Does that coffee taste like dirt? It could be dirt, says Brazil University.

Drought and disease is increasing the use of fillers such as rye, corn, twigs and even clumps of earth in coffee, researchers from the State University of Londrina in Brazil have reported. The report, which was presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco this week, claims that these extra ingredients are added to make ground coffee go farther and increase profits for producers and roasters. “With a lower supply of coffee in the market, prices rise, and that favours fraud because of the economic gain,” said Research Team Leader, Suzana Lucy Nixdorf, in a statement.  Nixdorf and her research team have been working on a way to detect counterfeit coffees before the product reaches stores and cafés. “With our test, it is now possible to know with 95 per cent 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,” said Nixdorf, in the statement. Currently, tests to detect these additives require scientists to check the coffee under a microscope or identify various additives through tasting. According to Nixdorf, the problem is that after roasting and grinding it becomes extremely difficult to see any difference between the fillers and the beans, especially because of the dark colour and oily texture of coffee. The new test uses liquid chromatography, a powerful analytical technique that is very sensitive and highly selective, Nixdorf explained. Because much of the coffee is composed of carbohydrates, the unwanted grain fillers generate different levels of sugars than the natural ingredients, so they are easy to identify. Researchers have reported that the resulting methodologies will allow for testing of coffee from markets across the globe.

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