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Is Coffee Gluten-Free?

cup of coffee

The short answer is yes. Coffee beans and roasted coffee do not contain any gluten and are safe to consume even if you have celiac disease or are gluten-intolerant. The longer answer depends on whether or not you add anything to your coffee. Black coffee drinkers can rest assured that their coffee is completely gluten-free.

This article covers gluten in coffee to help you learn what is and is not safe to drink if you have gluten intolerance. We’ll start with a brief overview of gluten and celiac disease before laying out precisely what kind of coffee gluten-sensitive people can drink. If you’ve ever been confused about how gluten factors into coffee, this article is for you.

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What is Gluten?

Gluten has been in the news a lot lately, and more people claim they’re gluten-intolerant every year, but what is gluten anyway? Gluten is a catch-all term for proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Together, wheat, barley, and rye can be found in almost any meal.

Wheat is the key ingredient in an incredible number of common foods, most notably pasta, bread, baked goods, and cereals — basically everyone’s favorite foods. Barley is less common than wheat but more common than rye and can be found in malt, soup, and beer. Rye is the one you’re least likely to run into but is still found in rye bread, rye beer and rye whisky, and some cereals.

wheat
Image Credit: Pixabaylakc c

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is a faulty autoimmune response triggered by eating foods or drinking beverages that contain gluten. When someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, their body’s immune system attacks part of their small intestine as if it were an invading virus, damaging important structures necessary for digestion. Bloating, diarrhea, and stomach cramps are the most common symptoms, and they arise due to damage to the small intestine.

Celiac disease is hereditary, meaning people are more likely to develop celiac disease if their parents or siblings have it. An estimated 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease, while people who have close relatives with celiac disease have a whopping 10% chance of developing it.

Gluten in Coffee

Coffee trees are not part of the same plant family as wheat, barley, and rye and, therefore, coffee beans do not contain gluten. If you drink your coffee black or with regular dairy milk, you can be fully confident that it is gluten-free.

However, using alternative kinds of milk poses a risk. Oat milk is the prime example of alternative milk that contains gluten and is not safe to drink if you have celiac disease. You should be wary of anything that contains grains and always check the label if you’re not sure.

Coffee creamer is a particularly sneaky trap for people with celiac disease since it seems like it wouldn’t contain gluten, but it does. Gluten is sometimes added to drinks to give them more body and a more interesting texture. Once again, checking labels should be an automatic habit for anyone with gluten intolerance.

a woman making a cup of coffee
Image Credit: Chevanon Photography, Pexels

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Conclusion

Luckily for coffee-loving sufferers of celiac disease, coffee itself is entirely gluten-free. Anyone that drinks their coffee black or with dairy milk can continue enjoying their coffee regardless of whether or not they’re sensitive to gluten.

The people that need to be careful are those who use coffee creamer or grain-based alternative milk like oat milk. Coffee creamers often contain gluten to make the creamer thicker and more enjoyable to drink.

If you’re concerned about gluten sensitivity, you should make it a habit to check the label before buying or consuming anything and ask your barista before ordering a drink at your local café. Unfortunately, the tastiest baked goods calling you from behind the glass are off-limits if you have gluten intolerance. There are gluten-free recipes for popular café-fare, but not many coffee shops offer them yet.


Featured Image Credit: Raimond Klavins, Unsplash

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Sean Brennan

Sean’s obsession with coffee started when he received his first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, his love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets he owns – has grown considerably. A scientist by training, there is no stone he has left unturned in the never-ending quest for the perfect cup of coffee. He has spent many hours tuning his pour-over technique, thinking about how to best compare grind quality, and worrying about whether the Nicaraguan or Kenyan beans will make the best cold brew. These days he favors the Hario V60, and starts each day by hand grinding his coffee before enjoying a cup prepared with care and attention to detail.

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