Caffeine Tidbits Part 3

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This is the last of our 3 part series of our caffeine tidbits. This one is the hardest one for me to write. The reason being is that it comes from researching reports for the likes of Scientific Reports, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Insitiute and Feinberg School of Medicine. Translating their findings into short English prose is no easy feat. But here it goes…

A group of scientists have discovered that people who are genetically wired to better perceive the bitter taste of caffeine are more likely to drink coffee despite the fact that bitterness has evolved as a warning signal to protect us against consuming harmful substances.

This is not a perfect analogy (since some spices are good for you) but part of the reason is much like the spicy food effect for spicy food lovers. The mind gets conditioned that something good will follow soon after the experience hits.

Here is the really confusing part. There are two types of bitterness to coffee, acid and acrid. Acidity is the first to hit your tongue. These relate to fruit acids like orange, lemon, apple, grapefruit. These are the actual caffeine tastes in specialty grade coffee (the only grade of coffee we buy).  Acrid taste, on the other hand, comes after drinking coffee which hits the tongue as a sharp, biting acerbic aftertaste which one experiences from drinking lower quality grades of coffee. This taste usually comes from the impurities that are allowed into coffee.

So the brain of someone who drinks coffee just for the caffeine is conditioned to looking for the acrid bitterness to get it’s rush.  This causes many of them to reject our coffee instead of allowing it to being a warning to them that they are consuming something  that is bad for them.  Listen to your taste buds!

Caffeine Tidbits Part 2

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Roses and sharks have something in common.  They both come in many colors, shapes and sizes.  Coffee does too.  In fact, there are over 100 species of coffee. Several customers and friends expressed concerned because they heard in the news the several coffee species were going extinct.  I was happy to put them at ease letting them know that those varieties were going extinct because the coffee they produced tastes horrible.

There are two species that are cultivated for our coffee cups, namely robusta and arabica. Arabica coffee can only be grown in the mountains and robusta coffee is grown in the low lands. Robusta is the commodity coffee. When one hears of the price of coffee going up or down on the news they are referring to robusta. Vietnam is the number 1 producer of robusta followed by Brazil. Robusta contains twice the caffeine of arabica coffee. Because of its high caffeine content, it is bug and disease resistant but it also tastes pretty horrible. While there are some folks trying to get robusta into the specialty grade class of coffee, I am of the school that it will never be accepted.

We only buy and roast arabica beans. Arabica beans come in several varieties. Of the plethora of varieties, we concentrate on 5. Another criteria we stress, is that the coffee is grown over 5,000 feet above sea level. At that level, the bean grows slower and becomes denser.  As not to get too technical, it literally means there is more flavor packed into the coffee bean. Then it is my job as the roast master to bring out those different flavors and textures for you to enjoy at home.  Our line-up of 7 to 8 coffees take over 140 tastings to choose.  It’s not about the caffeine….it’s about the taste.

Caffeine Tidbits Part 1

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Here are a couple of interesting tidbits about caffeine so if the subject comes up in a conversation, you can feel like you have something to add to the conversation. Okay, maybe the subject does not come up as often with you as it does with me but here’s some great info.
Caffeine is a natural insect repellent/insecticide. Just like caffeine stimulates us humans, it also stimulates an insect’s nervous system. So much so that insects will die if coffee plants or beans are over consumed. What this means to us is that chemical insecticides are not needed to control insect infestations.
The natural question would then be, “why isn’t caffeine used as an insecticide for every crop around the world?” The answer is pretty simple. It is very water soluble and washes away when it rains so it would have to be reapplied after every rain shower or storm.
Doesn’t a lighter roast have more caffeine? [On a side note, I hate this question! Those who just drink coffee solely for the caffeine effect should just go to a gas station and buy the $1.50 per gallon coffee to get their “fix”.] I do understand the confusion. There is marketing misinformation out there and it is our job to set the record straight.
The definitive answer to which has more caffeine a light roast or a dark roast is that caffeine is not roasted out of coffee. In other words, it has the same amount of caffeine in an unroasted green bean as in an over-roasted dark oily bean. However, the bean losses moisture as it is roasted and a dark roasted bean can weight 20% less than a light roasted bean. Therefore if you weigh your coffee before brewing, it will take more of the dark roast coffee beans to reach the desired brewing weight which means a dark roast coffee will have more caffeine than a light roast. Wait! What?
Stay tuned and next week we might talk about more nerdy facts about coffee and caffeine.