There’s nothing quite like waking up to a delicious cup of coffee, or several for that matter. So, should you be concerned about the rumors you have heard about coffee containing mold and the negative effects it can have on you?
In this article, we will be uncovering the truth about mold in coffee, how it gets into your cup in the first place and what effects it can have on the body. We will also be explaining how to avoid it and a whole bunch more, so keep reading.
Does coffee have mold?
First things first, yes, some coffees do contain mold strains, and some of these strains can be potentially harmful to the body. However, what’s important to know here is that in most cases, you will rarely ingest enough of the mold and it’s mycotoxins (more on this later) to have a negative impact on your health.
One of the main reasons you may be more aware of mold in coffee is largely down to marketing ploys by high-end coffee brands stating that their particular beans are “mold-free”, insinuating that other brands have high levels of mold as standard.
This is simply not true, and as you will see throughout this article, despite some brands having trace amounts of mold in their coffee, the levels fall well within what is considered safe to consume by the food and drug administration.
Why is there mold in coffee?
Mold is a living substance that can be found anywhere that is moist, has a consistent temperature, and has little sunlight. This is exactly the kind of environment that is provided when coffee cherries are picked and left to dry.
Green coffee cherries are picked and left to dry before roasting, the outer green layer of the cherry has a high moisture level, and if not dried quickly enough and stored in a dark place, will quickly begin to develop mold.
There is even the possibility that mold could have begun to grow on the coffee plant itself before the cherries were even picked. If this is the case, the potential for mold spores to have traveled from the plant to the cherry during processing is possible and could lead to the growth of new molds whilst in storage.
What coffee does not have mold?
Ok, so you know that many of the coffees you can buy may contain some level of mold, but there are some high-end brands out there that promise to be “mold-free”.
Some of the most popular brands that make this promise are:
- Peak Performance
- Natural Force Clean Coffee
- Kicking Horse
So what are these brands doing differently to ensure no trace of mold can be found in your morning brew?
Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, they are not doing a whole lot more testing or using any different methods in their coffee production than you would see from your high-street brand coffees.
Whilst they state they test for mold during the manufacturing process, many of the results are unavailable to the public if requested, and the tests they perform are rarely different from what is expected from any food or drink manufacturers.
There are a handful of brands that test for mycotoxins in particular, but this appears to be a rare occurrence. The truth is, you may be paying significantly more for “mold-free” coffee, when in fact you are getting nearly the same quality as you would get from standard coffee products.
Can moldy coffee make you sick?
Coffee is full of health benefits, from potentially lowering the risk of diabetes, supporting brain health, aiding in weight management, supporting heart health, and more.
Mold (or at least traces of mold), however, can be found in most coffees, so can it make you sick and undo the health benefits you would normally gain?
The main symptoms associated with drinking mold found within coffee are:
- Stomach problems
As you may have noticed, many of these symptoms can be associated with drinking coffee in the first place if you are not used to it, and with the quantities of mold and mycotoxins found in coffee, you’d have to drink anywhere up to 5 or 6 cups in a day to reach the levels of mycotoxins that would actually cause symptoms such as this.
So, drinking coffee with mold is unlikely to make you ill unless you are drinking vast quantities of it in a single day.
What are mycotoxins in coffee?
Mycotoxins are toxins produced by mold spores found in both the Penicillium and Aspergillus mold strains. The two most common mycotoxins produced by these strains are Ochratoxin A and Aflatoxin B1.
These toxins have the potential to cause physical illnesses if consumed in high enough quantities.
Both the above-mentioned mycotoxins have been proven to be carcinogenic, with Aflatoxin B1 being the more damaging of the two as far as studies have so far shown.
Whilst this may sound distressing, because of intensive monitoring by the growers, producers, and food and drink administration, the quantities of mycotoxins found in most coffee and coffee blends are so little that you would need to drink high quantities of coffee (upwards of five cups), each day to see any negative effect as a direct result of mycotoxin ingestion.
Do you need to worry about your coffee being “moldy”?
No, coffee producers are bound by strict rules to ensure the coffee they sell has only trace amounts of mold, in minute quantities.
Much as you may have heard about mold in coffee causing illnesses, the likelihood of these being caused by mold in your coffee is extremely low.
Even if mold were to be present on or within the beans before they were roasted, the roasting process has been shown to lower the amount of mold and mycotoxins by up to 90%.
How do you get rid of mold and fungus in coffee?
Realistically, the best hope you have of ensuring your coffee doesn’t have mold in it, is to buy a certified product. However, as we have discussed, the results of testing are often not available to the public, so you may not know if your coffee is really 100% mold-free.
However, there are other steps you can use to make sure your coffee has as little mold in it as possible, such as cleaning your coffee maker regularly (if you’re using one), making sure there is no mold in or around your kettle, and making sure it is stored in as dry a location as you can find in your home. If any moisture finds its way into your coffee beans or powder, it can begin to form mold.
Why does my coffee taste moldy?
The most likely cause of your coffee having a moldy taste and musty smell is that it has been stored incorrectly.
Coffee producers (even the cheaper brands) have to comply with strict regulations and quality guidelines to ensure the coffee they sell is safe to consume, so it’s unlikely the mold problem stemmed from a poor producer.
Many people store their coffee in perfect conditions to promote mold growth. These include:
- A dark place with little movement of air
- Humidity levels over 55%
- Temperatures between 60-80 Fahrenheit
If you’re storing your coffee in a cupboard or shelf in a kitchen, you are likely to see mold form on it at some point. The moisture and temperature levels of a kitchen are perfect for mold to grow. This means how you store your coffee is vital to preventing that moldy taste from occurring.
To prevent this, make sure your coffee is stored in a container that can be shut tight, rather than an open bag. Do not store your coffee in the fridge, as they are very humid environments, and try to make sure it is in the driest place in your kitchen, away from the cooker, kettles microwaves, and any other appliances that can create steam.
Does instant coffee go moldy?
Instant coffee in individual packets should remain free of mold for several months as long as it is stored correctly, however, it can begin to lose its flavor within a few months. Instant coffee has a much longer shelf life than freshly roasted beans, but if stored in moist environments and not in a sealed packet, it can grow mold just as easily as fresh beans.
How long does it take for mold to grow in coffee?
Mold can begin to form very quickly if the correct environment is provided. Should coffee powder or grounds become moist or be stored in an area with a humidity level in excess of 55%, and a temperature of between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, mold can begin to develop within 24-48 hours.
Does decaf coffee have more mold than standard coffee?
Removing the chemical trimethylxanthine (caffeine), not only removes the naturally occurring stimulant effect of coffee but also reduces the bean’s ability to protect itself against molds and bacteria. Caffeine works as a natural fungicide, making it much less likely to become infected with mold. As a result of this, decaffeinated coffee is more likely to grow mold than standard.
Does organic coffee have mold?
Organic coffee is affected by mold in the same way as non-organic. The difference between organic and non-organic coffee is that organic is grown without any additional chemicals or pesticides. The fact that it is certified organic will make no difference as to whether or not it will grow mold.
Organic and non-organic coffee beans are processed in the same way after processing, so whether or not they contain mold is purely down to the height the beans are grown, and the environment they are stored in before being roasted.
Coffee can indeed contain mold. However, you have very little to worry about if you store your coffee correctly in a dry location.
Coffee bought straight from the store and kept under the correct circumstances will contain only trace amounts of mold, not enough to cause any health concerns.