Health Watch: Caffeine & Alertness

You drink it to wake up, to focus more, to get you through the day — heck, even to sober up. But has the effect of caffeine on your central nervous system been overstated? A group of researchers from the National University of Ireland in Galway think so. In fact, they think that the only benefit you see from your caffeine consumption is to further your caffeine consumption.

Through their study, they were unable to find a measurable difference in alertness and cognitive ability in participants, and found that the only difference was the abatement of caffeine withdrawal symptoms regular caffeine consumers felt in the morning after their body had metabolized caffeine overnight.

For at least a month, they gave a participants either a placebo or a caffeine pill equal to one cup of coffee to take three times a day. They then tested their ability to concentrate, resulting in no discernible difference between the control group and the caffeine consumers. They also tested the control group’s reaction to caffeine after having not had the drug in their system for quite some time and were also unable to track a noticeable difference in their level of concentration between their placebo state and caffeinated state.

So if it’s not really waking us up, helping us focus and getting us through our day….why are we drinking it? Well, despite the position that drinking it may essentially be a self-fulfilling prophecy, we’ll keep drinking it for the taste! Yeah, that’s right — for the taste.

Recipe: Espresso Biscuits — Eggless

Here’s a great recipe for anyone who has an egg allergy — or if you’re in the mood for cookies but don’t have any eggs on hand!


Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon finely ground espresso beans
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter,at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F with two racks spaced evenly apart. Line two
    baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, cocoa and
    ground espresso; set aside.
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle
    attachment,combine the butter, confectioners sugar and vanilla; beat on
    medium speed until creamy, 3-4 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and
    gradually beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture, scraping down
    the sides of the bowl twice.
  3. Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough between the palms of your hands
    to form a ball. Place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining
    dough, spacing cookies 2 inches apart. Place the tines of a fork into
    dough and gently flatten the ball into biscuit shape. Bake biscuits
    until just firm to the touch, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating half way
    through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

These are great to serve along with coffee or espresso when you’re entertaining.

(Recipe originally developed by Martha Stewart)

Health Watch: Caffeine & Training

Are you a cyclist looking for a quicker way to regain your energy stores after a long distance ride? Well, this interesting study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology indicates that caffeine has a significant positive impact on helping you to rehab more quickly after a long ride. The catch? You have to drink a lot of it — which may not be a negative thing for us caffeine maniacs.

At the School of Exercise and Sport Science in the University of Sydney, researchers found that study participants that drank caffeine-supplemented high-carb drinks after long rides restored much more of their glycogen stores (which gives the primary energy for endurance activities) when compared with participants who drank just a regular high-carb drink.

Recipe: Chocolate Espresso Pots du Creme

Whilst poking around for a good Thanksgiving treat, we found a delicious recipe for Chocolate Espresso Pots du Creme at Harvest Eating. You can check out their video on how to make the recipe here.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Bittersweet chocolate
  • 6 Egg yolks
  • 3/4 Cups Espresso or dark coffee
  • 1 Cups Organic heavy cream
  • 1/3 Cups Organic heavy cream
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar

Directions

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Put chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Bring cream, milk, espresso
    powder (to taste), and a pinch of salt just to a boil in a small heavy
    saucepan, stirring until espresso powder is dissolved, then pour over
    chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
  3. Whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt in another bowl,
    then add warm chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly.
    Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart
  4. Line bottom of a baking pan (large enough to hold ramekins) with a folded
    kitchen towel and arrange ramekins on towel. Poke several holes in a
    large sheet of foil with a skewer. Divide chocolate mixture among
    ramekins, then bake in a hot water bath,(bain marie) pan covered
    tightly with foil, until pots du creme are set around edges but still
    slightly wobbly in centers, 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Transfer ramekins to a rack to cool completely, uncovered, about 1 hour.
    (Custards will set as they cool.) Chill, covered, until cold, at least
    3 hours.

Enjoy!

Living in a Caffeine Free World

If you read our post on Monday about the caffeine levels of different types of brew, you’ll recall that decaf coffee is not completely caffeine-free — it does have a slight content level, but considerably less than other types of coffee. If you’re sensitive to caffeine and are strictly a decaf drinker, you might be interested in these caffeine test strips.

According to the manufacturer’s website, up to 30% of the coffee you drink out in the world is not actually decaf, and their handy new strips will help you tell the difference well before you feel the heart pumping! We haven’t tried them yet — but if you do, please let us know what you think!

Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Delight

You could easily skip the pies this Thanksgiving holiday by serving your friends and family this delicious coffee confection. The Chocolate Caramel Delight would be a lovely post-turkey sipper that will satisfy your sweet tooth and help you digest all that stuffing!

