Category Archives: Caffeine

Coffee: A College Student’s Life Line

Before the days — or should I say the long nights — of cramming for tests, writing papers and preparing presentations, I’d never even thought of caffeine as an essential element of balancing my life. But in  my first years of college, I wanted to have fun! And a daily dose of coffee helped me get all my schoolwork done without impacting my ability to hit the dance floor.

From the beatnik vibe of the Solstice Cafe to the hustle and bustle of the University Village Starbucks (one of their busiest shops, even today), my devotion to java ensured I wouldn’t be running on empty before I hit my next lecture.

It’s not that I was before my time or anything, but since I’ve moved from over-caffeinated college student to … er, over-caffeinated working professional, I thought I’d take a look at what the kids are doing these days. Enter this blog from BestCollegesOnline.com, in which they rate the top 25 college coffee shops in the country that keep our future’s creative juices flowing.

Have you been to one of the coffee shops listed? If so, is it worth the press? What was your favorite java joint when you were in college? Please share in the comments below!

Cooking with Kaylie: Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes

Chocolate Espresso CupcakesIt’s week two in my quest to incorporate coffee into as many foods as possible!

After last week’s recipe, where I semi-deliberately didn’t follow instructions and ended up with slightly less than perfect Espresso Meringues, I decided that I needed to take a step back and make something super easy.

The result? Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes, courtesy of a boxed cake mix. Like I said, super easy!

Ingredients

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes Ingredients

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  • Beat cake mix, espresso, water, oil and eggs on low speed with mixer for 30 seconds
  • Kick the mixer up to medium for about 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally
  • Spoon mix into cupcake wrappers, filling about 2/3 full
  • Bake in oven 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean
  • Let cool on a wire rack before frosting

 

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes with Hazelnut Cream Cheese FrostingKeep in mind that the ingredients and directions will vary based on the boxed cake mix you use. To adapt the recipe to your cake mix, simply replace 50% or more of the water with brewed espresso.

This time, I used 60% espresso and, while it was definitely noticeable in the batter, it seemed to lose a lot of its taste after baking. Next time I make it, I’ll use only espresso (‘Look ma, no water!’) and see what happens. I’m thinking deliciousness!

The cupcakes turned out yummy and, if I do say so myself, quite pretty! To top it off, they were frosted with Hazelnut Cream Cheese Frosting. I know you want the recipe, so check in on Thursday to see Brandi whip some up!

Cooking with Kaylie: Espresso Infused Meringue Cookies

I recently decided that my mission in life is going to be finding ways to incorporate coffee and espresso into everyday foods. After all, who wants to limit their caffeine intake to mornings?!Espresso Meringues

So, the first recipe I wanted to tackle was Espresso Infused Meringue Cookies from the Happy Good Times Blog. I think now would be the appropriate time to point out that these meringues didn’t turn out how I think they were supposed to. They were still good (seriously!), but I think I lack the necessary skills to create this lovechild of baked goods and candy. Also, I may or may not follow directions well…

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature Espresso Meringue Ingredients
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon finely ground espresso or coffee beans (we used Velton’s Twilight Blend)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (I used powdered, but I don’t think that’s necessary)

Directions

  • Allow whites to come to room temperature (about 20 minutes)
  • Clean and dry your mixing bowl
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Pre-heat oven to 275 degrees F
  • Stir together sugar, espresso grounds and vanilla – set aside
  • Using a mixer, beat whites on low speed until foamy
  • Sprinkle cream of tartar and salt over foamy whites
  • Increase mixer speed to medium, and beat until medium peaks form
  • Increase mixer speed to high, and add sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time
  • When stiff, glossy peak form, spoon meringue onto your prepared baking sheet
  • Bake for 60-70 minutes in the top third of your oven
  • Allow to cool completely on the baking sheet
  • Store in an air-tight container for about 3 days.

After reading through that, and seeing my pictures, you may have a couple of questions. Questions like: ‘Kaylie, did you use bottled egg whites instead of fresh ones?’ or ‘That sounds like a lot of meringue mixture; did you double the recipe?’ The answer to both of those questions is yes, that is exactly what I did! Remember what I said about not following directions? Well, it’s not that I don’t follow them so much as I try to take shortcuts. Shortcuts which may or may not ruin the finished product.

