Category Archives: Articles

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.

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!

Tech Tip: Backflush Flashback


If you have a semi-automatic espresso machine with a 3-way pressure release, or solenoid, valve, you need to backflush it on a regular basis to keep the machine in fine working order. Backflushing will clean up behind the screen and into the brewing system, cleaning out coffee or grounds residue and reducing the potential for clogs.You can watch Dane as he cleans a Rocket Giotto, or follow these steps:

  1. Replace brew basket with a blind basket in the portafilter (or you can use this universal insert in your existing basket)
  2. Place 1/2 teaspoon of a backflush detergent such as Cafiza or Joe Glo (Important: make sure it indicates backflushing as its primary use on the label — do not use Dezcal or any other standard detergent here!)
  3. Insert the portafilter into the brew group and initiate a shot
  4. Allow the pump to run about 4 – 5 seconds maximum
  5. Turn the pump off and allow the water and suds to release through the valve
  6. Repeat this process until the water coming out of the valve is clear and suds-free
  7. Remove the portafilter, rinse it in cool water to cool it down and then switch out the baskets again
  8. Before you pull your first shot, run a blank shot through the system to make sure there is no residue leftover

Health Watch: Aluminum Boilers & Alzheimers

One of the more controversial topics within the discussion of Alzheimer’s is whether or not aluminum has a causal relationship to the development of the disease. Since the first study in the 1960’s that found higher concentrations of aluminum in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s than in the brains of people without the disease, scientist have been exploring the influences and attempting to correlate the two, with contradictory results. To this day, there is not conclusive evidence one way or the other, and the medical community is still very uncertain about whether or not the aluminum found at the center of the plaques which they believe to be the cause of the disease are the cause of the plaques or simply a harmless secondary association.

What does a discussion of neuroscience and disease have to do with coffee? Well, many people are concerned about the uncertain and contradictory information on this topic — one that might be close to home to any of you with an espresso machine or stovetop espresso brewer with an aluminum boiler. Since aluminum is part of the earth’s crust and used in tons of products, from toothpastes to antacids to cookware, it’s difficult to avoid it altogether. But the amount of aluminum that might leach into your espresso during the brewing process is relatively minimal, if any, than you would intake normally, so it’s likely not much of a concern.

While the jury is still out on whether or not aluminum is a contributing factor to developing Alzheimer’s, or just coincidentally happens to be along for the ride, you’re probably pretty safe to continue enjoying your delicious espresso — aluminum boiler or not.

Brew Tip: Got Two Turntables and Microfoam

If you’re looking to rock like a pro barista, you need to perfect the art of microfoam — that glossy smooth steamed milk that makes latte art possible. It’s really not that difficult to pull off once you know the step-by-step process:

  1. Keep your steaming pitcher in the refrigerator/chilled
  2. Start with icy cold milk (about 34F degrees)
  3. Begin steaming by getting the milk to spin rapidly clockwise, then
    work the surface of the milk for about 15 – 20 seconds in one of the
    following ways:

    • Standard Steam Wand: Bring the tip of the steam wand to the top, so that it just barely breaks the surface to suck in air and milk
      simultaneously
    • Panarello Steam Wand: Submerge the wand so that the top of the
      milk and the air intake slot or hole are even, allowing milk and air to
      be drawn in evenly — if you submerged it above the air intake, you’ll
      just steam the milk; if you submerge it well below the intake, you’ll
      end up with fluffy, bubbly foam
  4. Plunge the steam wand all the way into the milk and then roll the milk for the remainder of the steam
  5. Temperature-wise, your milk should measure between 140F – 180F
    degrees — if it’s too cold, it will be chalky; if it’s too hot, it
    will be scalded
  6. Tap the pitcher on the counter to settle the milk and force any air bubbles to the top
  7. Prior to pouring, roll the milk slightly around the pitcher to
    incorporate the foam and the milk. The milk should have a shiny, glassy
    smooth surface that is free of any bubbles
  8. Pour to make your favorite latte art

More visually inclined? Check out our video.

Lavazza Whole Bean Blends Go Toe to Toe

Lavazza is renowned around the world for some of the best coffee available, and we’re often asked about the differences between their six main whole bean blends. So, we took these guys to the tasting lab and came back with a comparison chart that should help you pick the blend that’s going to taste best to you.

Some of the highlights are the smoky chocolate and loam undertones of Grand Espresso and Super Crema‘s sweet & earthy fruitiness. Our descriptions might not do them full justice, however, so why not have a tasting party yourself? You’re sure to find a favorite among them.

Health Watch: Caffeine & Pregnancy

Two universities in the UK have determined that excessive amounts of caffeine during pregnancy can impact the weight of the child as it’s developing, putting some babies at risk of a low birth weight.

What do we mean by excessive? Well, the study found that the babies of mothers who drank the equivalent of 3 or more cups of coffee each day tracked to a lower weight during each trimester of development. A low birth rate has been linked to health issues such as diabetes or heart disease later in life, so it’s important that a baby is born within the healthy range.

While the study has confirmed a link between caffeine and fetal development issues, scientists don’t think this should inspire pregnant mothers to abstain from all caffeine intake. Other health benefits still exist and a mother limiting her coffee to 1 cup per day should have no concern.

The Grind – November 2008

Seattle Coffee Gear’s monthly newsletter, The Grind, provides readers with tips, expert advice, recipes, article highlights and a Grind-only special coupon!

This month’s Grind includes expert advice on how to produce microfoam, information on our new Tune-Up service and a recipe for our new favorite drink: The Pumpkin Spice White Chocolate Mocha!

Read this month’s edition and sign up for future editions of The Grind here!

Health Watch: Coffee & Relationships

An intriguing new study from the University of Colorado indicates that warm drinks lend themselves to more friendly feelings. Participants in the study were randomly given hot cups of coffee or glasses of iced coffee, then asked to assess the relative warmth of a series of fictional characters. The result was that they were 11% more likely to rate a complete stranger as welcoming or trustworthy if the participant had been holding a warm beverage versus a cold beverage.

Psychologists attribute this to possible early conditioning in infancy, when bonding and trust building with our parents could have been in an environment of warm bodily temperature — just think of all those baby blankets! — so that we are more likely to associate the actual physical temperature with the relative warmth and openness of someone’s personality.

Whatever the root cause, it’s clear that the age old practice of socializing over a hot cup of coffee helps build and expand on the warm bonds of friendship — so why not invite your friends (or someone new) over for an espresso today?