Kosher coffee adheres strictly to Jewish religious standards regarding eating and drinking. Coffee that is made strictly from water and java beans, without any chemical, dairy, or flavoring additions, is considered kosher, as it contains only these two ingredients. The addition of chemicals, dairy elements, or flavorings can alter the kosher status of coffee.
Foods that are kosher are defined by various rules according to the Jewish faith. The word itself means “fit for eating.” Some non-kosher foods are listed in Leviticus, the chapter of the Bible in which various dietary restrictions are found. Some animals, such as pigs and certain birds, are not kosher, and chemically based products whose production is not properly supervised by a rabbi are rarely considered kosher. The rules for kosher foods can be complicated, and many Jewish people vary in their adherence to a kosher diet.
Many coffees contain ingredients that are not considered kosher by Orthodox Jews. Kosher coffee that is branded as such is often approved by a rabbi during production, ensuring that neither its ingredients nor the mixing process interfere with kosher rules. Some kosher coffee is certified by a regional or national body to assure consumers of its kosher status.
The addition of dairy products to coffee is often a barrier to making kosher coffee. Dairy from kosher animals, such as clean, healthy cows, is considered kosher. If an animal is discovered to be diseased after its slaughter, then milk gleaned from that animal is deemed non-kosher. Some Jews overlook this rule, due to the difficulty of determining such “uncleanliness,” and consider virtually all cow’s milk kosher. In this case, coffee that contains all water, coffee beans, and cow’s milk is kosher coffee.
Artificial flavorings can be a source of controversy surrounding kosher coffee. Many synthetic chemicals are not kosher, as they are unnatural or considered unclean. Additives to kosher coffee are often approved by a rabbi to ensure that they meet all standards for being considered kosher. Decaffeinated coffee can also pose problems with kosher status, since some decaffeination processes use chemicals.
Orthodox Jews who wish to drink only kosher coffee often stick to preparing their coffee at home so that they can be sure that no non-kosher products enter their drink. Jewish people who are ordering coffee at a coffeehouse or restaurant often order plain black coffee. Those who follow the strictest standards of kosher eating and drinking might order their coffee in a plain paper cup to avoid any chemicals from Styrofoam® or other synthetic materials.