According to recent studies, Americans are drinking more coffee than ever before. In 2015, it was predicted that excessive coffee consumption would decrease, thanks to the invention of the coffee pod. This prediction, however, was a flop. Now, in 2019, over 80% of Americans drink coffee daily—that’s about 400 million cups a day—and many confess to drinking two or more! It’s no secret that coffee is America’s most popular drug, but what if there is something more troubling about coffee than the harmful effects of caffeine? What if there is mold in coffee and you’ve been enjoying every sip of it—down to the last drop?
Is There Mold in Coffee?
The question shouldn’t be, “Is there mold in my coffee?” because study after study after study confirms that over 45% of coffees and coffee brands contain significant amounts of mold toxins. To date, there are over 60 sources producing 9.5 million tons of coffee beans per year for the world’s caffeine addiction. If the studies are true, that means that nearly 50%—almost half—of all the coffee in the world is infested with the disease-causing effects of mold. Furthermore, since researchers have yet to test more brands and sources, this means that the percentage could be even higher than 45%.
If consumers only had to worry about coffee mold spores or perhaps even just mold in coffee grounds, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, it’s the secondary metabolite (think: toxic “flatulence”) of fully matured mold that is present in coffee. This toxic mold flatulence, so to speak—otherwise known as a mycotoxin—is produced in varying levels of toxicity, depending on the type of mold.
While studies have revealed several types of mycotoxins and aflatoxins present in 45% of coffees, the most alarming finds, thus far, have been the following mycotoxins and coffee mold symptoms:
Aflatoxin B1. This is a well-known genotoxic hepatocarcinogen, which means it causes liver cancer.
Aflatoxin B1 will bind itself to a segment of DNA, forming a DNA adduct. These DNA adducts, especially in the case of Aflatoxin B1, make cancerous changes to liver cells. To put it plainly, when Aflatoxin B1 is permitted into the body, it switches liver cells into “cancer-prone” mode or full-blown cancer itself, especially if the consumer practices other erroneous health decisions (i.e. poor diet, lack of exercise, etc.).
Fumonisin B1 (FB1). This causes neuronal degeneration in the cerebral cortex, as well as an interruption of lipid synthesis in the brain.
Simply put, it damages the cells of the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory, attention, perception, awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. This is no small thing. Many victims of toxic mold complain of “moldy brain” or “mold brain fog,” but there are countless others who suffer more debilitating changes in cognition, yet they’re often misdiagnosed with mental illness.
In addition, the interruption of lipid synthesis means that the body’s ability to metabolize fat will become disordered. Once disordered, the body becomes imbalanced with less “good” fats (complex sphingolipids) and more “bad” fats (sphingoid bases and sphingoid base metabolites) on the cellular level. The “bad” fats can cause cancer, particularly of the liver and kidney.
Macrocyclic Trichothecenes. Like Fumonism B1 (FB1), this also causes neuronal death (i.e. kills very important brain cells). It also causes inflammation of the olfactory system. This means that, not only is the victim eventually suffering from disabled cognitive function, they’re also subjected to chronic rhinosinusitis, which denies them a proper sense of smell and comfortable breathing through the nose.
Ochratochin A (OTA). This is responsible for serious dopamine depletion and cell death within the brain.
Dopamine is one of the feel-good neurotransmitters that motivates a person’s mood, sleeping patterns, capacity for learning, motor control, working memory, and their ability to focus and concentrate.
Anyone living the stereotypical “American Dream” lifestyle most-certainly is experiencing significantly-low dopamine levels, marked by chronic fatigue or even bouts of depression. It comes as no surprise then that most “American Dream” enthusiasts are hooked on coffee. Coffee—or caffeine, rather—temporarily increases dopamine levels. In other words, it’s a drug that’s legal, infested with mold, and abused on a daily basis by millions of people.
