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Roasting times greatly affect the color and flavor of coffee—the longer the beans are roasted, the stronger the flavor.
Coffee is made from the seed of a cherry from an evergreen tree that grows in a subtropical belt that circles the globe, including Latin America, the Caribbean Islands, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Indonesia. The coffee plant produces cherries that contain two seeds—what we know as coffee beans. The cherries are picked, and the seeds are removed, roasted, packaged, and shipped to local stores and coffee shops.
It is said that coffee was discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia—when he noticed that his normally placid herd was uncommonly frisky after nibbling certain berries, he munched a few himself and had the same peppy reaction. Word spread, and in short order, the coffee “fruit” became a popular snack.
There are hundreds of different coffee species, the two most common being robusta and arabica. Robusta is a hardier plant that grows at lower altitudes and produces beans with a harsher flavor and higher caffeine content. The arabica plant grows at high altitudes (3,000 to 6,500 feet or approximately 914 to 1,828 meters) and produces beans with a smoother, more elegant flavor and slightly less caffeine.
Roasting times greatly affect the color and flavor of coffee—the longer the beans are roasted, the stronger the flavor. Among the most popular roasts are American, French, Italian, European, and Viennese. American roast or regular roast beans are medium-roasted for a moderate brew. French roast and dark French roast are heavily roasted, yielding deep chocolate brown beans and producing a stronger coffee. Italian roast are heavily roasted, glossy, brown-black beans that are strongly flavored and used for espresso. European roast contains two-thirds heavy-roast beans blended with one-third regular-roast; Viennese roast reverses those proportions. Instant coffee is a powdered coffee made by heat-drying freshly brewed coffee. Freeze-drying coffee removes water content by means of a vacuum, with the coffee solidly frozen and preserved during the process. Bottled coffee drinks are also available, with milk, sugar, and other sweeteners and flavors.
No matter the variety, all types of coffee contain significant amounts of caffeine, with the exception, of course, of decaffeinated coffee. Decaffeinated coffee is produced by one of two methods. Caffeine can be chemically extracted with the use of a solvent, which must be completely washed out before the beans are dried. Using the Swiss water process, the beans are steamed, then the caffeine-rich outer layers are scraped away. The solvent method compromises the flavor of the coffee. The Swiss water process is considered the most desirable method.
Here is the approximate caffeine content of a variety of coffee products. Keep in mind that the numbers provided are not exact:
Brewed (8 oz./250mL) = 85mg of caffeine
Instant (8 oz./250mL) = 75mg of caffeine
Decaffeinated, brewed (8 oz./250mL) = 3mg of caffeine
Decaffeinated, instant (8 oz./250mL) = 3mg of caffeine
Espresso (1 oz./30mL) = 40mg of caffeine
Cappuccino and Latte (1 oz./30mL) = 40mg of caffeine
Invest in a good grinder and grind your coffee beans just before using for the richest flavor. Keep coffee makers clean—the oily residue in the pot affects the flavor of the next brewing. Use two tablespoons (30mL) of coffee per six ounces (170mL) of water. There are numerous ways to prepare coffee, but the three most common are filtered, French press, and espresso.
Filtered coffee is made by pouring hot, but not boiling, water through freshly ground or recently purchased ground coffee. The water should pass through the grounds only once.
French press coffee uses a special cylindrical glass container with a filter plate on a plunger. The coffee grounds and hot water steep together for three to four minutes, then pushing down the plunger separates the grounds from the brewed coffee.
Espresso is a high-pressure extraction of the volatile oils of the bean. The espresso machine uses steam and water for a deeper, more intense flavor, with less caffeine and bitterness. Beans selected and roasted specifically for espresso are available. One “shot” of espresso is about 1 ounce (28mL). Some espresso drinks, including cappuccino and lattes, are made by steaming milk and adding it in varying proportion to the brewed espresso. Other espresso drinks, such as an Americano, combine espresso with hot water (or cold water for an iced Americano).
Coffee, 1 cup (6 oz./185mL)
Total Fat: 0.0g
While the support for dietary intervention remains somewhat unclear, many doctors suggest that alcoholics avoid caffeine. Two trials have shown that a diet that, among other changes, excludes caffeine, reduces the craving for alcohol.