How so? Well, the meringues were very delicate on the outside and soft onBroken Espresso Meringues the inside. Not fluffy soft, more like ‘too heavy to rise so it sunk to the bottom’ soft. The result? Something like hollow egg shells that were nearly impossible to keep intact while removing them from the baking sheet.

The crew here at Seattle Coffee Gear still ate them, cutting the sweetness with an iced latte (courtesy of Brandi). I just wish they had turned out pretty and delicious. If there are any readers with mad meringue-making skills, please let me know what I did wrong! I’d love to try these again and have them turn out. In the meantime, I will just need to redeem myself with next week’s recipe … Wish me luck.

Three Cups a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Who would’ve thought that the fountain of youth could be found right in your very own kitchen — and right under your nose? Your morning cup of coffee provides more than just a kick in the pants to get going in the morning, it also has positive affects on your noodle!

Studies have shown that drinking at least three to five cups of coffee a day in midlife can cut Alzheimer’s risk 65 percent in late life.

A July 2011 study by researchers at the University of Florida found that ‘coffee seems to have an unidentified ingredient that combines with caffeine to reduce brain levels of beta-amyloid — the abnormal protein that is thought to cause the disease,’ published the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

In early studies, USF researchers believed that caffeine was probably the ingredient that provides protection because it decreases brain production of beta-amyloid. However, the same study also claims that it may not be the caffeine itself but a combination of the caffeine and coffee’s compounds that, when combined, increases blood levels of a growth factor called GCSF (granulocyte colony stimulating factor). Alzheimer patients are known to have low levels of GCSF.

In their studies, long term treatment with coffee enhanced levels of GCSF and memory in mice with Alzheimer’s. Three key benefits researchers found were:

  1. GCSF recruits stem cells from bone marrow to enter the brain and remove the harmful beta-amyloid protein that initiates the disease
  2. GSCF creates new connections between brain cells
  3. GCSF increases the birth of new neurons in the brain

While this has only been tested and verified on mice, it does demonstrate that coffee can have a strong impact on the progression of Alzheimer’s, to the extent that it’s worth more study. Dr. Chuanhai Cao, one of the study’s lead authors, said, ‘Together these actions appear to give coffee an amazing potential to protect against Alzheimer’s — but only if you drink moderate amounts of caffeinated coffee.’

But who’s to say adding those extra cups of coffee won’t give you a memory like an elephant when you’re in your 90s? Better safe than sorry.

Coffee: An Important Part of Healthy Relationships

Still trying to decide what to get your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? Look no further than Coffee Bean Heart your resident coffee pot!

Seattle’s Best Coffee released survey results last week in which 32% of coffee drinkers surveyed recommend bonding over morning coffee to keep a relationship healthy. In fact, coffee was significantly more likely to be recommended than the usual suspects of flowers, dinner at a nice restaurant and jewelry.

This may have something to do with the physiological effects of coffee consumption. Caffeine blocks certain receptors, allowing dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with desire) to roam more freely. Romantic, eh?

So don’t panic if you haven’t written your loved one a poem or made outrageously fabulous plans for the day. After all, you’re doing something that will strengthen your relationship all year long!

Cupping: Decaf Coffees

Sometimes you just don’t want too much extra skip in your step, but you’re not willing to give up the flavor of a great cup of coffee. We asked the crew to blind taste the four different decaf coffees we carry — Lavazza, illy, Caffe Mauro and Velton’s — to determine which ones they thought tasted like a good, solid cup of coffee.

If you’re interested in learning about the different methods used to decaffeinate coffee, you can check out this article we wrote a couple of years ago.