T-2 Toxin. Like all of the above mycotoxins found in coffee, the T-2 toxin causes neuronal death. Not only does it destroy brain cells, it also causes alimentary toxic aleukia, which is a mycotoxin-induced condition characterized by diarrhea, hemorrhaging, leukopenia (susceptibility to devastating infection), nausea, skin inflammation, vomiting, and sometimes even death. In the 1940s, for example, thousands of USSR citizens within the Orenburg District (10% of the total population of that region) ingested T-2 infested grains and died after developing alimentary toxic aleukia. Since research has uncovered the T-2 toxin in coffee, this begs the question: “Are the addictive benefits of coffee worth the risk?”
Why Would There Be Mold in Coffee?
There are several reasons why mold is guaranteed to be in most coffees on the market, but probably the most obvious reason is that coffee crops are raised in tropical climates. Mold species vary by climate and the type of food source available. The warmer and wetter the climate, the greater the variety of mold type and mold growth. Because coffee crops are tropical, they are exceedingly susceptible to mold growth and, subsequently, the disease-causing secondary metabolites known as mycotoxins and aflatoxins.
Secondly, mold spores teem in the millions—if not billions—in any given environment, which makes it next to impossible to ensure coffee beans—undergoing the typical processes in the typical processing environments—will be mold-free. This is especially an issue when coffee beans are spread out to dry in large open areas where coffee mold spores are sure to land and take root among the beans.
Thirdly, those “typical processes” and those “typical processing environments” make for a rather unavoidable cesspool of mold proliferation.
Sadly, not many consumers are aware of the process by which coffee can—and usually does—harbor and proliferate the growth of mold. For instance, the main catalysts to mold growth and mycotoxin development in coffee bean production is the fermentation process, length of storage, and storage materials.
Once harvested, the ripe and even overripe coffee cherries are pulped (crushed open) to reveal the inner coffee bean. Even after removing the skin and pulp, the coffee beans are still tightly encased in their mucilage. The mucilage—a slimy sheath that surrounds the coffee bean—is comprised of carbohydrates, simple sugars, and protein—all of which significantly whet mold’s appetite.
The mucilage-removing fermentation process that the slippery beans undergo involves cement tanks, water, and 16 to 36 hours of fermentation. While fermenting the coffee beans may remove this unwanted slimy sheath that would otherwise inspire mold growth, the water, warmth, and fermenting time only encourages mold growth and mold maturation even more.
This is a common problem that coffee producers worldwide readily admit, but because the fermentation process greatly impacts the taste of the coffee, it is the main processing choice of nearly 100% of all specialty coffee producers.
Coffee is a crop like any other. Similar to grain and corn, coffee beans are harvested, processed, and stored for long periods of time in hot, damp conditions. In the United States alone, storage-induced toxic mold growth is a serious and chronic concern among agriculturists. Nuts, corn, grains, and coffee are all subjected to storing conditions that comfortably host and foster the development of mature molds. Even the shipment of coffee beans, whether by land, sky, or sea, poses a possible threat of mold growth since many shipping containers and trucks cannot combat heat and moisture adequately.
When coffee beans are shipped from the producer to departments of the brand company, they most commonly arrive in large burlap sacks. The brand company then redistributes the coffee beans in their signature container—usually plastic or laminated barrier film—and they are stored in trucks or shipping containers as they make their way to stores across the country.
The problem with burlap sacks is that they are prone to developing mold themselves. Burlap is made from the skin of the jute plant. Like cardboard, jute fabric fibers are made of cellulose, which provide the most toxic molds all the nutrients they need to take root and grow.
If there are already coffee mold spores present, then the brand company’s plastic or laminated barrier film container only makes matters worse. The mold is kept out of direct light, shielded from severe temperature changes, and any and all moisture is locked in with the moldy coffee. It’s the perfect environment for growing even more mold.
So, Does Your Coffee Have Mold?
There are several indications that you might have mold in coffee. Was there ever a time that you accidentally forgot to toss out the filter from your last brew and a few days passed? If you noticed the smell or visual hint of any mold in coffee grounds within the last filter, it’s guaranteed that the batch of coffee you purchased was already moldy before you brought it home.
Another indication would be a moldy smell coming from your coffee maker, regardless of regular filter changes. Statistically, over half of all coffee brewers are a breeding ground for mold.
Some may be able to detect this mold in their coffee, but many do not smell or taste the mold or mycotoxins in their coffee beans.
And, lastly, you may have become aware of coffee mold symptoms that affect your health. Did you know that ingesting coffee mold spores can trigger allergies? That’s right—just one cup of moldy coffee can cause congestion, coughing, headaches, sneezing, and watery eyes. Even the sudden onset of flu-like symptoms and upper respiratory infections can stem from the consumption of moldy coffee. Gastrointestinal issues, such as bloat, diarrhea, loose stool, cramping, can all be signs of mold in coffee, as well.
So, what are the solutions?
“Mold-Free Coffee” Options
Coffee raised and processed organically at high altitudes is more likely to be as close to mold free coffee as you’re going to get. This is because high altitudes produce drier climates. Mold has very little chance of taking root and growing in those conditions, even if the coffee bean is wet-processed (fermented). It’s not the ideal, but it’s an option.
Best Mold Free Coffee Brands (in no particular order):
Peak Performance Coffee
Café de Loja
Tiny Footprint Coffee
Sight Glass Coffee
Why Do You Drink Coffee?
If you love someone, you tend to want to know everything you can about them. If that’s the case, then why is it that you don’t know everything about your most beloved beverage—coffee? If you’re a serious coffee connoisseur or you’re one of the many who feels that they can’t function in the morning without a hot, steaming cup of coffee, then you need to be better informed about what it’s doing to your body.
Even back in the 1860s, it was common knowledge that coffee—caffeine more specifically—was a harmful indulgence that injuriously excited the nerves, causing an aftereffect of exhaustion and the paralysis of mental and physical abilities. There were countless temperance movements that warned men and women of all ages to reduce their coffee consumption or avoid coffee altogether. As early as 1863, health enthusiasts were concerned about the toxins in coffee, especially mold.
Today, people are catching on to the fact that coffee is not necessarily the helpful friend it’s generally perceived to be. There is new evidence that suggests women shouldn’t drink coffee at all. There are even celebrities who avoid coffee and warn others of the negative impact it has on the mind and body.
Check out news staffer James de Villiers’ 14-day “I Gave Up Coffee” experience. It might surprise you to discover that you can relate to his concluding remark: “Coffee became a crutch to make up for other things in my life which were out of balance.”
Consider Healthy Alternatives to Coffee
Mold in coffee is most assuredly dangerous, but the caffeine in coffee and other beverages is also damaging long-term. Thankfully, there are healthy alternatives that not only keep you safe from coffee mold symptoms, they are also just as equally tasty and comforting as that hot cup’a joe.
Best “Hot Coffee” Alternatives
Rasa (See the reviews!)
Points to Remember about Mold and Coffee
- Nearly 50% of all coffees tested contained mycotoxins!
- Five (5) of the deadliest mycotoxins and aflatoxins on earth are found in mold-infested coffee beans!
- Nearly every part of the coffee production is subject to mold!
- Coffee mold symptoms can range from mild allergies to flu-like symptoms to even uncomfortable bowel movements. Pay attention!
- There is no such thing as mold free coffee, but you can reduce your risk by purchasing coffee beans raised organically in high altitudes!
- Learn what coffee—not just moldy coffee—is doing to your body before you take another sip!
- There are healthy, caffeine-free alternatives to coffee that will not only wake you up and energize you, they’re quite tasty too!
What has been your experience with mold in coffee or even coffee in general? Do you have any coffee alternative suggestions that other readers might be interested in trying? Or, better yet, how do you flavor your coffee alternatives? Please share your responses in the comments below!
For more information regarding mold, mold prevention, and mold solutions, please check out the rest of MoldBlogger.com.
Article by Amanda Demsky from the MoldBlogger team.