Coffee: Piping hot and toxic?

School of Engineering and Technology
Dr Shaneel Chandra


Coffee is a universally popular product worldwide. There is a strong chance that you are either a coffee drinker or hate the stuff but know a coffee connoisseur (often rudely referred to as a coffee 'snob').

Despite the various methods of preparing coffee, the general principle of a water-based extraction of the caffeine (or equivalent in decaffeinated brews) applies to all. The pressure and temperature of the extraction are known to play a significant effect on the perceived taste and varying the extraction conditions would also affect the degree of extractability of all other chemicals in the product.

Unfortunately, there is no reported study on the presence and levels of toxins in the various coffees available in Australia or the exposure to consumers. This is potentially a serious health risk as Australians consume an average of just under 2 kilograms of coffee annually. The presence of toxins in coffee would pose a serious health risk to the coffee drinker.

This Master of Science study aims to address these knowledge gaps and establish the health risk to consumers from drinking various coffees. Coffee from various origins and sources will be subjected to toxin screening and adulteration analysis. The risk factors for the drinking population will also be ascertained.

Chemical Sciences; Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences; Medical and Health Sciences
Coffee, adulteration, toxicology
Either Masters or Doctorate
By Negotiation; Rockhampton

Other special notes

This multidisciplinary study straddles several research areas:

  • 340105 (Instrumental methods)
  • 340109 (Separation science)
  • 340199 (Analytical chemistry)
  • 300602 (Food chemistry and food sensory science)

The Person

  • Graduate or final year student in science with an equivalent of a major in Chemistry (in exceptional cases, an equivalent of a minor in Chemistry will be considered)
  • Applicants in their final year of study will be considered
  • An interest in chemistry research and publishing peer-reviewed papers
  • An ability to work with minimal supervision alongside other senior research students in busy teams
  • A team player who likes to work smart and unwind after productive days in the laboratory
  • Willingness to relocate to Rockhampton North campus or another campus by negotiation

Project contacts