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Combine sauces and espresso in 12-oz. mug.
  2. Stir until well combined. Pour steamed milk into mug; stir to combine.
  3. Top with froth from steamed milk.
  4. Sprinkle with Ghirardelli Cocoa or drizzle with Ghirardelli Sweet
    Ground Chocolate & Cocoa Flavored Sauce and/or Creamy Caramel
    Flavored Sauce.
  5. Sprinkle with toasted, chopped walnuts

Caffeination Time — Come On! (It’s Time for Caffeination)

OK, so it might not necessarily be as age-old as the chicken vs. the egg debate (wait, didn’t they solve that?), but the argument over which has more caffeine — drip coffee or a shot of espresso — is often kicked around the ol’ coffee shop. Obviously, like any good debate, the answer varies almost as widely as the number of preparations for caffeine-carrying plants around the world.

The first thing to keep in mind in this discussion is the plant: Are we talking Robusta or Arabica? Arabica has less caffeine than Robusta, so the bean blend is important to know before you guesstimate your caffeine intake. Secondly, what’s the roast look like? A super dark roast eliminates a large portion of the caffeine content, sending those molecules up in smoke. Lastly, take a look at how much you’re consuming, because quantity matters: If you’re drinking 4 oz. of espresso vs. 7 oz. cup of drip, your intake will be a lot different  than these standards:

  • Percolated (7 oz): 140mg
  • Drip (7 oz): 115 – 175mg
  • Espresso (1.5 – 2 oz): 100mg
  • Brewed (7 oz): 80 – 135mg
  • Instant (7 oz): 65 – 100mg
  • Decaf, brewed (6 oz): 5mg
  • Decaf, instant (6 oz): 3mg

In general, the longer the coffee grounds are in contact with water, the more caffeine will be extracted into your brew. Caffeine is largely responsible for coffee’s bitter taste, which was one of the motivations behind the development of espresso: The relatively short brew time results in a significantly less concentration of caffeine, allowing you to taste other flavors in the coffee.

(Caffeine concentration amounts and molecular image courtesy of Erowid)

Meet the Real Juan Valdez

On a visit to the coffee-growing hills above San Lucas, Rice cultivated what would later become the American fair trade movement. Founded in 1998 in a converted warehouse in downtown Oakland, TransFair USA began as a bare-bones operation with an unusual premise – put more money in the pockets of farmers in the developing world by persuading consumers thousands of miles away to pay a premium in the name of social justice. Modeled after organic produce and dolphin-safe tuna, Rice started the organization with the stark black and white label that told shoppers their coffee came from farmers who received a “fair price.”

The San Francisco Chronicle just wrote this very interesting profile of the man who founded the Fair Trade movement for coffee, Paul Rice. We highly recommend the read!

Rain in India Could Storm Your Wallet

“…all for the price of a cup of coffee.” The Christian Children’s Fund might have to change their pitch-line in the coming months, as India reports their Robusta coffee crops are down due to the excessive rain they’ve been experiencing — a drop which may result in an increase in coffee prices around the world.

India’s highest producing region, Karnataka, experienced intense rains during coffee’s blossom season, which will likely impact the amount of beans they are able to harvest. While this news story focuses on the fact that Robusta is primarily used in instant coffees, it is also very often used in high-end gourmet brands (such as Lavazza or Illy) in their espresso blends to create a thicker crema and a bolder body. Robusta is bitter due to it’s higher caffeine content, so it’s not used in high quantities, but the increase in prices could have an impact on the cost of your favorite coffee beans — whether or not you’ll see this passed on to you remains to be seen.

However, coffee’s global commodities pricing has dropped significantly over the past several months, due to the economic issues seen in Europe and the US, so perhaps these environmental and economic issues will balance each other out.

Tasting Event: Velton’s Coffee – 12.07.08

We’re having our first tasting event at our Lynnwood location on Sunday, 12/7/08, from 10am – 12pm. This event will feature local roaster Velton’s coffee and you’ll have the opportunity to taste four single origin beans plus the blend Velton created with them (the Bonsai Blend) in a traditional, plantation-style cupping.

At this free event, you’ll:

  • Learn about regional flavor trends
  • Have the chance to determine which kinds of beans taste best to you and why
  • Get information on coffee roasting & blending theory
  • Pitch all of your coffee and espresso machine questions at Velton & Gail
  • Be entered in a drawing for an awesome door prize!

Please join us as we taste and learn more about coffee in a fun, interactive and casual environment. Space is limited to 20 participants, so if you’re interested, please sign up here.

Hope to see you on the 7th!