Is Moldy Coffee Really A Thing?
I recently received this question from a customer: Is your coffee tested for mold?
Instead of just posting my reply, this topic needed an expanded treatment.
First, lab testing coffee is a thing nowadays. After all, until a few years ago, no one in the coffee world would have considered testing coffee beans for mold.
But then Dave Asprey came along and prompted that, sure, coffee beans would make him feel like crap. (Which I completely agree with, by the way.)
To identify and solve this problem, Dave sought a coffee bean that would make him feel good. To make a long story short, he eventually concluded that mold contamination of the beans was the culprit for why he didn't feel so hot after drinking some coffee. So he started lab testing beans to ensure they weren't mold-ridden; Bulletproof Coffee was born.
Dave then popularized his (supposed) "mold-free" coffee in conjunction with butter coffee, a brew using blended butter to make a deliciously frothy beverage full of energy.
People now (mistakenly) refer to butter coffee as Bulletproof Coffee. Of course, blending butter info coffee, and tea has been around for a long time. I might add that Dave positioned his product (the lab-tested coffee beans) in people's minds with butter coffee as "Bulletproof Coffee," a genius marketing tactic.
Of course, only some people buy the whole moldy coffee argument, especially considering the roasting process destroys the majority of mold in coffee beans. Dave counters this by suggesting decay can grow inside the beans and thus survive the roasting process.
I'm still determining. But that's ok because there's a way to reduce mold risk on top of roasting.
It's this: buy excellent quality (organic, fair trade) coffee beans from small farms that use the wet/wash method for processing coffee beans (or that, at least, dry on raised beds).
When you buy from small farms that grow coffee the right way--in the shade among natural forest canopy, without pesticides, utilizing compost, and processed using the wet/wash method--you reduce the instances in which mold can grow.
Smaller coffee producers produce less coffee, so shipping and storage tend to be more considered when every last bean is considered a valuable asset. Compare this to the mass-produced, technified coffee that is grown similar to how big agriculture might grow soybean or corn in the US--as cheap and fast as possible.
Mass-produced coffee brings with it many problems that can lead to mold growth. You also get a crappier-tasting product.
On this topic, I agree with Dave; good coffee matters.
Whether or not coffee needs to be tested in a lab, and whether that is even viable, considering you have to roast coffee and get it into the consumer's hands as fast as possible.
Back to the question above. Here is my reply:
Our coffee is not "lab tested," but it has been put through extensive human trial testing via plenty of cupping, roasting, and deciding before coming to the Wild Coffee line.
Our coffees are also all organic, single-origin, fair trade, and insanely fresh-roasted in Austin, Texas! We use wet-process beans, which have been shown to reduce mold risk tremendously.
We also purchase from small co-ops that do things by hand and concerning the coffee beans, which contributes significantly to cut down on the kind of mold contamination you get from vast mass-produced conventional coffee beans.
The roasting process itself also destroys nearly all of the mold, especially for beans that are treated well in which mold hasn't had a chance to seep into the middle of the beans (even then, there is much speculation as to whether mold can even survive the roasting process if on the inside).
Is Moldy Coffee a Thing?
It comes down to this: you don't have to test coffee for mold, but you need to buy the best coffee you can find. Then you get great-tasting coffee that's good for you and statistically unlikely to be contaminated with mold.
And if you don't care about mold contamination, you at least want the best-tasting coffee you can get.
Here are some guidelines to abide by to ensure you are getting low-mold to mold-free coffee beans that taste fantastic:
How To Buy Mold-Free Coffee Beans:
- Buy Organic
- Buy Fair Trade
- Buy Wet Processed
- Buy Single-Origin (coming from a single country or area, which reduces the likelihood of crappy beans getting into your bag.)
- Buy Fresh Roasted
- Buy 100% Arabica or a high-quality Robusta (less common)
- Buy Wild Coffee 😉
How To Use Quality Coffee Beans:
- Use fresh beans immediately.
- Invest in a hand grinder or good burr grinder
- Grind your beans just before using
- Brew with a French Press, Pour Over, Cold Brew, or Aeropress
- Store in a dark, airtight container in a cupboard away from heat, moisture, and light (one-way valve bags or containers preferred)
- Take a moment to sniff your beans (and brew) during each part of the process.
- Slurp a teaspoon of your brew and think about the flavor notes