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The Truth About Cockroach Coffee: Myths and Reality

The Truth About Cockroach Coffee: Myths and Reality

There are multiple types of coffee and each has its own distinctive taste and smell. And with multiple types, come multiple theories and questions.

One being:  Does coffee have cockroaches in them?

Since coffee is so in demand globally and the drink has been around for ages, it’s only a matter of time for someone to ask that question. Why, when you look at the swirling black color of your usual cup of joe and the cockroach that’s staring at you on your countertop, you can’t help but notice the similarity in colors.

Then your mind backs itself into the corner of overthinking and eventually comes to the conclusion ‘Oh my God, there are cockroaches in my coffee.’

Well, technically, you’re not wrong.  

Your coffee may contain ground-up cockroaches because, during processing, coffee beans can get infested with cockroaches. Because it’s impossible to wipe them out completely, some just end up getting ground and roasted. The FDA allows this to happen so long as it does not reach the point of Defect Action Level, which is 10%.

While a roach may not be swimming around in the cup of coffee in your hands, as much as I hate how this sounds, it is somewhat a part of the drink.  

Keep reading if you want to know more about the bugs in your coffee. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it seems.

Do Coffee Beans Have Cockroaches?

Most coffee beans have cockroaches in them. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which is responsible for making sure all foods are safe for consumption approves of it.

They consider bugs as unavoidable defects in food items. Of course, they do not pose a health threat to consumers but it is a little shocking to know. They approve of 10% or less of these defects (bugs) in the green coffee beans.

According to them, these are inevitable components that come within the coffee that cannot be removed completely from the coffee beans.

Moreover, most agricultural food items do contain some amount of these bugs or food defects.

So if you’re thinking about ditching coffee because there may be traces of cockroaches in it, you might also wanna abandon chocolate and apple butter as those too have tiny amounts of bugs in them

How Do Bugs End Up in the Coffee?

coffee beans in a sack

Bugs end up in coffee beans, the raw form of coffee, during the cultivation phase. The cultivation of these coffee beans is done on a massive scale due to its global demand. This leads to fast-paced production and massive storage units, for roasting.

These piled-up coffee beans in storage units get infected easily with bugs like cockroaches. This then begins infesting other piles as well.

Because there are way too many, these bugs cannot be removed completely before grinding. Therefore, they end up being crushed along with the beans.

This is not to say that the people who are handling the coffee beans are irresponsible with their job, this is just something that’s out of their control, that’s why the FDA allows it.

Bugs also carry several nutrients and are considered highly nutritional, so there really should be nothing to worry about.

Is There A Way to Have Bug Free Coffee?

There is a way to enjoy your coffee without bugs in it. You can purchase your own coffee beans and not pre-made grinds. Buy your own whole beans and grind your coffee yourself at home.

This trend is gaining popularity as more and more consumers in America are getting aware of the whole bugs situation. It may take time for you to adjust to grinding your own coffee or making the best selection of coffee beans for your fresh brew, but it is worth it.

That little satisfaction that you will get while sipping your freshly ground and freshly brewed coffee (hopefully without bugs) is unmatched.

Though this does not guarantee to completely remove the existence of bug fragments from your coffee beans, it provides you with mostly bug-free grounds.

Filtered Coffee Versus Unfiltered Coffee

Another way to reduce the harmful effects of these bugs is by drinking Filtered coffee. The coffee you are accustomed to drinking made from Moka pot or French press is unfiltered. Studies show that the worst way to drink coffee made from pre-ground beans is the unfiltered way. It consists of metal filters and no paper filters like in filtered coffee and fails to remove bugs, oils, and coffee bean particles.

Below is the table comparing the two so you can easily understand and hopefully avoid the unfiltered way.

Filtered CoffeeUnfiltered Coffee
Unwanted components (bugs)Filters the majority of themAll unwanted components are present
TasteClean and smoothBitter and strong
Caffeine96 mg80-135 mg
Mortality RateLowerHigher

Does Starbucks Coffee have Bugs?

red yoghurt under red lighting

Starbucks cannot remove bugs completely from your coffee. It is also known that Starbucks uses (or used to use) Cochineal extract, a dye made from crushed bugs to color some of their drinks red and pink. Though they announced that they will no longer be using Cochineal extract, there’s no way to know for sure if they truly stopped using the dye.

Cochineal extract is, from the name itself, derived from the insects: Cochineal. They’re usually found in deserts as they live on cacti juice, particularly the prickly pear cacti, and they’re often used to dye certain foods.

