5 Red Flags To Look For In Coffee — From Mold To Roast Date & More
When you hear the term "healthy coffee," you may immediately jump to preparation. A healthier cup probably has less refined sugar, flavors, and fillers. Perhaps the milk used is free from seed oils and additives. But have you ever wondered if your coffee beans themselves are up to snuff? Here are a few red flags to look out for if you're in search of the healthiest beans out there for your brew.
Coffee red flags
Before we dive in, let us say this: In general, coffee delivers plenty of health benefits, such as providing noteworthy antioxidant polyphenols1, supporting cardiovascular health2, and even balancing gut bacteria3. Depending on what beans you choose, these health benefits may fluctuate—for example, some blends contain significantly more polyphenols than others. So, investing in your beans is about way more than taste (though that's a worthy motivation too).
The research on clean coffee is relatively new, so there's still much to learn. Still, there are steps you can take to ensure your coffee blend is as health-promoting as it can be. Below, the potential red flags to look out for and why they matter:
Organic coffee stands out because it's free from the pesticides and other chemicals often used on conventional coffee farms. Given that coffee is generally consumed once or twice a day (or more), this organic certification is noteworthy.
Of course, organic can be a buzzword in the food world, so look for verification from the USDA or another third-party source on your coffee beans to be sure.
No roast date listed
When looking at your bag of beans, you may or may not see a roast date—it's not technically required by law for coffee companies to disclose it.
However, many premium coffee brands with high-quality beans will include the roast date on their packaging to indicate freshness and transparency—take this as a good sign.
In general, the fresher the beans, the more nutrient-packed your coffee will be. Coffee beans are like many other foods in that, over time, they can go rancid and lose some of their nutritious value. Plus, fresh coffee just tastes better.
Robusta (not as good a taste as arabica)
If you're a coffee snob, then you may already know that arabica beans tend to have a smoother and richer flavor than robusta beans.
Robusta beans have a stronger and more bitter taste, which delivers a pungent note that many people prefer to skip—hence why they're often used in blends rather than on their own. They aren't harmful healthwise, but they just may not provide the best flavor.
In addition, robusta provides more caffeine than arabica coffee—this may be a perk for some people, but for those watching their caffeine consumption, arabica is certainly a better choice.
Not tested for mold
These mycotoxins are invisible to the naked eye and have been identified in up to 50% of coffee beans tested in some cases. Now, most of the time, these mycotoxins won't make you sick, especially when ingested every now and then. But if coffee is something you drink often, it might be worth it to shell out for beans that have been tested for mold and mycotoxins. Some coffee roasters do send the beans through additional testing—so look for that on your bag.
Pre-ground (whole bean is superior)
This one isn't too surprising but still a good reminder: Grinding your own beans will ensure you're getting the freshest cup possible.
The extra step may seem tedious, but the pursuit of peak benefits and flavor is well worth it. Plus, you can grind your beans to accommodate any roasting style you prefer—from espresso to drip.
Our better option
Given all of the above, we were inspired to create our own coffee to make your daily habit just a bit healthier—welcome, clean coffee+.
This premium coffee blend undergoes comprehensive, third-party lab testing in the U.S. for mold, mycotoxins, heavy metals, and over 300 pesticides.†
Rigorously tested for caffeine, theobromine, and polyphenols too, our premium, whole coffee beans exceed industry-leading quality standards for potency, purity, and taste experience.
The counter-worthy blue bag contains USDA-certified organic arabica beans from regions in Africa, Latin America, and Indonesia. The blend is high in polyphenols and low in acid, giving it health-protective benefits that go down easy. These beans are just as wonderful for espresso as they are for larger cups—just grind them on a finer setting than you would for a drip or pour-over coffee.
If you're a dedicated coffee drinker, investing in your beans is one way to make each day just a bit healthier—and indulge in better-tasting coffee while you're at it.
If you're looking for the healthiest coffee around, now you know to keep an eye out for nonorganic blends, an absent roast date, full robusta beans, lack of mold testing, and pre-ground beans. Here's a bit more on the overarching health benefits of coffee in moderation—because this is one beverage that's demonized way too often.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.