What Is the Difference Between Organic Coffee and Regular?

Coffee is good for you but organic coffee is better. What is the difference between organic coffee and regular? Both contain caffeine to give you that morning wake up. And both contain the antioxidants that provide so many health benefits of coffee. But it is what is missing that makes the difference between organic coffee and regular.

Organic Agriculture

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) explains organic agriculture.

Organic agriculture produces products using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics. USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use.

Organic farms and processors:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

Products that are labeled organic, 100% organic or made with organic ingredients must be produced in accordance with precise standards.

The end result is that insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers are not found in organic products, including coffee. But who checks to make sure this is true?

Agencies that Certify Coffee as Organic

The only place in the USA where organic coffee is grown is Hawaii. So who certifies coffee outside of the USA? The USDA designates agencies around the world to certify coffee according to USDA standards. One of these is Bio Latina. This agency has branches throughout Latin America. The certify for the USDA, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, UTZ, Smithsonian Bird Friendly Coffee, UTZ and others.

Years ago we wrote about Bio Latina Organic Coffee Certification.

Bio Latina organic coffee certification and certification of other agricultural products is carried out on over 400 producers. However, many of these are agricultural cooperatives so that total number of producers, including small family operations, is around 22,000!

Their certification guarantees the processes and procedures by which that cup of coffee reach your table. Coffee is commonly grown in mountainous areas. The ideal locations for good organic coffee are often difficult to get to and difficult to get around in. These regions are commonly forested and ideal for shade grown organic coffee production under sustainable conditions. However, to demonstrate that the grower is, in fact, not using synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides it is necessary that someone from an organization like Bio Latina make a visit. This can involve flying to the country, driving to the closest point on the road and then walking miles to a small coffee plantation on a mountainside with a slope ranging from thirty to sixty degrees. As one can see Bio Latina organic coffee certification in the mountainous regions of Latin America can often be very difficult. However, the end result is that small growers abiding by sustainable practices are rewarded for their work and for their stewardship of the land with the higher prices that buyers pay for organic coffee beans than for regular coffee.

The difference between organic coffee and regular is the absence of lots of impurities that you don’t need and the end result of adherence to sustainable agricultural practices and certification.

Why Does Decaf Coffee Taste Bad?

Drinkers of regular coffee know that when they try a cup of decaf that more than just the caffeine is missing. The problem is removing caffeine while retaining the many chemicals that give coffee its aroma, flavor and health benefits. Different processes produce different results. Coffee Confidential explains what all decaf processes have in common in their article about four ways to decaffeinate coffee.

Coffee is always decaffeinated in its green (unroasted) state.

The greatest challenge is to try to separate only the caffeine from the coffee beans while leaving the other chemicals at their original concentrations. This is not easy since coffee contains somewhere around 1,000 chemicals that are important to the taste and aroma of this wonderfully complex elixir.

Since caffeine is a water-soluble substance, water is used in all forms of decaffeination.

However, water by itself is not the best solution for decaffeination. Water is not a “selective” solvent and therefore removes other soluble substances, like sugars and proteins, as well as caffeine. Therefore all decaffeination processes use a decaffeinating agent (such as methylene chloride, activated charcoal, CO2, or ethyl acetate). These agents help speed up the process and minimize the “washed-out” effects that water alone would have on the taste of decaf coffee.

It is because of the varying degrees of success in removing caffeine and not everything else that decaf coffee often tastes bad.

The four basic processes for decaffeination are these:

  • Indirect-Solvent Process
  • Direct-Solvent Process
  • Swiss Water Process
  • Carbon Dioxide Process

Currently the only solvents used in decaffeination are methylene chloride and ethyl acetate.

Indirect Solvent Process

  • Soak green beans in water for several hours to extract caffeine, oils and flavor elements
  • Remove water to another tank and wash beans for ten hours with solvent
  • Heat to evaporate solvent bonded to caffeine
  • Put beans back in the water to reabsorb oils and flavor elements

Direct Solvent Process

  • Steam green beans for 30 minutes
  • Rinse with solvent for ten hours
  • Drain solvent and steam beans to further remove solvent

Swiss Water Process

  • Soak green beans in very hot water
  • Draw off water and pass through an activated charcoal filter with porosity set to catch caffeine and not smaller oil and flavor molecules
  • Discard beans that have no caffeine and no flavor
  • Use water rich in oil and flavor to watch next batch of green beans

Carbon Dioxide Process

Green coffee beans are soaked and placed in a stainless steel extraction tank

  • The tank is sealed and liquid CO2 is forced into the tank at 1000 pounds per square inch pressure
  • CO2 absorbs caffeine
  • CO2 is removed and pressure is released allowing C02 to escape free of caffeine.
  • CO2 can then be reused for subsequent batches of coffee.

