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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: How to Spot Crappy Coffee
22 August 2013 11:45 am
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—gets its name from the Indonesian words for “coffee” and the Asian palm civet, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, the catlike creature intimately involved in its production. After a luwak consumes the ripe fruits of the coffee plant (image), it digests the outer flesh of the fruit and then excretes the intact beans, which are then collected, washed (thankfully), fermented, sun-dried, and roasted—a time-consuming process that helps contribute to the beverage’s price tag of between $330 to $500 per kilogram. Such a lucrative product is bound to draw counterfeiters and, indeed, the market is flooded with fakes. So, 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 researchers report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Specifically, Kopi Luwak sports higher concentrations of malic acid and citric acid, as well as a higher ratio of inositol to pyroglutamic acid. Although trained experts and aroma-sniffing devices called “electronic noses” can tell the difference between real Kopi Luwak and other blends, the new study is the first to specifically identify the chemicals that characterize the true brew, the researchers say. 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.