Recipe: Espresso Chocolate Bark

A new spin on an old sugary stand-by, Espresso Chocolate Bark takes your grandma’s signature Peppermint Bark recipe and gives its a caffeinated kick.  All you’ll need is three simple ingredients to create this buzzworthy treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup whole coffee beans
  • 2 tablespoons coarse cane sugar

Directions:

  1. Melt down the chocolate chips and lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking tray.
  2. Spread out the chocolate to be about 1/2 an inch thick.
  3. Sprinkle on the coffee beans evenly and press them into the hot chocolate gently.
  4. Lightly sprinkle a layer of sugar over the chocolate while it is still melted. Don’t worry about even layering since most of it will shake off when it’s dried. Just make sure to cover all of the chocolate.
  5. You can either let the chocolate harden at room temperature or speed the process up by putting it in the refrigerator.
  6. When it’s hardened, tilt the large piece of chocolate to shake off all the excess sugar. Break the chocolate into single-sized chunks.

Recipe: The Wannabe Chef

Health Watch: Say ‘Hello’ to Coffee and ‘Goodbye’ to Diabetes

For those of you who’ve been trying to find a legitimate excuse to cut down on your coffee intake for health reasons, hold that thought for a second and thank UCLA researchers who’ve given all of us another reason why we shouldn’t kick that caffeine habit quite yet.

For quite some time now, researchers have had an inkling that coffee has had a connection with preventing type 2 diabetes. And in fact they were right.

What researchers have found is that caffeine aficionados were least likely to develop type 2 diabetes, as the java works as a protective agent by increasing the plasma levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHGB). The SHGB protein regulates the biological activity of the body’s sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen which has been long been thought to play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

As Science Daily reported, after Atsushi Goto, UCLA doctoral student in epidemiology, and Dr. Simin Liu, professor of epidemiology and medicine with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Public Health and the David Geffen School, tested 359 new diabetes cases with 359 said to be healthy controls out of 40,000 women varying in both age and race, “they found women who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee each day had significantly higher levels of SHBG than did non-drinkers and were 56 percent less likely to develop diabetes than were non-drinkers,” explained Mark Wheeler of the UC Newsroom.

“Early studies have consistently shown that an “inverse association” exists between coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes,” Liu said. “That is the greater the consumption the lesser the risk of diabetes. It was thought that coffee may improve the body’s tolerance to glucose by increasing metabolism or improving its tolerance to insulin.”

Liu adds, they now know that SHBG is indeed critical as an early target for assessing the risk and prevention of the onset of diabetes. They now know the protein can be influenced by dietary factors like coffee intake in affecting diabetes risk. The lower the levels of SHBG, the greater the risk beyond any known diabetes factor.

But diabetes prevention is only the beginning of the health benefits coffee may give us. In a number of other studies, one in particular published in the Wall Street Journal and referenced by Top News, coffee has been found to possess antimicrobial agents that aid in the prevention of tooth decay. Other studies have said it decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in women by no less than 24 percent, protects men from Parkinson’s disease while also increasing their metabolism and may also help the condition of short-term memory loss and is a helpful factor in aiding headaches.

So before you back away from that latte, just remember that one cup of espresso can provide you with loads of health benefits, so you might as well ask your barista for that double shot.

New! Everything but Espresso – Scott Rao

In follow-up to his seminal work on professional espresso preparation, The Professional Barista’s Handbook, Scott Rao takes on all the other forms of coffee brewing and gives them their day in the sun. Broken up into three main parts, and supported by a thorough reference bibliography for folks that want to read more, Everything but Espresso covers the following:

  • Part One: Coffee extraction, measurement and methods on improving flavor by changing the brewing parameters
  • Part Two: How to achieve optimal flavor via different brew methods (such as drip, pour over, press pot, steeping and vacuum pot)
  • Part Three: Proper water chemistry and bean storage

If you’re either an espresso aficionado who wants to spread their wings or someone who cherishes their old press pot, this book is the definitive guide to making the best possible brew at home.

Better Living Through Chemistry: Caffeine

We get so wrapped up in the cornucopia of flavors it offers that we sometimes forget that coffee is also a drug delivery device. Caffeine is widely consumed around the world and is the stimulant of choice for many folks in the morning to get their day going or for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Like so many things in life these days, the geeks have taken the intake of caffeine to the limit and devised a guide on how to get the most out of it. This is a fun and fact-filled read that will teach you some tips on how to keep your caffeine use high and tight.