Difficult to Roast

So, why does decaf coffee taste bad? First of all it is difficult to remove caffeine and not the flavor and aroma from green coffee beans. Second it is harder to roast decaffeinated beans and get a good result. The beans roast faster because of lower bound moisture content. Also decaf beans are almost brown and respond variably to roasting.

In the end if you want a really good cup of coffee stick with organic coffee from Colombia or another top level coffee. And if you want less caffeine, drink a little less coffee!

Awful Airplane Coffee

If you are having a cup of coffee on your flight from New York to Chicago how does it taste? There can be good airplane coffee and there can be awful airplane coffee. And it does not necessarily have to do with the quality of the coffee beans. The New York Times wrote that for want of a coffee pot flights get delayed. In this article they mention that sometimes the water for the coffee comes from a bottle of filtered water and sometimes it comes from a tank of water on the plane.

Marcos Jimenez, an engineer at Zodiac Aerospace who has developed patented coffee-maker technology, said there were two main types of machines: those that use water from an airplane’s water reservoir, and those that require a flight attendant to pour filtered, bottled water into the machine.

Most commercial airlines use machines hooked up to a water tank. “Because it’s in a tank, they have to take particular care to make sure the water is not growing bacteria and whatnot. So they treat it with chemicals, kind of like a pool,” he said.

These chemicals, along with minerals in the water, can cause residue to build up in the machinery. Clogs can cause the machine to break down, particularly if maintenance crews don’t clean them often enough, Mr. Jimenez said. “I don’t drink the coffee unless I know the water’s coming from a bottle.”

Think of going out to the swimming pool to get water for your otherwise healthy organic coffee made from organic Arabica coffee beans. What is the point, you might think. The reason for awful airplane coffee is probably not that they buy bad coffee but that they just cleaned out the reservoir tank with disinfectants and chlorine!

Or Is the Coffee Merely Old?

In our article How Do You Know When Coffee Is Old we wrote about coffee stored for 9 years.

Did that last cup of coffee from the vending machine taste more than a little stale? Maybe that is because the beans the coffee came from were 9 years old! For that matter how do you know when coffee is old? The Wall Street Journal reported that coffee that is nine years old is coming out of storage and being sold.

Before you take that next sip of coffee, consider this: Some of the beans in your cup of Joe might have been picked during the Bush administration.

If you are making coffee at home a good way to make sure that your coffee is fresh is the bloom that occurs when you pour hot water over freshly ground coffee.

The coffee bloom is the release of carbon dioxide gas when hot water is poured over ground coffee beans. Carbon dioxide gas is trapped inside coffee beans when they are roasted. Darker roasts contain more carbon dioxide and lighter roasts contain less. Roasted whole beans retain the carbon dioxide longer than roasted and ground coffee and storing in a cool environment keeps the carbon dioxide longer.

Because you don’t get to watch them make the coffee you will have to rely on taste to know if the coffee on your flight is fresh and not made with swimming pool water.

Cheap Pound Expensive Coffee

Who would have thought that one of the immediate effects of Britain voting to leave the European Union would be a pricier cup of coffee? Bloomberg reports that a plummeting British Pound has made a cup of Java more expensive in Great Britain.

U.K. coffee drinkers should brace to pay more for their morning fix as domestic roasters start to pass on increased import costs after Britain’s Brexit vote.

London’s small-scale producers, who help supply the capital’s taste for a quality roast, are facing a steep rise in the price of coffee beans after the pound slumped to the lowest in 30 years against the dollar. As with most imported commodities, U.K. roasters pay for the raw product in U.S. currency, and the foreign-exchange reaction to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has jolted the market.

Not only is the British pound worth twenty cents less than it was a year ago but coffee has gone up 20% during the same time frame. And as we noted in our article Americans Are Drinking More Coffee, coffee may go a lot higher.

Over the decades the price of coffee has risen above $3 a pound and fallen as low as 50 cents a pound. Speculators such as readers of Seeking Alpha are anticipating as high as $3 a pound as stock piles fall and Americans as well as everyone else drink more coffee.

