If you’re celiac or going gluten-free, you might find yourself asking, “is coffee gluten-free?” Fortunately, it is, but let’s learn more about it.
Many people who are choosing a gluten-free diet wonder about the foods and drinks they love the most. Coffee is frequently one of those questionable products. If this question has crossed your mind, you will be relieved to know that coffee and coffee beans are gluten-free.
Coffee is a gluten-free food because it does not belong to the family of plants that have gluten in their cellular structures. Gluten is a type of sugar.
Coffee is a member of the Rubiaceae family of flowering plants. Gluten is only found in plants that are part of the Poaceae family. This family includes plants such as wheat, barley, rye, and other cereal grasses.
There are times when your coffee can contain gluten, but it does not come from the coffee beans or the coffee plant. Cereal grains are often used as thickeners in creamers or coffee flavorings.
- What Coffee Is Gluten-Free?
- Low-Quality Coffee May Contain Gluten
- Flavored Coffee And Gluten
- Is Instant Coffee Gluten-Free?
- Gluten-Free Coffee At The Coffee Shop
- 5 Best Gluten-Free Coffee Alternatives
- 1. Chicory Root Coffee
- 2. DandyBlend
- 3. Tazo’s Chai Tea
- 4. Crio Bru Ghana Light Roast Organic Ground Cacao
- 5. Alpine Start Premium Instant Coffee Packets Medium Roast Blend
What Coffee Is Gluten-Free?
If you are looking for gluten-free coffee options, it is helpful to remember that plain, unflavored coffee is gluten-free. The roasting process does not produce gluten, nor does grinding the beans for brewing.
The only time that your coffee may contain gluten is if it has been supplemented with artificial creamers, sweeteners, flavors, or flavored syrups. Many of these products do contain gluten.
The best way to avoid coffee products that contain gluten is to read the labels. Many flavored coffee beans use artificial flavoring products that use wheat-based by-products as preservatives or to keep the beans from sticking together. If you like flavored coffee, make sure that you select products that use natural flavorings and check the labels first.
The other way to avoid gluten in your coffee is to use natural milk products. Dairy milk is always gluten-free, and many plant milks like coconut, soy, or almond milk are also gluten-free.
Be careful with oat milk. Oats contain avenin, a protein similar to gluten, and can be prime to cross-contamination when being processed. For people with celiac disease, even traces of gluten can cause discomfort.
The absolute best way to ensure that your coffee is always gluten-free is to just drink your coffee or espresso black. Skipping the creamer, sweeteners, artificial flavors, and syrups are the only way to ensure that your coffee is gluten-free.
Low-Quality Coffee May Contain Gluten
If you are drinking black coffee, there can be a remote chance that your coffee could contain gluten, especially if you are using low-quality, pre-ground coffee. Some mass-produced, inexpensive brands may process their coffee in facilities that make other products. In this case, cross-contamination is possible but very unlikely.
If you are having an issue with gluten reactivity when drinking coffee, you should look somewhere other than the coffee beans. Look at the ingredients of your coffee creamer or the type of sweetener or syrup you use.
If you are still worried about cross-contamination, there is an easy solution. Make sure that you purchase whole beans from a small, local roaster. These facilities only process coffee, so you don’t have to worry about the potential risk of gluten in your coffee.
Flavored Coffee And Gluten
If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, you need to be particularly careful with flavored coffees. It may sound fun to buy a bag of seasonal pumpkin spice coffee or even that hazelnut coffee everyone in the office likes. However, gluten could be lurking in the flavorings that are used to make these coffee beans so delicious.
There are several rules to follow if you want to consider flavored coffee. First, read your labels. If a food is labeled gluten-free, it has to be gluten-free.
Look for flavored coffees that have natural flavors or cold-pressed nut oils. These are the safest bets for flavored coffee. If your flavored coffee ingredient list only says, “special blend of natural flavors,” it’s best to skip it and find a brand that’s more specific with the ingredients.
The other rule to follow is to avoid flavored coffees that use alcohol to extract flavors from nuts, flowers, or other foods. Most alcohol used in food production is distilled from barley or rye. Both of these contain gluten.
While the distilling process does break down much of the gluten, this isn’t a foolproof process. So, it can result in a very uncomfortable day, especially if you are highly sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.
Is Instant Coffee Gluten-Free?
