Coffee, diterpenes, and your health

Pouring a cup of coffee from a Chemex brewer into a glass mug

Did you know that your coffee could be hurting or helping your health?

Brewed coffee contains diterpenes, which are lipids that can raise LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), triacylglycerols, and liver enzymes.  The two best known diterpenes are cafestol and kahweol.
According to studies, unfiltered coffee contains 30 times more diterpenes than a cup of filtered coffee. Diterpenes release during the brewing process, however, the process of filtering easily and effectively removes most of these chemicals.  Here are some brew methods that use filters:

Either paper filters or metal filters can be used.  Paper filters are a little better for filtering out any diterpenes while retaining all the polyphenols from your coffee. This will give you the flavor and health benefits of coffee without raising your cholesterol.  Metal filters will also work, however, choose ones with small screen holes.  The finer the holes in the filter, the more effective the filtration will be, and the more effective filtration will yield a lighter, cleaner, brighter cup with fewer diterpenes.

Metal filters are either made of stainless steel, aluminum or even gold.  While initially these are pricier than paper filters, they do last a long time with proper care.  Paper filters on the other hand, remove most of the harmful contaminants, are inexpensive, and most are fully compostable.  If you choose paper filters, always be sure to rinse your filter before you start your brew.

The coffee methods to stay away from if you have high cholesterol are Turkish coffee, French press, and cold brew as these have the highest amounts of diterpenes.  Turkish coffee is an unfiltered method.  While French press does have a screen, the grounds are in direct contact with the water while brewing (so basically unfiltered).  Additionally, even though there are filters available now for cold brew, the long brew time (12+ hours) has potential for higher levels of diterpenes.

Coffee in general has some great health properties, (antioxidants, polyphenols, and micronutrients) but if you have high cholesterol, you may want to reconsider your brew method.

Cheering you on to good health!

Note:  This is not intended to be medical help,  please seek the advice of your medical professional. 

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