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Kopi Luwak: The World’s Most Expensive Coffee

Kopi Luwak: The World’s Most Expensive Coffee

This exotic Indonesian coffee is made from coffee berries that have been eaten (and excreted!) by the Luwak, or palm civet. But how do you know that you are getting authentic civet poop coffee for your money?  Chad Haney explains how science steps in with gas chromatography to separate out real from fake. 

Originally shared by Chad Haney

Crappy coffee, round 3 stinky chemistry

This is the last post, attempting to find interesting chemistry for Siromi Samarasinghe’s birthday. Although this one isn’t about smell or being stinky, it is about civet feces.

You’ve probably heard about the really expensive coffee that’s made from an animal’s dung. It’s called Kopi Luwak. Kopi for the Indonesian word for coffee and Luwak for the Asian palm civet, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus. The luwak eats the coffee berries and digests them, imparting a unique flavor to the coffee beans. The beans are retrieved and cleaned from the luwak feces.

Jumhawan et al used gas chromatography with mass spectroscopy (GC-MS) to identify metabolites that can be used to identify genuine Kopi Luwak. From the news blurb: Kopi Luwak sports higher concentrations of malic acid and citric acid, as well as a higher ratio of inositol to pyroglutamic acid.

Selection of Discriminant Markers for Authentication of Asian Palm Civet Coffee (Kopi Luwak): A Metabolomics Approach

Jumhawan et al

J. Agric. Food Chem., 2013, 61 (33), pp 7994–8001

I talked about liquid chromatography here:

Osage orange or hedge apple and pharmacognosy

GC uses a long coiled tube rather than the large columns, packed with a solid phase, used in liquid chromatography. The mobile phase is gas, hence the name, and the stationary phase is a thin layer of liquid or an insert sold support.

In searching for an alternate picture for this post I found that the palm civet is being exploited due to the high price for Kopi Luwak. Many civets are being caged and feed only coffee berries.

World’s most expensive coffee tainted by ‘horrific’ civet abuse

I hope that Siromi Samarasinghe has a wonderful birthday in spite of my failed attempts to find a sweet chemistry story.



It turned into a stinky chemistry series.

Making a big stink

Causing more of a stink: TLC not TCA

Petrichor: Smell of the Earth via Rajini Rao


Join the Conversation


  1. Its only exploitation if the civets do not naturally eat the berries. I haven’t done the research required. So i will reserve judgement on principles of ethic. It just seems gross, that’s all.


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