Coffee may go up in price for everyone but the cheap pound due to the Brexit vote will mean more expensive coffee in Britain than in the USA.

Tea Anyone?

You may be thinking that the Brits drink tea so what is the big deal about coffee. However, there are seven Starbucks in downtown London alone. And for that matter the Brits used to drink coffee when Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) was a coffee producer. That was in the days before coffee leaf rust. In our article, Is Coffee Leaf Rust Due to Climate Change we mentioned the start of this fungal disease.

Coffee leaf rust is a fungal disease. It wiped out coffee plantations in Asia in the middle of the 19 th century. The country of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) was a coffee producer before the leaf rust drove planters to grow tea! The disease spread from the East Indies to South Asia and Africa and eventually arrived in the new world, almost a century later around 1970. Today coffee leaf rust threatens the livelihoods of coffee growers and workers throughout Central America.

When their colonies switched from growing coffee to producing tea the British public drank what showed up on the boat from Asia. Today Britain drinks a fair amount of coffee. The cheap pound expensive coffee dilemma will not necessarily drive more Brits back to tea because tea is also imported so its price in pounds went up also!

How about Organic Coffee?

If the Brits are hurting over the higher price of regular coffee they will feel deeper pain as the prices of shade grown and organic coffee rise even higher. One can only hope that the British pound regains ground and that coffee does prices do not reach the stratosphere.

There Are Now Compostable Coffee Pods

The single serve coffee craze has changed the way we brew and consume coffee. As recently as last year a fourth of all American coffee drinkers were using single serve coffee makers according to Statista.

The classic American coffee break has gotten a makeover. Recent figures show that single-serving coffee brewing machines such as Keurig were the second most popular brewing system after standard drip coffee makers, with 25 percent of American coffee drinkers using them in 2015. The growing popularity of single-serving coffee brewing is a curious phenomenon considering the cost of such a habit. Price comparison shows a unit of K-cups, the small capsules containing a single serving of coffee grounds in small filter, command nearly 20 U.S. dollars more than a unit of traditional roast-and-ground coffee. But for many consumers, the efficiency, quality, and array of choices offered by this machine supplies a convenient alternative to the local coffee shop.

But a big downside to single serve coffee has been the mountain of plastic containers that this system produces. Last year we asked if organic coffee in a K-cup made sense because whatever benefit was being derived from organic coffee production was being offset by the waste of the single serve system.

Billions of K cups go into landfills each year. If part of the reason you drink organic coffee is that you want to protect the environment then even organic coffee in a Keurig K cup is a problem.

The situation has gotten so bad that some cities have simply banned this product. But help is on the way.

Compostable Coffee Pods

There are now fully compostable coffee pods according to an article in Grub Street.

A Toronto-based company claims it’s created the first-ever entirely compostable single-serve coffee pod. Instead of plastic, the pod (PurPod100) uses a material made from dried coffee-bean hulls (sometimes called the cascara or chaff) that, with a few notable exceptions, companies generally throw out. There’s also a fully compostable filter at the base. The whole design purportedly breaks down in about 84 days on average, and it’s already been certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute, a nonprofit that bills itself as North America’s “leading authority on compostable products.”

If this product works and makes its way into the supply chain for single serve coffee it could reduce the damage caused by mountains of plastic cups. The problem for getting this product to help is getting people to separate their trash so that the PurPod100 goes to a composting facility. As or right now Toronto, where this product is produced, is not impressed. The main fear is that people will throw all single serve cups including K-cups with a thousand year or more life expectancy in the same bin and the compostable coffee pods that are said to break down in 84 days.

Do It Yourself

This is not to say that you cannot buy the compostable coffee pods and compost them yourself or save them up for six months and take them to a composting facility. There are now compostable coffee pods. It is up to coffee drinkers to make correct use of them.

When Will Coffee Prices Go Up?

We asked how high could the price of coffee go, in our article, Americans Are Drinking More Coffee.

Over the decades the price of coffee has risen above $3 a pound and fallen as low as 50 cents a pound. Speculators such as readers of Seeking Alpha are anticipating as high as $3 a pound as stock piles fall and Americans as well as everyone else drink more coffee.

Three dollars a pound is twice what basic Arabica coffee futures trade at today. When will coffee prices go up in the grocery store and when will they go up at your favorite coffee shop? It turns out that Starbucks may boost coffee prices this month according to Market Watch.

