coffee authenticity (2)

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As the popularity of coffee as a beverage in Europe grew in the 18th century, so has its vulnerability to adulteration and fraud. This review looks at the changing methodology to uncover adulteration and fraud over 3 centuries. It focuses on the discrimination between coffee and other foods or between coffee and its by-products. The earliest chemical, physical and microscopy methods are presented followed by methods developed in the 20th and 21st centuries using chromatography and spectroscopy associated with advanced statistical tools, and DNA-based methods. The earliest adulterant studied was chicory, but from the 20th century onwards, maize, coffee by-products, and barley were the most studied, followed by chicory, rice and other food items. Most methods have low sensitivity, and are adversely affected by matrix effects, especially degree of roasting.

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In this review, methods have been assessed for the identification of the most common materials used to adulterate coffee by dilution, to establish the geographic origins, the genotypes of beans, and to assess the authenticity of Kopi Luwak coffee (where beans have passed through the digestive system of an Asian palm civet cat). The current analytical difficulties in the authentication of coffee are highlighted and suggestions made to improve the situation.

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