Health Watch: Caffeine & Self-Control

A new study indicates that caffeine intake prevents risk taking behavior after extreme sleep deprivation. Now, who would commission a study like this? The US military, of course!

The research took 25 healthy volunteers, subjected them to three consecutive days of sleep deprivation (totaling 75 hours) and then gave them a double-blind test involving the regular intake of either 200mg caffeine gum or a placebo gum, bi-hourly between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.

The subjects then took part in a risk taking analysis test involving inflating balloons for money without causing them to burst. The results indicated that those who were taking caffeine throughout the experiment didn’t change their basic personal level of risk taking behavior, regardless of how long they were deprived of sleep. For those not on the caffeine regimen, however, had a significant increase in their impulsive and risky behavior.

While many of us don’t regularly stay up for three days straight if we can help it, there have been other studies that have recorded this kind of risk taking behavior increases even with sustained chronic sleep deprivation — for example, regularly getting just three hours of sleep per night. Further studies will be done to evaluate how caffeine impacts this type of deprivation.

So the next time you’re feeling in the mood to throw caution to the wind…knock back a shot of espresso and wait awhile. It may result in you keeping your pocketbook — and dignity — intact.

Coffee Wakes Up Your Food

Consider coffee your newest extra virgin olive oil — a semi-ubiquitous flavor-enhancer that begins to show up in the ingredient lists of all your favorite recipes. While olive oil brandishes about its healthy fat profile, coffee counters with its incredibly powerful antioxidant count — even higher than that of the much lauded blueberry or broccoli!

An excellent article in the SF Gate provides unique recipes and explores the many uses of coffee in every day cooking — from broths to rubs to desserts. Among the tips collected by the author, we loved these ideas:

  • Osso Bucco fan? Try adding a shot of espresso to a basic mushroom sauce to accompany
  • It’s great for braising — try beef in a combo of stock and coffee and then add a little unsweetened cocoa powder
  • We’ve talked about a rib-eye rub and a flank steak marinade before, so we’ll definitely be adding a molasses steak sauce to the list, which combines strong black coffee, molasses, raisins and spices…once we’ve determined what those spices should be, of course :)
  • Coffee was often used to heighten the taste of chocolate in desserts, but chocolate has become so well-refined and the tastes complex, adding coffee doesn’t really make a difference. However, using white chocolate in mocha desserts is a great complement and used by a chef in place of dark chocolate, which overpowers the coffee
  • Great flavor pairings include nuts, citrus, raspberry, molasses, caramel, honey and sour cream
  • Perk up the flavor of any pot roast, stew, chili, mole sauce, baked beans or soup with a dosing of strongly brewed coffee

Do you use coffee in your cooking? Please share — we’d love to hear some of your experiences with adding coffee to your kitchen repertoire.

New! Izzo Alex Duetto II Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine

The only semi-automatic home espresso machine on the market that allows you to easily switch between main-line and reservoir water sources just got a whole lot cooler!

The Izzo Alex Duetto II features the same flexible plumping technology and double boilers as the original Alex Duetto, but has been significantly upgraded with an all-access PID interface that allows you to easily control the temperature on both boilers, switch either of them on or off (awesome energy savings for you espresso-only drinkers out there!), change it between 15 or 20 amp, select Celsius or Fahrenheit temperature readings and much more.

It also has the awesome E61 brew group, which we’re huge fans of because we definitely think it contributes to a great shot when compared to other models in this class that don’t feature this patented technology. The main drawback to this machine is that it’s a monster — requiring 16.5″ height clearance, which doesn’t leave a lot of room to move under most cupboards. We wish they would have made the warming tray sides up top removable to allow for more flexibility around space requirements, but it’ll give ‘em something to improve upon for V.3.0!

Giro D’Italia Giotto Auction Opens Today!

We are thrilled that today kicks off our series of five auctions of Giro D’Italia Giottos to benefit the non-profit organization Coffee Kids! This is such an awesome machine — we’re still waiting for them to arrive (they needed to engrave the name of 2009 winner Denis Menchov) and we can’t wait to get our grubby little paws on them.

These machines take all of the excellent performance and functionality of the Giotto Premium Plus and accent it with several specialized touches that make this limited edition stand apart — and since we’re the only US importer bringing these machines in stateside, these unique collector’s items are incredibly rare as well. But while your friends will be coveting the gorgeous stainless steel design or perhaps the Maglia Rosa-inspired pink manometer, the bragging rights will really be about all the money you donated to Coffee Kids, giving you a direct hand in helping to support tons of community projects for coffee growing families throughout Central America.

PSA: Starbucks Recalls 530,000 Barista Blade Grinders

We just ran across an announcement from Starbucks, indicating the recall of 530,000 Starbucks Barista and Seattle’s Best Coffee blade grinders. There have been several incidents of laceration when the grinders turned on unexpectedly while being cleaned.

If you or someone you know purchased one of the models listed in the announcement, contact Starbucks immediately for a replacement model. Or, maybe it’s time to upgrade? We’ve never heard of a burr grinder lacerating anyone. :)