For some people coffee is an essential part of their morning routine, while for others the experience of drinking coffee is downright magical, with the aroma of coffee being brewed, the warmth as you lift the mug to your lips and the wonderful taste as you take the first sip. In many cultures coffee is celebrated for its unique rejuvenating properties and for its many health benefits. However, as we all know there is no one way to prepare your cup of coffee. Some people like using a Nespresso machine, while others prefer a French press, and yet others wax poetic about the virtues of a pour over coffee. But is one method better than others? A new study sheds some light on this and leads to some interesting conclusions.
The study titled "Coffee consumption and mortality from cardiovascular diseases and total mortality: Does the brewing method matter" by Tverdal, Selmer, Cohen and Thelle published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, investigated "whether the coffee brewing methods is associated with any death and cardiovascular mortality, beyond the contribution from major cardiovascular risk factors."
For this study, they followed 508,747 men and women aged 20-79 for an average of 20 years and tracked their coffee drinking and brewing habits, other cardiovascular risk factors, and cause-specific death. 59% of participants preferred filtered coffee, 20% preferred unfiltered coffee, 9% consumed both brews, and 12% drank no coffee at all.
The filtered coffee approach used by the participants was drip coffee brewed with paper filters or the pour-over method, which is the the traditional preparation method in Norwegian countries. Unfiltered coffee was prepared by simmering ground coffee beans in close-to-boiling water, which is used in French Press method or even Greek and Turkish style brews and that typically leads to a stronger taste.
They observed that over the span of 20 years, men who drank unfiltered coffee had a higher mortality rate than the men not drinking coffee and women who drank any of the three types of coffee brews had significantly lowered heart disease based mortality. Also, the group drinking 1-4 cups of filtered brew had the lowest mortality and group drinking 9 cups or more of unfiltered brew had the highest mortality.
The study concluded that "unfiltered brew was associated with higher mortality than filtered brew, and filtered brew was associated with lower mortality than no coffee consumption."
These results are not very surprising and line up with previous studies that have looked into the benefits of moderate consumption of coffee. Also, unfiltered coffee brews are known to contain harmful compounds like diterpenes, specifically cafestol and kahweol that can raise LDL or bad cholesterol levels, thereby elevating the risk of cardiovascular related mortality.
In general, what we can learn from this study is that moderate consumption of coffee between 1-6 cups is actually beneficial to our cardiovascular health and we should avoid drinking too much of it, meaning more than 6 cups per day, and especially avoid drinking unfiltered coffee. But if you are not a coffee drinker there is no reason to pick up drinking coffee and you can focus on increasing your cardiovascular health by other means like a diet rich in healthy fats that support healthy levels of HDL and doing regular exercise with good amount of cardio. But if the idea of starting to drink coffee appeals to you there is nothing better than a warm cup of filtered coffee to start your day.