Once an enigma, medicinal mushrooms have soared in popularity as researchers have unlocked the secrets behind their age-old health benefits. With increased demand comes increased supply, and more and more manufacturers are bringing their own mushroom supplements, especially mushroom coffee beverages, to the market. This is both good and bad for consumers–there’s plenty of options out there, but not all of them are good.
So, how can you tell if a mushroom coffee is any good? And what do you need to look for in a mushroom coffee supplement to ensure you’re getting the most health benefits? Lucky for you, the answers are on the labels. You just need to know how to read them.
Here’s what’s important to consider when buying mushroom supplements:
Table of Contents
- Mushroom coffee quality depends heavily on several factors, like the quality of the source material and the extraction process used.
- Mushroom extract, not whole mushroom powder, is best for supplemental use.
- The beta-glucan content should be on the label of high quality supplements.
How to Tell if Your Mushroom Powders are Good
Whether you’re looking for a prepared mushroom coffee or a mushroom supplement, the rules are the same, and the formulas available are similar. You have two primary options–mushroom powder and mushroom extract–and they are very different.
Mushroom powder is simply a ground up version of dried, whole mushrooms. It contains all of the vitamins and minerals found in the fresh mushroom, usually in similar ratios.
This type of mushroom product is great for cooking or adding the nutritional benefits of mushrooms to your diet. Adding mushroom powder to sauces, soups, and more can add a deep umami flavor to your dish. However, mushroom powder is NOT the best mushroom product to use as a wellness supplement.
Mushroom extract, on the other hand, is a concentrated version of the bioactive compounds (called beta-glucans) found in the mushroom. Mushroom extract, which also often comes in powder form, allows you to consume powerful doses of beneficial beta-glucans without needing to consume copious amounts of powder. If you buy the right kind of mushroom extract powder, the beta-glucans are in the most bioavailable, useful form.
So, in summary, you want to find a mushroom extract and NOT a mushroom powder when looking for the best mushroom supplement. From this point forward, we will specifically address the things you need to consider in order to find a high-quality mushroom coffee made from mushroom extract:
What should I look for when buying mushroom extract?
Supplements in the U.S. are not regulated in the same way as medications, so it's up to the consumer to put in the footwork to ensure the quality of the supplement they buy. A product can be labeled a "mushroom coffee" if it contains any amount of mushroom material, but that doesn't guarantee that it will have health benefits.
Mushroom coffee products may or may not contain actual coffee, and they can be made using several different extraction techniques. All factors heavily impact quality.
We mentioned that buying a high quality mushroom coffee (or other mushroom supplement) is as easy as checking the label. More specifically, look for a product that:
- is made from mushroom extract, not whole mushroom powder
- is extracted from fruiting bodies and not mycelial biomass
- is made using a single hot water extraction process
- is organically sourced
- has a suitable, verifiable beta-glucan content
- has additional ingredients that are also clean and aligned with your needs
Here's what this means:
Extracted from Fruiting Bodies
Mushroom extract is a vague term, so you need to know more about where the “mushroom extract” comes from to assess its quality. You need to know what original material was used for extraction because it affects everything about the end product. More specifically, you want to look for extract made from mushroom fruiting bodies, NOT mycelium.
Here’s the difference:
The “fruiting body” is the portion of the mushroom that most people associate with mushrooms–the stem, cap, and gills. This fleshy portion of the fungi is the part that is most commonly eaten, but it’s not necessarily the part most commonly used for supplements.
Mycelium, sometimes denoted as “mycelial biomass,” is the fungi’s tangled web of “roots” that grows beneath the surface. This portion of the fungus is a crucial part of the mushroom life cycle, and it's essential to the life and health of the mushroom fruiting body, but it does not contain many of the mushroom’s bioactive beta-glucans.
Although it’s cheap to produce mushroom supplements made from mycelial biomass (hence why many companies take this route), these products have almost no beta-glucans, and they won’t have the wellness benefits associated with functional mushrooms.
Single, Hot Water Extraction Process
How the extract is made is just as important as what it is made from. When looking at mushroom coffee quality, you’ll find many brand’s that boast a “double extraction” process as though it is superior. On the contrary–a product that is made using a single hot water extraction is what you’re after.
Here’s why less is more:
Single, hot water extraction means that the mushroom extract is made by introducing the mushroom material to hot water in a pressurized container. The beta-glucans in mushrooms are protected by a layer of chitin, the same polymer that makes up an insect’s exoskeleton. Unfortunately, chitin is hard for the body to digest, so it needs to be “melted away” to make the beta-glucans more bioavailable for the body. Hot water extraction does that.
A “double extraction” involves a second phase. After the hot water extraction, the mushroom material is introduced to alcohol for a second round of extraction. Companies who use this method claim that it removes any material that is not water soluble, which may be the case, but they overlook an important fact–alcohol degrades the beta-glucan content.
In other words, the second step in a “double extraction” process destroys the very compounds that were extracted in the first step.
