Does coffee have gluten?

Years ago, nobody cared about the gluten content of food. Still, there has been a growing – and necessary – awareness of the coeliac disease and intolerance to this group of wheat proteins in recent years.

Fortunately, coffee is gluten-free. By its very nature, coffee is suitable for coeliacs. However, the fact that coffee does not contain gluten does not mean that we should not take precautions, especially if we buy it in formats other than coffee beans (soluble, capsules, ground, etc.).

In these cases, it is always advisable to check the labelling to ensure that it does not contain traces of gluten. Not naturally, but perhaps because it may have been in contact with other elements in the production chain (belts, storage, mills) used for gluten-containing foods.

So now you know: you don’t have to look for “gluten-free coffee” because coffee is gluten-free. But you do have to check the labelling for traces.

If you wonder whether coffee contains gluten in any of its various forms of distribution, we have to tell you that it does not. We have divided them into sections to answer better the specific questions that consumers often ask.

Does coffee in capsules contain gluten?

There is no problem if we are talking about black coffee capsules (espresso, ristretto, lungo or Americano), as these capsules do not contain gluten. In any case, before buying Nespresso capsules, check the box or labels to be sure.

We are now more aware of intolerances, and the big brands such as Nespresso, Dolce Gusto or Tassimo are also aware of them, so if a coffee capsule may contain traces of gluten, they will let us know. However, the general rule is that dairy-free capsule coffee is gluten-free.

If you are going to consume coffee drinks that have milk, special flavourings, cocoa or other additives, it is more likely that they may contain gluten or traces of gluten (more on this later). See this example of Happy Belly cappuccino capsules where it is indicated that they are not suitable for coeliacs:

Happy Belly cappuccino capsules with gluten
Happy Belly cappuccino capsules with gluten

As the issue of gluten-free coffee capsules can be confusing, we have gone into more detail in the following article: Gluten-free coffee capsules.

Does instant coffee contain gluten?

Like any other coffee (without additives), ground coffee is gluten-free, as long as the grinders used in the process are completely clean and are not used to grind other ingredients.

But there could be doubts about instant coffee due to the grinding and treatment processes to make it soluble. However, it should be clarified that soluble coffee is dehydrated and then spray-dried, so its original properties remain intact.

Conclusion: soluble coffee is gluten-free.

Does decaffeinated coffee contain gluten?

Decaffeinated coffee is regular coffee that has had the caffeine removed but has not been mixed with gluten beans. The caffeine is usually extracted by one of the following methods:

  • An osmosis process with water
  • With carbon dioxide and charcoal filtering
  • Soaking with methylene chloride

So all of the above applies to decaffeinated coffee, and it is therefore gluten-free.

Could gluten ever be present in coffee? Cross-contamination

We have already said that none of the existing coffees contains gluten. However, coffee beans could be cross-contaminated if processed in a shared facility or on equipment that also processes gluten-containing ingredients.

On the other hand, when you add other products such as milk, cream or sugar to the coffee beverage, a gluten reaction can increase considerably. For example, powdered creamers may contain gluten, especially if they are flavoured.

If you have symptoms with espresso or Americano coffee (especially if you are sure that these symptoms are due to gluten ingestion and not just coffee consumption), rule out cross-contamination of sweeteners first.

If you can rule out sweeteners, and if you use already ground coffee, the next step is to switch to coffee beans. Industrially ground coffee is more likely to be cross-contaminated than if you grind it at home.

Flavoured coffee and gluten

There are many coffee beans and ground coffee with hazelnut, almond or chocolate flavours, which may be labelled gluten-free. However, these flavours used in coffee labelled as “natural” may contain gluten. How is this possible? I’ll explain now.

The additives that flavour coffee beans may not come directly from gluten-containing beans, but some flavourings are alcohol-based, which may come from gluten-containing beans.

But doesn’t distillation remove the gluten protein? In theory, yes, but how can we be sure that the distillation of the alcohol base of coffee flavourings was correct? We can’t, and this could be why some people have a negative reaction to distilled beans.

On the other hand, we have a threshold at which we consider food to be gluten-free or gluten-free, i.e. 20 parts per million. In other words, if coffee contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten, manufacturers can label it as “gluten-free”. The problem is that some people are more sensitive than others, and if you drink several flavoured coffees a day, you may react.

In short, you should look carefully at the labels before drinking a “flavoured” coffee, but you should also consider your tolerance to gluten before opting for this type of coffee. If you react well to gluten-containing alcoholic beverages and traces, you should have no problems with flavoured coffees.

Related: Does coffee raise cholesterol levels?