Yet Another Reason to Buy Whole Coffee Beans
Let’s have a chat about coffee.
Coffee is one of those products that comes from far far away, but it’s one of the non-local items that I have chosen to not remove from my diet. There are other tropical goods I’d rather get rid of first – bananas I can live without for example – and when it comes to eating locally and in season, you have to pick your battles. In the battle of me versus coffee, coffee wins every single time.
Coffee is one of those products like chocolate: if you’re going to drink it, it’s very important to buy the good stuff, and not just for taste reasons. There are plenty of hidden costs in fast coffee. With an industry made up of mostly multinational corporations buying coffee based on price and not quality, it’s no surprise that the most vulnerable ones in coffee production are the people working to produce it, with lots of stories ofworker exploitation from bad housing conditions to child labor.
Which means you want to know what you’re buying and who you’re buying it from. And if you needed yet another reason to buy whole coffee beans from roasters committed to ethical trade, instead of pre-packaged, pre-ground stuff from large corporations, here’s yet another one: the coffee you’re buying might not just be coffee.
New research from the American Chemical Society shows that if you’re buying pre-ground coffee there’s a chance that the coffee has other stuff in it.
Wood, barley, rye, corn, soybeans? These do not a coffee make, and yet according to the ACS, they can be used as fillers in coffee. While the ingredients aren’t harmful to you the consumer, they’re all about making coffee more profitable for the companies producing them. “With a lower supply of coffee in the market, prices rise, and that favors fraud because of the economic gain,” research leader Suzana Lucy Nixdorf, Ph.D. said in a statement.
Of course if you buy pre-ground coffee, unless you’re kitted out with a set up to test for various chemical compounds in your coffee, you might never know that you’re drinking a rye, soybean, coffee blend. That’s because “after roasting and grinding the raw material, it becomes impossible to see any difference between grains of lower cost incorporated into the coffee, especially because of the dark color and oily texture of coffee,” says Nixdorf.
The ACS doesn’t identify who exactly is using filler in their coffee, so what’s your answer if you want to avoid the potential of filler? Buy whole beans.
Certainly, if you’re a coffee lover you know that buying whole beans and grinding them at home is a must if you want the best taste. But even if you’re not a coffee nerd, I think we can all agree that you don’t necessarily want to be drinking a soybean filler, now do you? Buy from roasters that know where their beans come from and are committed to not only making good coffee, but making sure that the people producing the coffee are able to make a fair living.
If you’re committed to real food, coffee should be yet another thing that you pay attention to. Vote with your fork and your coffee cop. And for the love of god, don’t buy coffee pods.
Since this article was written, there has been much discussion about the adulteration of coffee, and whether or not the findings of the ACS were blown out of proportion. The National Coffee Association released an official statement stating that:
“The liquid chromatography method under development, which was presented to the American
Chemical Society at its National Meeting & Exposition, may prove to be another valuable contribution to food testing science, which includes numerous methods described in scientific papers published in scholarly journals over the years. However, the ACS’ promotion of the study implies a looming problem with coffee adulteration, which is not the case. The definitive database for food adulteration tracking – the US Pharmacopeial Convention’s Food Fraud Database – contains no reports of current coffee adulteration.”
The ACS ended up issuing a clarification to its press release, noting that the coffee referenced by the researcher and in the ACS release was commercially available roast and ground coffee in Brazil.
Image: American Chemical Society
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