It’s long overdue for me to discuss the wondrous beverage I roast: coffee. Just now studies are coming out on the medicinal value of coffee, such as this one from Harvard, showing that the volume of coffee a man drinks in the day can significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer. NPR did a recent series on coffee reporting that Scandinavians drink the 32 oz and above that can cut the risk by over half.
Similarly there is growing evidence that coffee — caffeine — has preventive powers agains dementia. Again the greater volume drinkers show greater benefits, 24-40 oz, translates to 2/3 less risk in one study. To summarize this early research, the effect of caffeine in coffee is what we know to be effective:
“…reducing pro inflammatory cykotines, and inducing beneﬁcial effects on signal transduction factors important for neuronal plasticity and survival.”
Important to note here that only caffeinated coffee has been shown to have this benefit. Not caffeine by itself or caffeinated tea.
“This plasma cytokine proﬁle was not seen following administration of either decaffeinated coffee or caffeine, indicating that some as-yet unidentiﬁed component of coffee synergizes with caffeine to greatly enhance plasma levels of three beneﬁcial cytokines”
Now we come to the mystery of coffee that I have observed with an AD:
“Aside from caffeine, coffee is rich in many other components (e.g., antioxidants, anti-inﬂammatory compounds) that may also complement caffeine’s actions to reduce risk of AD”
Here’s where the science is going to intersect with coffee lovers with a single fact — coffee has more than 800 flavors — by far the most of any known food. For relative comparison the next closest is Vanilla with over 200 flavors. Now what is the flavor of coffee? It is the aroma that comes from a fresh brewed cup, that moment of inhalation before imbibing yields a myriad of flavors to all the olfactory senses.
Now it is my duty to tell you how those 800 flavors are preserved in the bean, what happens with roasted coffee. A green bean starts with a sealed shell, like most other types of beans, inside that shell is dense pack of CO2 molecules. Those molecules hold the flavor in the bean until the bean is roasted. Unlike other edible beans there’s really no way to consume coffee beans in the raw state, they must be roasted. Once the roasting starts it begins the process of releasing CO2. The bean will retain enough CO2 to contain hundreds of flavors until the point where the bean would literally crumble into charcoal. Likewise it’s true that more of the bean flavor comes through in lighter roasts, than darker, as well as more caffeine. There’s so much CO2 in the bean, immediately after the roast is finished, it has to remain unsealed until a certain amount of the gas has been released. Similar to letting wine breathe, coffee does this for at least 8 hours. Now the bean is stable but releasing CO2 at a quick pace. For at least a week the beans will stay fresh, in fact most roasts will reach their peak taste in 2-4 days. Every day the roast will taste slightly different and unique for that week after it’s roasted. Lighter roasts will last longer than a week, darker will not go much more than 8 days as the CO2 loss increases exponentially. The only way to stop that loss is the freezer, and if you’re going to freeze for awhile it’s best to do it at most 5 days into the roast, to preserve it as close to the peak as possible.
Grinding the bean — immediately releasing all of the CO2 — yields all the flavor. The less time it takes to get from ground beans to water, just under the boiling point, the better. Blue Bottle coffee contends that 30 sec is the maximum time; I strive for under a minute as my grinding is done by hand.
Buying ground coffee is a waste for flavor; I will submit my mom as evidence that an abundance of pre-ground coffee has not prevented AD. For decades the standard fare at work for Linda was a can of Uban, or Folgers, whatever was cheapest. She did have good coffee at home, but there never was a strive for freshness as there is now with me roasting and always having fresh coffee. Some people might label me a snob for my dislike of pre-ground coffee, but I have had my share of the work pot, and remember it with a strong dislike. I will even go so far as to say the monotony that coffee inspires could easily be detrimental to keeping the mind active. Combine that with a constant flow of bookwork for Linda, it was a bad combination. I’m not saying fresh coffee could’ve necessarily prevented her AD; but I do believe there may have been some delay in the onset.
Just as now there’s a great benefit with the coffee we have. Now why does it still have the benefit beyond the caffeine? The question science cannot yet answer I believe is in the flavors. The Human palette cannot possibly comprehend all 800 flavors, so our minds, using our taste buds, and our subconscious, drawing on deeper feeling, must determine what we want to taste. Now imagine the choice for the mind becomes only subconscious, and the amount of taste and smell is greatly limited with the loss of brain cells in the hippocampus. For an AD person, often it’s not worth the struggle, tasting becomes. Instead the body seeks the sugars and salts that act on the brain directly, stimulating endorphin response, also fleeting with the hippocampus. I have documented on the blog, spices that also act directly on the brain. Saffron, the deep stimulating power of the Blue Crocus flower goes deep into the brain immediately upon eating it. I will propose that coffee does the same with it’s deeply aromatic flavors.
Coffee brewed with the full compliment of flavors abound, our bodies feel, allowing the subconscious to simply choose the most pleasing aroma to stimulate the senses. This is a health improving process, similar to supplying the brain with a substitute for glucose with coconut oil, documented earlier. There is a certain benefit to just the coffee with caffeine, I firmly believe there’s an equal benefit to the flavor connection with the brain.