Coffee should probably be avoided. Drinking five cups or more per day has been shown to increase the risk of angina, although effects of different forms of coffee on angina are unclear.
All sources of caffeine should be avoided, including coffee, tea, chocolate, caffeinated sodas, and caffeine-containing medications. People with high levels of anxiety appear to be more susceptible to the actions of caffeine.
Caffeine may improve cognitive performance. One trial found that higher levels of coffee consumption were associated with improved cognitive performance, more so in older people than in younger people. Similar but weaker associations were found for tea consumption.
Blood levels of an amino acid called homocysteine have been linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Most studies suggest that coffee drinkers have higher homocysteine levels than people who do not drink coffee. If coffee drinking does increase blood levels of homocysteine, the problem might be caused by chemicals in coffee that are trapped in paper filters. If so, paper-filtered coffee may not have this deleterious effect. Consumption of coffee made without paper filters will also raise cholesterol levels. Paper-filtered coffee does not have this effect.
Caffeine is present in many popular beverages and appears to have an effect on fat utilization. While most trials show that caffeine does not benefit short-term, high-intensity exercise, some research has shown that endurance performance is enhanced by caffeine in many athletes. Caffeine consumption is banned by the International Olympic Committee at levels that produce urinary concentrations of 12 mg/ml or more. These levels would require ingestion of considerably more than 2.5mg per pound of body weight, or several cups of coffee over a short period of time.
Most, but not all, published reports have shown coffee drinkers are at increased risk of bladder cancer. A review of 35 trials found a small (7%) increased risk of bladder cancer in coffee drinkers compared with people not drinking coffee––a difference that might have been due to chance.
Coffee drinking has been reported to increase breast pain associated with noncancerous lumps in the breast—a condition commonly called fibrocystic breast disease; some researchers believe some forms of fibrocystic breast disease increase the risk of breast cancer. However, coffee drinkers are at no higher risk of breast cancer than are women who do not drink coffee. Women wishing to reduce their risk of breast cancer do not need to avoid drinking coffee.
Some researchers believe that coffee drinking might reduce the risks of colon and rectal cancers by decreasing the intestinal level of secondary bile acids—substances in the gut that may increase the risk of these types of cancer. However, due to inconsistent support, the association between coffee drinking and protection against colon or rectal cancers remains unproven.
While the relationship between coffee drinking and pancreatic cancer remains unclear, most scientists now believe drinking two cups of coffee per day or less will not increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Some studies have shown a connection between caffeine and cardiac arrhythmia. Although this effect is thought to be unlikely at moderate amounts, some healthy people appear to be susceptible to as little as one cup of coffee.
Consumption of caffeine (mostly from coffee) has paradoxically been linked with both improvement in mood and depression by different researchers. People with depression may want to avoid caffeine as well as sugar for one week to see how it affects their mood.
Drinking several cups of coffee per day causes diarrhea in some people. People with chronic diarrhea who drink coffee should avoid all coffee for a few days to evaluate whether coffee is the culprit.
It has been reported that when heavy coffee drinkers with eczema avoided coffee, eczema symptoms improved. In this study, the reaction was to coffee, not caffeine, indicating that some people with eczema may be allergic to coffee. People with eczema who are using a hypoallergenic diet to investigate food allergies should avoid coffee as part of this trial.
While some research suggests that women who consume more than 5 grams of caffeine per month (about 1.5 cups of coffee a day) are more likely to have endometriosis, no study has investigated whether avoiding caffeine improves the symptoms of endometriosis.
Long-term and complete avoidance of caffeine reduces symptoms of what is commonly called fibrocystic breast disease. The decrease in breast tenderness can take six months or more to occur after caffeine is eliminated. Breast lumpiness has been reported to not respond well to avoidance of caffeine, but the pain decreases significantly in some women.
Caffeine increases bile flow and therefore might reduce the risk of gallstones––an effect supported by a study showing that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of gallstones than people who do not drink coffee. As caffeinated coffee can exacerbate symptoms of insomnia, peptic ulcer, panic attacks, and a variety of other conditions, people at risk for gallstones who wish to consider increasing coffee drinking to reduce risks should talk with a doctor beforehand.