Chances are that iced, sugar-free, vanilla latte with soy milk is going to cost more starting next week.

For the past two years, Starbucks has raised prices in July – and this year is no exception with some drinks rising by as much as 30 cents.

The Seattle coffee giant SBUX, -0.14%  acknowledged the increases after a computer glitch put the higher prices into effect before the chain was ready to break the news to employees and customers.

“On July 12, Starbucks is planning a small price increase on select beverages. Unfortunately, that price adjustment was prematurely entered into the point of sale systems in our US company-operated stores” the company said in a statement on Friday.

Is Starbucks raising coffee prices because the beans are more expensive or to stay ahead on other business costs? In our article How Much Does Colombian Coffee Cost we noted that the cost of basic green Colombian coffee is about $2 a pound when shipping is included and high quality green organic coffee can run as high as $8 a pound. We broke down the pricing of a coffee house in our article, How Much Is Organic Coffee.

A coffee house will use about 2 grams of coffee beans per 10 ounce cup. That works out to about 30 cups of coffee per pound. If the roaster paid only $3 a pound for imported green beans and added $6 a pound to roast and distribute their base cost of just the coffee would be $9 divided by 30 which equals 30 cents a cup. However, you need to factor in the total cost of running a coffee shop and the need to make a profit and then you get your $3 or more cup of coffee.

Let’s assume that a coffee shop pays $2 a pound for basic Arabica coffee beans purchased in bulk. If they get 30 cups of coffee for each pound that works out to 7 cents worth of coffee in each cup! If the price of coffee doubles to $3 a pound from $1.50, add shipping and you get $3.50 a pound. Then the coffee in your cup will cost the coffee shop twelve cents! Starbucks is not raising the price of their coffee because they expect more expensive beans. They are looking to offset higher business costs or simply looking to increase their profit.

Americans Are Drinking More Coffee

The supply versus demand equation for coffee may soon be driving prices higher because Americans are drinking more coffee. Fortune writes about Americans’ coffee guzzling and how this may drive prices higher.

World demand for coffee beans is poised to hit a record this year as people around the world are consuming more of the beverage, and Americans are leading the way. Global coffee consumption is expected to grow 1.2% over the next year starting in October, and American consumption is expected to be up 1.5% this year alone, reported Bloomberg. Coffee has also reached peak popularity in China, Japan, and India, which are expected to demand more java than ever locally.

Futures prices for both Arabica coffee beans and Robusta beans are up as a combination of higher demand and production difficulties in Brazil combine. Coffee stockpiles are falling as growers sell of beans that have been in storage. (We mentioned this in our article asking how do you know when coffee is old.)

Coffee per Person Times Lots of People

Traditionally the heaviest coffee consumption is in nations in the far north. Who drinks the most coffee by nation is the USA but who drinks the most per person is different.

  • Netherlands, 2.414
  • Finland, 1.357
  • Sweden, 1.257
  • Denmark, 1.231
  • Germany, 1.201
  • Slovakia, 1.188
  • Serbia, 1.17
  • Czech Republic, 1.152
  • Poland, 1.128
  • Norway, 1.076
  • Slovenia, 1.076
  • Canada, 1.009
  • Belgium, 0.981
  • Switzerland, 0.971
  • New Zealand, 0.939
  • USA, 0.931
  • Austria, 0.803
  • Costa Rica, 0.793
  • Greece, 0.782
  • Algeria, 0.765

The USA is #16 on this list but leads the pack in total consumption it has a lot more people than the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden or Denmark. When you live in a cold climate you buy coffee not only to warm your stomach but your hands as well! A friend of mine who lived in Alaska said that his favorite grocery store had two coffee shops, one by each entrance and both were busy.

How High Could the Price Go?

Seeking Alpha thinks the coffee price could double in the next year.

The USDA estimates a drop in coffee stock levels that will mean the 2016-17 season ends with just 31.5 million bags.

Last time stock levels dropped to this level the price of coffee was double the current cost.

We feel that going long with coffee today with a long-term view would be a great investment.

Trading Economics provides us with a chart of coffee prices going back forty years.

Over the decades the price of coffee has risen above $3 a pound and fallen as low as 50 cents a pound. Speculators such as readers of Seeking Alpha are anticipating as high as $3 a pound as stock piles fall and Americans as well as everyone else drink more coffee.

The Taste for Coffee Spreads the Really Large Nations

Americans drink less coffee per capita than the Netherlands but make up for it in population size. What happens when coffee catches on in India and China? China.org.cn reports the first Starbucks at Shanghai Disney Resort.

