After my incident with accidentally consuming gluten in the form of an artificial flavoring in Dunkin’ Donuts prepackaged flavored coffee a few years back, I decided to check out regular (non-flavored) coffees that you and I might buy in the grocery store and bring home to brew and enjoy.
I called several different companies to speak to them about the possibility of gluten in their beans. Here’s what I found.
Folger’s: The Best Part of Waking Up is NOT Having Gluten in Your Cup
From the Folger’s website:
“Coffee is not a source of gluten, and our Folgers roast and ground coffee items are produced in a dedicated facility where no other types of agricultural crops are handled or processed; however, due to the use of common equipment within the agricultural community to harvest, store and transport crops, our roast and ground products may contain trace amounts of grain-based ingredients. Additionally, our flavored coffee products may contain added ingredients that are not gluten free.”
The part about the dedicated facility is terrific. That bit about “may contain trace amounts of grain-based ingredients” is likely in there to cover Folger’s…just in case.
My bottom line on Folger’s unflavored coffees: Use your best judgment because there is no way of knowing if there are trace amounts of grain-based products in your Folger’s coffee without testing each batch. That’s not currently being done. It is good to know they use a dedicated facility for production.
When it comes to flavored coffees like those I write about here, the gluten issue becomes more complicated.
I called the company for more information on their flavored coffees. Here’s what I learned:
(Note: I not only asked about gluten, but also about all Big 8 Food Allergens.)
1. Flavored coffees may contain additional ingredients that are not gluten-free, like natural and artificial flavorings.
2. Flavored coffees do not contain any of the top 8 allergens (including wheat) or that would be listed on the product packaging.
3. The EXACT ingredients used in the flavored coffees are proprietary information, so Folger’s cannot divulge those.
The bottom line regarding Folger’s flavored coffees: If any of the Big 8 Food Allergens are contained in the coffees, they will be listed in an “Allergen Statement”. The source of gluten in natural or artificial flavorings for flavored coffees seems to be barley malt extract. Of course, because of the proprietary nature of these ingredients, we cannot be sure.
Also, some coffee flavorings have an alcohol base. That alcohol may be derived from gluten grains. To learn more about consuming grain-based alcohols on a gluten-free diet, read this post and scroll down to #6.
Eight O’Clock Coffee: Pour Me Another!
I couldn’t find information on their website, so I called Eight O’Clock Customer Service. I was put through to an ingredients specialist and told these coffees – regular, decaf, unflavored, or flavored – contain absolutely no gluten ingredients and are not exposed to gluten ingredients at any point along the line.
My bottom line for Eight O’Clock coffee: Hooray! Your sales may just go up and you’ll have me to thank! ;)
And just in case anyone out there drinks the occasional cup of instant coffee, I had to include Nescafé® Taster’s Choice.
Nescafé® Taster’s Choice: It Really is a Good Choice!
I saw some (mis)information on the web that said “all regular and decaffeinated instant coffees contain wheat for bulk”.
That is simply not true. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet!
Nescafé is indeed gluten-free. It is brewed, freeze-dried coffee, plain and simple. For the flavored instant coffees, be sure to read the label for any other allergen statements or ingredients you are not able to consume.
And now, a word about Starbucks.
Starbucks: Does the Buck Stop Here??
I spent several hours talking with the folks at Starbucks. At first, they had a hard time getting it together for our conversation.
I started to include the transcript of my first call for you to read, but it was so ridiculous, I thought I’d spare you the agony. Instead, let me summarize what I learned from two Starbucks representatives that I CAN tell you:
(Note: I specifically inquired about Starbucks Natural Fusions Caramel and Vanilla Flavored Coffees in whole bean OR ground pre-packaged available on grocery store shelves.)
1. Starbucks coffees are not labeled gluten-free and if they are intended to be gluten-free products, they will be labeled as such.
2. If you do not see the words “Gluten-Free” on the outside package of Starbuck’s coffees, either whole bean or ground, either flavored or unflavored, they may contain gluten.
3. If you are concerned about gluten in your coffee and you have a gluten allergy, you should not consume Starbucks coffees, flavored or not.
At that point, I received additional information that was so outlandish, I decided to call back to speak to someone else, and try to confirm it. I did, and that is when I received even more conflicting information.
I DID confirm the following about pre-packaged Starbucks coffees that you find on grocery store shelves (not the brewed coffee in the Starbucks shops):
1. If a Starbucks coffee is nut flavored or mentions a nut (like Hazelnut) in the name, then it contains nuts.
2. Caramel flavored coffee contains butter, so is not dairy-free.
3. The Caramel and Vanilla flavored coffees also contain CORN maltodextrin (along with other ingredients like dried orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and licorice root), so if you have a corn allergy or intolerance, or wish to avoid GMOs, this is important information for you.
It seems I am not the only one receiving conflicting information from Starbucks. Jane Anderson, who writes about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity as an expert for About.com, shares information on Starbucks’ gluten-free offerings, what the representative she spoke with told her, and the conflicting information she also received on their products. You can read Jane’s post here.
On the Starbucks website, you can read the (limited) allergen statement, which says, “We cannot guarantee that any of our beverages are allergen-free because we use shared equipment and handle allergens throughout the store.”
In other words, you must ask when you’re in the coffee shop. Keep in mind, especially if you have other allergies (like dairy) that all the equipment is shared and no process is a “dedicated” one.
As for food, Starbucks does offer a variety of gluten-free prepackaged items in their Evolution line, which should be gluten-free if package is marked with the GF symbol. If the gluten-free labeling is not on the package, even if it is an Evolution product, assume it contains gluten. There is also a GF rice crisp marshmallow treat (usually found at the checkout) that is GF but it does contain soy last I checked. Also, it’s basically just a simple carb sugar bomb, so no my idea of a smart choice if I’m in need of a bite on the go.
There are a variety of salads and snacks in the cold case that are free from gluten; however those are not necessarily marked as gluten-free. Starbucks will not offer a definitive answer on these items due to the risk of cross-contamination that may exist. In other words, they just aren’t willing to risk saying these seemingly gluten-free foods are gluten-free, then having someone get sick and sue them. And who can blame them with cases like the PF Chang’s class action suit??
This information was updated
October 2014 February 2015 April 2016.