How to tell if your kopi luwak is fake or real

Kopi Luwak, an exotic Indonesian coffee, is made from coffee berries that have been eaten by the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). Despite being known as the world’s most expensive coffee, unfortunately there was no reliable, standardized method for determining its authenticity. Researchers from Japan and Indonesia have developed the first scientific method to verify authenticity of exotic Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee.

Cat poop coffee being roasted in Indonesia to prepare kopi luwak - the most expensive coffee

Wilk asian palm civet cat eating coffee berries at night. The cat poop is then used to make kopi luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world

Is there any way to tell if the most expensive coffee you just bought is authentic or imitation?

Since the kopi luwak (aka cat poop coffee) rose to popularity, more and more vendors are trying to get on the train to riches! The market is now saturated with fake kopi luwak or blends of coffee mixed with a small percentage of kopi luwak marketed as original civet coffee. So how can you know if your coffee gross or gourmet?

The exotic processing makes the coffee, called Kopi Luwak, exceptionally rare — and at $600 a pound also really expensive.  Experts suspect that much of what’s sold as civet coffee on the market is actually either fake or made from low-grade beans.  Well what’s worse than a $50 cup of cat poop coffee? Paying $50 for a fake cup of cat poop coffee!!

Is your coffee the real shit?

Several people who have tried kopi luwak have varied opinions on the taste of kopi luwak.  The kopi luwak is known to be less bitter than regular coffee due to the enzyme action when the coffee beans are in the civet cat’s stomach. Hence people who often cannot drink coffee without adding milk and sugar can easily drink Kopi Luwak black. Cat poop coffee has been described as very smooth, earthy and nutty.

Chemical difference between regular coffee beans and Kopi Luwak (cat poop coffee beans)

Bio-technologists in Japan came up with the first chemical test to tell if the coffee has ever been through the cat’s stomach or not. They claim that the kopi luwak coffee develops discriminant markers when passed through the civet cat’s stomach. This research which was published in the ‘Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry‘

Biotechnologist Sastia Prama Putri of Osaki University in Japan and her colleagues in the lab of Eiichiro Fukusaki went looking for a chemical fingerprint that could uniquely identify civet coffee. “We want to be sure people around the world can try the real Kopi Luwak,” she says.

The predigestion of coffee beans in the asian civet cat’s stomach seem to change the citric acid present in the beans. They have determined a way to tell real Civet coffee from imitations by determining the coffee’s metabolic fingerprint. By looking at the metabolites present in the coffee beans, biotechnologists can determine if the beans were ever put through the civet cat’s digestive system, which leaves a fingerprint of sorts including levels of malic and citric acid. The unique chemical composition of the actual drink reflects elevated citric acid and malic acid levels, as well as a certain inositol/pyroglutamic acid ratio. While this ID system is far from being practical yet, scientists say it’s a good start.

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