Is Your Coffee Mold & Mycotoxin Free? | Spirit Animal Coffee

Is Your Coffee Mold Free? The Harsh Truth About Coffee Mycotoxins

Spirit Animal Blog

“Would you like some cancerogenic mycotoxins with that”? You probably didn’t hear your barista ever asking you this. But in truth, much of the world’s coffee contains harmful mold and mycotoxins, which, according to the WHO, are the main culprits behind long-term health issues like

  • Immune deficiency
  • A severe onset of allergies
  • Poisoning
  • And unfortunately, even cancer.

Sounds unbelievable?

Here are a few moldy truths:

  • 45% of commercial-grade coffee contained Ochratoxin A (Source)
  • Up to 55% of green coffee beans showed the presence of Aflatoxins (Source)
  • Coffee roasting does help reduce the toxins. Still, nearly a third (27%) of roasted coffee contained high levels of Ochratoxin A (Source)

So how can you know if you’re drinking mold-free coffee or if your barista is serving you a dash of toxins on the side?

Quick links:

Caffee trail

First: Why does coffee even get mold?

The journey from crop to cup is a colorful one. Grab a cup of mold-free coffee because we could take hours to explain the coffee route. Just enough time for an espresso? Then here is a summary of all the things affecting mold growth in coffee:

Coffee growing regions

By now, you know coffee isn’t a Scandinavian staple crop. Coffee beans grow in tropical climates. It stands to reason that a hot and humid climate naturally poses a higher risk of mold growth.

Coffee processing

Getting rid of the outer layer of coffee, the mucilage, can require large amounts of water (washed processing). If not dried properly, coffee beans become a perfect growth spot for mold.

An even higher risk of coffee mold happens during natural processing. There, the outer pulp layer of the coffee cherry isn’t washed off but being left to dry. Dry processing your coffee takes longer, and the beans spend more time wrapped around the pulpy, humid outer layer.


Most of the time, green coffee beans travel weeks before they reach the roastery. During the trip, they are packed in big burlap sacks. What’s the problem there, you might think? Well, burlap is made of jute, which is basically cellulose. And guess where the most toxic mold grows on? You got it—natural fibers like cellulose. (Thankfully, our coffee beans take a healthier route).

But the presence of mold itself isn’t necessarily a health issue. Not all mold is harmful to your health.

However, certain types of mold produce nasty compounds called mycotoxins: the nasty culprits behind potential health issues.

Coffee mycotoxins: what are they, and why are they harmful?

Mycotoxins are toxic byproducts of certain types of mold. To this day, scientists have identified several hundred different mycotoxins. But the most commonly occurring—and harmful ones are:

  • Aflatoxin B1. Ingesting large doses of aflatoxins can lead to poisoning and liver damage. Worse still, there is evidence that Aflatoxins can cause liver cancer, too.
  • Ochratoxins. There are three types of Ochratoxins marked as A, B, and C.
    Ochratoxin A is the most lethal one. It’s been proven to damage the liver and kidneys. And contrary to other mycotoxins, levels of Ochratoxin A don’t drop during coffee roasting. It means it’s the most lethal mycotoxin that gets straight into your morning cup of joe.
Coffee mycotoxins: what are they, and why are they harmful?
Possible symptoms of coffee mycotoxins

Possible symptoms of coffee mycotoxins

The first symptom to look after is an onset of allergy-like reactions. Congestion, coughing, sneezing, and headaches can all be harbingers of your coffee not being exactly mold-free. Another set of symptoms is related to gastrointestinal issues. Bloating, cramping, diarrhea after coffee drinking can also be signaling there’s something-not-quite with your cup of joe.

How to make sure you’re drinking mold-free coffee?

  1. Choose high-altitude coffee
    The higher the elevation, the less humidity the air will contain. Coffee growing at 5,000ft or above is the safest choice.
  2. Buy wet-processed coffee
    Wet processing, when done properly, reduces the risk of mold and mycotoxin growth.
  3. Opt for hand-picked & hand-processed coffee
    No gizmo can beat the diligent eye of a skilled farmer. When coffee beans are turned and dried by human hands, the coffee you’ll get will be way healthier than the commercial-grade, machine-processed variety.

How to make sure you’re drinking mold-free coffee?

The best tip to get mold-free coffee: Ask your coffee brand to share their lab results

You’ll be surprised to see how many coffee producers actually don’t bother to get their coffee tested.

If you do manage to get hold of the analysis, it should look something like this:

The best tip to get mold-free coffee: Ask your coffee brand to share their lab results

Mold and mycotoxin testing should come from an independent lab. The results should clearly state:

  • The testing date
  • The lab specialist who conducted the tests
  • A signature of the specialist or another responsible person at the lab

The list of mycotoxins tested must contain

  • The testing method used
  • The value obtained and the limit of detection value (LOD)

If the value obtained through testing is lower than the LOD, the value gets a “<” symbol. It means the mycotoxin’s presence is lower than the value at which the toxin would get detected.

Do all the mycotoxins listed have a value lower than the LOD?

Then kick back, fill in your Chemex (or French Press), and enjoy the sound and aroma of your mold- and mycotoxin-free coffee being brewed.

Final thoughts: an invitation to dig deeper into a toxin-free life with our dear friend

Toxins in food and consumer products are a real issue. You’d think that big government agencies have it all under control when it comes to food and product safety. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Final thoughts: an invitation to dig deeper into a toxin-free life with our dear friend

This is what our friend Dawn over from Active Clean & Green has to say about it:

“Nine years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42. I was the first person in my family to have BC, so I wasn’t surprised when the genetic testing came back negative. My breast cancer came with loads of complications, so for the next several years, that was my focus.

My oldest daughter ended up having a baby in 2015. With the internet at her disposal, she learned all about toxins and started her toxin-free journey. As she got deeper into her journey, she started working on me. I can’t recall how many times I heard, “Mom! you had breast cancer .. it was environmentally driven .. you’ve got to make better choices!” She also recommended a couple of movies, “The Devil You Know” being one of them. Honestly, that’s when my eyes started to open up...

So I decided to listen to my daughter and swap some of my toxic products for safe alternatives. One of the first swaps I made was my hair care because I’ve had issues with my hair falling out ever since I got pregnant with my daughter 25 years ago. Within 3 days of using toxin-free shampoo, my hair stopped falling out. I will never forget standing in the shower, washing my hair, with only a couple of strands in my hands!! I would normally have to rinse my hands to get all the hair off. Alarm bells were going off, and I was finally listening.”

Conclusions photo

Dawn has been living a toxin-free life ever since. She created a Facebook group where she shares ingredient education and clean products for you to swap; Spirit Animal Coffee is one of her top recommendations.