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Science

Researchers Discover Way To Spot Crappy Coffee 184

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other dept.
sciencehabit writes "People who enjoy the most expensive coffee in the world can soon sip without worry: Researchers have come up with a way to tell if their cuppa joe is real or faux. The luxury drink in question—Kopi Luwak—is produced from coffee beans pooped out by the palm civet, a time-consuming process that helps contribute to the beverage's price tag of between $330 to $500 per kilogram. In a new study, researchers chemically analyzed four different blends of coffee—authentic Kopi Luwak, regular coffee, a 50/50 mix of the two, and a brew of coffee beans that producers had chemically treated in an attempt to simulate mammalian digestion. Of the hundreds of organic substances naturally present in coffee, a handful enabled the team to distinguish Kopi Luwak from the other brews. The technique may even be sensitive enough to distinguish pure Kopi Luwak from versions adulterated with varying percentages of other coffees—which offers some degree of reassurance when your morning mud costs about $15 a cup."
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Researchers Discover Way To Spot Crappy Coffee

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  • Easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by DanLake (543142) <slashdotNO@SPAMlakepage.com> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:20PM (#44650855)

    Look for the Starbucks logo.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:39PM (#44650987)

      When first-world problems: "Waaaah my coffee wasn't shat out of something's asshole!!!"

      • by mjwx (966435)

        When first-world problems: "Waaaah my coffee wasn't shat out of something's asshole!!!"

        No, it simply tastes like it as shat out of somethings arsehole. #FWP.

    • This was modded funny, but it's only funny because it's Informative and true. Starbucks is awful unless it's mixed with other flavorings.

      • by pellik (193063) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:33AM (#44654615)
        I thought this way when I lived in Seattle. Now that I live on the East Coast I find that Starbucks hits the 90th percentile for quality around here. Standardization of shit is a huge step up in most of the country.

        To give you an idea of how bad it is- most people here seem to think that Dunken' Donuts has the best coffee.

        God do I miss a perfectly pulled shot of espresso where the bitterness is only on the tip of your tongue and there is no salty aftertaste.
        • God do I miss a perfectly pulled shot of espresso where the bitterness is only on the tip of your tongue and there is no salty aftertaste.

          I find that brewing extra bold dark roast K-cups on the smallest cup size in my Keurig is good enough. Mix with milk, or your favorite creamer, and it makes an decent latte for 50 cents a cup. Sumatran Reserve is my favorite simply because it's fair trade certified, however the Italiain and French roasts produce the most authentic espresso like results.

  • Oh shit! (Score:3, Funny)

    by MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:21PM (#44650875)

    Oh shit!

  • Nasty (Score:3, Funny)

    by kf4lhp (461232) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:23PM (#44650881) Homepage

    In this case, I'll prefer the fake.

    The things that pass for delicacies.

    • Re:Nasty (Score:5, Informative)

      by danceswithtrees (968154) on Friday August 23, 2013 @12:19AM (#44651205)

      The real story seems to be rather interesting. From wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak [wikipedia.org] :

      During the era of Cultuurstelsel (1830—1870), the Dutch prohibited the native farmers and plantation workers from picking coffee fruits for their own use. Still, the native farmers wanted to have a taste of the famed coffee beverage. Soon, the natives learned that certain species of musang or luwak (Asian Palm Civet) consumed the coffee fruits, yet they left the coffee seeds undigested in their droppings. The natives collected these luwaks' coffee seed droppings, then cleaned, roasted and ground them to make their own coffee beverage.[9] The fame of aromatic civet coffee spread from locals to Dutch plantation owners and soon became their favorite, yet because of its rarity and unusual process, the civet coffee was expensive even in colonial times.

      • by KGIII (973947)

        Your post reminded me of the aroma! Yes - that's a whole other point. It does have a strong and very nice aroma. It smells like it is going to be some of the best damned coffee you're ever going to have in your life. Unfortunately I did not find the taste matching the aroma. But it does have that going for it, the aroma, and that's worthy of mentioning.