Before we answer this question, it is helpful to understand what instant coffee is. Instant coffee is brewed coffee that has been dehydrated or, in many cases, “freeze-dried.” Both of these processes remove all of the water from liquid coffee and turn it into a powdered or crystallized product.
If you are purchasing a high-quality instant coffee, you can be fairly confident that you are getting a gluten-free option. Higher quality products tend to come from facilities that specialize in coffee production, so there aren’t a lot of extra ingredients or foods to contaminate your coffee.
Lower-cost mass-produced instant coffee could contain gluten if it is processed in the factory with alcohol as a drying agent or other gluten-containing preservatives or flavoring.
As always, a good rule of thumb is to read the label and select smaller, locally produced products. Learn more in our espresso powder vs. instant coffee guide.
Gluten-Free Coffee At The Coffee Shop
Here is where things get risky, but they don’t have to be. Your local coffee shop cannot promise that your drink will not contain gluten.
If you like to drink regular drip coffee, you stand a good chance that the coffee maker will have made a pot of flavored coffee that could contain gluten. This is a great example of cross-contamination. If you want to ensure that your coffee shop coffee is gluten-free, go for espresso-based drinks.
You’re not going to run into flavored espresso beans. Just remember to skip the flavored syrups. You might also find our explainer on is hard kombucha gluten-free helpful.
5 Best Gluten-Free Coffee Alternatives
If you are still concerned that your coffee might contain gluten, or if you are just looking for other gluten-free coffee alternatives, there are some great products to choose from.
1. Chicory Root Coffee
Chicory is another flowering plant that has been used to make a nutty but slightly bitter hot drink. Chicory coffee is a popular alternative to regular coffee, particularly in the southern parts of the United States, where the chicory plant is a popular crop.
Our favorite brand of chicory coffee is Teeccino. This company produces a range of herbal teas and non-coffee drinks. Their chicory coffee is flavorful and comes with a variety of herbal mixes that give a range of flavors.
All Teeccino herbal coffees and chicory coffee blends are naturally flavored and are always gluten-free.
Another spin on chicory root coffee is a traditional blend that adds dandelion roots for additional flavor. This product has a richer flavor and a smoother texture than other dandelion teas or chicory root coffees.
One thing to note is that DandyBlend does use barley and rye extracts in their blend. This coffee alternative is fine for individuals that do not have a medical reason for avoiding gluten.
However, if you do have Chron’s or celiac disease, this is a product to be avoided. The use of barley and rye in this blend makes it unable to be labeled as gluten-free.
3. Tazo’s Chai Tea
Chai tea is often a great alternative to coffee, especially if you don’t need more caffeine to get you through the day. Tazo Chai is a flavorful option that is gluten-free and low in caffeine.
Tazo chai tea is a blend of black tea, anise, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. This blend of tea and spices give the Tazo chai a surprising kick and just a bit of heat to give you a boost.
4. Crio Bru Ghana Light Roast Organic Ground Cacao
Cacao-based drinks are becoming a great alternative to coffee. This plant gives us another delicious food that most people love – chocolate.
South and Central American tribes have brewed cacao much like coffee for thousands of years. Crio Bru is a wonderful option if you are looking to try cacao as an alternative to coffee.
The flavor of this drink is nothing like coffee but is more like drinking warm, dark chocolate. Crio Bru offers plain ground cacao or naturally flavored ground cacao. All of their products are gluten-free, caffeine-free, and sugar-free.
This Crio Bru line uses Ghana light roast cacao, providing a deep flavor and smooth texture. The earthy flavor will come out a few seconds after the sip and linger in your throat. If you want to flavor your cacao or add cream or sweeteners, make sure you select natural milk or sweeteners to keep your delicious, brewed cacao gluten-free.
5. Alpine Start Premium Instant Coffee Packets Medium Roast Blend
This one isn’t a true coffee alternative, but it is an easier way to enjoy coffee without the effort. It is also a great option if you like to travel, camp, or want to enjoy a cup of coffee in the office.
Alpine Start comes in a variety of package sizes and styles. They even have a coffee plus creamer option that is actually gluten-free and quite tasty. This product uses coconut milk as the creamer option, so not only is this product gluten-free, but it is dairy-free and vegan.
Instant coffee isn’t the only offering from Alpine Start. The brand also has instant tea and coffee or tea with immune-boosting supplements.