Coffee’s Redeeming Quality: Antioxidants

Coffee Beans
Photo by Refracted Moments via Flickr

There is something about waking up to the delicious smell of freshly brewed coffee. The aroma and flavor awakens our senses and starts the day off right! The only problem is that coffee is bad for us, right? Well, hold on a second. Coffee, if consumed in excess, does have a lot of negative health effects, but it is also packed with antioxidants.

In fact, drinking coffee in the first 20 minutes after it is brewed can deliver 300 phytochemicals that are antioxidants. But, just like with flavor, that benefit drops as the coffee is exposed to air.

Anyone can make coffee, but making a great cup of coffee that both tastes great and is packed with the maximum amount of antioxidants, takes a little effort. It is not enough to scoop any old coffee grounds into a pot, pour in some water and turn it on. If you are aiming for a great cup of coffee with all its wonderful complexities and health benefits, then you have to focus on the freshness of the coffee beans.

Why is freshness important?
Exposing your coffee beans to moisture, strong odors, heat, oxygen or light can harm the freshness of your beans. When exposed to these elements, the beans will start to break down and lose some of their health benefits. They will also lose their subtle flavors and liveliness, making your coffee taste stale. And stale, unhealthy coffee first thing in the morning is a big disappointment. That is why it is very important to make sure that your coffee beans maintain their freshness.

How do I make a nice, fresh cup of coffee?
If you are looking to make the freshest cup of coffee possible, here are a few guidelines to follow.

  1. Buy whole beans: For maximum freshness, it is important to buy whole beans and grind them up when needed. Ready ground coffee breaks down faster and will never give you the full-bodied, rich taste of whole coffee beans or the full health benefits. If you can see the beans when you purchase them, choose whole large beans that have a consistent roast, a nice aroma and no oil spots.
  2. Buy in small quantities: Only buy enough beans for what you need for the next 1 to 2 weeks. Freshness starts to be lost after that.
  3. Only grind what you will use in a single brewing: Make sure you grind the beans just before brewing. Once the structure of the whole bean is broken, it will start to break down. That is because ground coffee beans have a greater surface area for the oxygen to interact with and oxidize. So, only grind what you need.
  4. Brew only what you can drink in 20 minutes: Coffee experts agree that you shouldn’t leave coffee sitting in a pot on a burner for over 20 minutes. After 20 minutes the contact with the air starts to change the flavor and reduce the antioxidants the coffee contains.
  5. Properly store your beans: There are two theories on how best to store coffee beans. One theory says that storing coffee in the freezer will stop oxidation and keep the beans fresher longer. The other theory says that freezing coffee promotes moisture and affects the flavor of the bean. Instead, they recommend storing your beans in an airtight, moisture-proof container in a cool, dark place, like your cupboard. Since this is still being debated, see what gives you the best taste. However, never store coffee beans in the refrigerator, because moisture will condense on the beans and they will absorb the flavors of the other foods stored there.

Have I Maximized the Health Benefits, Yet?
Not yet. In order to maximize the health benefits, you need to make sure that you make your coffee the right way. While a lot of people really like French presses for the flavor they give, they actually contribute to high cholesterol. That is due to the compounds Cafestol and Kahweol that exist in coffee beans, which contribute to raising LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad one). Those compounds are mostly removed by the filter when filtered coffee is made, but remain when coffee is prepared with the French Press. Espresso drinks are also not filtered, so those are not the healthiest choices either. If you want the healthiest method to make coffee, stick with drip coffee, since it is filtered.

The Bottom Line
Even though it might seem like a hassle to grind your coffee beans every time you want coffee, it is worth the effort. Trust me! Stale, flat coffee is just not as satisfying as rich, flavorful coffee. Plus you want to get some health benefits out of that coffee you are drinking. Just think, with a little planning, you can wake up to the perfect cup of coffee and even get some health benefit from it. Isn’t that a nice thought?

Comments (14)

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  1. Hi Talli – Thanks for your comment on my blog! I’m not a coffee fan – love the smell but not the taste – so I like get my antioxidant fix from berries and dark chocolate!

  2. Rosy says:

    Nice post on coffee, Talli! I do love my coffee. Again, loved how your broke it down. 🙂

  3. Any research on instant coffee having the same benefits?

  4. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Desiree Unfortunately, most instant coffees are missing most of the antioxidants due to the chemical process used to make it.

  5. Amber says:

    great information! I always knew that freshness was key, but never took the time. I weened myself off coffee for good, because of the inevitable jitters and tension. Now I realize that if i want a random cup the better choice would be to make it as fresh as possible….bye bye starbucks! haha

  6. Dave says:

    Great Information Talli….I was recently introduced to healthy coffee that not only tastes great…but makes me feel great. It contains the herb Ganoderma which is a super herb. Check out Ganoderma on Google for its healing properties. I would love to share some with you if you would like a sample.

  7. Stacie says:

    I am so glad to know there are redeeming health qualities in coffee. Thanks for the tips on how to make it a more healthy drink!

  8. Rahmon says:

    I am a morning coffee drinker and this is very informative.

    Thank you very much.


  9. Amy says:

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve been looking for this kind of info and you’ve distilled it to it’s essence perfectly.

  10. denvercheetoh says:

    GREAT suggestions. I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and brew some delectable beans! THANKS! 🙂

  11. Andy Hartfield says:

    Nice post! Never knew about the 20 minute window. Have you ever roasted your own beans? I just recently started roasting with an oldschool airpop popcorn maker. Best cup of coffee I have EVER had…hands down!!!

  12. Talli van Sunder says:

    @Andy No never tried it. Sounds interesting though. Maybe one day. It sounds like it would be fun to try! 🙂

  13. […] how you make coffee and end up with coffee flavored water. I don’t drink coffee that is over 20 minutes old either.  I live in Seattle and can be a bit of a coffee snob. I found my *perfect* coffee […]

  14. Michael says:

    Espresso should be just as healthy as drip coffee. If it is from freshly extracted coffee. It goes through a filter before it drips out anyway.

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