      • by tinkerton (199273)

        Also interesting is the wide price range. I can get Kopi Luwak at a local shop at 200$ - retail. Should I go upstream and start a business?

    • by KGIII (973947)

      I'm not sure if anyone will find this beneficial but I shall try...

      I was, of all places, in Hawaii when this was available for me to try. This was quite some time ago but it was still somewhere near $12 for a cup. I didn't care about the expense and simply wanted to try it because, well, it was available and I'd never tried it before and I'd been told it was both "very good" and "quite the experience."

      The latter was certainly correct but I can't imagine thinking that the former is true under any circumstanc

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mstefanro (1965558)

        tl;dr He tried it upon friends' suggestion, was bad, friends said "BRO IT WAS FAEK". This reminded him of when he also had a bad coffee someplace else.

        • by KGIII (973947)

          I should hire you as an editor.

      • by Smurf (7981)

        Thank you. That was a very interesting review. I initially skipped it because it was too long, but the tl;dr summary ironically prompted me to read it.

        Just one comment:

        No, it didn't taste like fecal matter.

        Uuuhhh... How do you know? Have you somehow acquired extensive experience in coprophagia?

        I have never had Kopi Luwak, but I will certainly have a cup if offered (unless the price is just unreasonable). I do see two ways in which very good coffee can be ruined very easily: bad handling and bad roasting. In the case of Kopi Luwak I see how bad

        • by jfengel (409917)

          People don't generally taste feces, but they do know what it smells like, and a huge fraction of the sense of flavor is smell. So whenever I read something like that, I read it as "it doesn't taste like what I expect feces to taste like, given the stench".

          The actual sense of taste plays a role, something you can't guess from the smell, but it's relatively coarse and imprecise. Coffee, in fact, tastes very different from the way one expects from the aroma alone, because the flavor is very bitter (due to vari

          • by Smurf (7981)

            Ah, you make several excellent points.

            First and most importantly, regarding the issue of the smell vs. taste of feces: I basically agree with you, but do note that roasting of the coffee beans would almost certainly change drastically both the smell and the taste of any fecal matter residue in the coffee. So even though it does not evoke the smell of cat poop, the GP's experience may have been affected by poop (but only if the coffee was handled *very* poorly).

            Second, regarding the smell and taste of coffee

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Again, it reminded me of the coffee that I had in Turkey only that won't make any sense to anyone unless they've had Turkish coffee. The coffee I was served, multiple times in multiple places, in Turkey was burnt and very strong - strong to the point of absurd. Also burnt to the point of gross. It was bitter, burnt, and stronger than anyone should make coffee. It was served like that anywhere that I went so I am assuming it is a cultural thing and I've heard people mention it since. I've even heard a few pe

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:23PM (#44650887)

    Always check the expiration date on your coffee. There's a good chance a fair bit of the product on the shelf hasn't been rotated and some of it is either close to expiring or already expired.

    Source: I work night crew at a grocery store. I regularly check the coffee for expiration dates on the exceedingly rare chance I have extra time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If it's already ground, it's stale before it went into the tin.

      If it's beans, and it's within 12 months of the expiry date, it's also probably quite stale.

      Expiry dates on coffee are a joke.

      • Bingo.

        And forget the kopi luwak stuff. You can have really fabulous coffee for much, much cheaper by buying quality green coffee beans and roasting and grinding them yourself.

    • by adolf (21054)

      Tip for buying coffee at a grocery store: Always buy whatever everyone else is buying. If you show up at 7PM and the 8 O'Clock Bean is picked thin, you should be buying 8 O'Clock Bean just like everybody else, because it hasn't even had a chance to be rotated before it is sold: It is restocked at least daily.

      Whatever the brand is, the one that moves fastest is likely to be the closest thing that you can get to fresh-roasted coffee at your grocery store.