These dyes are used in your coffee drinks like your favorite Strawberry Frappuccino or the Pink drink and are present in other food and beverages as well, like yogurts, jams, kinds of ketchup, and much more. So, eating bugs is not only limited to coffee

They can also be found in cosmetic products like lipsticks.

So if you were iffy about the possibility of cockroaches being in your coffee, this information might churn your stomach. But you shouldn’t worry too much about it because Cochineal is considered a natural dye and is deemed by the FDA as safe.

Nothing for you to lose sleep over.  

Are There Any Harmful Effects of Cockroaches in Coffee?

FDA guidelines do not suggest any harmful effects of the consumption of these drinks, it may trigger some form of allergies or even asthma. I personally do not recommend anybody who has an allergic reaction to bugs like cockroaches or any form of asthma consume pre-ground coffee.

Although there have been no reports of someone getting an asthma attack from coffee because of bugs, it’s won’t hurt to be wary.

I would suggest buying your own coffee grinder and grind the beans at home. To go the extra mile, you can even purchase green coffee beans and get your beans roasted at any local roasting place. Blue Bottle is an international roaster with many locations across the globe. Brooklyn Roasting Company is also a well-known New York-based seller selling coffee roasters in the U.S.

Should I Stop Drinking Coffee Completely?

Cockroaches potentially being in your coffee shouldn’t be a reason to give up coffee unless it is affecting your health due to allergies. The traces of bugs in your coffee are generally in small amounts and it does not affect the taste of the drink. However, it is up to you whether you want to give it up or not.

If you do decide to give up coffee altogether read further because I have made a list of alternative drinks which provide caffeine and are also bug-free!

Too much coffee is not advised by doctors. An 8 oz cup is more than enough for an adult who is a regular coffee drinker. To maintain this amount every day is not a big deal for an average consumer.

With that being said, our bodies get used to the caffeine rush that we get from coffee intake every single day. So much so that if not consumed on the regular can cause caffeine withdrawal. Some symptoms are headache, low energy, anxiety, and much more. Some even consider coffee as a drug because it is so addicting and trying to get away from it when you’re so used to it is incredibly hard. If you’re interested, I wrote an article about that very topic.

Though these effects are not long-lasting, here is a list of 5 delicious alternative drinks to coffee that provides caffeine and aid in caffeine withdrawals.

  • Matcha Tea: It is a special fine powder of processed green tea leaves giving it a bright green color. It also contains around 20-40 mg per gram of caffeine, which is more than enough for an active adult.
  • Chicory Coffee:  A coffee look-alike is a beverage made by crushing the roots of the chicory plant. It does taste similar to a regular cup of coffee but with an added nutty and woodiness. It has a high amount of caffeine in it. Each cup is estimated to have 100 mg of caffeine.
  • Chai Tea: An East Asian aromatic beverage that has gained wide popularity across the globe. It is an essential drink in Asian households providing a daily dose of steady caffeine. Each cup has about 11mg of caffeine.
  • Yerba Mate: It is a form of herbal tea. This tea is made by roasting the twigs and leaves of the plant in fire and then steeping it in hot water. Though high consumption of this tea is not recommended because it has a high amount of caffeine. But it is an energy booster that helps with depression, fatigue, and chronic headaches. Here is a tutorial for you to learn how to make it at home.
An easy and simple way to make Yerba Mate at home

Final Thoughts!

We cannot deny the fact that we all require a cup of caffeine-enriched coffee early in the morning. It has slowly but surely become our morning ritual. Without that caffeine rush, I personally cannot function in the morning.

But the thought of cockroaches being in our coffee definitely puts our energy booster in a bad light and has us reconsidering our morning ritual. And adapting to new ways can take a lot of time and effort for an individual.

Coffee contains traces of bugs like cockroaches due to the infestation that happens in the cultivation process. Although they are approved by the FDA as long as they don’t pass a certain percentage, it’s still stomach-churning to think about it.

However, small steps can lead to big changes. We can start by upgrading to buying whole coffee beans and getting them roasted. Or we can swap out the Moka pot with a manual coffee brewing system.

For some countries consuming bugs is not a problem at all, in fact, it is highly common. In Asian countries like China and Japan. But for the U.S it is an eerie concept, some even find it unacceptable. Our minds are not trained to think that they are edible in any shape or form.

In almost every processed food you can find something similar going on, like in peanut butter. Or in cosmetics brands, a carmine dye derived from the insect Cochineal is used to give lipstick their rich, pigmented red color. So there is no way that you can live 100% bug-free. You will come across bugs used in other products even if you manage to eliminate them in your coffee.

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