Author Archives: Scott

About Scott

Scott is a professional writer for Driftaway Coffee. He worked as a barista for eight years, but today prefers to enjoy his beverages from the other side of the counter. When not drinking Driftaway Coffee, Scott usually has a mug of his own roasted coffee nearby.

When feeling ill, a cup of coffee can be especially appealing. The increased alertness that caffeinated coffee provides, however, has tradeoffs. Here’s a look at several effects coffee can have on the body.

Coffee Can Help You Feel Better

Researchers have confirmed what coffee drinkers have known for centuries. Coffee can make you feel better, even if you’re a little under the weather.

Psychologists at the University of Bristol studied whether giving people who contracted the common cold coffee reduced the “malaise” that’s associated with the common cold. Malaise, in the paper’s abstract, is defined as the “reduced alertness, slower psychomotor performance” that accompanies the common cold and many other illnesses. In laypeople’s terms, it’s feeling groggy.

Notably, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee reduced malaise. The study found that “caffeine increased the alertness and performance” of participants who had a cold, which may not be surprising. “Decaffeinated coffee also led to an improvement,” though. Evidently, it’s not just the caffeine in coffee makes people feel better (although the abstract didn’t speculate on what other compounds in decaffeinated coffee might provide improvement).

Coffee Might Not Be Good for Your Body

Even though coffee may help you feel better when you’re a little sick, it isn’t necessarily good for your body’s health. Coffee has several potential negative effects on the body.

First, coffee is slightly acidic. It’s possible that the acids in coffee could irritate an already inflamed throat. If this is a problem, you may be able to reduce how much coffee irritates your throat when you’re sick by using a different brew method. Cold-brewed coffee doesn’t have the same acidic makeup as hot-brewed coffee, for instance.

Second, a study conducted by researchers at the Tel Aviv Medical Center and Hebrew University’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine found that coffee could impact the immune system. The study found that “coffee intake modifies various measures of the immune function.” Precisely how coffee impacts the immune isn’t clear, though. The study was only exploratory and stated that additional studies are needed before any clinical recommendations can be made.

Third, and most importantly coffee is a diuretic. It increases urination in many people, which can lead to dehydration. When you’re sick, it’s generally advisable to stay well-hydrated. Even if coffee itself isn’t bad, it’s probably not as good a choice as water.

Talk with Your Doctor

If you’re feeling bad enough to question whether you should be drinking coffee, you may want to see a doctor. The best way to find out whether you can drink coffee with your illness and medical concerns is to ask a physician during an appointment. We’re just coffee aficionados and don’t provide medical advice.

Have Coffee for When You Feel Better

If you don’t have much energy and don’t want to go out, you can still get freshly roasted coffee. Sign up for one of our subscription options, and we’ll send several great coffees to you for you to enjoy once you’re feeling well.

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Lots of people add sugar to coffee, and it’s not necessarily because they have a major sweet tooth. While adding a pound of sugar to one cup of coffee will turn the beverage into a liquid candy bar, putting just a little sugar in your coffee can have a profound effect that goes beyond sugar’s simple sweetness. According to a paper from the University of York’s Structural Biology Lab, sugar causes a molecular change in brewed coffee that makes coffee less bitter.

Sugar Affects Coffee at a Molecular Level

Through statistical thermodynamics, which is a branch of theoretical physical chemistry, Dr. Seishi Shimizu found that sugar doesn’t just mask coffee’s bitterness with sweetness, but it actually changes the molecular structure of a brewed cup of coffee. According to his lab’s paper, Food and Function, sugar affects the dimerization of caffeine molecules in coffee and caffeinated tea, which ultimately has an impact on how bitter the beverages are. Here’s an explanation of the paper’s findings in lay terms.

Caffeine is a molecular compound that’s a naturally occurring pesticide. While it’s known for its stimulating effects, it’s also largely responsible for the bitterness in coffee and caffeinated teas. Coffee and tea plants produce caffeine to deter insects and other predators from eating the plants’ fruits and leaves. The predators don’t like the bitter flavor of the caffeine molecules.

In a brewed cup of black coffee or unsweetened tea, caffeine molecules bind to water molecules. The distribution of caffeine molecules among the water molecules is roughly equal.

When sugar is added to brewed coffee or tea, however, the distribution of the caffeine molecules change. The sugar molecules bind to the water molecules. The caffeine molecules react by clustering together, likely trying to avoid the sugar molecules. The net result is that there are clumps of caffeine molecules in the brewed coffee or tea, rather than an even distribution of them.

As the caffeine clumps, the coffee or tea becomes less bitter. The paper’s abstract didn’t go into detail as to why the beverage becomes less bitter. It’s likely because not as many caffeine molecules are hitting the taste buds when the coffee or tea is drunk. Instead, they’re clumped together so that only a portion directly contact the taste buds at any one time, which reduces the bitterness.

