Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is a mitochondrial outer-membrane flavoenzyme involved in brain and peripheral oxidative catabolism of neurotransmitters and xenobiotic amines, including neurotoxic amines, and a well-known target for antidepressant and neuroprotective drugs. Recent epidemiological studies have consistently shown that coffee drinkers have an apparently lower incidence of Parkinson's disease (PD), suggesting that coffee might somehow act as a purported neuroprotectant. In this paper, "ready to drink" coffee brews exhibited inhibitory properties on recombinant human MAO A and B isozymes catalyzing the oxidative deamination of kynuramine, suggesting that coffee contains compounds acting as MAO inhibitors. MAO inhibition was reversible and competitive for MAO A and MAO B. Subsequently, the pyrido-indole (beta-carboline) alkaloids, norharman and harman, were identified and isolated from MAO-inhibiting coffee, and were good inhibitors on MAO A (harman and norharman) and MAO B (norharman) isozymes. beta-carbolines isolated from ready-to-drink coffee were competitive and reversible inhibitors and appeared up to 210 microg/L, confirming that coffee is the most important exogenous source of these alkaloids in addition to cigarette smoking. Inhibition of MAO enzymes by coffee and the presence of MAO inhibitors that are also neuroactive, such as beta-carbolines and eventually others, might play a role in the neuroactive actions including a purported neuroprotection associated with coffee consumption.