What Is Diterpenes in Coffee?

crazy by Editorial Staff | Updated on April 26th, 2023

Do you love coffee but don’t know what’s in it? Have you ever heard of diterpenes and wondered what they are?


If so, then this blog post is for you! This post will discuss the science behind diterpenes and why they are important components of your favorite cup of joe.

African worker is gathering coffee beans on plantation in bushy wood

So grab a mug and get ready to learn all about diterpenes in coffee!

What are Diterpenes?

Diterpenes are compounds found in the oil of coffee beans. They are predominantly present in the esterified form with different fatty acids, such as cafestol and kahweol, which comprise up to 10-15% of boiled unfiltered coffee.

Diterpenes are unique to coffee and have not been detected in any other food. They have potentially beneficial health effects but can also be detrimental if consumed in high amounts.

Where Can You Find Diterpenes in Coffee?

Diterpenes are naturally present in the oil contained in coffee beans. They are most commonly found in the form of esterified cafestol and kahweol molecules with different fatty acids, although they can also occur in small amounts in the free form.

Other pentacyclic diterpenes, such as melanoidins, are also present in coffee oil. Diterpenes are not found in any other food source; therefore, their presence is unique to coffee. Therefore, coffee is your best bet if you’re looking for a source of diterpenes.

Where do diterpenes originate in coffee?

Diterpenes in coffee originate exclusively in the coffee tree. Cafestol and kahweol are the two main representatives of the diterpenes class that are naturally present in the oil contained in coffee beans.

They are produced only by the Coffea genus plants and co-extracted from the coffee beans.

Other diterpenes in coffee include melanoidins and 16-O-methyl cafestol, typically esterified with fatty acids when present in the bean lipid fraction. Different brewing methods may impact the number of diterpenes in a cup of coffee, so it’s important to be aware of this when deciding how to enjoy your favorite brew.

Health Benefits of Diterpenes in Coffee

Coffee diterpenes have been shown to have potential health benefits for those who consume them. Studies have suggested that consuming diterpenes in coffee could reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Additionally, research has found that diterpenes may help lower cholesterol levels, particularly LDL. Furthermore, studies have shown that the antioxidant properties of diterpenes could potentially be beneficial in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

While more research needs to be done to confirm the exact health benefits of consuming diterpenes in coffee, it is clear that these compounds may offer some potential benefits to those who regularly drink coffee.

Research suggests that high consumption of these compounds can benefit human health, but too much can lead to potential downsides.

Coffee beans are controlled by hand

Possible Downsides of Diterpenes in Coffee

Although diterpenes in coffee are beneficial for health, consuming large amounts of them can have certain downsides. Diterpenes such as cafestol and kahweol, found in the oil contained in coffee, have been associated with an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol.

These compounds are believed to induce dyslipidemia and hypercholesterolemia and can also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is important to moderate coffee intake and be mindful of the number of diterpenes consumed.

Types of Diterpenes in Coffee

Coffee contains two main types of diterpenes: cafestol and kahweol. These diterpenes are found exclusively in the coffee tree and are co-extracted from the beans with the coffee oil.

Cafestol

Cafestol is one of the two main diterpenes in coffee and kahweol. It is a diterpene molecule found in the oil contained in coffee beans, and it is produced exclusively by plants of the Coffea genus. The research suggests that cafestol can have health benefits, such as increased HDL cholesterol levels and antioxidant activity.

However, a high intake of cafestol can also increase the risk of elevated LDL cholesterol levels and triacylglycerols.

Kahweol

Kahweol is another diterpene present in coffee. It is found in Coffea arabica and C. robusta coffees and is a main component of coffee oil. As with cafestol, kahweol has been linked to raising LDL cholesterol levels and triacylglycerols in the blood.

However, some potential health benefits are also associated with kahweol, such as its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have also suggested that kahweol may have anti-cancer properties and the ability to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Melanoidins

Melanoidins are complex polymeric molecules formed by the Maillard reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids. These molecules are formed during the roasting process and can add a unique flavor to the coffee.

Melanoidins have also been found to contain antioxidant properties, making them beneficial for human health. Research has suggested that melanoidins may offer some protection against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, melanoidins may also help reduce inflammation and improve gut health.

How Are Diterpenes Extracted in Coffee?

Diterpenes are a compound found in coffee beans, and it is essential to understand how they are extracted to reap the health benefits of consuming coffee.

Several methods are used to extract diterpenes from coffee, such as ultrasonication, liquid-liquid extraction, and supercritical carbon dioxide extraction.

  • Ultrasonication involves using ultrasound waves to break down the cells of the coffee beans, releasing the diterpenes.
  • Liquid-liquid extraction involves adding a solvent to the grounded coffee beans to extract the diterpenes.
  • Finally, supercritical carbon dioxide extraction involves using highly pressurized carbon dioxide gas to extract the diterpenes from spent coffee grounds.

Each method has advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to understand each before deciding on one.

How to Reduce the Risk of Consuming High Amounts of Diterpenes?

It is possible to reduce the risk of consuming high amounts of diterpenes in coffee by using filters such as paper filters when brewing. This will remove some of the cafestol, kahweol diterpenes, and some other compounds found in unfiltered coffee.

Additionally, it is recommended that people with a high coronary risk limit their intake of brews that are rich in cafestol. By limiting the consumption of these types of coffees, individuals can reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease or other health issues associated with the intake of diterpenes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, diterpenes are found naturally in coffee and can offer health benefits when consumed in moderation. Some diterpenes, such as cafestol and kahweol, are strong stimulants and can increase cholesterol levels when consumed in large amounts.

It is important to know where these compounds originate in coffee and how to reduce the risk of consuming too much. By controlling the extraction process and limiting the amount of unfiltered coffee consumed, it is possible to enjoy diterpenes’ unique taste and health benefits while avoiding their potential downsides.

Sources:

All of the information provided was based on several studies. Since these sources were used in multiple sections of this article, we decided to add these sources here for further reading.

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Disclosure: No compensation or free products were received in exchange for writing this review.

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Editorial Staff

The editorial staff at Crazy Coffee Crave is a team of coffee enthusiasts & Baristas who enjoy the one thing we all think about as soon as we get up in the morning. Trusted by thousands of readers worldwide.