Fingerprinting Fake Coffee

With gourmet coffee prices approaching sticker-shock levels, scientists in Illinois report developing a method to “fingerprint” coffee to detect when corn has been mixed into short-changing customers. Such adulteration of Brazilian coffee is among the most severe problems affecting coffee quality – with cereal grains, coffee twigs, and brown sugar sometimes mixed into the genuine article.

The research focuses on detecting corn, probably the most widely used adulterant. The study describes the development and uses of six popular coffee brands to analyze one form of vitamin E in Brazilian coffee. Because roasted corn samples have high vitamin E concentrations, it serves as a fingerprint for adulteration with corn. In laboratory tests, they found that one brand of Brazilian coffee contained almost 9 percent of corn. Although noting that their results are preliminary, the scientists say their new method appears to be “a significant improvement” over existing tests to detect corn adulteration—source: Science Daily.

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