June 1870, Manufacturer and Builder
In the 19th century people were well aware that their food was not all it should be, or what they expected it to be. It was common practice to blend brick dust with chocolate or bake sawdust into bread along with the flour.
The following is reprinted from an article published in 1870.
Every one knows that ground coffee is often adulturated with burnt sugar, rye, barley, malted grain, beet-roots, carrots, acorns, etc., and that some people adulturate it for themselves with chiccory; but it is not so generally known that chiccory is largely adulturated with ochre, soot, brick-dust, black earth, or even the burnt refuse from distilleries.
We have, however, hitherto supposed that if we bought some unburnt coffee beans, and roasted and ground them ourselves, we should be sure of having the genuine article; but alas this also turns out to be a sweet illusion. Coffee-beans are now actually made, like bricks, from a pale greenish clay, and approximate so closely to the natural Java coffee that in their un-roasted state they are mixed with the genuine article and can not be distinguished by the eye alone. As the price of artificial beans is only one cent per pound, in place of forty, this adulteration is very profitable to the grocer.
These artificial beans are made in moulds, each of which will shape one hundred berries from the piece of clay with which it is filled. The moulds open and shut like the moulds for casting leaden bullets. After being filled and shut, they are pressed and placed in a moderate fire for a few minutes. Soon the clay becomes dry and by opening the mould the berries are allowed to fall out. When afterward mixed with genuine beans, they will receive during the roasting the usual aroma, which, as well as the brown color, will be absorbed by tile clay beans, and all will come out with uniform appearance from the roasting-machine. The products of art and of nature will thus together go into the coffee-mill, and thence into the coffee-pot: and the coffee will have no foreign flavor, but only be weaker in proportion to the amount of artificial coffee-beans employed. We most confess that the adulterators of this class are much better than many others who poison the people they rob. These conscientious persons give nothing injurious to health; their adulteration forms simply a sediment of clay at the bottom of the coffee-pot or cup, and is usually supposed to be genuine coffee-grounds. It has in fact, in positive advantage, it assists the settling of the coffee-grounds, and thus, if it makes the coffee weaker, it renders it also clearer. The only way to detect the fraud is to break some of the unroasted beans and inspect their interior or, better still, to chew some of them. To make assurance doubly sure, it has been seriously recommended that every coffee-bean should be broken in two and the interior examined with the microscope!