Is Moldy Coffee Really A Thing?
Is there such thing as mold in coffee? If so, what can you do about it?
IS MOLDY COFFEE REALLY A THING?
I recently received a question via email about our coffee. It went like this:
Is your coffee tested for mold?
Instead of just posting my reply, I felt this topic needed an expanded treatment.
First of all, I should explain why lab testing coffee is a thing nowadays. After all, up until a few years ago, no one in the coffee world would have thought of testing coffee beans for mold.
But then Dave Asprey came along and prompted the fact that certain coffee beans would make him feel like crap. (Which I completely agree with, btw.)
To identify, and find a solution for, this problem, Dave set out to find a coffee bean that would make him feel good. To make a long story short, he eventually concluded that mold contamination of the beans were the culprit for why he didn't feel so hot after drinking some coffees. So he started lab testing beans to make sure 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.
That is why 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. Dave was able to position his product (the lab tested coffee beans) in people's minds with butter coffee as "Bulletproof Coffee," a genius marketing tactic I might add.
Of course, not everyone buys the whole moldy coffee argument, especially considering the roasting process itself destroys the majority of mold in coffee beans. Dave counters this by suggested that mold can grow inside the beans and thus can survive the roasting process.
I'm not so sure. But that's ok, because there's a way, on top of roasting, to reduce mold risk.
It's this: buy amazing 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 the use of 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 and so shipping and storage tend to more considered when every last bean is thought of as 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.
With mass produce coffee, you get all kinds of problems, many of which can lead to unfavorable mold growth. You also get a crappier tasting product.
On this topic, I totally agree with Dave; good coffee matters.
Whether or not coffee needs to 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, I'm not so sure.
Back to the question above. Here was 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 has been shown to reduce mold risk tremendously.
We also purchase from small co-ops that do things by hand and with respect to the coffee beans, which contributes greatly to cutting down on the kind of mold contamination you get from huge lots of 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 (which, even then, there is much speculation as to whether mold can even survive the roasting process if on the inside).
DOES COFFEE MOLD REALLY MATTER?
What it comes down to is this: you don't have to test coffee for mold, but you do 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, right?
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 cuts down on 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