How to Remove Cafestol from Coffee

Removing diterpenes from coffee
Paper filters for coffee

There is no doubt that coffee provides numerous health benefits. However, some of the compounds in coffee have been linked to health problems.

Cafestol and kahweol, diterpenes that are found in coffee oils have been associated with the risk of increasing low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol.

Consequently, some coffee brewing methods have come under scrutiny as they do not filter out the oils in coffee.

How do you remove cafestol from coffee?

The best way to remove cafestol from coffee is by using paper filters, a coffee sock, or coffee pods. They remove nearly all the cafestol and yield a clean cup of coffee that has very little oil. You can use paper or sock filters in pour-over coffee, Aeropress, home brewers, Chemex, and French press.

See below, how to modify your coffee maker by including a paper filter or coffee sock to make coffee with lower levels of cafestol.

Which Coffee has the Highest Amount of Cafestol

Over the years, there has been disquiet about French press coffee, especially after it was cited by the Havard Health Blog for the potential risk of aggravating blood cholesterol problems.

Since then, there have been lots of publications in mainstream media and on personal blogs about the dangers of drinking unfiltered coffee. Cafestol and kahweol make up to 20 percent of the lipids in coffee.

Any coffee that is brewed without a paper or sock filter will have higher levels of cafestol than filtered coffee. The French press uses a mesh filter that also doubles as a plunger to keep coffee sediments at bay. This mesh does not filter the oils in coffee.

A study to establish the amount of cafestol in different brews found that French press coffee had the highest amounts of cafestol. The study also found that darker roasts had significantly less cafestol than lighter roasts.

Coffee brewed with the darkest roast contained about half the amount of cafestol in coffee from the lightest roast. In the case of coffee beans, the darkest roast had 595 mg of cafestol per 100 grams of beans as compared to 619 mg of cafestol per 100 g of the lightest roast. Finer grounds also yield more cafestol than coarser grounds.

The study compared the amount of cafestol in coffee brewed in a Moka pot, a French press, Turkish coffee, and boiled coffee. The chart below compares cafestol content among different coffee brews and roasts.

Roast Level French Press (mg/L)Moka Pot (mg/L)Turkish Coffee (mg/L)Boiled Coffee (mg/L)
Darkest Roast29.019.222.825.9
Lightest Roast53.332.741.348.2
A chart showing the amount of cafestol in coffee

From this chart, it is evident that the amount of cafestol per liter of coffee is comparable among the different brews. The departure arises when you consider that both Turkish coffee and Moka pot coffee are usually minute cups that measure (1-3oz). The amount of cafestol is bound to be little for the small cups when computed using the chart.

The French press and boiled coffee, on the other hand, are usually drunk in large coffee mugs. A mug of coffee can be anywhere from 8 oz to 31 oz. Therefore, boiled coffee and French press coffee have the highest amount of cafestol as they are consumed in large quantities.

Does a Paper Filter Remove all the Cafestol in Coffee

Coffee that is filtered with a paper filter has only about 0.15 percent of the original cafestol content in the coffee grounds. [Source]

While most of the cafestol in ground coffee is retained in the spent grounds, paper filters remove about 99 percent of the cafestol that would have ended up in your cup.

A different study found a coffee sock filter yields similar amounts of cafestol and kahweol to paper filters. The ground coffee used in the study contained initial amounts of 3.18 mg of cafestol per gram of grounds and 4.04 mg of kahweol per gram of grounds coffee.

Coffee sock filtered coffee had 0.13 mg of cafestol per 50 ml and 0.16 mg of kahweol per 50 ml as compared to 0.11mg/50ml of cafestol and 0.11mg/50ml of kahweol in paper filtered coffee.

Instant coffee was found to have no cafestol and insignificant amounts of kahweol (nearly 100 times lower than unbrewed ground coffee).

Read more about filter coffee here

How Much Cafestol in Coffee Pods

Nespresso coffee pods

Coffee pods have paper filters inside the pods and, they yield coffee with lower levels of cafestol and kahweol than mesh filtered coffee. Espresso coffee pods yield much lower amounts of cafestol and kahweol than regular espresso and the amounts are comparable to those in filtered coffee. Essentially, coffee pods work like filtered coffee.

A study found that the cafestol and kahweol content in espresso from espresso pods was 0.14mg/50ml and 0.14mg/50ml respectively as compared to 1.0mg/50ml of cafestol and 1.3mg/50ml of kahweol in regular espresso.

Is French Press Coffee Bad for You?

How to Remove Cafestol from Coffee

One of the main advantages of a French press has been proven to be its Achilles heel. The French press is hailed for making full-bodied coffee as it uses a mesh filter that does not remove oils. These oils, including cafestol and kahweol, give the coffee its rich mouthfeel.

Despite cafestol and kahweol being linked to numerous health benefits such as anti-inflammation, inhibiting the growth of cancer, and suppressing the growth of tumors, it is their potential to raise the level of bad cholesterol that has taken center stage.

Dr. Eric Rimm, nutrition and epidemiology professor at Harvard, drinking 5-8 cups of unfiltered coffee per day can raise the level of bad cholesterol in your body. Dr. Rimm advises that we should constantly monitor our cholesterol levels and keep our daily coffee intake to a max of four cups of unfiltered coffee or five cups of filtered coffee.

You may want to consult with a doctor about the best coffee for you if you have cholesterol problems.

Read our article about how many ounces are in a cup of coffee.

From the studies discussed above, the lowest amount of cafestol in French press coffee was 19mg per liter of coffee. Assuming a six ounces cup that would be about 5.6mg of cafestol.

Compare that to the 0.11mg of cafestol per 50ml in filtered coffee which translates to about 0.39mg in a 6oz cup and you realize how high the cafestol content in French press coffee is.

How to Adapt a French Press to Remove Cafestol

Are you wary about the oils in your French press? You do not have to throw the baby away with the bathwater.

Instead, you can use paper filters with the French press by either pouring French press coffee over a paper or sock filter or including a paper filter in the plunger assembly. For example, you can use a filter cone with a paper or sock filter and pour the coffee over it.

Alternatively, you can purchase the Hario syphon paper filters that fit in the French press or cut a paper filter to the diameter of the mesh filter and make a hole in the middle of the paper. Then, remove the mesh filter and insert the paper filter before screwing the mesh filter back.

Remember to rinse the paper or sock filter before use.

Hario Unbleached Syphon Paper Filters Compatible with the French Press

Hario paper filter for the French press

Wrap up

You can use either a paper filter or a sock filter to remove cafestol from your coffee as they both retain similar amounts of oils. Coffee pods also make healthy coffee as, like paper filters, they yield clean coffee with little oils.

Drinking more than five cups of French press coffee can increase bad cholesterol in your body.

Boiled coffee is as bad as French press coffee. Turkish coffee, Moka pot, espresso, and filtered coffee are better alternatives to French press and boiled coffee.

Instant coffee, although not an option for most coffee snobs, contains insignificant amounts of cafestol and kahweol. Coffee pods provide coffee will low levels of cafestol and kahweol.


Patrick is first a coffee lover and then a trained barista. His bucket list includes sky diving and sipping on Java in the Himalayas.

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