Coffee Trends

Do Coffee Beans Have Cockroaches? The Truth About Your Coffee

Dark black coffee beans out of bag

The Bug Brew, is it a Myth, or is it True? Are There Cockroaches in Whole Bean Coffee?

Unfortunately, in a way, yes, but it is ground coffee and instant coffee that is more likely to contain traces of cockroach, not whole bean coffee. But don’t jump to conclusions...

People have been consuming coffee even before the television was in color. Legend has it that in the 9th century, a goat herder was just doing his daily business and watching the goats when he observed that the goats ate the seeds of the Coffea plant. 

After eating the plant they became very active and had more energy. When the goat herder went to tell the town monk of the discovery, the monk then created a drink out of the plant seed. This kept the monk awake at night and on the grounds of this, coffee was created.

Among coffee drinkers, there’s about 79%  that prefer to brew at home. Some purchase pre-ground coffee for convenience, but others prefer whole beans, so they could always brew a fresh batch. Well, aside from the taste difference, some people are inclined to buy whole beans because of another known fact… Ground coffee beans have cockroaches.

How Did Coffee and Cockroaches Come into Light?

The story of the bug brew was not known until an interview in 2009 made by NPR journalist Terri Gross, with a biology professor at the University of Montana, Douglas Emlen, about Emlen’s research into dung beetles. (Hearing dung beetles and bugs in coffee is alarming, but don’t abandon coffee just yet).

Dr. Douglas Emlen said in the interview that entomologists who worked a lot with insects, especially cockroaches, often developed an allergic reaction to bugs. He recalled when he was still a student that he would be driving across the country alongside his professor while doing research in the late ‘80s, just to find the perfect café to get good coffee. He recalled that they would be driving almost an hour off route, just to find a place that offered whole coffee beans instead of fresh ground coffee.

Dr. Emlen hated the idea of having to waste a lot of time traveling just so his professor would be able to satisfy his coffee addiction, and it wasn’t just 2 cups of joe per day, it was a cup every couple of hours. Finally, his professor explained to Dr. Emlen that he had to drink freshly ground coffee from whole beans,  all because he was allergic to cockroaches.

He explained that after years and years of handling cockroaches, his professor developed a really bad allergic reaction to the bug whenever he came in contact with them. His professor had the same hypersensitivity when he drank pre-ground coffee in tin cans. So putting two and two together, they concluded that pre-ground coffee beans have cockroaches.

Does Coffee Have Cockroaches?

The answer is yes, coffee grounds may contain traces of cockroaches and other bugs. When coffee is being ground in factories and warehouses, it can be very difficult to quality control insects entering the machines, especially when the coffee has come from farming areas and the bags themselves probably contain bugs.

However, the same can be said for every type of food and drink that is produced, you would never know. You shouldn’t let this ruin your brew though! Instead, you can switch to whole bean coffee and grind it yourself, then the worry is gone!

How Do Cockroaches End Up in Coffee?

As it turned out, when they looked closely into pre-ground coffee beans, the coffee that was sold in tins was all processed from an immense stockpile of coffee. These coffee mounds are so big that they get infested with cockroaches, as it’s impossible to deter them. Unfortunately, the coffee makers don’t really have a good solution to filter the bugs out, so they get mixed into the coffee that gets grounded up by the machinery.

Different cultures have different views about cockroaches present in ground coffee. While other cultures enjoy exotic foods and insects on a daily basis, others like the American and European cultures, are easily repulsed by the thought of bugs, especially cockroaches present in their coffee. 

But it’s not just coffee that has insect residue, in fact, there’s a lot of food that has insect residues that people are not aware of. If you think about it, there are bugs in factories and nothing is to stop a bug from ending up in a machine, then being processed into food substances. 

After all, you can actually purchase live bugs to eat, and they are considered a good source of protein. So don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Although, in addition to being extremely displeasing, cockroaches are an allergen to countless people, and they trigger asthma and other allergic reactions. If there are concerns here then you should consult your doctor.

Are Cockroaches in Coffee Dangerous?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that there is an acceptable level of bug residue allowed in food, as long as it does not exceed a certain percentage. A study made by the FDA exposed that up to 10% of green coffee beans turn out to be infested with cockroaches and other bugs. Because it’s hard to filter these bugs out, they end up being mixed, roasted, and grounded up with the beans. You would never notice this though. 

The circumstance of the bugs being present in the coffee brew is so common that the FDA consummated a 10% level of bugs residue acceptable in coffee. Just because there is an acceptable level of “insect filth” and “insects” in coffee, doesn’t mean that every coffee tin has roaches. 

This widely-known fact should be a good indicator of whether it’s reasonable to buy ground-up coffee or buy the whole beans instead, and just invest in a coffee grinder. Well, coffee always tastes better if it’s freshly grounded compared to pre-grounded coffee anyway. But we would highly recommend if you are put off by this, purchase whole beans from now on and use an affordable coffee bean grinder

The Bug Brew, Exposed!

Although a lot of people might be disgusted about the case of cockroaches present in coffee, it is unfortunately real. This has been first exposed by Dr. Douglas Emlen, a biology professor at the University of Montana, and had since been recognized and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Is there a way to stay clear of the roaches in coffee? Well yes, there actually is a good and practical solution for this. Instead of buying the pre-grounded coffee, buy the whole beans and grind it at home. Not only will this help avoid cockroaches in coffee, but this will also result in a very aromatic and flavorful cup of coffee.

If you still want to purchase pre-ground coffee but are put off reading this, you didn’t notice before, and you would probably never notice in a lifetime. It’s not going to hurt you, so just continue drinking your favorite coffee.

Note – If you are suffering from severe allergies and drink pre-ground coffee, it’s always worth having an allergy test done. 

On a lighter note check out this guide on how to use a Chemex.

The Final Sip

Do Coffee Beans Have Cockroaches? Coffee beans do not contain cockroaches but coffee grounds and instant coffee may have traces of roaches and other insects. Unfortunately, this is inevitable with food manufacturing in factories and warehouses where bugs thrive. Think of the plus side, the protein content of your coffee will be higher…

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