This section is from the book "Beverages And Their Adulteration Origin, Composition, Manufacture, Natural, Artificial, Fermented, Distilled, Alkaloidal And Fruit Juices", by Harvey W. Wiley. Also available from Amazon: Beverages And Their Adulteration.
Quite extensive adulterations of coffee have been practised, but since stringent laws, national and state, have been enacted the evil is rapidly decreasing. One of the crude forms of adulteration which was found on the market many years ago was the fabrication of artificial beans, molded in the shape of coffee beans and colored to represent either the green bean or the roasted bean as the case might be. There was no difficulty in detecting these artificial beans when the mass was looked at carefully, as there were always differences which would be discriminatory. A person not expecting anything of the kind, however, might easily buy, without suspicion or without detection, coffee beans containing as high as 25 percent of these artificial bodies.
I believe that this method of adulteration has entirely disappeared.
Other forms of adulteration recall at once the use of chicory. 10
Of all the roasted vegetable substances which have been used in coffee, or as substitutes for coffee, there is none that has had the vogue of chicory. This plant is of wide distribution and the United States is cultivating it particularly in the Middle West, though it grows in many localities. The tops of chicory are used as spinach or greens. The roots, when roasted, are used extensively for mixture with coffee. In some countries, as in France, where the customers require a coffee of good body and very dark color, chicory is commonly employed in the household and in the cafe or restaurant to give these characteristics to the coffee. It is stated by Windmuller1 that the motto of the French in so far as coffee is concerned, is "Chaud comme l'enfer, noir comme le diable." The chicory, however, is often mixed with the coffee before it is sold, and extensive frauds have been practised in this way. While it cannot be said that unlimited quantities of chicory are altogether wholesome, it is certain that in the quantities used in mixing with coffee it has no properties which may definitely be called injurious. To those who knowingly use coffee with chicory and like it there can be no objection to its addition to coffee, as such an addition would not be an adulteration. Its addition to coffee, on the contrary, for sale to the unwary or innocent purchaser is purely a commercial fraud. Those who advocate the use of chicory say that connoisseurs prefer the taste of coffee to which chicory has been added and that famous restaurateurs buy it for the sake of its flavor to mix with the coffee of these fastidious customers. Inquiry among the chefs of the best restaurants has failed to confirm this statement.
It is true, however, as already noticed, that many consumers do like a blacker color and a heavier body. Roasted chicory is in no sense a substitute for coffee, as it is deficient both in the peculiar flavor, taste and aroma of coffee, and in its alkaloidal constituent. It contains a little tannin, as do most vegetables, but not sufficient to give any particular character to its decoction. Chicory contains scarcely any fat, and less sugar than coffee itself. It contains no alkaloidal substance and about as much ash as coffee. The starch which exists in many root crops in chicory is represented by another body, called inulin. When starch is hydrolized to form a sugar by the action of an enzyme or by an acid the final result is the formation of dextrose, a right-handed optical body. When inulin is hydrolized in the same way a sugar is formed with a left-handed rotation. This sugar is known as levulose. There is nothing, however, in the constitution of inulin or levulose which in any degree threatens the health of the consumer.
1 The Forum, January-March, 1908, page 429.