27 June 2010


Some lessons in life I seem to need to learn and relearn and then relearn again.
One of those lessons for me is about coffee. Specifically, it is about caffeinated coffee. This beverage, which functions wonderfully in many peoples' bodies...for me, just makes me feel like every cell in my body is ejecting its contents into the cell next to it.
Caffeine screws up the nervous system in a variety of ways. It messes with the endorphins and stress hormones in the brain. Meaning, it creates anxiety. It blocks the good stuff and makes more of the bad stuff. So, if you already have an anxiety problem (me) and are drinking coffee--you are just asking to have a bad day.
It may be recalled that I am trying to pass on some of the principles in Skinny Bitch (by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin). One of their principles is to give up coffee.
I know. It seems impossible. These are the same girls that have titles to their chapters like "Give it Up!", "Pooping," and "Sugar is the Devil," and "Stop Being a Pussy." They are hardcore...but bear with me here as I believe I can offer a compromise.
Other than the obvious bad results of caffeine already mentioned here, there are several others. According to SB caffeine can cause "headaches, digestive problems, irritations of the stomache and bladder, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, anxiety and depression....affecting every organ system, from the nervous system to the skin.....{it} raises stress hormone levels, inhibits important enzyme systems that are responsible for cleaning the body, and sensitizes nerve reception sites." (p. 15 and there are footnotes for all of this)
The caffeine is not the only issue with coffee, however. The possibly more deadly aspect of coffee is the high acid content of it and the resultant health detriments. When a person creates a higher than normal acid environment in the body (whether through coffee, sugar or refined flours, etc), the body makes extra fat cells to protect the organs from the extra acid. These fat cells are normally placed around the internal organs, and it is this fat that is of the highest concern for future cancer. The more internal fat (this is different from the fat on the appendages or ass), the higher likelihood of cancer developing in that body.
Here is where I have to start whining a bit. "But I LIKE coffee....its warm and cuddly and makes me feel happy in the morning."
The caffeine problem is easily dealt with--just get decaf (although get the decaf that is not made decaf by the use of a chemical bath of the beans if possible).
Ok, that is one problem. How about the acid issue?
The highest acid level in coffee is found in regular old, office-variety brewed or percolated coffee. For some reason, this method of extraction results in the highest amount of acid. Ever get a huge caffeine buzz as well as heart burn after a regular cup of joe? Well, this is probably why.
The next option is French press. Most coffee snobs will say that French press makes a much superior final product than drip coffee makers. It may possibly also contain less acid, but this is largely variable since the amount/grind/etc of the beans in French press changes drastically from person-to-person depending on preference.
Espresso has many advantages and tends to be touted as the superior method for making coffee--obtaining the most volatile oils from the beans (i.e. flavor) while minimizing caffeine (as compared to drip coffee).
There is a lot of conflicting data on this fact. I can offer my own experience only. I can have two shots of espresso (made at home with non-doctored beans, thank you very much Starbucks) and be FINE, but if I have one cup of drip coffee--I will be a jacked up mess for at least five hours.
Espresso, however, still contains a high acid content which is the problem that I am trying to address.
Tada: enter cold brew coffee.
Yes, you can brew your coffee in cold water that is never heated at any point in the process. (You can do the same thing with tea...it just takes a little time).
Cold brew coffee offers the benefit of having 60% less acid than any of the other extraction methods mentioned here. It has the additional benefit of retaining much of the flavor of the bean without the "bite" or bitterness inherent in the acid. It both smells and tastes sweet. It requires no sweetener. I can also personally say that I notice the benefits of caffeine without any of the negative side effects thereof.
So, how is cold brew coffee brewed?
Well, you can purchase an expense electric cold brewer to sit on the precious real estate of your countertop. OR you can just use an old pitcher, a colander, a coffee filter, some cold water, some grounds, and some time.
Here's how I do it.
A 4:1 ratio of ground coffee to water is required. Most cold brew sites say to use a coarse grind. After a month of experimentation I have to say I completely disagree with this recommendation. The coarse grind results in a weaker brew--and I feel that you need to maintain some of the body of the bean that you are otherwise loosing to less acid in the final product.
So, I do a *mixture* of very fine grind, medium grind, and coarse grind. The coarse grind helps stick to the finer grinds when you are straining so that you do not end up with the sludge at the end.
Grind the coffee thusly, and put it in a pitcher with filtered water in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. The longer you leave it to think about it, the better result you will achieve.
When you get to the point where you can't wait anymore...
Put the coffee filter into the colander, and put the colander over a clean bowl. Slowly shake and pour the coffee mixture into the strainer and let it do its thing. It will take awhile. The last little bit will need at least 20 minutes to finish straining through. Don't skip this last part--this is where the flavor is.
Toss the filter/grinds and wash out your pitcher.
Pour the filtered coffee back into the pitcher, but not before you put some in a glass over ice with some great organic milk, maybe a little cream, and some Stevia. Shake it like a martini and enjoy!
I read that it is also possible to then heat the cold filtered coffee (you will not make it acid by doing this since the beans have already been removed). I have not tried that yet because it has been too hot.
I also read that cold brew (aka Toddy coffee) coffee is superior for cold coffee drinks as it does not get the diluted character that espresso tends to get when poured over ice. I have not noticed a huge difference with this.
Cold brew coffee is milder and sweeter. So, if you are looking for a cup that packs a punch, this may not be your very day drink.
But, it is a way to avoid much of the acid in the coffee, thereby giving yourself better health while still enjoying its amazing flavor--as well as retaining the morning ritual of making and drinking your favorite concoction.


Blogger ChrisG said...

Coffee's been on my mind a good deal lately. Without your obsessive propensity to research every subject under the sun, I would have gone ahead and started making coffee again and suffering with every sip--however much I do love french press. The fact that this process makes a weak-tasting beverage is unfortunate but I'd be willing to sacrifice some flavor for improved stomach conditions.

11:25 AM  

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