China is Starbucks’ second-largest and fastest-growing market. The coffee chain has over 2,100 stores in more than 100 Chinese cities. It has previously announced plans to have around 3,400 coffee shops in China by 2019.

With a billion people each India and China will not need to drink all that much per person to go to the head of the list in coffee consumption and help drive prices higher.

What Are the Health Benefits of Coffee?

All of us like a good cup of coffee and most of us have some idea that coffee is good for our health. Here, are more than a dozen health benefits of coffee, backed by scientific evidence.

Protection against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Dementia

Researchers have found that starting at just one cup of coffee a day your daily Java reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease. A cup a day reduces your risk by 15% and by the time you reach 5 cups a day that risk reduction goes to 32%. When researchers took smoking, drinking alcohol and other factors into consideration the risk reduction for Parkinson’s was a much as 60%.

Not only does coffee make you more alert as you drink it, coffee helps prevent memory loss over the long term. It does this by its protective effect against Alzheimer’s. The risk of getting this disease can be cut by two thirds if you drink three to five cups a day starting in midlife.

Cancer Risk Reduced by Coffee Consumption

We have written previously about coffee reducing your risk of colon cancer. Currently available evidence is that your risk goes down by a fourth with four to six cups a day and down by 15% with one to four cups a day.

The risk of women getting endometrial cancer goes down by 20% with a cup a day and by about 7% more with each additional cup.

Live cancer risk is reduced by almost half with 2 cups of coffee  a day and your risk of brain tumor goes down by 40% with five or more cups a day.

Living Longer

More than a year ago we wrote about a longer life with coffee. The evidence shows that the sum total of health benefits of coffee reduce your risk of dying (compared to non-coffee drinkers) by as much as 15% with 5 cups a day and by 6% with a cup a day. None of us live forever but reducing your risk of dying in the next 5 or 10 years is a good thing.

Athletic Performance

There is good evidence that athletic performance is helped by drinking coffee beforehand.

  • Via a series of chemical regulatory pathways in the human body the caffeine in coffee affects the regulation of glycogen, sugars and lipid metabolism and stimulates the release of adrenaline.
  • Coffee can be effective to enhance performance when ingested as close as fifteen minutes before exercise or competition although an hour before is ideal to insure complete absorption and initiation of the regulatory pathways the help coffee enhance athletic performance.
  • Coffee is effective in enhancing athletic performance in moderate amounts, three to six milligrams per kilogram of body weight and larger amounts do not appear to help.
  • An eight ounce cup of brewed coffee contains from 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine.
  • A 154 pound runner weighs 70 kilograms.
  • Since three milligrams per kilogram times seventy kilograms comes to just over 210 milligrams it turns out that one stiff cup of coffee taken within an hour of performance will likely enhance athletic performance.
  • Two cups may be better but three will be a waste of time.

Diabetes

Type II diabetes is a major health issue for more than 20 million Americans. But if you drink coffee regularly you can reduce your risk of getting diabetes. The best results are from 4-6 cups a day when cuts your risk by more than half.

How Hot Is Starbucks Coffee?

Last week we wrote about how you shouldn’t drink very hot coffee and mentioned the famous McDonald’s lawsuit over third degree burns from a spill. Now it appears that Starbucks may be in the same boat as McDonald’s by first trying to ignore the injury and now facing a lawsuit. The ABA Journal (Journal of the American Bar Association) reports that a Houston lawyer sues Starbucks for alleged burns from spilled coffee.

A Houston lawyer says in a lawsuit that a barista spilled hot coffee on her, causing burns to her lap and such excruciating pain that she had to remain on her hands and knees while a colleague rushed her to the hospital.

The lawyer, Katherine Mize, claims in the suit that the coffee was so hot that it was unreasonably dangerous, report Texas Lawyer (sub. req.), the SE Texas Record, Click2Houston and the Houston Press.

Mize is seeking up to $1 million in damages. Her lawyer, Brian Humphrey, told Texas Lawyer that Mize had to be treated for lost skin in her lap area. The injury “was pretty serious” and resulted in scarring, he said.

This report has echoes of the McDonald’s suit in that the company apparently ignored complaints from the plaintiff and now must deal with the issue in court. McDonald’s made their franchises serve coffee at 180-190 degrees which can cause third degree burns of the skin within 7 seconds. How hot is Starbucks coffee? That will probably come out in court. It turns out that coffee does not need to be 180 degrees to cause a 3rd degree burn.

