Coffee Part II: The Truth About Coffee
The Good the Bad and the Ugly of Coffee:
There are TONS of coffee products on the market these days. From cheap ice-cold, grab n’ go, sugary Frappuccinos, to your high-end coffee bars, and everything in between.
While varying coffee drinks may have the same foundation, the quality of coffee can differ substantially from one cup to the next. If you are solely drinking coffee for enjoyment, the quality may not be a major factor for you. However, here at Nutrition for Longevity, we recognize that your cup of coffee can go much further. Through truly understanding the process from bean to brew, you can ensure you are choosing an optimal cup of coffee from flavor to health benefits. We have detailed the steps taken by N4L and our coffee partners to ensure that every one of our cups of coffee truly benefits you!
The Farming Techniques Count
Conventional coffee is among one of the most chemically treated foods in the world. The seeds are steeped in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets maximum residue levels (MRLs) to ensure that chemicals are not overused in the farming and processing of certain foods. However, at this time, the EPA does not have MRLs for coffee. It is not just the United States that has dropped the ball on regulating coffee, but many coffee-growing countries still use pesticides that have been banned by the United States and Europe. With 42 known pesticides used in growing coffee, there are obvious environmental and physical concerns. Opting for organically certified coffee can ensure that pesticide residues are tested, and growing practices are monitored.
The concerns over growing coffee do not end with the use of pesticides, but how it is physically impacting our environment. Coffee production in the rainforest alters the ecosystem. When these ecosystems are destroyed, the plant and animal species that inhabit the area suffer. Worldwide, the use of mono-crop coffee production is leading to deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.
Here at Nutrition for Longevity, we focus on regenerative farming to grow our coffee in harmony with the environment. Choosing organic coffee is only half of the battle. Choosing coffee that is associated with a rain forest alliance or other environmental certifications help regulate these critical parameters to protect the environment.
The Testing and Purity of the Coffee
Coffee in its purist form is “green” which is a term for unroasted coffee beans. Before roasting, green coffee beans need to be sorted for defects which can occur for a multitude of reasons. Defective beans can come about from climate conditions, poor agricultural, harvesting and processing practices, and problematic transportation or storage of the coffee. Why is this so important? Substandard beans can affect taste and flavor profile – but more importantly, for us at N4L, defective beans can impact your health.
For N4L and our partners, health is our top priority. Bean defects can lead to microorganism growth leading to increased mycotoxins like Ochratoxin A or an uneven roast profile, which can create unwanted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. Increased levels of mycotoxins (molds) can lead to adverse health effects ranging from acute poisoning to long term chronic disease.1,2
While the bean defects all raise concerns for our health, what is more alarming is the way they are treated. To ensure the coffee is free of toxins, rigorous testing is required. Mold, or mycotoxin, levels in coffee beans have acceptable levels for consumption that differ from country to country. If mycotoxins are present, only a small amount can be eliminated at high roast temperatures. Unfortunately, these high temperatures may increase the formation of PAHs and eliminate healthy polyphenols in coffee.
The highest standard of coffee with the least number of defects is classified as “specialty grade," and that is where Nutrition for Longevity begins our coffee preparation. We test our coffee as it passes through each step of the supply chain, ensuring it is free from contamination and in its healthiest form for our customers to consume.
The Roasting Technique Matters
The farming process and strict bean testing are very important to minimize chemical exposure as well as environmental effects, however, it is only the beginning. The roasting process could have an even more critical role in the toxin levels of your coffee and is one we at Nutrition for Longevity take seriously.
After deeming our beans specialty grade, we choose beans that meet our High Health Profile. This process involves testing beans for the highest antioxidant compounds, lowest in asparagines (a precursor to acrylamide which can cause health risks3), and the presence of mycotoxins.
Once we have our beans, we then create a roasting profile specific to that particular batch of coffee to maximize health benefits and minimize health risks. During roasting, the beans undergo a complex series of chemical reactions, during which both healthy compounds are created, and unhealthy compounds are destroyed. We analyze the results of different roast curves, comparing the time and temperature of the beans at different points of the roast, and which curve nets the most positive health attributes.
