Why Bad Coffee Makes You Weak
Good coffee is magic.
“We purchase only the highest quality green beans from organic, fair trade, high altitude small growers. We roast fresh in small quantities to insure quality control as well as fresh consumption.”
It can promote brain function, memory, and energy levels. It can serve as a massive source of antioxidants and is associated with all sorts of positive health outcomes. Coffee can even affect your body and mind like Chi Gong exercises. It can even help you build muscle without exercising. However, the wrong coffee can sap your health and hurt your performance.
When I started using espresso in college, I got the highest calculus grades of my life. However, I also had severe joint pain, jitters, anxiety, and (although I didn’t know it) I was about to get brain fog. Even bad coffee was an improvement for me then. But after I biohacked myself, I got used to feeling great.
The only problem is that I didn’t feel so great when I drink coffee anymore. Sure, I would get a caffeine driven burst of energy but then I would feel edgy, cranky, and often my joint pain would return. And when the coffee wore off, I was useless mentally.
I thought the negative effects were simply a compromise I would have to live with in order to enjoy coffee. Strangely, I didn’t get these problems with every type of coffee. When I traveled to Europe, I could more often enjoy coffee without any of the negative side effects. So I gave up coffee for 5 very long years.
After years of researching ways I could return to the hot, bitter arms of my great love (coffee, ahem), I finally uncovered the secret to my acute onset coffee malaise.
Why Bad Coffee Is Bad For You
Sometimes your taste buds know best.
You don’t like the taste of bad coffee for the same reason you don’t like the taste of gasoline: your body is telling you it’s toxic.
The data on coffee consumption goes back and forth. Some studies show health benefits, while others show negative outcomes. This might seem confusing, but the reason is simple: bad coffee is bad for you, and scientists suck at differentiating types of coffee when they run studies on coffee.
Studies on coffee and health don’t control for processing methods or the source of the beans. This means the coffee beans are almost always contaminated with mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are damaging compounds created by molds which grow on coffee beans (among other things). These compounds cause all sorts of health problems like cardiomyopathy, cancer, hypertension, kidney disease, and even brain damage. They also make your coffee taste bitter, like it needs sugar.
Some types of coffee have more mycotoxins than others, which is why you see some studies showing a benefit to drinking coffee, and others showing negative health outcomes. The problem isn’t coffee per se, it’s the mold on your coffee. It even can vary by individual batch, especially for large coffee producers. (like ones with big ugly green logos on every street corner)
Mycotoxins are in almost all low quality brands of coffee. One study showed that 91.7% of green coffee beans were contaminated with mold. This is before they were processed, which allows even more mold to grow. Another study showed 52% of green coffee beans and almost 50 percent of brewed coffees are moldy. Coffee is easily one of the largest sources of mycotoxins in the food supply.
As the researchers concluded,
“…regular coffee consumption may contribute to exposure of humans to OA (ochratoxin).”
Ochratoxin A is bad news. It hits your kidneys, causes cancer, and messes up your immune system. Trust me, I know. I’m an ochratoxin canary, having lived in a house with ochratoxin-generating toxic mold that caused some serious damage to my immune function and autonomic nervous system. (If I can be Bulletproof with all that going on, so can you!)
Coffee is only bad for you if it serves as a delivery platform for mold.
Cheaper coffee varieties cost less because they use poor quality beans and they allow a higher percentage of damaged (moldy) beans, then companies process them with techniques that add flavor but amplify the amount of toxins.
“Blends” of coffee are bad news because they mix cheap beans from multiple areas, almost guaranteeing that you’ll get some moldy ones. This is why its important to buy your coffee from a single estate, as outlined in the process for finding the highest performance coffee in your city. If you drink mass market coffee, the beans in your grinder may come from several countries. It’s the same logic that tells you not to eat a hamburger made from the meat of 10,000 animals.
Decaf coffee is even worse. Caffeine is a natural anti-insect and antifungal defense mechanism for the plant. It deters mold and other organisms from growing on the beans. Mold is everywhere, but caffeine helps prevent it from growing on the beans while they’re in storage. When you remove the caffeine, your beans are defenseless. Decaf coffee is higher in both aflatoxin and ochratoxin. This is one of the reasons decaf tastes like camel sweat.
You might think the more expensive types of coffee will be good for you, but this isn’t the case. Arabica beans are typically less moldy than robusta beans. (Robusta is what you find in Folgers and cheap coffee.) But even expensive types of coffee are usually processed with methods that allow mold to grow.
The natural process method is common in African coffee. This allows the beans to sit outside where they can collect bird feces and other debris. They mold. One of my favorite high end coffee roasters describes natural process beans as, “Delicious, flavorful, and psychedelic” because they affect how his brain works.
Wet process is not much better. Here, coffee growers toss the beans into giant vats and add water, then let the beans spoil for a while (ferment) so it’s easier to remove the outer parts of the bean. What grows on each batch of beans is unpredictable, but it usually makes more toxins.
Health “experts” enjoy vilifying coffee almost as much as saturated fat. The evidence is only conflicting if you don’t look at the whole picture. The truth is that the right kind of coffee is a health food.
There is a large body of data showing people who drink coffee are healthier and live higher performance lives. Drinking coffee lowers your risk of stroke and diabetes. Coffee improves focus, memory recall, and exercise performance. Its also the largest source of antioxidants in the Standard American Diet. Coffee is a potent thermogenic which stimulates fat loss. In an upcoming post, I’ll explain how coffee grows muscles too.
The right coffee is good for you. Mold is bad for you. Never mix the two.