Lupine Update

  1. Jill Goodridge says:

    HI! Thanks for a great report… which zone are you growing in please? I have been gazing at Richter’s for some time, hope to get this order in before the end of shipping season. (Massachusetts).

  2. cyra says:

    Mike, I first saw your comments on “Altrei Kaffee” lupines at Richters, and didn’t realize you weren’t discussing growing Coffee (Arabica). Now that I do, have you found a way to reduce the alkaloidal content of your lupine beans? (If you plan on using them in coffee mixtures with other roasted grains, that is) Just curious. I think they’re beautiful as wildflowers, myself, much as chicory is beautiful, funny that it should have the same color, too.

  3. cyra says:

    Here’s a link on preparation:

    I don’t believe these beans were used alone, but in a mixture of other roasted grains. Don’t know if the beans were boiled and drained (to reduce alkaloidal content), before drying/roasting, or if they simply had a low alkaloid content variety of lupine.

    • MikeH says:

      Hello cyra,

      I spent some time trying to determine whether or not Lupinus pilosus was a sweet or bitter variety because of the alkaloidal content. I asked Conrad Richer if he he had any information and one of his contacts provided the following:

      All the information I have is that the Italian Department of health and food safety cleared Lupinus pilosus ( Altrei Coffee) as completely safe and harmless. Unlike the other Lupines that your friend speaks of, there seems to be absolutely nothing harmful about Altrei Coffee. The process as I have learned is quite simple, the “beans” are roasted and ground and then used like coffee!

      That further clarifies the comments about alkaloids in the article ‘Altreier Kaffee’: Lupinus pilosus L. cultivated as coffee substitute in Northern Italy

      And I was able to find some articles in German and Italian that describe the processing. The translation is clumsy but passable.

      Yes, the flower is spectacular. Much more dramatic than native lupins. I’ve been able to source some Australian white lupins which I’ll grow next year. White lupins are also mention in the German/Italian document.


  4. Denise Machin says:

    Richter’s has discontinued carrying Altrei Coffee, are there any other sources that you know of

    • MikeH says:

      Hi Denise,

      Send me your address(there’s a link up on the right corner of the blog page) and I’ll send you some. Hopefully, you’ll have a good harvest and be able to share with others.


  5. yardsnacker says:

    What I wouldn’t give to have some now that Richters has sold out!

    • MikeH says:


      Send me your address(there’s a link up on the right corner of the blog page) and I’ll send you some. Hopefully, you’ll have a good harvest and be able to share with others.


  6. Penny says:

    Do you know where I might find some of these beans? Thanks. Penny

  7. David Busch says:

    I don’t want to reduce your supply of seeds too low, but if you have even just four or five to spare, I sure would appreciate having them. But then, I’ll be happy without them, too! So, whatever. Thanks for your posts.

  8. Nathalie says:

    If you have some seeds…I’ll be glad to try this special drink.I find your comment when I search information about this altrei coffee.I live in Québec..many thanks

  9. MikeH says:

    Hi Nathalie,

    Yes, I have seeds to share. I’ve sent you an email.


  10. Interesting stuff mike, i wonder how it taste? is it coffee like, arabika or robusta? also is there any way i can get my hand on some seed’s? be gladly do a trade for it, regards

    • MikeH says:

      I doubt that it tastes anything like coffee. It’s a substitute and most coffee substitutes like chicory are very strong like espresso. Depending on one’s palate, the taste might even seem bitter. Where are you located?


  11. Helen Cons says:

    The seeds are all sold out, do you have a few for planting you could sell me? Let me know, Thank you, GREAT WORK!!! helen.

  12. Pierre Legault says:

    Hi Mike,

    I tried to get some Altrei seed from Richters last year but they were sold out and I decided to wait until this year to get some! I just read that they don’t keep the seed anymore! I

    Would it be possible to get a few seed from you to grow them and share them around Montreal?



  13. Linda Abbott says:

    Hi Mike, I’ve been curious about the Altrei coffee plant, too, and would like to get some seeds. Can you spare some? If not, perhaps you know of another source. I’m in B.C., in zone 3, so unsure if I can grow them here, though my garden area is sheltered.. Okay, thanks.