Artificial Sweeteners’ Effects Weren’t Stated in the Abstract

Dr. Shimizu’s abstract also didn’t go into detail about whether artificial sweeteners would have the same effect, or a reduced or amplified effect. How synthetically made sweeteners affected the bitterness of coffee and tea would depend on their solubility in water and affinity with caffeine. To reduce bitterness, and not simply mask it, a sweetener needs to dissolve and bind with water, and also drive caffeine molecules into clusters.

Why Do You Sweeten Coffee?

Does this fit with why you sweeten your coffee? Do you add just a little sugar not for the sweetness, but to reduce your brew’s bitterness? Let us know by tweeting at us.

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Grinding coffee fresh, right before brewing it, unlocks the aromas right before they’re brewed — ensuring that none escape. Here’s a look at 10 of the top coffee grinders available right now. All of these grinders are burr coffee grinders, so they’ll produce an even grind.

Cuisinart Supreme Grind

The Cuisinart Supreme Grind isn’t the highest-end burr grinder. It’s a solid burr grinder from a well-known brand for under $50, though. For coffee drinkers who aren’t already grinding their coffee with a burr grinder, this is a great initial investment.

KRUPS GVX212 Coffee Grinder

The KRUPS GVX212 Coffee Grinder is another solid choice for less than $50. This grinder isn’t quite as popular as the Cuisinart Supreme Grind, but it’s still build be a respected company and has all the essential features: multiple grind settings, reliable burrs and a removable hopper.

Brazata Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

The Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder has more grind settings than the previous two models, and it boasts a DC motor that keeps beans from overheating even when grinding a lot of coffee. The hopper holds 8 ounces of coffee, which makes filling half-pound bags easy if you need to grind coffee for gifts. The Brazata Encore retails for a little more, usually between $100 and $150.

Brazata Virtuoso Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

The Brazata Virtuoso Conical Burr Coffee Grinder, like the Brazata Encore, features lots of grind settings, a sizeable hopper and a DC motor that prevents overheating. The Virtuoso has higher-grade burrs. It boasts professional-grade 40mm conical burrs. The Brazata Virtuoso often goes for a little over $200.

Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill Skerton

The Hario Coffee Mill Skerton is a decent, affordable manual grinder. The mill produces pretty consistent grounds, and it’s easy to use an clean. For under $40, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better manual (or automatic) grinder.

Peugeot Bresil Coffee Mill

The Peugeot Bresil Coffee Mill is one of the finest manual coffee grinders. Made from a French company that’s been producing spice and coffee mills for over a century, the coffee mill is built to last.You wouldn’t want to use a manual grinder for espresso, but for any other grind this model is up to the task. The mill usually sells for a little over $100.

Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder

The Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder is a compact manual coffee grinder that’s perfect for travel. Since it doesn’t require electricity, it can be brought to the in-law’s, a resort, a boat or a campsite. The grinder’s quality and price are fairly comparable to the Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill Skerton. The Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder usually retails for just over $50.

Rancilio Rocky Espresso Grinder

The Rancilio Rocky Espresso Grinder is a favorite among home espresso enthusiasts. The grinder features 50-millimeter burs and a powerful motor. It grinds directly into a portafilter. The espresso grinder often sells for around $350.

Baratza Vario Flat Ceramic Coffee Grinder

The Baratza Vario Flat Ceramic Coffee Grinder is Baratza’s answer to the Rancilio Rocky Espresso Grinder. The Vario lets users make the most minute adjustments easily, and it has 54-millimeter burs. The grinder sells for a little under $500.

Mazzer Mini Espresso Grinder

The Mazzer Mini Espresso Grinder is a small commercial-grade espresso grinder. It has plenty of adjustments and 58-milimeter burrs. The grinder sells for around $700.

What Grinder Do You Use?

What kind of coffee grinder do you use? Send us a picture on Instagram and show us.

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Guatemala has a long history of producing coffee, and it continues to be a leader in the coffee industry. The country not only grows a lot of coffee — it was the tenth-highest coffee-producing country in 2015 — but much of the coffee grown in Guatemala is excellent, even by specialty-grade standards.

Coffee Was Brought to Guatemala for Decoration

Coffee trees were originally brought to Guatemala by Jesuit missionaries in the mid-1700s as ornamental plants. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, when the invention of synthetic dyes devastated Guatemala’s indigo and cochineal dye industries, that the country began growing coffee commercially on a sizeable scale. By 1880, 90 percent of Guatemala’s exports were coffee.

Guatemala Has a Reputation for Growing High-Quality Coffee

Aside from 1940, when exports were suspended due to World War II, coffee has remained Guatemala’s largest export. The country today is particularly known for its specialty-grade coffee. Although the country ranked tenth in the world in total coffee production in 2015, it often is second (behind Colombia) in production of high-grade coffee.

