Is Coffee Gluten-Free?
Simple question: is coffee gluten-free?
Unfortunately, the simplest questions are sometimes the most difficult to answer… but when your body is craving that morning cup of coffee, the answer becomes imperative.
The worst part is that we’re not just talking about a guilty conscience here, either. We’re talking stomach aches and pains, along with all sorts of other, more serious symptoms.
So let’s put this question to bed once and for all, so you can figure out how you can get that caffeine fix!
Is Coffee Gluten-Free? Let’s Dig Into the Question...
I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re already pretty knowledgeable about gluten. It’s not in everything, but if it’s present even in small quantities, it can cause issues to those with sensitivities.
So, how does this tie back into the coffee question?
Are the Beans Gluten-Free?
The first and most important question is: are the beans gluten-free? Because if they’re not, we might as well wrap this up right now.
You would think, at first glance, that we’re okay here. I mean, coffee is a fruit from a plant. It isn’t wheat, barley, or rye, right?
But many who are gluten-free report discomfort similar to gluten symptoms after drinking coffee – one of the main reasons why people wonder if this stuff really is gluten-free.
The truth is, if you’re drinking black coffee and you’re feeling sick or hitting up the bathroom every fifteen minutes, there’s probably one of a few things happening:
- The coffee might be triggering something different, such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Coffee isn’t the gentlest of drinks, so don’t be surprised if you simply can’t handle six cups a day. Reactions like this are especially likely to occur if you drink coffee on an empty stomach.
- You might be reacting to something like traces of pesticides if it’s not organic (although this is up for debate), or even the caffeine itself, especially if you’re already weakened by gluten intolerance.
- The other option, though, is that you might actually have some gluten in your coffee.
AHA! So coffee does have gluten in it!
Hold your horses for a second, though.
The beans themselves do not contain gluten.
But – get this – your coffee may be mimicking gluten. Some research seems to indicate that both coffee and dairy can cause “gluten cross-reactivity”, which, when massively simplified, means your body mistakes it for gluten and reacts similarly.
Another possibility is the presence of mycotoxins in your coffee, stemming from the mold compound ochratoxin A. This is common in coffee and is usually harmless, but… not necessarily if you’re struggling with celiac disease.
What Can You Do to Address the Issue?
First off, and this can be a hard one, guys, but you can try eliminating coffee from your diet for a while. Like a week. We’re not talking months here! (Please don’t hate me!)
This is to see if your symptoms improve at all. If they do, then your coffee was probably the issue.
If that’s the case, though, don’t panic and think your coffee-drinking days are over just yet. It’s a good thing to discover. It means you’re on your way to feeling better… and it actually doesn’t mean you have to give up coffee. That’s a win-win, right?
Like I mentioned before, the actual coffee beans aren’t the problem here. It’s more likely gluten contamination, the processing, the kind of coffee, etc.
So, if you’ve narrowed it down this far, it’s time to take some other steps to try and find a solution.
- Avoid heavily processed coffees. Don’t give in to convenient options like instant coffee (NEVER instant coffee, I beg you!). Coffees that aren’t certified organic can cause issues as well, as they are often more heavily processed. Look for that USDA certified organic endorsement on the label, like this one, as they generally indicate a more gluten-free-friendly coffee brand.
- Grind your beans at home. This one also comes down to the processing factor. If your beans come pre-ground, you’re trusting a stranger in a factory far away to check that whatever machinery used to grind the coffee was cleared of any gluten contaminants beforehand. Don’t take that chance. Besides, freshly ground coffee beans make better coffee, anyway.
- Switch brands. Finally, if you’re using organic whole beans, grinding them at home, and you’re still having issues, try switching around between other organic, certified gluten-free coffee options, like this one. Here’s a nice gluten-free coffee list that can help you find some celiac-safe coffee brands.
What About Gluten-Free Flavored Coffee?
But what about coffees that have had artificial flavors added to them?
Anyone who’s gluten-free is usually aware of the dangers that the “natural flavors” of any ingredients list can hide.
See, the natural flavors are often made with distilled grain alcohol, and while that is usually considered gluten-free, due to the distillation process it can still contain very small traces of gluten.
So, basically, if you’re extremely sensitive to gluten, you may want to watch out for the flavored coffees.
And the Milk and Sugar?
We’re focusing in this post on the coffee end of things, so we won’t go into detail on this one. But suffice it to say that milk is generally gluten-free, as is sugar.
However, just as with the coffee itself, you’re going to want to keep your radar on for any reactions that might be traced back to them.
A spoon used for flour and then popped into the sugar jar is a classic example of how these things can get contaminated without our knowledge.
So, Is Coffee Gluten-Free or Not?
With all of these things considered, we can give this question a solid YES.
Coffee is indeed gluten-free.
But, as is so often the case in the food world, that “YES” comes with a lot of caveats.
You have to make sure that the coffee beans are properly grown and handled, and are getting to you in a way that prevents contamination (as with the milk and sugar).
If you have any further thoughts or insights on the subject, we’d love to hear from you! Especially if it can help empower the gluten-free community to keep that delicious java flowing with zero side-effects… other than a caffeine kick and some happy smiles!