  14. frezineF says:

    Anyone know if there is danger of the flower/seeds being contaminated by other lupins in the garden? i have wild lupins from here, Vancouver Island, BC, from Nosehill in Calgary, AB, and commercially available lupins from seed. Don’t exactly want to poison myself!
    Another point of interest — you can also grow stevia, the plant, to sweeten your coffee — seeds at

    • MikeH says:

      Lupins are mostly out breeders so, yes, I think there is a chance that they will cross. I say mostly because apparently blue lupine (Lupinus angustifolius) and white lupin (Lupinus albus) are self pollinators. Some species are self-compatible, and in some of these pollination takes place within the flower before it opens (e.g., Lupinus albus). This article talks about cross-pollinated lupin species as L. nootkatensis Doon., L. mutabilis Sweet., L. arboreus Sims., L. perennis L., L. elegans H.B.K., L. hartwegii Lindl. and other forms promising for agricultural production and then goes on to talk about hybrids: L.mutabilis x L.polyphyllus, L. ornatus x L. mutabilis, L. pubescens x L. hartwegii, L. mutabilis x L. elegans, L. mutabilis x L. albococcineus, L. nootkatensis x L. arboreus, L. arboreus x L. hartwegii, L. mutabilis x L. douglasii. Altrei Lupine (L. Pilosus) is self-fertile but insects increase pod production – Rather than take a chance, whenever I’ve been concerned about crossing, I’ve caged the plants to prevent insect pollination. This year I’ll be growing a white lupin so I’ll be planting the Altrei lupins at another location.


  15. frezine says:

    Thanks for those two links Mike. You seem to know quite a bit about lupins and plant genetics. My high school biology is way back there. I understood only part of the literature. But I did find out a few things. Lupinus pilosus is the latin name for the Altrei lupin. Looks like it’s a self pollinator, but not at a 100% rate. Seems it has been cultivated in the old world for quite a while. Still used as fodder for cattle. Used roasted as a snack. Used to increase nitrogen content, as green manure. In fields around orchards to keep bees busy when trees are not yet in bloom. High quality honey. Used in brewed products. And of course, from the above discussion, roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute.

  16. hukari says:

    I live near Altrei, where the lupin coffee is produced. The cultivation area is at 900-1400 meters in altitude, albeit south-facing. It is fairly cold there in the spring (March/April planting season between 0 and -10C mins, 2-10C maxs circa), if this helps determine which region it can be grown in.

    • MikeH says:

      Thanks for that information. So the seeds are in the ground when the air temperatures are as low as -10C????


      • hukari says:

        Yes, but as I said, south-facing and many microclimates in the area. I’m on my way there for an interpreting job today, so will be back with more info for you soon!

  17. No Mike, warm soil, lots of sun and water. I have started them in pots in March, and transfered them to ground the same day I planted actual seeds, in April. The seedlings had a small advantage over the seed, but the seeds caught up quickly.

  18. liz preston says:

    Do you know of a resource for these seeds? I ordered from baker creek but they later canceled when it turned out they were out of stock!

  19. MM says:

    Hi Mike! Thanks for all the information, it sounds quite exciting. I was wondering whether or not you might have some seeds to share or sell? I would like to grow them and share them to others too once I’m able to grow more. We have a food forest in Seattle that’s open to the everyone (feed as much people as possible), we also have some seed sharing community in this area and it would be very nice to share it with them. Hope you could let me know how to get some seeds, I’d really appreciate it and it would help a lot. Thank you so much and hope you have a wonderful new year!

    • MikeH says:

      I’ll send you a private email.

      • Hollie says:

        Hi Would you have any seeds for sale? I would love to try to grow these here (Ontario) and have not found any other sources. Thank you, Hollie

      • MikeH says:

        Hi Hollie,

        We didn’t have a very good harvest last year and we’ve had quite a run of requests recently so we’re pretty well out. What’s left will be for increasing the stock. Check back towards the end of the summer to see how the 2015 growing season has gone.


  20. Jolene says:

    I’ll be growing them in BC this year, so I might have seeds to share if they do well.

  21. Hollie says:

    If anyone ends up will seeds please let me know – planning for next year I guess

  22. Anthropogen says:

    I have been growing this species for years, little by little expanding the number of plants. I just harvested two 5-gallon buckets of seed planted late last winter. I plan to continue growing but definitely have a surplus of seed if anyone is interested.

  23. Lisa says:

    I you got seeds this fall?

  24. Hollie Moggridge says:

    HI, I have been trying to get some altrei seeds. Richters and Bakers no longer have them. Would you know of any available or have any? Please email me at Hollie @
    Thank you,

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