Have you heard the terrible news for coffee lovers across the world?
They say that your daily cup of coffee contains a potentially harmful chemical called acrylamide which could increase your cancer risk, damage your DNA and harm your nervous system?
In short, it might taste great but it’s almost certainly not doing you any good.
So, what do you do if you just can’t get through the day without a cup of that deliciously bitter beverage? Can you buy instant coffee that doesn’t contain acrylamide? If not, what are the alternatives?
I’m a 100% coffee-addict, so that’s exactly the question I set out to answer today. Keep reading!
What Is Acrylamide?
Acrylamide is formed when any starchy foods are heated to temperatures above 120°C (in a process called the Maillard Reaction by scientists) and it’s a natural by-product of the cooking process.
Is Acrylamide as Dangerous as They Say?
Studies on rats suggest that exposure to this carcinogen can cause several different types of cancer. There’s also evidence to suggest that it can cause nerve damage and nervous system damage when a person is exposed to very high levels of the stuff.
Whilst this sounds like scary stuff, we need to bear in mind that these studies focus on exposure to high doses of the chemical and mainly on animals, not humans.
Besides, however dangerous acrylamide might be, here in the UK we only consume a fraction of the maximum exposure levels outlined by the European Food Safety Authority, with coffee accounting for only around 6%.
Can You Buy Acrylamide-Free Coffee?
No. Unfortunately scientists haven’t yet found a way to reduce the amount of acrylamide in roasted coffee beans because it’s created during the roasting process itself.
The good news is that they’re currently working on it, so fingers crossed they come up with a healthier way of roasting coffee without creating acrylamide soon.
How Much Acrylamide Is in Your Coffee?
That depends on what kind of coffee you’re drinking.
Studies have found that instant coffee contains 100% more acrylamide than fresh roasted coffee, with instant containing an average of 818pg/kg and roasted 179microg/kg.
Coffee substitutes are even worse, containing 300% more acrylamide.
How to Reduce Your Acrylamide Exposure from Coffee
Whilst you might not need to be too concerned about your acrylamide exposure and can keep enjoying your daily brew, there are a few ways you can reduce your exposure to the chemical in coffee.
- Drink less coffee: Less coffee = less acrylamide
- Be wary of coffee substitutes: These contain very high levels of acrylamides.
- Drink tea instead: Tea isn’t roasted but dried at very low temperature so only contains tiny amounts of the chemical.
- Avoid instant coffee: You’ll reduce your exposure and you’ll enjoy a far better quality coffee (see some of the best organic coffee beans here).
- Choose a dark roast: these contain lower levels of acrylamide than light roasts
So, whilst there isn’t a way to eliminate acrylamide from our coffee just yet, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your coffee.
Just keep your coffee consumption under control (yes, more easily said than done, I know!), be wary of coffee substitutes, experiment with tea, and opt for dark roasts instead. You’ll still enjoy the ritual and reduce your exposure to acrylamides from coffee.
Charlotte Witts is a writer and entrepreneur who wants to show you how easy it is to live a more conscious, zero-waste lifestyle. A confirmed yoga-addict, trail runner and ocean-lover, she currently lives in the Azores where she enjoys the simple pleasures in life.