During July I had a query from one of my customers concerning
coffee and coeliac disease, specifically the presence of gluten
in coffee. She had been told that wheat flour was sometimes used
during coffee processing. I went online and searched for all the
references I could find to coffee, gluten and coeliac disease,
and along the way ran into three lumps of what could only be
called "urban myth".
The first was that "most coffees contain barley". Most coffees,
even the el-cheapo Aldi instant coffee, contain nothing but
coffee. However, if you look at "Coffee Substitutes" in health
food stores you'll find that a lot of them are indeed based on
roasted barley. They are among the most dire tasting beverages on
the planet, so I'd counsel everyone, not just the gluten
intolerant, to avoid them.
The second was that "coffee and grains are often processed on the
same equipment." Unless you're talking about the hand operated
stone querns used in Ethiopia and Somalia to grind both coffee
and grain, this doesn't happen. Coffee roasters and coffee
grinders are simply not suitable for processing grains.
The final myth was that flour or starch is used as a kind of
lubricant for coffee processing machinery, as part of moving the
beans both before and after roasting. This turns out to be not
only a "No!" but a "Hell, No!" Coffee conveyancing equipment
generally involves large volumes of air movement, and finely
divided flour particles suspended in air in the presence of open
flames (coffee roasters) are a recipe for a Great Big Kaboom.
In general all coffee, instant, ground or beans, is gluten free.
The exceptions may be instant coffee mixes and flavored coffee
beans. The mixes often have all sorts of nasty things on the
ingredient list, and the syrups and oils used to flavour beans
may be thickened with starch products.
Just because coffee is gluten free doesn't mean it won't upset
your gut. There are all sorts of other things, including
caffeine, chlorogenic acids and tannins which may affect some
people's digestive systems. Robusta based coffees (most instant
coffees and some espresso blends) have more of all three, so
avoid them if you are in the sensitive category. Swiss Water
decaffeinated coffees seem to have the least effect, probably
because the process removes acids and tannins as well as
During July I also did a heap of cupping, with a view to current
and future specials. Among the coffees were 5 pre-shipment
microlot samples, all from a single area, but grown by different
farmers (all members of the same co-op) at different altitudes
and in different microclimates. All the coffees were processed by
the "honey" method. While they were uniformly excellent, there
was one coffee that was that little bit better, from "El Madine".
Unfortunately it turns out that when the 5 microlots arrived in
Australia, they had all been blended together and shipped as a
single lot! Oh well, the macrolot is still a fabulous coffee, and
going by past versions very popular indeed. They were all "Miel"
coffees from the Dota Tarrazu co-op.
Costa Rica Tarrazu Miel
Rich coffee aroma, with sweet acid, smooth fruity mid palate and
creamy body, the coffee-est coffee you'll ever taste.
Until next month