      (Forget the "gourmet" bulk stuff in the plastic bins

    • by 21mhz (443080)

      Pah, expiration date. I check the roasting date of the beans I buy (got a grinder at home); usually the microroastery sells something they roasted in the last two weeks, and that's how it should be.

    • No no no. The stuff sitting on a grocery shelf is automatically expired before it even gets to the store.

      Coffee snobs will tell you the shelf life of coffee is about after two days but less than about eight days after it is roasted. Nothing in any normal grocery store can meet that. So whatever is on the shelf is already unacceptable.

      You've got to get your coffee direct from a coffee roaster to hit the goal. Mail order works great for this if you buy from a roaster who ships immediately. By the time i

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:29PM (#44650905)
    ... at my favorite coffee haunt. They have the palm civet right there, squatting over your cup.
    • by Daetrin (576516)
      Hmmm... spaghetti derivative... meatballs, sort of anyway... and... ooh, Kaldorf droppings! Who ate it before you did?
  • "The luxury drink in question—Kopi Luwak—is produced from coffee beans pooped out by the palm civet, a time-consuming process that helps contribute to the beverage's price tag of between $330 to $500 per kilogram."

    Wait a minute...we wait for a random animal to eat and poop out the coffee beans, and charge MORE for this? What exactly is supposed to make this better than the fresh coffee bean?

    • by aliquis (678370)

      That the animal has eaten and pooped it out obviously.

      I assume it changes the flavor, or just if flashy.

      • That the animal has eaten and pooped it out obviously.

        I assume it changes the flavor, or just if flashy.

        That being shat out makes a change in flavor indicates the flavor imbued is that of the shitting process itself.

        Ah, the taste of Shit. Humans are made of and do produce shit. We refine all things shit and burn shit in our cars.
        Energy collapsed into matter and Stars digested this and shat out all the heavier elements that make up all the exquisite flavors of the world.

        Nature's cruel joke is that the ultimate digestion the cosmos hordes for itself alone.
        You will never know the true flavor of a black

    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday August 23, 2013 @12:11AM (#44651165)

      "Delicacy" is better thought of as a code word for "look at the crazy shit we just fed to that tourist."

      • "Delicacy" is better thought of as a code word for "look at the crazy shit we just fed to that tourist."

        Delicacy tends more to be some horrible crap that poor people would eat to survive. For example haggis, the Scots delicacy is made from all the garbage left over after that you cant sell after you butcher a sheep. It's padded out with oats and has the bad taste of the offal covered up with spices. Seems this coffee started out in a similar way. Poor people not allowed the coffee beans found some they were allowed to use in cat shit. mmmm the taste of culture mixed with the chic of poverty. So now they

    • The title makes a lot more sense now: "Researches Discover Way to Spot Crappy Coffee"
    • The digestive tract is supposedly much better at extracting the bean from its husk than the usual cooking method and gives a purer flavour.

      cf. Wikipedia

    • by gagol (583737)
      I am SO glad to be a green tea guy right now! My fancy stuff ($$$) is white tea leaves collected by trained monkeys in asian mountains. No poop involved.
    • by Krishnoid (984597) *
      You're not the first person [davebarry.com] to think this is more than a little weird.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:32PM (#44650921)

    It goes something like this. I go to the store. I take samples of everything, then bring them home. When I wake up in the morning, I try one. One of four things will happen:

    a) It does nothing. Bad coffee.
    b) It gives me just enough juice to make it to the shower, where I fall asleep again. Bad coffee.
    c) It gives me a big jolt, and I say 'fuck work' and submit a new linux kernel patch. Okay coffee.
    d) ZOMFGThisIsThe GreatestCupOfCoffee InTheWorldCanIHave AnotherHolyShit EverythingIsSoClear IWantToDoAllTheThings RightNowHolyShit FuckOnAHeartAttack... Good coffee.

