(NaturalNews) Billions of people around the globe love to have coffee throughout the day, and in the United States, especially, there is a growing market for specialty blends and brews. The fresher (and, in many cases, the more expensive), the better.
But researchers are warning coffee drinkers to beware of surprise ingredients that are neither sweet nor flavorful, and they are hiding in your coffee. Worse, as coffee becomes in shorter supply, chances will increase that these non-coffee fillers will be mixed in with your favorite blend in the future.
There is some good news, though: There is a highly accurate test in the works that will quickly identify any coffees containing unwanted fillers before the beverage hits store shelves and restaurants.
Testing becoming more important as coffee becomes more scarce
The extra ingredients identified are not harmful, and they make the ground coffee go further, while increasing profits for producers, the researchers say. But the blends are not 100 percent coffee, which is essentially like cheating customers.
In any event, the researchers' report was part of the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, where some 12,000 reports were featured August 10-14.
According to a press release by the American Chemical Society:
A test to detect counterfeit coffees is becoming more important in light of growing shortages in regions, such as Brazil, where droughts and plant diseases have dramatically cut back coffee supplies.
"With a lower supply of coffee in the market, prices rise, and that favors fraud because of the economic gain," research team leader Suzana Lucy Nixdorf, Ph.D., said.
In 2012, a study by the United Kingdom's Royal Botanic Gardens and Environmental Department found that 70 percent of the world's coffee supply could disappear by the year 2080 due to conditions allegedly being caused by "climate change." However, shortages due to more immediate issues are already taking place.
For instance, the coffee-rich nation of Brazil typically produces about 55 million bags of coffee annually; however, according to some data, the projected amount for this year will likely be more in the neighborhood of 45 million bags following this past January's extensive drought. Overall, that amounts to some 42 billion fewer cups of coffee this year.
But Nixdorf and her team at the State University of Londrina in Brazil say they have found a way to identify coffee counterfeiting before the blend is consumed.
"With our test, it is now possible to know with 95 percent accuracy if coffee is pure or has been tampered with, either with corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, acai seed, brown sugar or starch syrup," she said.
But one problem, she added, was that "after roasting and grinding the raw material, it becomes impossible to see any difference between grains of lower cost incorporated into the coffee, especially because of the dark color and oily texture of coffee."
Lower supplies equal higher prices and a reason to cheat
According to new findings, the team is now in the process of analyzing a number of fillers considered to be impurities rather than adulterants. The impurities can even be parts of the coffee plants themselves, which are introduced during harvest but are not really supposed to be part of the final product.
Wood and twigs, sticks, parchment, husks, whole coffee berries and even clumps of earth that are nearly the same color as coffee have been found in some blends. And identifying them is key, because if there are a large amount of impurities, it is probable that they were added on purpose, not by accident, as some producers try to claim, Nixdorf said.
According to the press release:
Currently, tests to detect these unwanted additives require scientists to check the coffee, and those tests are subjective -- not quantitative, she says. With these tests, the scientists look at the coffee under a microscope or identify various additives by simply tasting the coffee. In contrast, the new test uses liquid chromatography and statistical tools. This gives her team a much closer look at the ingredients in an unbiased way, according to Nixdorf. Chromatography is a powerful analytical technique that is very sensitive and highly selective.
"With a lower supply of coffee in the market, prices rise, and that favors fraud because of the economic gain," Nixdorf said.