Both regular and decaffeinated coffee increase stomach acid. Avoiding these substances should therefore aid in the healing of gastritis.
Coffee drinking has been linked to increased heartburn pain.
Some but not all studies report that coffee drinking is associated with an increased risk of suffering a heart attack. This association may result from the ability of coffee to increase blood levels of homocysteine, or in the case of unfiltered coffee, to increase blood levels of cholesterol.
Drinking boiled or French press coffee increases cholesterol levels. Modern paper coffee filters trap the chemicals in coffee that elevate cholesterol levels, keeping them from entering the cup. Therefore, drinking paper-filtered coffee generally does not increase cholesterol levels. However, paper-filtered coffee has been reported to significantly increase homocysteine—another risk factor for heart disease. The effects of decaffeinated coffee on cholesterol levels remain in debate.
Coffee consumption has been associated with increased homocysteine levels, a risk factor for heart disease. These findings are consistent with studies that have found caffeine consumption to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease
In a study of heavy caffeine users (people who were consuming an average of 560mg of caffeine per day from coffee and tea), changing to decaffeinated coffee and eliminating all other caffeinated products for two weeks resulted in a 25% reduction in triglyceride levels, a risk factor for heart disease.
Right after consuming caffeine from coffee or tea, blood pressure increases briefly. While the effects of long-term avoidance of caffeine (from coffee, tea, chocolate, cola drinks, and some medications) on blood pressure remain unclear, many doctors tell people with high blood pressure to avoid caffeine.
Even modest amounts of caffeine have been reported to increase symptoms of hypoglycemia. For this reason, people with low blood sugar should avoid caffeinated beverages, including coffee.
Some but not all studies find that caffeine reduces female fertility. Many doctors recommend that women trying to get pregnant avoid caffeine.
The effects of caffeine—a stimulant—can last up to 20 hours, so some people will have disturbed sleep patterns even when their last cup of coffee was in the morning.
Coffee interferes with the absorption of iron. However, moderate intake of coffee (4 cups per day) may not increase the risk of iron-deficiency anemia if the diet contains adequate amounts of iron and vitamin C.
While many doctors are concerned about the possible negative effects of caffeine consumption in people with a history of kidney stones, most current research suggests that it is not important for kidney stone formers to avoid coffee or tea. Preliminary studies in both men and women have found that coffee and tea consumption is actually associated with a reduced risk of forming a kidney stone. These reports suggest that the helpful effect of consuming more water by drinking coffee or tea may compensate for the theoretically harmful effect that caffeine has in elevating urinary calcium.
Caffeine increases urinary loss of calcium. Caffeine intake has been linked to increased risk of hip fractures and to a lower bone mass in women who consumed inadequate calcium. Many doctors recommend decreasing caffeinated coffee, black tea, and caffeine-containing soft drinks as a way to improve bone mass.
Some but not all research has found that higher coffee and caffeine intake is associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease in older people. Until more is known, increasing caffeine consumption, even in people with a history of Parkinson’s disease in the family, is not recommended by doctors.
Coffee (including decaf) can aggravate or interfere with the healing of peptic ulcers. People with peptic ulcer should avoid use of coffee—even decaf.
Some but not all research links excessive caffeine consumption during pregnancy to growth-retardation, low birth weight, and spontaneous abortion. The United States Food and Drug Administration recommends that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to less than 400mg per day––the equivalent of less than four cups of coffee per day. Although some doctors suggest much lower levels of coffee consumption, no consensus has been reached on how much coffee drinking is safe for pregnant women.
Among a group of college students in the United States, consumption of caffeine-containing beverages was associated with increases in both the prevalence and severity of PMS. Moreover, the more caffeine women consumed, the more likely they were to suffer from PMS. A preliminary study showed that women with heavy caffeine consumption were more likely to have shorter menstrual periods and shorter cycle length compared with women who did not consume caffeine. Therefore, many doctors recommend that women with PMS avoid caffeine.
Drinking four or more cups of coffee per day has been associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (specifically, the form that has a positive laboratory test for “rheumatoid factor”). Whether avoidance of coffee would reduce symptoms in people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis has yet to be investigated.
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The information presented in VitaminLore is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of U.S. registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications.