Scott Bentley: Welcome dear listener to Adventures in Coffee, a podcast by Caffeine Magazine, all about the mysterious and myth-laden world of coffee. This is brought to you by Siemens Home Appliances and IKAWA Home.
Jools Walker: Yes, dear listener. We journey around the globe, so you can have coffee adventures in your kitchen.
Scott Bentley: My name is Scott Bentley. I'm the founder of Caffeine Magazine. I'm an art director, a coffee myth killer, an all round coffee freak.
Jools Walker: And I'm Jools Walker, also known as Lady Velo. I am a best-selling cycling author, a content creator, and a girl from east London, who is your very everyday coffee lover.
James Harper: And I'm James Hopper, a professional storyteller, coffee lover, and founder of the Filter Stories coffee podcast.
Scott Bentley: Now Jools, James, we released the survey the other month and we asked our wonderful listeners, what do you want us to cover in series three?
Jools Walker: Oh, didn't we just get some juicy answers from that because the overwhelming majority of you out there said that you wanted us to bust coffee myths. So that's exactly what we're going to be doing in this episode.
Scott Bentley: Absolutely. And the crazy thing here is the coffee world is filled with so many of these myths. I don't know what it is about coffee, but there just seems to be more misinformation and myths surrounding this thing than Chinese superstitions.
Jools Walker: Now, we have ended up with a, quite a long list, I would say, of coffee myths that are out there. And, you know, we couldn't actually squeeze them into to one single episode. Dear listener, we tried, but it's a little bit hard, but what we've done is we've chosen the top three.
Maybe just, maybe we'll be able to get to the others a bit further down the line.
James Harper: So one of the myths we're going to be exploring today is quite a doozy: coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world.
Is it true? Is it not?
Scott Bentley: James, did you just use the word doozy?
James Harper: I did. Is that old parlance?
Scott Bentley: I don't know where it's from, but he's amazing.
Jools Walker: Very American. Geez. That's a doozy.
James Harper: Okay.
Scott Bentley: Nice cup of Joe.
Jools Walker: And now there is also myth number two, that we're going to be looking at. That coffee has more flavor compounds in it than wine. Scott, if that's actually true, then why does everybody say that coffee tastes like coffee?
Scott Bentley: Oh, Jools, please don't get me started. We will come to that later, but first the biggest myth of them all and actually one that we spoke to our friends, Peter and Susie in our Wine Blast episode was: should you store your coffee in the fridge?
Jools Walker: Oh, but before we get to that point, let's hear a quick word from our sponsors.
All right, Scott, know you have thoughts and feelings on this, but I was actually very curious to explore…
Scott Bentley: All the fields!
Jools Walker: All the fields for this one. But you know, it’s that myth about, should you store coffee in the fridge or not. To help me answer that question, I actually spoke with a bonafide coffee scientist about it.
Samo Smrke: My name is Samo Smrke. I'm a coffee scientist. I work at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, where we research everything about coffee.
Scott Bentley: Look, Jools, we don't need to actually bother a proper scientist. I mean, the answer is no. I mean, store it in the fridge, it's no, let's move on.
Jools Walker: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Hold your horses right there, my friend. Wait until you actually hear the response from the scientists that I ended up bothering about this . If you store coffee in the fridge, it will preserve it. It’s the best place for it. Now I could just get straight to the point and just ask, is that true, or is it a load of nonsense?
Samo Smrke: Yes, that's actually true, right? Because, coffee's is a very unstable product and all these reactions that are happening, that the coffee is changing its quality while it is standing on your shelf, they're all driven by the temperature because the temperature makes the molecules move.
So you have higher temperatures, the molecules move faster. You have a lower temperature; the molecules will move slower. So if you put a coffee in a cold environment, you will slow down all the processes of coffee aging.
Jools Walker: Suppose, let me just reiterate what Samo said right there. You absolutely should store your coffee in the fridge.
Scott Bentley: No, he didn't say that. All he said was the change in temperature affects it, but that's just temperature.
Jools Walker: Okay. All right? It’s because the temperature dramatically affects how quickly the molecules are moving about in the coffee beans. So the lower, the temperature, the less they're going to interact with the air and then go stale.
Scott Bentley: Yeah. Okay. So that does make sense. So then I guess the best thing to do is actually freeze the coffee cause that'll go even colder and they'll then move even less.
Jools Walker: I need to have that bong sound like you get QI, because Scott you've just fallen victim to a coffee mate.
Scott Bentley: Uh, what is this trap that I’ve fallen into?
Jools Walker: Okay. So you said freeze the coffee,
Scott Bentley: Yeah.
Jools Walker: Coffee doesn't freeze.
Scott Bentley: Uh…
Samo Smrke: But then we have a myth, actually. There's a myth because we don't freeze coffee. So coffee is, has very little water. So roasted coffee has about, 1.5% water. So when we put coffee into a freezer, we are not freezing coffee.
There's nothing that is freezing in the coffee. We're just cooling it down.
Scott Bentley: Okay. Thanks for this. Thank you for the lesson in semantics. So we're not technically freezing the coffee, we put in into a very cold environment.
Jools Walker: Yes, that's correct.
Scott Bentley: So, what does this mean? Don't tell me that putting a peg on your ground coffee and sticking it in the fridge is good. We've got moisture. We got smells. There's a lot going on in a fridge apart from just: it’s a bit chilly.
Jools Walker: So, this is where, how you store your coffee actually really matters. It has to be sealed.
Samo Smrke: So the best way, if you want to see that quite well, you use a clip to clip it, through the whole width of the bag, or you put it in opened.
Scott Bentley: Okay. So, in the original packaging, he's saying is best because it's already air tight and then second best is one of those sort of colorful plastic clips that go over the kind of the whole length of the bag.
Jools Walker: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But there is quite an important caveat to all of this Scott. Thing is once the coffee's actually been opened, it has to come out of the fridge permanently, like for good .
Samo Smrke: One problem is that if you take the whole bag, let's say 250 grams of coffee, and take it from the freezer, you open it, then take some out, grind it, and then close the back and put it back into the freezer. So if you do this, your warm air from your room will go into the bag and then the warm has much more humidity than the cold air, and then the humidity will condense on the beans. So every time you will do this, you will have condensation of humidity on the beans. And then, as you're doing this, you have more and more water, in the coffee beans. They're hydroscopic, so they will pick up any humidity that is around them.
So, this, means that you increasing the humidity of the coffee. So generally the coffee ages, faster, if it has a higher humidity than if it has a lower humidity.
James Harper: So Jools, just if I understand correctly, what Samo is saying is that what you should not do, right? Is here's your bag of coffee, you have it in the fridge or the freezer, you take it out, take some beans out, close it up and put it back in because warm air comes in, there's condensation and the coffee beans stale really quick.That's what he's saying.
Right. Okay. So you use it once, you're done. Put it in the fridge, and then take it out and it never goes back in.
Jools Walker: Yeah.
James Harper: Okay, what if, I mean, I've got this amazing Sri Lankan coffee, right. And I want to enjoy it every day but I also want it to taste as good as the day I got it every single day.
So, I mean, what do I do then?
Jools Walker: So the best thing to do is actually to get your coffee and split it up into little bags, And then you can pop them in the fridge or the freezer. You just need to make sure that they are very, very well sealed. So no closed pegs, nothing like that. Make sure the bag is sealed properly.
James Harper: Good.
Scott Bentley: This is what I do, James. When I buy coffee, I buy coffee in two kilo bags. When I get it, I split it all up into little jars, little bags, put them in the freezer and then I pull them out when I need them. And then once they're out, they're out, they don't go back in.
James Harper: What does your wife make of all that?
Scott Bentley: She's always having a go at me. There's no room in the freezer. But she always loves the fact that we have fresh coffee in the house.
Jools Walker: See, that's the thing, you know, like how people have like wine fridges, you should have like a coffee fridge.
Scott Bentley: A coffee freezer, yes. We need a coffee freezer.
James Harper: Oh man. Think of the environmental side of that. No.
Scott Bentley: So ask me this one question then, Jooles, can I take my beans straight from the freezer and grind them, like frozen?
Jools Walker: Yes, you can…
James Harper: Can I just be clear that coffee doesn’t freeze.
Scott Bentley: Oh thank you, James.
James Harper: My pleasure.
Jools Walker: You can grind them from “frozen” or “freezer cold”. You can grind it from “freezer cold”, but it's a little bit more complicated.
Scott Bentley: Okay, tell me.
Samo Smrke: The grinding will be slightly different because you're grinding a cold material, which is usually more brittle than a warm material. So you might need to have a different grind size then when you grind it from room temperature.
Scott Bentley: Okay. So essentially, if you don't mind adjusting your grinder and maybe breaking a few burrs along the way, then grinding from “frozen”, from “deep storage” is fine.
Jools Walker: Yeah. Or you could do the other thing, which is just let your coffee sit on the shelf for about an hour or so before you're ready to grind it.
Scott Bentley: Yeah. I mean, that's essentially what I do. I get out the night before and stick on the side.
James Harper: And Jools, did he say anything about like how long coffee can stay in the fridge or freezer?
Jools Walker: Yeah. I mean, this is quite fascinating because Samo’s lab actually ran a whole bunch of experiments of this. So, you know, it's in the fridge…
Samo Smrke: Our tests have shown that perhaps in this optimum time for keeping a coffee between, you know, 1, 2, 3, 4 weeks, if you put it into a freezer, you increase this to a period for, three months to one year, roughly speaking.
Of course, it depends from coffee to coffee, they all behave differently. Is it a light roast, dark roast, but I've kept some coffees for three, four years in the freezer and extracted them and they were still reasonably good.
Scott Bentley: Awesome. So I can bulk buy like amazing Geisha and keep it for years.
Jools Walker: Yeah, it's that maybe that's going to blow people's minds as well. The idea that, you can keep coffees in the freezer for like three to four years and they'll still taste great when you take them out and you're ready to go.
Scott Bentley: Awesome. Just don't bother doing it with some kind of value Tesco's stuff or Nescafé, cause you're just wasting your time.
Jools Walker: Now, if you were actually interested in learning more from Samo, he’s a fascinating dude to speak to as well, he has a very popular Instagram account where he unpacks coffee science for the masses. That's S A M O S M R K E.
Scott Bentley: I'm totally following him by the way, I'm on my phone now typing it in.
Jools Walker: Do it. Do it honestly, your mind, your coffee mind will be thoroughly blown.
Scott, I believe you're up next, young man. And you're going to be busting another coffee myth for us, which is, does coffee actually have double the flavor compounds of wine? And if so, am I really that rubbish actually tasting them?
Scott Bentley: Yes, you are. Right. Okay. So yeah, next myth. I'm literally wheeling out my surface to air missile to bust this one wide open. But before we get there, let's just have a quick word from our sponsor.
Scott Bentley: So Jools, James, the next myth that I want to wheel out and fire a missile at, is this one that coffee has more flavor, aroma compounds than wine.
James Harper: And does this have anything to do with the fact that people keep saying that like, coffee tastes like coffee, but when it comes to wine, nobody actually says that?
Jools Walker: If coffee has twice, the number of aroma compounds than wine, then surely people would be noticing the differences in flavor across coffees, much more than they do in wine.
Scott Bentley: So yeah, guys, I'm going to agree with you. It is a hot mess, So I spoke to the big cheese in the coffee world: Dale Harris.
Dale Harris: I am the 2017 World Barista Champion. I work in product development, R&D, taking coffee to new heights in new directions.
Scott Bentley: Dale has made this incredible routine for his 2017 World Barista Championship performance, in which he based all of his routine around sensory analysis. In fact, he's become a bit of a sensory guru in the coffee world.
Dale Harris: I spent years tasting coffee, finding incredible flavors, trying to work out where they were coming from, and so I do a lot of research on food science and I found GCMS or gas, chromatograph, mass spectrometry, as the most common industry used tool to identifying flavor compounds.
Jools Walker: Oh, sorry Spectrum S what? Sounds quite complicated.
James Harper: So Jools, actually, no, I learnt a little bit about that instrument Dale mentioned, the gas chromatograph, mass spectrometry instrument.
It's a way to identify specific aroma compounds that are floating in the air. Imagine a cup of coffee and like above the cup of coffee is like this massive cloud of aromas.
Scott Bentley: So you're absolutely right. James, this sort of machine essentially looks at this cloud of volatile aroma compounds and identifies all of this kind of molecule here, this is what smells of lemon. This would make you think this is lemon and this sort of aroma chemical here, this is what makes you think it’s peach or ash or wood or something like that.
I spoke to Dale to unpack this big mystery. Is it really true that coffee has more flavor compounds than wine?
Dale Harris: So we know that are, let's say hundreds that exist in wine.
Maybe up to 400, 500 aroma compounds have been discovered in wine. We know that more have been discovered in coffee and have been listed. So we could say that we know that over 850 compounds have been identified that exists in roasted, brewed coffee.
James Harper: It's a coffee does have double the amount of aroma compounds in wine.
Scott Bentley: Absolutely, yes it does. But it's not as simple as that. And is where it gets messy. So, so get your wellies on. Let's wade into this. When it comes to these 800 or so aroma compounds that have been found in coffee.
Dale Harris: We don't know how many are in a single cup compared to how many have just been identified in coffee full stop, right? Not every coffee has every compound that can be in coffee and not every glass of wine has every compound that can be in every glass of wine.
Jools Walker: Okay, guess the 800 that we're talking about here, the 800 compounds, it's a figure a bit like, I don't know, painter's got like 800 colors to work with, but not every single color will be used in every single painting that they make. So, you know, maybe there'll be like, oh, I'll just use 50 colors here.
Scott Bentley: Yeah, lovely analogy, works perfectly but there is another secondary nuance that we need to talk about.
Dale Harris: And then all of those compounds, many of them won't be able what we call the perceivable threshold.
What we learn is many of these chemicals are not in high enough concentration to perceive a flavor, but we can perceive flavors in a product that might be tied to the combination of those different compounds. So maybe individually, none of them are perceivable, but maybe two or three imperceivable chemicals working in tandem do create something that is perceivable. So you can see these layers and layers of moving parts.
Jools Walker: This kind of sounds magical. As silly as that might sound coming from me. Cause, it's like this if I've got this right. Some of these flavors, you're not able to taste them on their own, but if you combine them together, and really special ways, then you're able to taste them.
Scott Bentley: Yep, Jools, bang on. And to round things off, Dale has this theory as to why people think coffee does taste like coffee, they don't say that when it comes to wine. This is still a theory. So let, Dale tell you what it is.
Dale Harris: A white wine and a red wine are very different products. Just for taste sensations, for the range of flavors, we taste a washed coffee and a natural coffee have quite different flavors, but the product very similar, they look the same in the cup, whereas the two wines will look very different in a glass. And so what I suspect is that within a given glass of wine, there is probably less chemical complexity than in a given cup of coffee, but across all the different glasses of wine we could choose and all the different mugs of coffee we could choose, I think there is more diversity across wine, then there is in coffee.
James Harper: So Scott, it's a bit confusing, but in some ways this is kind of like a practical point. So, what he's saying is that your everyday coffee drinker just doesn't get exposed to very much diversity in their coffees. You know, in the morning I drink the same coffee from the same roaster for weeks on end, cup to cup, to cup, literally the same, but every time I have a wine, I'm like cracking up a new bottle of wine, new flavors.
Maybe it's a white wine, here's a red wine. And so, each glass by glass by glass will be very, very different.
Scott Bentley: Yeah, you kind of put it really well. If we had as much diversity day-to-day in our coffees, as we do in our wines, we wouldn't be saying, coffee tastes like coffee, but you're absolutely right. For many people, their coffee experience is like, an instant coffee, which is deliberately meant to be homogenous and the same all the time.
Whereas when we pick up wine, we are always looking for something else, you know, and sometimes there's visual clues to that. And sometimes it's, other things as well.
Jools Walker: All right, let’s say. So, what I am getting from this, is that what all of us need to do is actually break our own coffee routines and diversify our coffee, right? I guess if we treated our coffee buying habits in the same way that we treat our wine buying habits, we would have more to explore and have more diverse experiences and more diverse flavors.
James Harper: And we wouldn't be saying coffee tastes like coffee. Except for Scott’s dad.
Scott Bentley: Except my dad.
Scott Bentley: If you want to follow Dale Harris, his handle on Instagram is @acousticcoffee and thank Dale and everyone at HasBean and Ozone who he works for.
Jools Walker: All right. And now it's time to roll into the next myth, which is going to be busted by James producer man, who's with us. And that's in regards to coffee being the second most traded commodity in the world after oil.
James Harper: Okay. Peeps. So can I just say, we made an episode about myth-busting and you have let our dears listeners down because they wanted to get myths busted, and instead you went off and confirm that both are actually true.
Jools Walker: Rude.
James Harper: You can still put coffee in the fridge, and coffee has more flavor compounds than wine.
Scott Bentley: True, Jools, we failed. I've got to say this one is a heap of garbage. Isn't it? Please tell me…
James Harper: I'm actually going to do the hard work for our listener and give them what they came for.
Scott Bentley: Are you bothering a scientist as well, like we did?
Jools Walker: Bothering harder than I bothered a scientist, please!
James Harper: I'm actually bothering a historian author. I spoke to this guy.
Mark Pendergrast: My name is Mark Pendergrast. I wrote a book called Uncommon Grounds, The History of Coffee and how it transformed our world.
James Harper: How many copies of the book have been sold?
Mark Pendergrast: I'm not sure. Well, over a hundred thousand, I think.
James Harper: Scott, I have a question for you. How many copies of Caffeine have you printed over the years?
Scott Bentley: Let me do some quick calculations. We've done 47 of those…an average of, 720,000.
James Harper: Jesus. Tell me, honestly speaking, Have you ever once in your magazine written that coffee is the second most traded commodity after oil?
Scott Bentley: I don't think we've ever printed that.
James Harper: Are you sure?
Scott Bentley: No. I can't say for certain, but I am pretty sure we never printed that.
James Harper: What if you had, and inadvertently ended up propagating a coffee mess across the UK?
Scott Bentley: I would be mortified.
Jools Walker: Oh, this is getting deep.
James Harper: I don't have a smoking gun, Scott. I haven't had a moment to read all 48 issues of Caffeine yet.
This is a hypothetical for you. This is not hypothetical for Mark Pendergrast. Let me bring you on the unfortunate journey he's been on.
So, the big coffee myth we're busting today is, coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world. That's how it's often portrayed and phrased. It's a bit of a rabbit hole.
Mark Pendergrast: You know, in my original edition of the book, that’s what I wrote, because I had heard it in many places. I had read it many places and in all kinds of publications about coffee and everyone just knew that it was true.
So when I was invited to go to give a speech at the University of Washington in Seattle, they asked me for information that they could present.
And that was one of the factoids that I included that it was the second, most valuable traded commodity in the world after oil. So they, said, one of our economists questions that it doesn't make sense to them. How do you know that?
I said, well, you know, everybody knows that. I'll just ask the Head of the Specialty Coffee Association, which I did. And he said, well, you know, I'll get back to you on that, but I'm not sure. Well, I went through all kinds of research for this and eventually discovered that it simply was not true. I don't think it's ever been true.
So, you know, I looked up in various United Nations and food things, and it turns out that coffee is not only, not the second, most valuable after oil. It's something like the twelfths. Even other agricultural commodities, such as wheat or sugar or soy come before coffee. It's simply isn't true.
Scott Bentley: Don’t be let down Jooles. We came here to bust shit up.
Jools Walker: Where did this rumor actually come from then?
James Harper: Well, we don't know, but I know many, many people who are guilty of propagated it.
When you read it in making a book, when it was, first published in 1999, what was the source that you read it from and how authoritative did it appear to you?
Mark Pendergrast: Well, I think it was in the website of the Specialty Coffee Association. It was, the National Coffee Association was saying it, it was in all kinds of trade publications and books. It was all over the place.
So, there was no question that, it must have been true.
Scott Bentley: Yeah, I mean, I don't think we'd even started printing in 1999, so you can't get me on this one, James. But I mean the Specialty Coffee Association, the National Coffee Association, were both guilty of spreading it. I mean, they are the go-to people that should know.
