Study Shows Coffee Not Great for Study

The Sunday Times has a story that the National University of Ireland, Galway has released a study showing that the effects of coffee are over-stated. In fact, the study shows that coffee has no stimulating effect on the brain and that it does not counter-act sleepiness. They say that people are confused about coffee because the positive effects they feel have to do with countering caffeine withdrawal and not any inherent coffee benefits.

If that’s a total buzz-killer for you, cheer up – there are still many reasons to drink coffee. Studies at Vanderbilt and Harvard have found that coffee reduces the risk of diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

One would certainly hope that they don’t publish the Galway study in France, because seems that cafes in France are seriously under threat, with two closing every day. The smoking ban and other factors are cited. Can you imagine Paris without cafes? Perish the thought…

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It’s a Thing of Beauty!

Grinder To try to make our coffees more consistently delicious, we’ve taken the plunge and bought a pair of “grind on-demand” coffee grinders for our shops. What a difference already! Not only do they drop a perfect dose of gound espresso beans into the group head each time (over-packing is a huge cause of burning and bitterness in coffees), but they are much more silent and seem to grind up an incredibly tasty shot.

It should also cut down greatly on waste. Highly recommended (so far) for anyone in the business…

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Cappuccino Trials

Cappuccino Anyone who knows us and our shops, knows that we are incredibly obsessive about coffee. I’m not sure it’s healthy or that it makes much financial sense, for we spend too many countless hours tasting and trying to get it right. But that’s what we do.

Over the years, we have made many improvements, both in terms of process and taste. We’ve also moved to a Fairtrade bean and lately organic milk. Those are steps that we feel very good about, but the trick is to keep the coffees tasting good and coming out consistent.

Bad foam in milkI have written here about the difficulties of milk in the winter – how the lack of protein makes it harder to get good foam. The bubbles are too large (see photo), and the foam collapses easily. This seems to be compounded with organic milk, although some days it seems that it works better than others. Customers have noticed, and they are complaining.

The bottom line is this – using fresh and natural products is not always, by any means, the easiest thing to do. There are many reasons to go with the easy way – there is milk designed for frothing that is controlled for protein and froths perfectly every time. That’s really appealing because consistency is probably the most important part of keeping happy customers. The only problem is that we don’t like the taste.

I think the benefits of using organic milk, both in terms of how it tastes and for feeling good about it, make it worthwhile to stick with it and work on a solution. There’s a Chinese proverb, “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor people perfected without trials.”

Let’s hope the last bit applies to cappuccinos!

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Caffeine Crazy

Espresso I’m all jittery after a very early start (I’m definitely NOT a morning person), a long day, and an afternoon drinking coffee. We’re opening the shops again tomorrow after a short winter break, and there’s always so much to do. One piece of that was getting our coffee right.

Every time we have our espresso machines serviced, it takes a lot of tinkering and tasting before we’re happy again with the taste. This year, we’re extracting our coffee for longer at a slightly higher pressure, and the result is a little more Italian than what we’ve been serving – a little more flavour and kick, although we’ve worked hard to retain the smoothness.

It’s part of our Continental drift, I suppose. People talk about whether Ireland is more aligned with Boston or Berlin – for us and coffee, it’s more a matter of Seattle vs. Sorrento. Anyone who reads this blog knows we gravitate toward the latter…

Gravity is not something I’m feeling much of, though, at the moment. I probably tasted 30 espressos, and I’m bouncing off the wall. The good news is that I have copy of the Instituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano‘s “Espresso Italiano Specialist” book, and they say that 20% of caffeine is metabolised every hour, so I’m sure I won’t be up all night. I’m bound to fall asleep by 4 or 5 in the morning…

They also make some considerable claims for the health benefits of coffee. I knew about the healthy side of chocolate, but I’m already feeling slightly less jittery in the knowledge that coffee:

  • Heightens memory capacity
  • Alleviates headaches and migraines
  • Heightens conditioned reflexes
  • Increases artery tone and improves circulation
  • Increases pulminary ventilation
  • Helps digestion

… and so on (it’s a long list). They also point out that to reach dangerous levels, one has to drink 100 espressos right after the other. I’m relieved I stopped after 30.

Finally, I’m happy to pass on the fact that we will almost certainly be going organic on the milk for our coffees (thanks to everyone who took part in the poll). We will have to add an average of 10c to pay for the additional cost (on top of a price increase to deal with price increases from our suppliers), but I think our customers will appreciate the added value of organic. We work hard to be the best and organic milk will taste better and feel better. We’ve been using Fairtrade coffee for a while now, so I guess it’s a natural step.

Now I’ll go and try to relax. Maybe I’ll test my conditioned reflexes or test my memory capacity. Mama Mia. How do the Italians do it? Bring on the grappa?

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Yauco Selecto Coffee

Caffetiere of Yauco Selecto Coffee Both of our shops are closed for the month, and that’s always difficult for me in terms of coffee. I need my daily fix, and I miss having good coffee on call! What I usually do is revert to my home cafetierre (photo above) using our organic Fairtrade bean or top up with a hit from my stove-top espresso maker.

I have written before about Yauco Selecto beans from Puerto Rico, and yesterday I brought some home. For anyone who hasn’t tried Yauco, it is defintely worth the splurge (the beans are very expensive). We have offered Yauco in the shops for a while now, and those who tried it, loved it. This bean is not good for espresso, but makes a great cup of coffee.

The result this morning, using a medium-fine grind for my cafetierre, was delicate and smooth, with a little hint of fruit and enough body to invigorate a damp, cold January morning. For those who like milky coffee, it also makes a wonderful, refined cafe au lait – simply heat some milk up to a simmer and add it in using a ratio of about 1/3 milk to 2/3 coffee…

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Caffe Latte Poll

Caffe Latte As we look at what we put on our menu boards for our shops in 2008, I was wondering about flavoured lattes. We already have the option of a Latte al Caramello (caramel latte), have played around with other flavours, and should we offer them all the time?

Please take part in the following poll, and feel free to comment if it is too restricting!



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Christmas Spiced Sugar for Coffee

Christmas Latte Following on from the Winter Hot Chocolate, here’s an idea for the holidays – you can create spiced sugar to serve with coffee to your guests and loved ones for the entire holidays.

This was Sean’s idea, and he was going for a variation on a gingerbread taste to create a Christmas Latte (photo above) for our shops. The dark brown sugar makes it really tasty. Of course, as I have said, it could work in any coffee, or could even simply be added to warm milk for those off caffeine.

I am going to suggest all ground spices (as opposed to fresh) so that it will still taste good on New Year’s if you make it in the next week!

Spiced Brown Sugar for Coffee


  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 500 g dark brown sugar

What to do:

  1. Simply combine the spices and the sugar and mix very well.
  2. Add to coffee according to taste.

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