Many people enjoy waking up to a cup of hot coffee to get their day started. So, what are you to do when you open your jar of instant coffee powder or granules, only to find a thick layer of white powdery substance on the top?
Can the mold be scraped off and the coffee still drunk? Will moldy coffee make you sick, why did this happen and how can you prevent it from happening again?
In this article, we answer all these questions and more, so keep reading!
What is the White stuff in your instant coffee?
The white powdery substance you’ve seen on the surface of your instant coffee is almost certainly mold. Specifically, it is most likely to be one of three, Cladosporium, Aspergillus, or Penicillium.
As well as being white in color, these strains can also come in greyish or blueish shades, and may even change to green or black over time.
These strains of molds have textures most commonly described as being “powdery”, “velvety” and in some cases, even “slimy”.
Is the mold growing in your instant coffee dangerous?
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to say for certain whether the mold you’ve found on your instant coffee is dangerous or not.
This is because there are thousands of strains of molds, many of which are perfectly harmless to humans and animals, but there are also many that can be quite toxic.
Without having the mold tested, there is no surefire way of knowing exactly what you are dealing with, which is why you should always take extreme caution when dealing with unknown molds.
Molds can become hazardous to humans and animals when they produce metabolites called Mycotoxins. These are produced as a defense mechanism whenever a mold feels threatened.
Small amounts of mycotoxin will rarely produce symptoms in healthy individuals. However, if ingested or inhaled in large quantities or over a prolonged period, they can produce symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and in some cases, even cause death.
Some of the most common symptoms of mycotoxin exposure are the following:
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
In rare circumstances, (such as with those with suppressed immune systems), symptoms could include liver and kidney damage and cancer.
For these reasons, it is always advised to throw away instant coffee powder or granules that have mold. And if you have already had a cup or two and then noticed the presence of mold, you may well be fine as no more is ingested. If you do feel any of the symptoms mentioned, you should consult a physician.
How to prevent mold growth in instant coffee
Cross-contamination is one of the biggest causes of mold growth in jars of opened instant coffee. Simply putting a wet spoon into a dry jar of granules is all it takes to give mold exactly what it needs in order to live on your delicious coffee.
That being the case, in order to prevent mold from growing on your instant coffee, all you need to do is take away what it needs to live, which are:
- A source of moisture
- An ambient temperature between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit
The nutrients come from the coffee itself, so you can’t do much to remove that, and you will most likely be storing the jar in a cupboard at an ambient temperature, which leaves moisture as the number one factor that you can directly influence.
Without moisture, mold will not be able to live, so keeping your granules as dry as possible will keep them fresh and mold-free.
Here are a few tips to keep your instant coffee free of mold:
- Never use a wet spoon to scoop up coffee granules
- Store the jar or tin away from the higher humidity areas of the kitchen
- Keep the granules in an air-tight container at all times
Keeping your instant coffee in an airtight container is probably the number one way to prevent mold growth, so below I have provided links to several highly recommended products that allow you to keep yours as fresh as the day you opened the packet. Clicking the links will take you to Amazon where you can take a look at them and I have given several choices to cover all budgets.
Can moldy instant coffee be saved?
You may have heard of people scrapping mold off the top of food items and eating whatever is left.
This is NOT a good idea, especially with instant coffee.
Should you find mold growing on top of your instant coffee powder or granules, you should throw it out and not consume it at all.
The reason for this is that even if you were to scrape off the top layer, you may be pushing some of the mold deeper into the jar, and you may also be disturbing the mold’s spores, which will then settle, further contaminating the jar.
There is no safe way of removing mold from instant coffee, so should you find it, you are better off cutting your losses and tossing it out, rather than running the risk of becoming Ill.
Are there mold-free instant coffee powders?
There are several brands of instant coffee available that claim to be “mold-free”. What this really refers to is the level of mold found within the bean whilst it was grown, processed, shipped, and stored.
Instant coffee that is “mold-free”, does not mean it cannot become contaminated once it arrives at your home and you open the packet or tin.
Should you get the coffee powder or granules wet, they are just as likely to become moldy as any other coffee product.
Instant coffee powder can become moldy just like any other foodstuff. However, there are preventative measures you can take to ensure it does not become moldy in the first place.
Remember to never risk drinking instant coffee that has mold on it, as it has the potential to make you Ill.