James Harper: And you know what the funny thing is, I think one of the reasons that spreads so much is because there's like no one defending the other side. Imagine if I created a rumor, that went, coffee is better than oil in running your car. What was going to happen?
You printed in Caffeine. People go out, put it in the car and Scott, you can have a mob in your front of your house. The thing is, this is one of these rumors that nobody fact checked, because it doesn't affect anyone anyone's lives. No one cares.
Scott Bentley: Yeah, but also, I mean, what does this mean to be the second most traded commodity in the world? How are you measuring this even?
James Harper: That's the other problem with this myth. There’s a lot of bloody hard work to fact check. Do we mean physical volumes, do we mean the value of all financial contracts tied to this commodity? Do you mean the value of all the contracts traded in a year? And like who's going to do this except some really wonky economist with too much time on their hands?
Jools Walker: The thing is this myth is flying around everywhere and it's not getting fact checked, right? So is there actually any way to stop it?
Scott Bentley: No, this is the point about fake news. And what they say about lies, the lie has got halfway around the world before the truth has got time to put his boots on.
James Harper: Well, Mark Pendergrast put his boots on when it came to the second edition of his book.
Mark Pendergrast: Oh, I retracted it in the second edition.
James: How do you feel about, for however many years it was, between the first and second publishing of your book? You're contributing to the same problem that, you know, you picked up on.
Mark Pendergrast: Well, I felt bad about it, which is why I corrected it. You know, I wanted to write the most scholarly and accurate book possible, and then it turns out not to have been true. So that was a major problem.
James: Yeah. What can we possibly do to quash it?
Mark Pendergrast: You know, I think it's almost like trying to squash the QAnon thing. It's very, very difficult to correct the widespread factoid, especially in this age of the internet, it's almost impossible to stop people from publishing inaccuracies. I don't know how to squash it.
Perhaps you can.
Jools Walker: Is it deep to say it’s QAnon for coffee?
Scott Bentley: So when someone's a Q grader, does that mean they are a coffee conspiracy?
James Harper: At this point, I don't know what's true anymore.
Anyway, there you go, peeps, I've done my journalistic duty and I've gotten on my way to quash a myth, something you both failed to do in this episode.
And I'm sure the listener is very relieved.
Scott Bentley: James to the rescue!
James Harper: Thank very much. I'm going to go out on a high, so goodbye.
Jools Walker: So I think now's a nice time to just roll the credits, isn't it?
Dear listener. Thank you for telling us to bust coffee myths in our survey. Now, were there any other myths out there that you wanted us to bust for you?
Scott Bentley: And tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jools Walker: Or better yet. Why don't you sign up on Patreon and tell us about it. Patron is a platform where you can support the creators you love.
So please come over and support us on Patreon and you can find the link to that in the show notes.
Scott Bentley: If you liked the show, please do tell a friend, think for a moment who would love a podcast about coffee? Maybe your nail technician, your hairdresser, your nan? Maybe they're all the same person. I don't care. Maybe your dog. Tell them anyway about AIC.
Jools Walker: Now you can also hop on Instagram and tell your friends about the show as well. So why not do something interesting, like create an Instagram story from a screen grab and tag us. So that will be Scott at @caffeinemag, myself @ladyvelo and James at @filterstoriespodcast, or we'll repost it.
Scott Bentley: Dear listener, this podcast was produced by James Harper, the creator of the Coffee Podcast, Filter Stories.
Jools Walker: Now, he also wrote and plays the piano music that you hear tinkling away in the background. And the editing of this episode was done by Amadeo Berta. Now,Scott, what are we going to be digging into in the next episode?
Scott Bentley: Coffee, darkside or light side? Rebel Alliance versus The Empire. We are talking good versus evil.
Jools Walker: Wait, we're going to be looking at dark roasted coffee versus light roasted coffee. It's going to be deep, dear listener. Now you need to tune in for this one.
Until then, put your coffee in the fridge. Make sure you go and taste a new coffee every morning and diversify your coffee and tell the world coffee is not the second most traded commodity on the planet.
Scott Bentley: Cool yourself down, Jools, it’s only coffee. Anyway…
Thank you very much for joining us! Good bye.