Bulletproof Coffee is one of the most controversial movements in the coffee world right now. Started by David Asprey, Bulletproof has simultaneously come under fire for dubious health claims and raised $9 million to build out cafes. At Driftaway Coffee, we aren’t medical experts, so we aren’t qualified to evaluate Bulletproof Coffee’s medical claims. We are coffee experts, though, and we feel comfortable taking a close look at Bulletproof’s claims about their coffee.
The Recipe for Bulletproof Coffee
Bulletproof Coffee is a proprietary beverage that contains three ingredients:
- 1 cup of coffee
- 1-2 tablespoons of “Brain Octane” (see below)
- 1-2 tablespoons of grass-fed, unsalted butter
These three ingredients are mixed in a blender to create a “latte.”
“Brain Octane” is the company’s expensive brand of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are derived from coconut oil. If you’re interested in trying Bulletproof Coffee, many people have reported finding less expensive but identical MCTs from other sources, including Whole Foods.
The Coffee Claims of Bulletproof Coffee
The claims about Bulletproof’s coffee are far from bulletproof. Asprey himself notes that his main concern when developing Bulletproof’s “Upgraded Coffee” was minimizing mycotoxin contamination. Since this was his primary concern, it seems fair to evaluate his coffee based on this criterion.
Asprey’s correct that mycotoxins are largely mold toxins, and that they’re found in many coffees. Yes, they’re bad for you — in really large quantities. Mycotoxins are also found in meats that Asprey recommends in the Bulletproof Diet, as well as in cereals, nuts, wine and beer. They’re even in breast milk.
Mycotoxins can grow on coffee, but coffee sold in the United States almost never has harmful levels of these mold spores. One study conducted by researchers in Spain and published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that in people who drank four cups of coffee a day mycotoxin levels were only at 2 percent of what’s regarded as the maximum safe level for mycotoxins. On Bulletproof’s site, Asprey cites a study that found mycotoxins in about half of roasted coffees, but he admits that levels of mycotoxins in the coffee were low.
Additionally, the coffee industry has been addressing mycotoxins since at least the 1990s. This was one motivation for washing more coffees, as most mold spores (if present) are removed during wet processing.
Thus, mycotoxins can, in theory, be in coffee. As a consumer, however, there’s little reason to worry about them.
The Precautionary Measures Bulletproof Coffee Takes
Even though there’s no practical need to be concerned about mycotoxins in coffee, it’s worth looking at the precautionary measures Bulletproof Coffee takes to guard against these mold spores. Bulletproof Coffee:
- tests its coffee for mycotoxins, which most roasters don’t do because it’s unnecessary
- uses a “proprietary processing method,” which isn’t made public and may just be a modified wet processing technique
- purchases only arabica beans, which are less likely to grow mold than robusta beans
- buys only high-elevation coffee, because mold is less prevalent at higher elevations
- works with a single-origin estate in Guatemala, which lets the company work closely with the coffee growers
In comparison, we at Driftaway Coffee have offered many single-origin selections that were grown at high elevations and (of course) are arabica. Here are just a few recent ones that meet these criteria:
- Guatemalan SHB Huehuetenango Finca El Limonar
- Costa Rican SHB Tarrazu La Pastora
- Guatemala Finca San Diego Buena Vista
- Guatemala Huehuetenango EP
While Bulletproof coffee tests their coffee for mycotoxins, which we don’t believe is necessary, there’s nothing else that can be verified that makes their coffee particularly healthy. They claim to have a proprietary washing method, but that may just be a wet processing method; we don’t know. They do purchase single-origin, high-elevation arabica beans, but many roasters, including us at Driftaway Coffee, do this.
Our Thoughts on Bulletproof Coffee
As mentioned, we aren’t qualified to evaluate Bulletproof Coffee’s health claims. Our analysis of Bulletproof Coffee’s claims about the company’s coffee leaves us doubtful about all of their other claims, though. Technically, Asprey is correct about mycotoxins, but the concerns he raises are negligible. Your doctor might give you a similar response if you ask them about Asprey’s health claims for Bulletproof Coffee.
If you’re looking for a high-quality alternative to Bulletproof Coffee, why not try our sample pack? We don’t have any health claims to make about our coffee, but we do promise that it will be delicious. You won’t be disappointed.