    • I have you and your ilk to thank for the drek that is Starbucks. What made them big was their coffee is higher in caffeine than most.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        are you always in the habit of referring to "girls" as "sir"?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          are you always in the habit of referring to "girls" as "sir"?

          Now now, be nice. He has to rationalize it somehow, otherwise... his male ego would be crushed by the thought that a guh... gu... a gurrrrrrl smacked him so hard on an internet forum his kids will be born dizzy. And so, to keep his idea of girls as subserviant little playthings for his penis... and him as the big and powerful penis owner... anyone who so completely and utterly destroys him as we have just done, simply can't be a..a... a girl.

          In other news, my geek-fu is strong. Now, get lost, or (puts on a

          • by operagost (62405)
            Really, none of what you said made any sense.
            • Really, none of what you said made any sense.

              It actually does if you are learned in the language and shaming tactics of the cultural Marxist.

              Re-read the post as coming from a Female Chauvinist, or Feminist if you dare. Note the attack of male nature and trumped up "male ego" for no reason. Note the hypocrisy in assuming that rsilvergun is male...

              If the idealists can not be swayed by logic and rationality, I would at least hope they learn that displays like this are a disservice to the causes of women...

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday August 23, 2013 @12:04AM (#44651113)

        I have you and your ilk to thank for the drek that is Starbucks. What made them big was their coffee is higher in caffeine than most.

        Listen, you hipster wannabe geek... caffeine content is the only thing a true geek cares about. Geeks are devices for turning caffeine into code. Therefore, if you want lots of code, you need lots of caffeine. We don't care that it was made by the loving natives of... some country... brewed in a steamomaster 9000 with auto bean injectors, slow-roasted in an artistic clay pot. You care, because you're a wannabe. We only care about two things: That it's hot, and that it makes anyone who drinks it twitch like a politician being asked about his sexual misconduct.

        • by gagol (583737)
          You are aware you need coffee to be producive only if you drink coffe on a regular basis, right? (captcha: addiction)
      • by Triv (181010)

        Starbucks uses a dark roast. The darker the roast, the more caffeine is burned out. The thing that makes it stronger is the espresso extraction method, not the coffee; the problem with that is, the dark roast removes a lot of the complexity and the amount needed per cup raises the price.

        If you want to experience a real coffee rush that doesn't cost you a fortune, get a light roast and put it through a Mr. Coffee. Tastes better for a fraction of the price.

        • by Smurf (7981)

          Starbucks uses a dark roast.

          Not always. Most Starbucks I've been to offer a choice of dark or medium roast. A couple even offered a light roast. They were all horrible but admittedly their dark roasts were the worse.

          Unless you mean for espresso-based drinks. In that case yes, they use a dark roast. But it becomes almost drinkable when you add lots of milk to it. (A shot of pure espresso from Starbucks? Ewwwww... *shudders*)

    • I make my coffee and do not keep it heated.

      What I don't drink, I put into a Zynga bottle.

      Then I have reheated coffee over the next several days. I tried it after seeing refrigerated coffees in the store.

      Probably works better because I use cream and one packet of sweetener in my coffee.

      Fresh-- I like the old denny's coffee the best.

    • by gagol (583737)
      You should try cocain... a to c do not apply with this. ;-)

      girlintraining, I have wanted to ask for years, please do no be offended but, are you a women in a man body? (please, just trying to make sense of your nick name)
    • When I wake up in the morning, I try one.
      [...]
      c) It gives me a big jolt, and I say 'fuck work' and submit a new linux kernel patch. Okay coffee.
      d) ZOMFGThisIsThe GreatestCupOfCoffee InTheWorldCanIHave AnotherHolyShit EverythingIsSoClear IWantToDoAllTheThings RightNowHolyShit FuckOnAHeartAttack... Good coffee.

      I bearing word from Arrakis.
      Our navigators have heard your minds' shouts weakly across expanse,
      but sadly we can not reach you before your time has passed.
      We believe your concept of "free software" binds you to us.
      As your brother Fremen we wish to help you.

