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Is Organic Coffee Really Better?

Key Takeaways

  • In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the main body that regulates the issue of "organic" certification.

  • Organic coffee is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. However, natural additives such as manure and even specialty organic pesticides and herbicides may still be employed in organic farming, under some definitions.

  • Actually knowing and understanding the source of your produce (or coffee, in many cases) is sometimes as good or even better than just relying an "organic" label.

  • While organic coffee doesn't necessarily taste better (though some of our customers swear by it!), it is probably healthier than conventional in the long-run. Many studies have found that coffee consumption has great health benefits, including possibly that coffee even reduces mortality.

With so many conscientious people drinking coffee these days, it's only natural that consumers want to drink responsibly-sourced coffee that's grown without synthetic or potentially deleterious chemical additives.

Let's talk about what it means for coffee to be organic, and its potential benefits.

Organic Coffee Explained

In a nutshell, organic farming means avoiding external synthetic inputs.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, foods or food inputs are certified organic if grown without synthetic additives and in soil that wasn't treated with prohibited substances, which almost always means synthetic fertilizers. Certified organic coffee, then, will be be free of common industrialized pesticides or herbicides which could have a negative impact on your health.

USDA logo

Still, there are some organic pesticides and herbicides that can be used for growing organic coffee beans, too.


Fertilizers are substances that enhance the growth and productiveness of crops. Organic coffee beans can be grown using natural fertilizer, as opposed to chemical fertilizers. The most common natural methods used by organic coffee farmers are adding manure and compost to the soil. Conventional coffee beans, by contrast, are often grown using synthetic fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate or other petroleum-derived compounds.


Herbicides are chemicals used to control or inhibit the growth of undesired vegetation in farms, such as weeds or unwanted crops. Organic coffee can be grown using organic herbicides such as acetic acid or by using weed control methods that don't affect the soil. An example of what organic farms might use instead include a natural gas flame weeder, which kills weeds through heat, or simply by manually uprooting undesired growth.


A pesticide is any substance that prevents, destroys or repels pests of any kind. It also includes things not necessarily used for coffee crops, such as plant defoliants or desiccants. According to the EPA, pesticides derived from natural sources may be used when growing organic coffee.

Organic Certifications and Alternatives

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the primary body in the U.S that regulates organic agriculture through the National Organic Program.

It offers a USDA Certified Organic certification to produce that is grown and processed according to federal guidelines. Basically, there is a list of approved substances that farmers (and coffee farmers) can use to produce 100% certified organic coffee.

While production facilities themselves don't necessarily get an organic label, the standards that differentiate organic coffee from non organic coffee apply to the whole supply chain.

Conventionally grown coffee plants might be farmed on soil treated with chemical fertilizers, but watered with natural methods and responsibly. However, to certify as organic coffee the whole production chain must be up to regulation standards.

While less common or well-known, many alternatives to USDA certification, some with similar or more rigorous standards, do exist.

Certified Naturally Grown is locally regulated and has lower upfront costs for producers.

The Food Alliance offers a similar certification, which takes into account things like the conservation of the environment or how safe the coffee farmers are when working.

The Regenerative Organic Alliance offers certification around holistic healthy food systems and ecosystems.

Another thing to keep in mind is that big companies can still get away with using more organic fertilizers or pesticides than might be ideal for the biosphere. And, processed foods can also be "mostly" organic, so you should be very careful when reading labels. If a package says it's "made with organic coffee", then it must only contain at least 70% actually organic coffee. Always look for the USDA organic label, or a similar label of your preference, on packages so you don't end up buying conventional coffee unintenionally.

Is Organic Coffee Better?

Not necessarily, but generally speaking, when deciding between organic vs non organic coffee, we believe the former will outmatch the latter in pretty much everything from taste to health benefits. Though it tends to be a little bit pricier, we think coffee grown with more sustainable practices is worth it!

The best thing you can do as a consumer is to know where your coffee comes from and find reputable, ethical coffee roaster source that you can trust.That doesn't mean everything needs to be USDA certified, but growers that strive for sustainable practices are where we gravitate.

The Benefits of Organic Coffee Beans

Is organic coffee better? Short answer: probably.

The obvious thing here is that by buying organic coffee you can be sure that the product matches your values. Organic coffee is safer for the workers that harvest it, as they don't come into contact with the same volume of synthetic substances as with conventional coffee or non organic coffee, and healthier for the environment.

We know synthetic pesticides like glyphosate are harmful to human health, and fertilizers used for sustaining soil fertility when growing non organic coffee harm the environment. If you buy organic coffee you get none of those in your morning brew, and you're supporting farms that – at least most of the time – work towards a more sustainable future.

So, Is Organic Coffee Healthier?

Is organic coffee healthier? Again: probably.

Common sense says yes; however, there isn't enough research to fully support that claim yet. In fact, while there is not much research on what the healthiest coffee is, there is a lot of research centered on the economic viability of organic farming.

One study, for example, concluded that organic farming isn't that convenient for the producers. They concluded it is actually more sustainable to use the best possible practices for crop production without necessarily being all-organic.

One study found that many consumers buy organic coffee expecting more health benefits than its been proven to provide. Another study where researchers interviewed farmers for seven months found that the extra money that farmers receive for selling organic coffee doesn't always mean they are more advantaged than other non organic coffee farmers.

Does Organic Coffee Taste Better?

While in principle the taste shouldn't differ from other coffee beans, many people report a cleaner taste when drinking organic coffee. Other people say it's a smoother taste.

The real reason most people buy organic coffee is not for the taste but for its sustainability. Still, we encourage you to taste for yourself and see if you feel a difference!

5 Health Benefits (Or Possible Benefits) of Coffee

The main benefits of coffee have to do with the beneficial compounds found in the beans. Some of the acids that you extract when you add hot water to the grinds, along with caffeine itself, have various medicinal properties.

These are the benefits in a coffee bean you should definitely know about:

  1. Many studies have found that regularly drinking coffee helps fight or prevent diabetes.

  2. A metastudy found that there seems to be evidence supporting the claim that coffee fights certain kinds of cancer, such as colorectal cancer or oral cancer.

  3. This study found that lifetime coffee drinking helps reduce the possibility of suffering from Alzheimer's later in life.

  4. A study actually concluded that coffee reduces mortality. Yes, you heard that right.

  5. Coffee contains antioxidants, which are compounds that help your cells fight their natural decay.

The Wrap on Organic Coffee's Benefits?

Whether you drink organic coffee is up to you, but we think that working with small, intentional farms – striving for USDA certification as a baseline – does make sense. Whenever we can, we work with farms where we can create direct relationships and understand their farming practices.

The roasting process is what imparts the true flavor for most organic coffee, but supporting organic and restorative farming practices is ideal for both the coffee farmers and maybe your health, too.

Embrace ethical and environmentally friendly coffee habits as a potentially healthful part of your routine. Your body—and perhaps your longevity—will thank you for it.

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