Roasted coffee has recently received negative attention for being one of several food items that contain high levels of acrylamide according to national and international agencies. A failure to include all roasted coffee and specifically cite drum roasted coffee as hazardous, containing a “possible human carcinogen” in some health warnings, has led to some misconceptions regarding coffee and its method of roasting.
There are a lot of claims on the internet, primarily by organic coffee roasters who air roast their coffee stating that air roasted coffee contains fewer carcinogens than drum roasted coffee. Air roasting may affect outcomes such as flavour for fastidious coffee drinkers but the theory that air roasted coffee produces less carcinogens than drum roasted has yet to be scientifically proven.
Certain studies indicate that the levels of carcinogens, more specifically acrylamide found in roasted coffee is determined by coffee species, temperature and duration of roast. The method of roasting does not appear to eliminate or even significantly reduce the amount of acrylamide in roasted coffee.
Acrylamide does not exist in raw coffee. All roasted coffee contains acrylamide. It forms during the roasting process turning green beans to the dark brown colour of coffee as we know it. When the beans are heated above a specific temperature during roasting it causes a chemical reaction between the sugars and the amino acids. Duration of roast and temperature conditions have significant influence on the formation of acrylamide. Certain species of beans when tested also exhibited a significantly higher occurrence of acrylamide when roasted than others.
Ultimately, dark roasted coffee contains acrylamide and can not be determined less harmful based solely on roasting method. There are certain factors that have an effect on the levels of acrylamide present but air roasting coffee or using an alternative method of roasting other than drum roasting, based on recent findings, has not proven to be a safer or healthier way to produce coffee.
S.A. Wilson’s gold roast coffee has up to 80% less acrylamide than a medium roast organic coffee drum or air roasted. In fact the lab tests came back with the result “no detectable levels”.
The American Cancer Society Medical and Editorial Content Team
Acrylamide and Cancer Risk
Dissertation by msc. Kristina Bagdonaite carried out in the period of November 2003 to March 2007 at the Institute for Food Chemistry and Technology
Graz University of technology supervised by ao.univ.-prof. Dipl.-ing. Dr.techn. Michael murkovic. Tu graz university of technology formation of acrylamide during roasting of coffee
Victor R. Preedy
Coffee in Health and Disease Prevention
Published: November 3, 2014