Coffee Drinking / Cold Brew

Today’s Concerns about Coffee Filters

Today’s Concerns about Coffee Filters

People are more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies these days and coffee is no exception. Filters are a main concern for many for two reason: dioxin levels and cholesterol.

Filtering your coffee before drinking is good because coffee does have dangerous components in it. Filtering our coffee before drinking it is common in America, while many other countries tend to drink unfiltered coffee more. Still, not all filters work the same.

Coffee Quote Attributed to actor Jackie Chan

Coffee Quote Attributed to actor Jackie Chan

Dioxin poisoning is a concern for many because some dioxin is left behind during the bleaching process for white filters. Plus many other items we use around the house, such as paper plates, paper towels, and bathroom products.

There’s a bit of controversy about dioxin. Some are very adamant that we’re in danger from the dioxin levels in the products we use, while others are reassured by the EPA’s declaration that none of the products pose a risk to us at the levels present with normal usage.

If you’re concerned and you wish to learn more do visit EPA’s website. I’m not going to get into my opinion on this matter, and respect yours. Here is also an article, written in 1987, I believe, where the EPA says the levels aren’t high enough for us to worry.

I will say that this is a matter I’ll still research over time. There’s links I see where they claim there was a dioxin coverup. Some of it seems to relate to dioxin in paper products, while it seems that testing on water sources and the environment are ongoing concerns. Should I find more definitive proof of dioxin concern in paper products, including coffee filters, I will include that in my upcoming series.

Filtering out the conspiracy theories from actual scientific facts takes time though. (No pun intended.)

Paper filters are still highly recommended and if you use them a lot and would like to cut down on your exposure, there are some suggestions I’ve found.

  • For white filters, it’s worth the cost to buy the brand name products versus the generic versions.
  • You can switch to unbleached, natural paper versions. Just search to find them in the search engines or a listing with reviews at Amazon. Read the descriptions to find out what they are made of and how they are processed.

Now, I’ve only used one natural filter and that was for herbal tea. I will say I could’t finish the tea, which was my favorite blend. It just didn’t taste right to me. And my family teased me about it looking like I wrapped my herbs in dirty toilet paper.

This is not a taste review, but an account of that incident. I am, in fact, going to taste test coffee with different filters as part of the upcoming coffee book and publication series.

For my personal drinking, I almost exclusively use the Toddy cold-brew system. The filter disc is felt, but they also have a paper insert for the system one can use with it. Their website does say the felt removes the dangerous components out just like the paper filters do.

I’ve seen many different home cold-brew recipes that use other items for filtering like paper towels and cheesecloth, along with cloth and paper products made specifically for home cold-brew coffee making. I’ve used a fine mesh strainer with paper towels before myself. As of yet, I cannot find true confirmation that these items sufficiently filter the harmful components of the coffee out like the regular paper filters, but I don’t see why not.

So, with the chance of getting dioxin in your body why is filtering your coffee so important?

Coffee has these little buggers called cafestol and kahweol, diterpenes that are blamed for raising cholesterol levels. Unfiltered coffee is a very significant source of these diterpenes, but paper filters remove most of them. In a report, it’s noted that French Press, Scandanavian boiled coffee, and Turkish coffee contain an average of 6mg to 12mg per cup, while filtered coffee only has 0.2mg to 0.6mg per cup. A serving of espresso has 4mg per cup.

Citing: Jane V. Higdon & Balz Frei (2006) Coffee and Health: A Review of Recent
Human Research, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 46:2, 101-123, DOI:
10.1080/10408390500400009 

The french press coffee is blamed for raising cholesterol levels in coffee drinkers at many sources and I can attest to that. My cholesterol jumped up, partly due to a back injury that stopped me from walking so often, but also during the time I drank french press coffee. This was too recent for me to officially report on this, but I’m attempting to walk again and will retake my cholesterol levels soon to report in. I’m ashamed to say I’m way over due for checking on this and cannot say how it’s going. I can say I feel a lot better.

Then there’s metal or metal mesh filters for your coffee brewing. The plain stainless steel filters are included as being good to use by many websites and coffee enthusiasts, but more prefer the gold lined filters. Gold filters are chemically inert and they allow the free flow of antioxidants and flavor through.

Many of the studies I’ve found were used with both paper and gold filters, and both have shown to remove the harmful diterpenes. There’s still much research to be done for my own writing and it seems there’s still more research to be done by our scientists to fill in the blanks of what we do know, but the final word seems to be that as long as you’re filtering your coffee before drinking, you’re drinking a more healthy coffee.

Buy a good bean. Grind it properly for the brewing method you’re using, and be aware of what you’re doing. If you’re someone, like me, who likes french press coffee and espresso, enjoy it on special occasions and make your daily coffee one of the approved filtered methods.

Your body and family will thank you.

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