Hot Liquids and Burns

The Burn Foundation discusses hot liquid burns.

Coffee, tea, soup and hot tap water can be hot enough to cause serious burn injury.

Scald and steam burns are often associated with microwave oven use.

When tap water reaches 140º F, it can cause a third degree (full thickness) burn in just five seconds.

Hot Water Causes Third Degree Burns…

  • in 1 second at 156º
  • in 2 seconds at 149º
  • in 5 seconds at 140º
  • in 15 seconds at 133º.

How hot is Starbucks coffee? If the lady actually suffered 3rd degree burns the coffee was probably at least 140 degrees and more likely 150 or above.

And this brings us back to drinking hot liquids in general. As the WHO declared, drinking very hot beverages is associated with a higher incidence of esophageal cancer.

“Very hot” beverages “probably” cause cancer. This is mostly based on studies related to the consumption of a traditional drink called mate or cimarrón in South America where the tea can be taken at temperatures around 158 degrees Fahrenheit (or 70 degrees Celsius). That’s significantly hotter than people in North America or Europe usually consume their drinks.

Whether your concern is getting burned by spilled coffee or increasing your risk of esophageal cancer it is best to let your coffee cool into the sub 130 degree range before drinking.  And make sure the lid is on tight before you handle that takeout coffee!

Don’t Drink Very Hot Coffee

Coffee has lots of health benefits but don’t drink very hot coffee. According to the Chicago Tribune the World Health Organization just jumped on the coffee band wagon.  They confirm that coffee does not cause cancer and has positive effects on liver and uterine cancers. Of course we know that coffee reduces your risk of type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many more diseases. The one warning from WHO is that very hot beverages are associated with a higher incidence of esophageal cancer. It’s not what you drink but how hot it is served that increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus.

In reviewing the most recent scientific evidence over the past 25 years since its last analysis on the matter, the WHO concluded that coffee should no longer be considered a carcinogen and that it may actually have positive effects for your body when it comes to two types of cancers – liver and uterine cancers.

There was another significant finding: “Very hot” beverages “probably” cause cancer. This is mostly based on studies related to the consumption of a traditional drink called mate or cimarrón in South America where the tea can be taken at temperatures around 158 degrees Fahrenheit (or 70 degrees Celsius). That’s significantly hotter than people in North America or Europe usually consume their drinks.

So, if you are used to drinking your boiling hot coffee before it cools think again.

Very Hot McDonald’s Coffee

In 1994 there was a famous lawsuit against McDonald’s brought by a 79-year-old woman who suffered 3rd degree burns when coffee she had just purchased at a McDonald’s drive through. She asked McDonald’s to pay her $20,000 which was the amount for medical expenses which included hospitalization and skin grafting as well as other expenses related to the injury. McDonald’s offered $800. When the woman engaged an attorney and sued her lawyer asked for $300,000 in damages and McDonald’s offered $90,000. Settlement not reached and the case went to trial where the jury awarded the woman $160,000 for medical expenses and $2,700,000 in punitive damages. The trial judge reduced the final verdict to $640,000 and the parties settled out of court.

There were two reasons why the jury came back with a large punitive damages award. First is that McDonald’s made its franchises serve their coffee at 180-190 degrees which medical evidence shows would cause a 3rd degree burn within 7 seconds of contact with the skin. Second, McDonalds had prior knowledge of this issue and had always settled previous claims for a few hundred dollars.

Despite losing lawsuits McDonald’s still serves its coffee hot and has had a least one more burn lawsuit according to Huffington Post. A California woman ordered two cups of coffee at a McDonald’s drive through.

When the cups were handed to Fino, she alleges, one of the lids wasn’t safely secured.

The coffee spilled, causing “severe burning to her genitalia,” said her lawyer, Nicholas “Butch” Wagner, in an interview Friday. And it’s “still burning.”

“Despite over 1,000 complaints from customers about being burned by the coffee, McDonald’s still continues to brew the coffee at such an exceptionally high temperature,” Wagner said. “They are saving more in production costs in brewing coffee and serving at such high temperature than it costs them to settle the cases with these people who have been injured.”

So, don’t drink very hot coffee. If you spill it you get 3rd degree burns and there appears to be an association between beverages consumed at 170 degrees Fahrenheit or above and esophageal cancer!