Updated: August 15, 2023
If you’re one of the 8% of people across the United States who’s gone gluten free, you know the pain. You come across a new food or beverage that looks delicious. You delight in the possibilities. Then, you read the label.
Why does it seem like anything remotely delicious has gluten in it? Fortunately, you’ll find that coffee is one of those rare beverages that seems to fit about any diet—including going gluten free. Here’s what you’ll need to know.
IS COLD BREW GLUTEN FREE?
In short: yes. Cold brew coffee adds zero gluten to what is already a gluten-free beverage. To answer why that is, let’s take a quick look at gluten.
The word gluten refers to a family of proteins that give bread doughs (especially wheat doughs) their glue-like consistency. In fact, that’s where the prefix glu- comes from. When you think “gluten,” think of a chef tossing a pizza in the air. The strong gluten within the dough is what keeps the crust together…
...and, unfortunately, makes pizza so delicious.
But that doesn’t mean everything delicious has gluten in it. Coffee is one example. It’s not hard to find gluten-free cold brew because—well, as long as we don’t put a pizza crust in your cold brew, you’ll be safe. Cold brew is simply the result of coffee grounds and water. No hand tossing necessary.
Brewing coffee is about as simple a beverage as it gets: grow coffee, roast it, grind it, brew it with water. Fortunately for conscious eaters around the world, this minimally processed brew fits a wide range of diets.
FINDING THE BEST GLUTEN FREE COFFEE OPTIONS
Cold brew coffee is gluten free, but that doesn’t mean any chilly coffee beverage you find is guaranteed to skip the gluten.
While cold brew is only coffee grounds and water, other drive-thru cold coffee beverages can be packed with sugary syrups, creamers, toppings, and other sweeteners—which can mean they aren’t anywhere close to gluten free coffee drinks.
There are a few extras you’ll want to watch out for when getting your morning pick-me-up while maintaining a gluten free diet, including:
Flavored syrups: We totally understand wanting some added flavor in your coffee, but be aware that some of these sticky sweeteners do contain gluten.
Chips and sprinkles: Chocolate chips, java chips, sprinkles—they sure can be a delicious and extra-indulgent treat. But it can be hard to know which are gluten free, so it’s better to avoid them if you really need to stick with a gluten free diet.
- Creamers: Some coffee creamers use flavorings or additives that thicken the creamer, both of which could potentially contain gluten.
If you’re feeling confused when ordering at a coffee chain or shop, ask for a nutrition guide to review the ingredients or talk to a barista about the best gluten free coffee drinks you could order. They should be able to provide some helpful advice.
If you’re making your own delicious coffee concoction at home, purchase coffee additives and extras that are specifically marketed as gluten free. Even when doing so, it’s still smart to take a close look at the ingredients list on those products. If you're gluten free, you need to avoid anything with wheat, rye, barley, malt, or triticale.
Nervous about getting it wrong? Remember, cold brew on its own is gluten free. And while that means there’s no shortage of gluten free cold brew options for you, finding the very best gluten free cold brew (hey, we know one) means you can have smooth flavor and a much-needed caffeine kick without any worries about gluten.
And if you do decide you need to add a little something, go ahead with some good old fashioned milk and sugar—both of which are gluten free too.
WHOLE 30 AND COLD BREW: ARE THEY COMPATIBLE?
But what about another diet making the rounds? The idea behind the “Whole 30” diet is simple. For 30 days, you cut out foods like sugar, grains, legumes, alcohol, and other additives. The aim is giving your body something of a nutritional reset.
But what about mixing coffee beans with water? Aren’t beans legumes? Turns out, “beans” is just a nickname. Coffee beans are really coffee seeds or coffee pits.
This is good news. If you’re wondering “is cold brew coffee Whole 30 compatible?” then the answer is: maybe. As long as you avoid adding anything else on the Whole 30 no-no list, coffee can be a healthy, delicious drink you don’t have to give up. The same is true for either hot brew or cold brew coffee.
What does it all add up to? It’s possible to go on a diet and enjoy a cup of guilt-free, gluten-free, Whole 30-compatible coffee. Enjoy.