If you’re familiar with the harms of GMOs and pesticides, this one may seem obvious, but there’s even more to the story you may not yet understand. You want to find a mushroom coffee that is made from organically sourced mushrooms. Here’s why:
There are roughly 11 pesticide residues that are commonly found on conventionally grown mushrooms. According to information collected by the USDA Pesticide Data Program, Thiabendazole (a pesticide) is present in 54.5% of conventionally grown mushrooms and is not present in any organically grown mushrooms.
Take into account that this isn’t your typical “conventional vs organically grown produce” debate. There’s one important factor at play when you’re growing mushrooms, especially for medicinal use: the substrate.
Mushrooms need to be grown in particular substrates, usually grains or wood chips. During the growth process, the mycelium and the substrate intermingle and the substrate ferments, producing bioactive compounds that help the mushroom grow. The resulting mushrooms are rich in nutrients and beta-glucans. Adding pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to the substrate can alter its microbiota, producing less nutritious mushrooms.
In short, organic mushroom farming lessens the environmental impact of the manufacturing process, protects your health by ensuring that no pesticides make it into the final product, and ensures the therapeutic integrity of the mushrooms.
Guaranteed Beta Glucan Levels
A great mushroom product should have a guaranteed beta-glucan content. It’s important to note that companies are not required to list their beta-glucan content, but if they do, they need to be able to back those numbers up.
In other words, if a product does not mention the specific beta-glucan content, it’s usually because the product contains little to none. Check the label for an estimate on the amount of beta-glucans in a product. It will vary some by the type of mushroom used and the manufacturing process, but, in general, you want a product with a beta-glucan content of 20% or more.
Now that you've thoroughly investigated the mushroom portion of your mushroom coffee, take a look at the coffee portion. Or rather, the additional ingredients that give the product its flavor, sweetness, and caffeine content.
Not all mushroom coffee contains real coffee. Some are meant as a coffee-replacer. Check the individual ingredients to ensure they meet your needs. For instance, you may need a product with no sugar or prefer a lower caffeine content. You may also check the source of these ingredients to ensure that everything is as high quality as the mushroom extract.
Looking for a mushroom coffee that checks all the boxes?
Lucid is made from 100% fruiting body mushroom extract that begins with high-quality, organic mushrooms. Every batch is guaranteed to contain a beta-glucan content of 25% or higher. Pair that with a dynamic blend of nootropics and you have a tasty instant coffee beverage that elevates your body and mind to improve focus, energy, and immunity.
Lucid's therapeutic mushroom+nootropic formula is designed to help you align with your higher self. What's holding you back?
What kind of mushrooms are best for mushroom coffee?
While we’re on about ingredients–consider the compilation of mushrooms used to make the mushroom coffee. Some contain only one type of mushroom while others balance on a more functional blend of the most popular therapeutic mushrooms. Different mushrooms have different health benefits, so you may want to target one or another, or you may prefer a diverse blend.
Here’s a quick run down on the most common types of medicinal mushrooms and what they are used for:
- Lion’s Mane: Cognitive function, promoting neurogenesis
- Cordyceps: Endurance and physical wellness
- Reishi: Relaxation, sleep, stress management
- Shiitake: Heart health, endurance
- Chaga: Digestion, stress management
- Tremella: Anti-aging, supports hydration
- Maitake: Immunity, healthy cellular growth
What type of mushroom supplements should I take?
We've focused on mushroom coffee, but we want to clarify that these quality standards go for any mushroom supplement. Some other forms of mushroom supplements you may find include:
- Other mushroom beverages
- Mushroom extract powders
- Mushroom capsules
- Mushroom tinctures
You still need to evaluate these against the credentials above, which poses an automatic problem for mushroom tinctures. That's because tinctures are made via alcohol extraction, so they won't usually contain a healthy beta-glucan content.
Capsules are another example of a product that may misguide consumers. Many capsules contain whole mushroom powder and not extract, meaning their beta-glucans are not readily available for the body.
All in all, you can choose whatever mushroom supplement meets your needs. But if you want it to be therapeutically significant, it needs to meet the rigorous standards aligned above.
Where to Buy High Quality Mushroom Coffee
If you're interested in journeying down the mushroom coffee road to total body wellness, you won't have any trouble finding a few different products when shopping online. Of course, once you narrow down your options using the criteria above, your selection may be a bit more slim.
You should absolutely do your research and ensure that any supplement you choose is fully aligned with your needs. Checking out our Lucid instant drinks may be a good place to start.
Lucid contains a powerhouse combination of medicinal mushrooms and nootropics, plus either Colombian Coffee, Masala Chai, or Japanese Matcha. Every batch has a guaranteed beta-glucan content of above 25% and balances in a low-caffeine content with synergistic, energy-boosting compounds that won’t leave you crashing and jittery. More specifically, Lucid combines:
- Lion’s Mane
- Ginkgo Biloba
This powerhouse combination is designed to support focus, energy, endurance, immunity, and more–simplifying your morning ritual and your wellness regimen in one tasty step. Want to know more? Read “Why We Chose Our Ingredients: What’s in a Lucid Stack?”
Check out our mushroom coffee or one of our two other delicious flavors: