Tiffin Project

Mycotoxins in Coffee

by Colter Jones on March 28, 2013

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The modern health conscious individual can at times border on hypochondria. Whether it’s lactose intolerance or allergies to gluten, there will always be the latest and the greatest disease du jour for us to subscribe to. Recently I learned of a new one. Dave Asprey is a self proclaimed health guru that preaches the many health benefits of his “Bulletproof” diet. One of the items that he sells is a coffee that claims to be low in harmful mycotoxins.

You can find the link to Bulletproof coffee here

Mycotoxins are naturally occurring spores that are a byproduct of fungus in the environment. Alfatoxins are the most harmful mycotoxin, having been proven to cause cancer in animals and liver cancer in humans. They can grow on a variety of crops including cereals, nuts, dried fruits, carrots, corn, apple juice, and –for the purpose of this artlicle—coffee.

So, what are the chances that you are drinking coffee that has been subjected to mold and may contain harmful mycotoxins? Really it depends on the quality of coffee that you’re drinking. Mycotoxins are the product of mold and so if a coffee has been protected from the conditions that cause mold all should be well. As a general rule, specialty coffee does not include any beans that rate below 80% grade, which means that mold (a dinstinctive flaw in green coffee that can be determined through taste and visual means) cannot be present to meet the 80% grading criterion.

Here are 3 ways that you can best avoid the risk of mycotoxins being found in your cup of coffee:

  1. Drink coffees that have been wet- processed. Wet- processing helps to wash away the outer layers of the coffee fruit that will be most prone to the growth of mold. Natural- processed coffees that are dried with the fruit on the coffee bean can be very flavourful but are much more susceptible to mycotoxins.
  2. Don’t drink decaf. Caffeine actually helps to prevent the growth of mold and can retard the growth of mycotoxins. Couple this with the fact that most decaf coffees are lower grade to start with.
  3. Stay away from robusta. Although Arabica contains less caffeine than robusta, they are less likely to contain mycotoxins. Robusta is typically grown in humid, low-elevation areas that encourage the growth of molds. High elevation areas are a lot cooler, which helps to prevent the growth of mold in the same way that your refrigerator does. Look for a single origin coffee that includes information about elevation and the area where the coffee is from.

The concept of having mold-free coffee is nothing new, but perhaps it’s to the detriment of specialty coffee that people don’t know about it. I think that the tendency for all specialty coffee roasters and cafes is to focus on taste and taste alone. Yes, my cup of coffee tastes better because it is mold-free but does the average consumer know that? There are a multitude of standard practices that lead to a better cup of coffee that are ignored because there is too much focus on the sensory experience of coffee. The emphasis on the taste of coffee can often give the impression of elitism in the same realm of fine wine tasting. If you tell people that they can spend 3 to 4 dollars more for a bag of mycotoxin-free coffee that tastes better, it helps to put things in perspective. It’s not simply about cheaper grades of coffee.

~ Colter Jones








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