Our work is dynamic, and we are learning with each batch of coffee, focusing entirely on health-related compounds. Coffee varieties differ across the world. They are grown under different circumstances and climates, making each batch uniquely different. With each new challenge, we learn more and become more dedicated to upholding our value of providing the best coffee for the environment, and your health.
The Grinding and Brewing Process Affect the Quality
We often get asked, what is the best way to prepare your coffee? It all starts with the coffee you buy. We recommend always buying whole bean coffee, like our Nutrition for Longevity Organic Coffee. While to some using whole beans is seen as an added unnecessary step, we can ensure you the benefits far outweigh the added step of grinding the coffee yourself. The primary benefit of whole beans is that they keep the phytonutrients intact far better than already ground coffee. Studies show that for optimal preservation of the phytonutrients you should consume ground coffee within 15 days of being ground.
The brewing process is a key step in the process for flavor and coffee bean preservation. Our personal favorite is with a French press, which is similar to how medicinal infusions are prepared. The ground beans are exposed to hot water which is poured over them and then left to infuse for 5+ minutes depending on desired intensity. This simple method of brewing helps to bring out the best flavor and phytonutrients in the coffee.
Boosting the Benefits of Coffee
There is no limit to how you can "take your coffee." Some like it black, some love a bit of cream and sugar, and others are obsessed with the sweet seasonal syrups. While the taste may be just right for your liking, it is important to ask yourself, are the additions to your coffee enhancing the benefits, or a health detriment?
Chain coffee shop drinks consumed by Americans are comfort foods. When people order their coffee drinks, rarely do they think about reading a label or looking up what is in their drink. These consumers are seeking and chasing the experience that commercial chains are selling. The beverages are not being treated as a drink with health benefits as originally intended, but rather an indulgent treat riddled in overly processed ingredients, high-fructose corn syrup and overly roasted coffee beans. If consumers put the focus on high-quality coffee beans rather than these commercialized drinks, they would still enjoy an incredible tasting beverage laced in health benefits.
Coffee purists will gawk at adding anything to their brew, but for those who still like a little creamer, we recommend a clean, plant-based creamer without heavy processing and refined sugars. Keep an eye out for our MCT, plant-based coffee creamers launching early this year. These creamers provide the creamy texture craved with subtle flavors that enhance your cup of coffee all while providing health benefits! Studies have shown that the addition of healthy fats can increase the absorption of some phytonutrients. The addition of healthy fats from the MCT oil can curb your cravings, without diminishing the natural benefits of a cup of coffee!
Getting the Best
Ensuring you are getting all the benefits of coffee and enjoying your cup of coffee starts with a premium, well roasted, brewed coffee.
Our recommendation? Start with premium whole beans, like Nutrition for Longevity Organic Coffee. Invest in a grinder, brew your beans timely, and sit down and enjoy your coffee black. Like a fine wine, you will start to taste definitive undertones and develop more of an appreciation for the natural taste that comes from beans that are prioritized throughout the entire process.
Understanding the process from planting to brewing increases awareness and appreciation for the truly good quality coffee that is on the market and that we offer. Choosing to invest in quality beans and brewing tools helps to increase the taste of your coffee and the health benefits. When it comes to coffee, choose the good stuff, and nothing else!
- Mycotoxins. World Health Organization website. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mycotoxins#:~:text=Mycotoxins%20can%20cause%20a%20variety,as%20immune%20deficiency%20and%20cancer. Published May 9, 2018. Accessed December 22, 2020.
- Bennett JW, Klich M. Mycotoxins. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2003:16(3):497-516. Doi: 10.1128/CMR.16.3.497-516.2003.
- Acrylmamide Question and Answers. Federal Drug Administration website. https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/acrylamide-questions-and-answers#:~:text=Acrylamide%20is%20a%20chemical%20that,food%20packaging%20or%20the%20environment. Updated September 25, 2019. Accessed December 22, 2020.