Fresh, Hot Cup of Cockroaches

Listeners nationwide spat out a mouthful of coffee this morning when NPR’s Fresh Air featured an entomologist who informed us that preground coffee is full of cockroaches.

It seems Douglas Emlen, a biology professor at the University of Montana, was doing a research trip with an older entomologist who was obsessed with good coffee, and who kept making deviations from the trip route to get it. In the pre-Starbucks ’80s, Emlen says, it was hard to find whole coffee beans, and the entomologist would sometimes go 45 minutes out of his way to find it. Why? As the entomologist finally explained, he had to drink only freshly ground coffee, because he had a serious allergy to cockroach.

“Preground—you know, your big bulk coffee that you buy in a tin—is all processed from these huge stockpiles of coffee … that get infested with cockroaches,” says Emlen. “And there’s really nothing they can do to filter that out. So it all gets ground up in the coffee.”

Of course, we all sorta knew this. Who hasn’t seen the lists of percentages of insect parts allowed by the FDA? And who hasn’t then willfully forgotten it because he wants to go on eating hot dogs?

Well, here’s something else to chew on: Chocolate, like coffee, is constructed from “huge piles of … cocoa beans, all piled up, that then gets ground up into something we all love and eat,” says Emlen happily.

Listen if you dare. The gory stories start at about 34:50.