THE CHALLENGE OF CBD COFFEE

Infused coffee beverages containing CBD are becoming commonplace.  Enjoying coffee drinks with CBD is an easy way to consume and receive its health benefits.

But the levels of CBD in the source and how much makes it into your final cup varies, writes Michael Szyliowicz from SolaBev, a manufacturer of single serve beverages with a proprietary capsule system. SolaBev produces a range of coffees and teas including CBD infused coffees. 

CBD is short for cannabidiol, a compound derived from the hemp plant.  CBD promotes a sense of calm and relaxation and also helps alleviate muscle and nerve pain.  But, unlike its botanical cousin the marijuana plant, hemp does not contain any THC or the psychoactive compound that gives one a feeling of euphoria. 

A wide range of CBD infused coffee products are now available on the market with varying dosage levels.  Their degrees of CBD strength range from mild doses as low as 5 mg up to 50 mg or more.   It can take 30 minutes or more after consuming a cup of CBD coffee to feel those effects but, depending on the dosage they can last for hours which is why drinking infused coffee is so popular. 

There are two ways to make CBD coffee.  The first is with CBD infused coffee beans that are brewed as a cup or pot of coffee.  The second method is using a capsule filled with CBD infused coffee. 

It is easy to measure and define the amount of CBD in each bag of coffee beans.  Delivering a consistent dose in each cup, however, is more challenging.  Infused coffees show the labelled strength of CBD in each bag of beans, including standard amounts such as 100 mg, 250 mg, and 500 mg of CBD.  Those amounts should translate to approximately 4, 10, and 20 milligrams (mg) per serving in each cup, but calculating how much CBD actually ends up in the beverage is problematic.

When developing CBD products, the tests SolaBev conducted focused on exactly how much CBD is extracted into every brewed cup, not how much CBD is added to each capsule. 

We verified products from three companies:  SolaBev capsules, CBD infused KCups, and CBD infused coffee beans.  An independent lab tested and measured the different infused coffees for both the amount of CBD in each drink as well as the amount of CBD left in the coffee grounds. The goal was 15 mg of CBD in an 8 oz cup of coffee.

The box for the four KCups claimed 25 mg of CBD in every KCup.  Contacting that producer, we asked them to verify their dosages. They said that although each KCup did contain 25 mg of CBD, we could expect only a 5 mg dose in the brewed coffee.

With the infused coffee beans, the 12 oz bag of beans stated 360 mg of CBD and each cup of coffee containing 15 mg of CBD.  The brewing instructions specified dosages for each 8 oz cup of coffee so we ground those beans and filled capsules with 14 grams of coffee. 

The lab results were illuminating.  The SolaBev capsules yielded 15 mg of CBD in the cup.  The capsules filled with the other coffee yielded less than 1 mg (<1) of CBD in the coffee.  The amount of CBD in the coffee grounds was consistent with the stated claims.

What accounts for these disparities and why is it so prevalent in hot coffee and not in the many other types of drinks that contain CBD?

The simplest reason is the nature of coffee.  Despite its apparent simplicity, coffee is a beverage with complicated science behind it.  Extensive experience in testing and measuring brewed coffee is necessary to identify precisely what the end drink will contain. 

Second is the rush to market.  As CBD infused beverages were quickly developed to capture market share, more attention was paid to claims about the amount of CBD in the product than to the total extraction yields and ratios that resulted after brewing.  Thus, the statements on the packaging of these products are technically true, although often misleading.  Marketing claims are easy to make but harder to substantiate. 

A third problem is with the different types of CBD including isolates, full spectrum, and broad-spectrum compounds used in the formulations.  All contain CBD, but their differing chemical properties result in varying strength percentages and dosages when brewed, and, like the cliché, oil and water don’t mix well.  Since brewed coffee is 98% water, using the wrong type of CBD ensures that it won’t all flow from the brew basket and blend into the drink, remaining trapped in the coffee grounds and paper filter above the cup. 

Many people are now consuming infused CBD products and there are dozens of different hot coffee options to choose from.  Strengths vary widely on the packaging, as does the amount of CBD ingested from the brewed cup.  The challenge for both the consumer and roaster is knowing precisely how much CBD is actually present in each drink so that everyone can enjoy and experience the intended effects of CBD in coffee.

Michael Szyliowicz is a Paris trained chocolatier.  For 35 years he has created chocolate and specialty coffee beverages for companies around the globe.  He is the founder of SolaBev, a single serve beverage company and can be reached at michael@solabev.com.

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