MOLD IN COFFEE:
THE HARSH TRUTH ABOUT COFFEE MYCOTOXINS
“Would you like some cancerogenic mycotoxins with that”? You probably didn’t hear your barista ever asking you this.
But the truth is that much of the world’s coffee consumption comes with harmful mold and mycotoxins, which, according to the WHO, are the main culprits behind long-term health issues like:
A severe onset of allergies
And unfortunately, mold causes cancer, too
Here are a few moldy coffee truths:
Coffee roasting does help reduce the toxins. Still, nearly a third (27%) of roasted coffees contained Ochratoxin A. (Source)
So how can you make sure you’re not drinking moldy coffee?
FIRST: WHY IS THERE MOLD IN COFFEE?
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:
THE CLIMATE OF COFFEE-GROWING REGIONS
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.
"From processing to shipping to storing coffee at home: things can get moldy at any step of the way."
COFFEE PROCESSING AND MOLD RISK
Getting rid of the outer layer of coffee beans, 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 is left to dry.
Dry processing your coffee takes longer, and the beans spend more time wrapped around the pulpy, humid outer layer.
COFFEE BEAN MOLDS DURING SHIPPING GREEN COFFEE BEANS
Most of the time, green coffee beans travel weeks in many shipping containers 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).
MOLD IN COFFEE DURING ROASTING
So, you think mold only grows on green coffee beans? Think again. The mold toxins can also form in the roastery. There are multiple steps when roasting the beans.
Each step offers mold opportunities to grow in warm temperatures and plenty of time to multiply, especially when there's no airflow (this is called an anaerobic process).
And if that isn’t scary enough, here’s one more mold-maker: heat shock proteins (HSPs). When subjected to high heat, they can undergo changes that render them toxic mold growth promoters.
Well, this is certainly exciting news for our taste buds!
But the fact that there are coffee mold spores present 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.
WHAT ARE COFFEE MYCOTOXINS?
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 most toxic molds are:
Aflatoxin B1. Ingesting large doses of aflatoxins via regular coffee consumption 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 the coffee roasting process. It means it’s the most lethal mycotoxin that gets straight into your morning cup of joe.
" The levels of Ochratoxin A don’t drop during the coffee roasting process. It means it’s the most lethal mycotoxin that gets straight into your morning cup of joe."
MOLD IN COFFEE: SYMPTOMS & RELATED ILLNESSES
The most common symptoms from coffee mold growth are headaches, dizziness, anxiety, irritability, and stomach problems. People who drink coffee regularly or in large amounts may be more likely to experience coffee mycotoxins side effects than others.
For most people, coffee isn't toxic due to the coffee mold toxins. However, coffee mycotoxin poisoning can cause liver problems in some cases because of toxicity caused by these toxins in the body.
Coffee mycotoxin symptoms can be felt within 12 to 36 hours of coffee mold exposure. Symptoms most commonly last a few hours or a day, but in some cases, coffee toxins may cause longer-term health problems that last for weeks or months.
Mold in coffee is much more likely to affect people who drink large amounts of moldy coffee or people who have mold sensitivities. People who are affected may suffer from the following symptoms:
For most people, mold in coffee doesn't result in serious illnesses that require medical treatment. The primary concern is related to consuming moldy coffee which has been linked to liver failure in rare cases.
CAN MOLD MAKE YOUR STOMACH HURT?
Gastrointestinal problems are common after drinking moldy coffee but can be treated with over-the-counter medications for nausea and stomach pain. However, if you know you are sensitive to mold exposure or are allergic, it is best to seek medical attention.
DRINK COFFEE & STAY HEALTHY: HOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR JOE IS MOLD-FREE?
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1. CHOOSE HIGH-ALTITUDE COFFEE BEANS
Coffee plants grow at high altitudes and do not produce any coffee mold or very little of it.
