If the inability to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in space has kept you from pursuing your cosmonaut dreams, last week’s invention of the zero-G coffee cup by NASA astronaut Dave Pettit is sure to make you tingle.
Pettit is known for funky space inventions, but when he arrived at the International Space Station, he had one goal in mind: Find a way to enjoy his beloved joe from a cup, rather than a bag & straw. Liquids in space can be a messy proposition, and hot coffee introduces an element of risk as well, but that wasn’t going to stop Pettit from devising a method of enjoying his java from a cup.
Using a piece of his mission book, he formed a vessel with a tear-drop shape that is closed at one end. The surface tension within the cup keeps the coffee inside instead of floating about the station. He suggested that his invention could apply to more than just coffee — future space colonists could utilize this kind of cup for celebratory toasts.
So now that the coffee cup question has been answered and you’re back on track to becoming an astronaut, you’d better hit the books — time to learn Russian.
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.
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!
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
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.
- 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
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300F.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Transfer ramekins to a rack to cool completely, uncovered, about 1 hour.
(Custards will set as they cool.) Chill, covered, until cold, at least
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!
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!
- Combine sauces and espresso in 12-oz. mug.
- Stir until well combined. Pour steamed milk into mug; stir to combine.
- Top with froth from steamed milk.
- Sprinkle with Ghirardelli Cocoa or drizzle with Ghirardelli Sweet
Ground Chocolate & Cocoa Flavored Sauce and/or Creamy Caramel
- Sprinkle with toasted, chopped walnuts
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)
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!
The team recently got together to analyze the cost and benefit of making your espresso at home and we released this study last week that details relative savings associated with each drink.
It’s kind of surprising, but we found data to support the fact that the average American coffee drinker can spend about $2800 each year on their daily coffee. This is based on the average cost of a latte at $2.45 and the average number of coffee drinks consumed per day of 3.2. Obviously, lattes can be significantly more expensive (we often shell out nearly $4.50 for a grande soy latte) and your daily consumption can vary, but we figured the averages balance each other out.
If you’re looking for ways to cut your expense budget but don’t want to give up your daily joe, strike a compromise between your hedonism and pragmatism by investing in a home espresso machine.
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.