The Asociación Nacional Del Café (ANACAFE) ensures that the coffee exported by Guatemala continues to meet the country’s high standards. Coffees are graded according to two systems. One designates the elevation the coffee was grown at, with strictly hard bean (SHB) being the highest grade in this system. The other system doesn’t denote quality but rather ensures that a regionally named coffee, such as Guatemala Antigua or Guatemala Huehuetenango, is consistent with the appropriate region’s flavor profile. If a coffee’s flavor profile isn’t consistent with the region’s normal profile, it can still be designated SHB or another grade — but it can’t be marketed as a regional coffee.

Traditional Varietals Are Grown in Guatemala

Many of the coffees grown in Guatemala are known for their complexity, which is partly due to the varietals that are grown. While there are some different and unique varietals grown throughout the country, most farmers have old, traditional varietals. Bourbon and Typica, which are the two original coffee varietals, are found on many farms. Geisha, which is an heirloom varietal originally from Ethiopia, has also been gaining popularity in the past decade.

Guatemala Has Eight Growing Regions

There are eight distinct growing regions in Guatemala:

  • Antigua, which has elevations between 1,300 and 1,600 meters and is surrounded by three volcanoes, one of which is active
  • Atitlan, which is named for Lake Atitlan, which is surrounded by volcanoes and provides cool night breezes that create unique microclimates
  • Fraijanes, which has elevations between 1,400 and 1,800 meters and is home to Guatemala’s most active volcano, Pacaya Volcano
  • Huehuetenango, which has elevations between 1,500 and 2,000 meters and is known for producing fruit-forward coffees
  • Nuevo Oriente, which is a lesser known region that has elevations between 1,300 and 1,700 meters
  • Coban, which has lower elevations of 1,300 to 1,500 meters and doesn’t have as much of a  pronounced dry season, which together lead to syrupy, deep flavor profiles
  • San Marcos, which has elevations between 1,300 and 1,800 meters and has a growing season that’s earlier than other regions

The Future Looks Bright for Guatemalan Coffee

Guatemala’s coffee industry should continue to do well in the foreseeable future. The country has a developed infrastructure for the industry, and its coffee is marketed globally. Right now, the country’s free from many of the challenges that other coffee-producing countries face.

Great Guatemalan Coffees

At Driftaway Coffee, we get coffees from all over the world, and we’ve had several excellent coffees from Guatemala. If you’re a fan of Guatemalan coffees, try our sample kit. Taste our four roast profiles, and we’ll send you Guatemalan and other coffees that are similar to what you like.

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What you think of the taste of coffee from pods will depend largely on what coffee you’re used to drinking. If you haven’t had specialty-grade coffee before, they might seem alright. When tasted alongside higher-end coffee, though, the stuff that comes from automatic, single-serve machines usually seems stale, watered-down and bland in comparison. When you consider the factors that affect coffee’s taste, it’s easy to understand why.

Coffee in Pods is Often Stale

The coffees in pods is often stale, especially when compared to freshly roasted coffee. Coffee tastes best when it’s fresh, and there’s no substitute for recently harvested, roasted and ground coffee. Pod-based systems typically fall short in all three of these areas.

First, most companies that make coffee pods don’t note when the coffee in the pods was harvested (or roasted or ground). Green coffee doesn’t degrade as fast as roasted coffee does, but it does lose some of its finer notes over time. If the harvest date isn’t stated, the coffee in a pod may have been grown a year or more ago.

(Admittedly, we at Driftaway Coffee don’t always mention when each coffee we offer was harvested. We continually bring in new, fresh coffees, though, and feature them as soon as we get them in and roasted. Although we make the roast date more prominent, all of our coffees were harvested recently. If you’d like to know precisely when, just ask.)

Second, the coffee in pods isn’t freshly roasted. Not only is the roast date not noted, but the coffee that’s in pods is usually left out between roasting and packaging.

After its roasted, coffee gives off a lot of carbon monoxide. When we put coffee in bags, the carbon monoxide is able to escape through a one-way valve that’s built into the bags. Pods, however, don’t have these valves. Companies that make pods usually have to let their roasted coffees sit and degas for several days or weeks, before the coffee can be packaged into pods. If they package the coffee too soon, the excess gas will build up and rupture the pods. During the time that the coffee is degassing, it’s also losing flavor.

Third, the coffee in pods is ground well before brewing. Grinding coffee immediately before brewing is the only way to capture all of a coffee’s flavors in a cup. To make brewing faster and more convenient, pod manufacturers grind coffee days, weeks and, sometimes, even years before it’s brewed.

Some Systems Use Water That’s Too Cool

A fourth issue arises in some automatic, single-serve systems during the brewing phase. Sme systems use water that’s cooler than is ideal. Keurig®, for example, states that their systems are engineered to brew coffee with water that is 192 degrees Fahrenheit. We find that temperatures between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit are able to extract the fine flavors in coffees better.

Try a Different Coffee

If you’re used to the taste that automatic, single-serve coffee makers produce, try our coffee. At just $8 for a sample, it’s significantly cheaper than the $50 per pound that people pay for pod-system coffee.  We’re confident you’ll like our coffee and will be able to taste the difference that freshness provides.

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