While we here at SteepFuze have been preaching the benefits of CBD-infused coffee for several years now, drinking CBD coffee is steadily becoming a trend in homes and even coffee shops around the country. A quick glance at the #CBDCoffee hashtag shows that there are dozens of coffee shops and retailers around the country selling CBD coffee! These shops tend to cluster in places like Colorado, California, New York, and Texas. So far, we’ve found CBD coffee being served in at least 10 different states…and growing!
So, What’s the Problem?
While it’s great to see the word getting out, and the trend spreading, a lot of these “infused” CBD coffees aren’t quite delivering as well as intended. This is because, while most educated consumers are getting their dose of CBD right from the source – infused coffee beans – the trend of adding a CBD tincture to a cup of coffee is also growing. We get asked, “Why not just add tincture to my cup?” often, so we thought we’d give a more in depth answer.
To understand the answer to this question, first you need to know a little coffee science, namely, what exactly is in your cup of coffee?
The Science of Coffee
On a very basic level, a cup of coffee is made up of three components: water, oil, and micro-particles. Most of the cup is made up of water. When the water passes around the coffee grounds during brewing, it absorbs much of the caffeine, acids, terpenes, other chemical compounds, and flavonoids (flavor molecules) from the grounds and delivers them to your cup. When brewing your coffee with hot water, the fats and oils in the coffee beans heat up and break off of the grounds and flow with the water into your cup. These oils carry some of the flavonoids and a small amount of caffeine. Finally, there are the micro-particles. These particles are NOT the sludge you sometimes see at the bottom of a cup of French press coffee. They’re much, much smaller, and comprised of many different compounds that make up much of what is absorbed by the water and oil during brewing, and also what accounts for the coffee ring stain when spilled coffee evaporates.
Congratulations, you now know more about coffee brewing science than 99% of the population!
It’s All About the Oils and the Micro-Particles
The important thing to remember here is how the oils and micro-particles interact. We all know that oil separates and floats in water, but did you ever wonder why the oil in your coffee cup doesn’t float to the top until the coffee is cold? In a hot cup of coffee, the micro-particles are loosely bonded to the oils. This keeps the naturally occurring coffee oils in suspension in your cup. As the coffee cools, this bond (called a macro-emulsion bond) breaks, and the oil floats up to the top of your cup. This is very important for CBD coffee!
Using a process like ours, and infusing our CBD-rich hemp extract directly into the oils in the coffee beans means that the CBD oil, infused in the coffee oil, is going to be bound to those micro-particles and be kept in suspension while the coffee stays warm. This means that you’re getting a more even dosage of CBD throughout the entire time you are drinking your coffee. Not the case when you add CBD to a cup of coffee!
The Problem with Adding Tinctures
The CBD content in many tinctures and “water soluble” powders and liquids are isolate-based, meaning that the CBD molecule has been separated from the other cannabinoids and terpenes. As strong believers in the synergistic interaction of the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes known as the “entourage effect”, we strongly discourage the use of isolates. Other than its isolated form, CBD extract exists as an oil (even if mixed with large amounts of emulsifying powder to make it “water soluble”.) When you add it to a cup of coffee, it’s NOT bound to those micro-particles the way the natural coffee oils are, so it separates from the water in the cup and floats to the surface almost immediately. This means that when adding a tincture or powder to a cup of coffee, you’re not really getting a cup of CBD coffee, you’re getting just a cup of coffee, with one or maybe two really hemp-tasting mouthfuls. In mixed espresso drinks, it may be hard to notice the separation because the oils sit just below the foam or crema, but the separation still occurs. Also, if the oil is floating on the surface of your coffee, it’s much more likely to cling to the sides of your cup…and be wasted instead of consumed.
And It Affects the Flavor!
Another issue with CBD being added to the cup, is the flavor impact. Infusing the natural oils in the coffee bean adds subtle flavor notes but preserves the coffee’s flavor profile. However, adding an extract will always negatively affect the flavor of your coffee. Most tinctures are primarily comprised of a “carrier oil” like coconut oil or cold pressed hemp oil, both of which have a strong flavor. Or it may contain glycerol, which is a chemical compound derived from soy beans, palm oil or tallow (animal fat). While not bad for you, it’s not something you would normally choose to add to your coffee! Some shops are adding “water soluble” CBD powder to their coffee as well. The problem here is that “water soluble” is a total misnomer. CBD cannot be made to be truly soluble in water. “Water soluble” powders are really just CBD isolates or oils mixed with surfactants or emulsifiers to help suspend the CBD in water by temporarily bonding to the water molecules. Most of these powders are made up of lots of starches or compounds like maltodextrin which hurt the mouthfeel and flavor profile of the coffee and often add a detectable synthetic taste.
Let’s Talk About Bioavailability
The final shortcoming of adding CBD extracts to brewed coffee instead of using genuinely infused coffee beans, is the loss of the coffee oil’s bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a substance that enters the circulation when introduced into the body and therefore is able to have an active effect. It’s estimated that the natural bioavailability of cannabidiol when ingested is only 13% to 19%! The naturally occurring oils in coffee are primarily comprised of triglycerides and fatty acids, most commonly linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid that is very important to the human body because we cannot make this fat naturally – so we have to eat it! This means our bodies are very good at absorbing it, making it highly bioavailable. Therefore, it can dramatically increase the bioavailability of CBD that is infused into it. All this makes coffee oil an ideal delivery mechanism for CBD, but if you are adding tincture to your coffee instead of using infused beans, you are sacrificing the boost in bioavailability and the taste of your good coffee.
We hope you enjoyed learning about the science of coffee and why you should choose beans over bottles. Now get a few bags of your favorite SteepFuze coffee and start brewing!