Single-origin coffee beans grown on high altitudes contain fewer contaminants in general compared to coffee grown in low-lying areas since high altitudes prevent the coffee fruit from getting damaged by insects and animals, so there’s less need for pesticides either.
2. BUY WET-PROCESSED COFFEE BEANS
Wet-processed, sun-dried coffees were shown to have fewer mycotoxins than traditionally dried coffees.
So, wet processed coffees are generally the preferred option if you want to make sure there's no mold in your coffee.
3. OPT FOR HAND-PICKED AND HAND-PROCESSED COFFEES
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.
But wait, is organic coffee mold free by default?
THE ONLY WAY YOU AND BE 100% CERTAIN THERE IS ZERO MOLD IN COFFEE IS...
You’ll be surprised to see how many coffee producers actually don’t bother to get their coffee tested. That's because there aren't many mycotoxin-free coffee brands out there.
If you do manage to get hold of the analysis, it should look something like this:
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.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHOOSING COFFEE TESTED FOR MOLD & MYCOTOXINS
Coffee mold is a type of fungus that can grow both in coffee beans and coffee grounds. Since mold in any form is not healthy, mold in your coffee can be dangerous for your health. It usually grows in moist conditions when you keep your coffee exposed for a long time at a high temperature.
The mold may produce toxic metabolites which are called mycotoxins. They attack multiple systems of the human body such as the nervous system, respiratory system, immune system, and digestive tract, etc., leading to various health problems.
These five health benefits of choosing mold-free coffee to maintain good health conditions are:
Prevent Liver Damage: Mold-free coffee contains fewer mycotoxins than moldy ones.
Prevent Tumor Growth: Mold-free coffee may decrease cancer risk by preventing tumor growth mold.
Boost your immune system
Enhance overall health conditions: Drinking mold-free coffee may help in enhancing overall health.
FINAL THOUGHTS: AN INVITATION TO DIG DEEPER INTO A TOXIN-FREE LIFE WITH OUR FAN
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.
Meet Dawn Marone, toxin-free life advocate and Spirit Animal Coffee fan.
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.”
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.
TRY THIS HEALTHY, MYCOTOXIN-FREE BEAUTY:
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MOLD IN COFFEE FAQ
Why is there mold in coffee?
Mold in coffee can be due to spores of mold that may have been present on the green coffee beans before they were roasted or mold that has grown on the surface of the coffee since it was roasted. If mold is present, it will typically show up as a white powdery substance with a musty odor on your ground coffee.
Mold is a type of fungus that can grow on different substances like food, plants and other items. It often appears as small clusters of blue, green, white or black spots on the surface of moldy products including coffee. Although mold eventually penetrates the interior of coffee beans, mold does not usually affect the taste and smell of brewed coffee because it remains on the surface. However, if mold growth has continued unchecked for some time - particularly if the product is highly contaminated with mold spores - it may cause mold to seep into the depths of your drink and potentially spoil its taste and smell – and cause serious health issues.
Mold in coffee can be prevented by storing your beans or grinds in an airtight container that's not transparent so mold won't have easy access to light.
What happens if you drink mold in coffee?
There are two types of molds that can grow on coffee beans: aspergillus and fusarium. They produce mycotoxins which may cause symptoms such as breathing difficulties, skin and eye irritation and allergic reactions in some individuals.
Coffee processing does not eliminate the risk because it can be present in soil from mold-infected coffee cherries. If the product is processed using traditional methods without decontamination, moldy ground or instant coffees can still contain these toxins.
In other cases, roasting the coffee doesn't get rid of all toxin levels either, although this would depend on how much time has passed between harvesting and roasting.
How to get rid of mold in my coffee maker?
Put a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water in a clean coffee maker.
Brew the mix until it is a dark color. Empty the pot, rinse thoroughly with clear water two or three times, and replace with fresh water for brewing.
Run one to four cycles of plain filtered/spring water through your machine before you use it to brew your next pot of coffee.