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What is Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin and Why the Heck Would You Put it In Your Coffee?

A yellow plastic tub of butter substitute labeled You'd Think it Was Butter.

When I was first formulating the original mixture of fatCoffee, I ran headlong into a pretty thorny problem: how could I make sure you get the experience out fatCoffee that I really want to provide? It’s no small challange; what works on a small scale in your kitchen at home changes completely when you start to make hundreds or thousands of servings, and it wasn’t long before I started to get an appreciation for the complexity involved.

In a nutshell, here’s the biggest challenge with making fatCoffee a portable, easy-to-use way to make butter coffee: things separate.

And it’s all coconut oil’s fault.

Right around room temperature (70-80 degrees Faranheit), coconut oil is solid. Just above, it turns into a clear liquid (particularly the very high-quality, cold-pressed coconut oil I use). In the colder months, this isn’t really a problem – from the kitchen where I make fatCoffee all the way to the UPS truck that brings it to your house, temperatures are cold enough that the coconut oil remains fairly solid.

But summer is a different story.

Mind you, sealed in their airtight, impact-proof, nearly-indestructible packets, fatCoffee’s ingredients are shelf-stable and will stay delicious and fresh for up to a year.

But the powdered goats’ milk, vanilla bean and cocoa powder (the dry ingredients), don’t dissolve until they’re mixed into your coffee or tea. Inside the packets, there’s no water – that’s why everything stays fresh and stable – but it also means that the dry ingredients can settle out to the bottom of the packet whenever that coconut oil gets soft.

And there’s a simple solution to this problem: mash it up, folks! Just squeeze and mash that packet around before you open it. Don’t worry: it won’t break open (you’d need to stomp on it hard before that seal will break. Trust me, I’ve tried.)

And, as you might expect in these modern times, there’s another “solution”: Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin.

Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin is, among other things, a powder. It’s particularly good at encapsulating oils, and so it’s used to make such magnificent things such as powdered butter.

Powdered. Butter.

If that isn’t a tragedy in the making, I don’t know what is.

If you have something oily, and you want to make it powdery, you’d add this ingredient. If I were to add it to fatCoffee, instead of a liquid or a paste, fatCoffee would be a sort of crumbly, squishy, clumpy powder. Kind of like what you want butter and flour to be like when you’re making a pie crust. (Not a Paleo pie crust, of course.)

But what IS IT, exactly? Well, let’s hit the Wikipedia and see:

Highly branched cyclic dextrin is a dextrin produced from enzymatic breaking of the amylopectin in clusters and using branching enzyme to form large cyclic chains. (Emphasis added.)

That’s pretty clear, right?

Dig a little deeper, and the keyword there is amylopectin. Along with amylose, this is one of the two components of  starch.

Food starch. Which is made of up of glucose, a type of sugar. Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin is a form of modified food starch.

Now generally speaking, I don’t have anything against chemistry. And I don’t particularly have an issue with people trying to find the best, healthiest, most flexible uses for all kinds of food. But if you’re going to use modified food starch in your butter coffee, why wouldn’t you just call it “modified food starch?”

Because “Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin” sounds cooler? More modern? More…. sciencey?

Or maybe because “modified food starch” shares the same genesis as Maltodextrin, a:

…white hygroscopic spray-dried powder… that is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose… commonly used for the production of soft drinks and candy. It can also be found as an ingredient in a variety of other processed foods. (Emphasis added).

High Branched Cylic Dextrin is commonly sold as a weight gain supplement for body builders, with names like “Super Carb” and “Sports Fuel”, and is touted as a “next generation simple carbohydrate.”

So, sugar. In your butter coffee. In the form of an ingredient which is “absorbed as rapidly as glucose.”

If you’re Keto, Paleo, HFLC or otherwise trying to just eliminate processed sugars from your diet, this is taking you in absolutely the wrong direction. And because fatCoffee is supposed to be functional and supportive (and not just delicious and convenient), it’s an ingredient that we will never, ever use.

So… What’s in your butter coffee?

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