What’s That in Your Coffee?

As you drink your morning cup of coffee, consider this…

There is currently a worldwide shortage of coffee beans.  Brazil (the world’s No. 1 coffee producer) is experiencing a drought.  Peru and Central America face a scourge of leaf rust.  Wholesale coffee prices have increased more than 60 percent since the beginning of the year.

Some makers of ground coffee have increased the amount of “fillers” they add to their products.  Non-harmful fillers include corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice and brown sugar.  Unfortunately, there are also harmful fillers such as wood, twigs, husk and even dirt.  These fillers can be virtually impossible for consumers to detect once the coffee beans have been roasted and ground.

Agilent analytical solutions are used extensively by the food industry to test the quality of coffee products.  An Agilent high-performance liquid chromatograph can detect contaminants such as chlorogenic acid, a byproduct of roasting that can upset sensitive stomachs.  The HPLC can also determine whether caffeine levels are acceptable for decaffeinated coffees.

Recently, researchers successfully used an Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer system to differentiate and authenticate different types of coffee beans through genetic sequencing.

Agilent equipment has even been used to make a better cup of coffee.  The correct balance of coffee aroma, taste and mouthfeel is dependent on how the coffee is extracted, roasted, brewed and stored.  Researchers in the UK and Switzerland recently used an Agilent GC/MSD System to optimize 20 key compounds that affect coffee’s in-cup aroma.


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