Corn, And 3 More Weird And Unwelcome Fillers In Coffee
In a world where flame retardants show up in sports drinks and wood pulp passes for cereal, you might hope that at least something as simple as coffee might stay clean.
And yet. Brazilian scientists have developed a new way of testing coffee grounds for fillers like corn, sticks (yep, as in wood), barley, and soybeans. The test, which detects the presence of sugars that wouldn't normally be in pure java, is being presented at this week's annual American Chemical Society meeting. (Previously, the best way we had to detect impurities in ground coffee was to examine the grinds with a microscope. Kind of quaint, right?)
OK, great, so now we have this high-tech test. But who knew we even needed to worry about added junk that'll mess with the taste of our coffee and—much, much worse!—dilute its precious caffeine content?
"Adulterated coffee is something I've suspected in some work I've done in Russia and the Middle East, where there's an extreme price point set for consumer products," says Andrew Hetzel, a coffee industry consultant who leads training courses for the Coffee Quality Institute.
MORE:So Not Cool—Coffee Linked ToHot Flashes
Mercifully, junked up joe isn't a problem here at home. For now. Thanks to drought, coffee production in Brazil—the world's largest grower—is down nearly 10% this year. And if climate change puts the majority of the world's coffee supply at risk, as one recent report suggests could happen by 2080, the results would be a matter of simple economics: Coffee prices would rise, tempting more manufacturers to bulk up their product with fillers to avoid losing money.
Still, even though a coffee catastrophe is probably years away, it's always a smart idea to know where your foods—and beverages—are coming from (not to mention this a good reminder to go easier on the planet; these 70 tiny green tips couldn't be easier to add to your routine). "If you can buy your beans from a local coffee shop or online directly through a coffee roaster, that's good. The closer you can get to the source, the better off you'll be," says Hetzel.
We'll drink to that.
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