      If it is as we suspect then also linked are the makers of spice on our world to the makers of coffee on your world.
      Perhaps you have heard tell of the mind expanding properties of the Shai-Hulud's First Water?
      When the maker is yet a small worm it i

  • I should be eating coffee beans, popping them out, and the looking for them in my shit. It's about as much fun as cleaning my cat's litterbox but far more profitable. There is a Starbucks nearby. Perhaps I could sell it to them. It's gotta be better than the swill they sell.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      I should be eating coffee beans, popping them out, and the looking for them in my shit. It's about as much fun as cleaning my cat's litterbox but far more profitable. There is a Starbucks nearby. Perhaps I could sell it to them. It's gotta be better than the swill they sell.

      There in lies the problem.

      They have standards to maintain for that swill. They cant sell anything better otherwise people will be expecting them to raise that standard.

  • I'm dissappointed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:34PM (#44650941) Homepage Journal

    Here I thought they were going to discern the quality of coffee, not whether it's been shat by a civet cat. I've no interest in tasting cat-shit coffee at any price.

    Now if they'd have come up with a way to quantify the robustness, the body, the acidity, the richness, the roast, and so on for *sane* coffee, I'd have had to read the article. :P

    • I don't want any coffee that might have actual "crap" in it. So at least with this test I could be certain of that fact.
    • Ever been to Italy? Go there, get used to the espresso, start knowing good from bad coffee. Return home and prepared to be perpetually disappointed. And be a supertaster in the first place.
      • Return home and prepared to be perpetually disappointed.

        I think you meant to say "be prepared to become a home roaster out of desperation".

    • by mdielmann (514750)

      Really, shat out by a cat (because it can't be digested by them) isn't very high on the list of weird shit we eat. Rotten grain juice, bug vomit, rotten beans, rotten bean juice, rotten milk, (non-human) milk, stuff that grows on shit, rotten milk with maggots in it (yes, really!). (Note that I don't bother counting eating bugs and dogs as weird.) Couple this with the fact that there are some plants whose seeds won't germinate until they've been eaten by the right animal, which says something about the i

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:34PM (#44650943)

    goes digging through an animal's shit, picking out the beans to brew coffee?

    There was corn in my shit yesterday, did someone one to pick the kernels out to make popcorn?

  • Don't need ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c0lo (1497653) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:35PM (#44650945)
    Fortunately, for the time being, I don't need that much sophistication to stay away from coffee shitted by a mamal: the price tag seems to be a good enough indicator.
    • Someone was the first to try civet cat coffee. How did it occur to him?

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        Someone was the first to try civet cat coffee. How did it occur to him?

        Paradoxically, seems like at that time the price for normal coffee was too high.
        O tempora o mores (but even at that time there was no need for fancy analyses).

  • easier answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:36PM (#44650963)

    If you can't tell the difference from the taste, stop paying $300 per kilogram.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:37PM (#44650969)

    I was in Indonesia not too long ago and got to try some of this kopi luwak. From what I learned even the "real" stuff isn't really authentic. Most of what is sold is from civets that are raised on farms and force fed coffee beans. Part of the reason this coffee is supposed to be so good is in the wild the civets will only choose to eat the best coffee beans it can find. Force feeding them kind of defeats this and is cruel.

    • Its pretty much replacing the Kopi Luwak. Someone figured out that the enzymes in the elephants system perform the same desired chemical changes even more effectively, and due to time spent digesting even more completely, while obviously offering the benefit of a massive increase in possible volume processed. All this, and from domesticated working animals that don't need to be force fed anything, as it is mixed in with their normal feed. Better, more humane, and cheaper too. Where is the downside to that
  • by multiben (1916126) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @11:41PM (#44650995)
    If you are paying $15 a cup for coffee then presumably you have super awesome taste buds. So why do you need chemically analyse your coffee to tell if it's the real deal? You're coffee is either worth $15 or it isn't based on what it tastes like.

