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Commodities

Italian machine to detect ‘fake’ coffee

Kenya’s Arabica industry has been affected by fraud. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kenya’s Arabica industry has been affected by fraud. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Italian scientists have discovered a way to quickly uncover coffee fraud — an issue which has affected Kenya’s Arabica industry and other producers over recent years.

The scientists at the University of Florence say their new sampling machine, known as PTR-ToF-MS, can discover when the more expensive Arabica bean has been mixed with the cheaper Robusta.

The issue has been a concern for some time because mixing the beans allows sellers to get a higher profit margin than just selling pure Arabica.

The new machine, which is both quick and portable, deployed a technique called proton transfer reaction which has already been used to investigate other types of food fraud and was found to significantly discriminate between the two species.

The results, according to a report in the journal Food Chemistry, showed that the PTR-ToF-MS technique “was able to correctly recognise Arabica and Robusta samples. Therefore, the analyses… represent a valuable tool to distinguish between Arabica and Robusta.”

In the study coffee samples of seven Arabica and six Robusta commercial stocks were recorded and submitted to statistical analysis.

Results clearly showed that, in each stage of the coffee processing, the volatile composition of coffee is highly influenced by the different species enabling scientists to discover which beans were pure and which were not.

While coffee experts are already able to show where coffee has been tampered with, the current method of analysis is slow and expensive and not very reliable.

The scientists say the new research showed that in future their technique will be able to provide an “innovative, fast and valuable tool for coffee authentication.”

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