What’s worse than a coffee shortage, is that filler ingredients may be in your coffee as a result of that shortage. Phony coffee? Kinda.
According to research presented at an American Chemical Society meeting, a test is in the works that could help you spot unwanted fillers. The good news is that the fillers are not harmful. They instead give producers more bang for their buck.
“With a lower supply of coffee in the market, prices rise, and that favors fraud because of the economic gain,” says research team leader Suzana Lucy Nixdorf, Ph.D.
In Brazil, for example, plant diseases and droughts have all impacted coffee supplies. That’s why a test to detect fillers is becoming more of a must-have. (Oh, and the fact that most of us drink java like fiends.)
According to a 2012 Royal Botanic Gardens and the Environment study conducted in the U.K., 70 percent of the world’s coffee supply could be gone by 2080 due to climate change, but we’re already seeing shortages emerge. Brazil usually produces about 55 million bags of coffee per year, but they’ll probably only have about 45 million bags this year. That’s about 42 billion fewer cups of coffee for this year.
“With our test, it is now possible to know with 95 percent accuracy if coffee is pure or has been tampered with, either with corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, acai seed, brown sugar or starch syrup,” she says. The problem is that “after roasting and grinding the raw material, it becomes impossible to see any difference between grains of lower cost incorporated into the coffee, especially because of the dark color and oily texture of coffee.”
Her team is looking at several fillers that are considered impurities rather than adulterants, many of which are parts of the coffee plant that shouldn’t be in the final product… such as coffee berries, twigs and even dirt. Finding these is important because many producers claim fillers are an accident, but Nixdorf says that might not always be the case.