    What a pointless bit of research. Have we now solved so many of the world's important problems that the top of the list is now "make sure hipsters are drinking genuine cat's bum coffee."
    • So if Guy B buys 10kg sack of cat crap coffee beans from Guy A, then on sells that to Guy C, how does Guy B know Guy A isn't ripping him off, if he is just a distributor and doesn't care for coffee or the taste of cat crap coffee? He's not going to call on his expert coffee taster to inspect every bag.

      • by multiben (1916126)
        Then Guy B goes out of business for not taking enough interest in the product he sells and being a non-value adding price hiking middle-man.
        • Unless Guy B negotiated lower prices in exchange for higher volume, and sold the product on for less than Guy' C - Z could have bought it for directly.

  • produced from coffee beans pooped out by the palm civet

    Huh, I didn't think the title meant literally crappy.

  • by cartman (18204) on Friday August 23, 2013 @01:03AM (#44651437)

    Finally, they have a chemical process to verify that the $500/kg coffee is, in fact, Kopi Luwak. Thank goodness! Gone are the days of me paying $500/kg for coffee and not being able to tell if it's Kopi Luwak or just Folger's. I'm a discerning customer with stringent tastes. I want to know if the $500/kg coffee I'm drinking is actually high-quality. I don't want any of that $5/kg shit being passed off as $500/kg coffee, and then I don't notice and get ripped off.

  • In this case, crappy coffee IS the real thing.

  • All I did was recalibrate my bullshit detector.

  • Imagine what it would taste like if it was poop out by Super Models!!!

    If someone is willing to pay for coffee beans pooped out by a funny looking rat, then imagine what they would pay for something pooped out by a Super Model, or even a mediocre model. Heck, even a double bagger would be an improvement!

    On second thought, let's go back to the Super Model.

  • I only just now got the pun. I feel dumb.

  • 7.65 cents per bean. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by InterGuru (50986) <jhd.interguru@com> on Friday August 23, 2013 @03:50AM (#44652037) Homepage

    I counted 102 beans in my coffee scoop. I weighed a scoop at 15 grams which gives 30 scoops to a pound (454 g ). This means there are 3060 beans in a pound. At a price $400/pound civet coffee comes out to 7.65 cents per bean.

    I measured Brazilian coffee, not civet. The real number may differ.
    .

  • .... I thought "tasting it" might come into play at some point....
  • People pay more for coffee that literally tastes like shit?

    -jcr

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Friday August 23, 2013 @07:55AM (#44652849)

    I think people spending $500/kg for coffee deserve to be ripped off when actually buying an bag Nabob with some cat shit sprinkled in it for flavor.

    Seriously, though, there is a problem with a culture of people willing to pay the high price for speciality coffee or wine, but then can't tell the difference from counterfeit. Its not a problem with the counterfeit being that good, its the problem with douchey hipsters thinking that their coffee is actually better because it costs more when they can't tell the freakin' difference from a much cheaper brand. I think if you can't tell you are drinking crap, you have a problem no device is going to solve.

    All these kinds of coffee and wine detectors do is reinforce the douchey poser culture that wants to emerge from the 99% by pretending to act like they belong in the 1% drinking their $50 cup of disgusting coffee.

  • The luxury drink in questionâ"Kopi Luwakâ"is produced from coffee beans pooped out by the palm civet, a time-consuming process that helps contribute to the beverage's price tag of between $330 to $500 per kilogram.

    I have a word for this fetishistic novelty which is pursued for the sheer purpose of displaying wealth:

    Decadence.

    With it comes the downfall of empires. Don't adjust your set!

  • If we've identified the chemicals that distinguish it from un-shatted coffee, can we add those to regular coffee and get something oh-so-wonderful that hasn't come out of a cat's ass? "Our coffee tastes like shit (but isn't really)! TM"

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