Tag Archives: caffeine

How to make a perfect cup of coffee using the Aeropress


-Casey Klekas

The word addict, as in “I am a coffee addict,” comes from the latin word addictus, meaning “to surrender” or “to pay religious devotion.” My girlfriend has helped me explore new ways of devoting myself to the coffee bean. She has opened me to newer and more elaborate rituals of transforming those roasted seeds into a subtler and more intricate cup of coffee. For instance, she bought me an Aeropress, a plunger of a device that combines the advantages of the French press and the espresso machine—all for less than thirty bucks.

The Aeropress is a cylinder of two inches in diameter, five inches in length, with a screw on cap at the bottom for a paper filter. You’re supposed to put two scoops of ground coffee inside the tube with the filter locked on. You fill it half full with water, wait thirty seconds, then “press” the plunger device to push the liquid out of the grounds, through the filter and into the waiting cup below. This normally gives you a double shot of espresso, which you top with water for an Americano, or milk for a latte. I have experimented with countless techniques for using the Aeropress and have come to accept a variant of the “inverted method” as my favorite. Here’s what I do (at least three times a day):

I heat the water to just below 200 degrees F. Water should never be boiling (212 degrees) when it hits the coffee or else your liable to get stuck with a burnt flavor. If you’re using an electric kettle, let it sit for a minute after reaching boil, or if you’re as sick as me you’ll use a thermometer for perfection.

Put the plunger bottoms up and place the cylinder just over the lip of the rubber, so as to get the same water tightness as the regular method. Take a rounded scoop of medium ground coffee and dump it into the tube (use the funnel that it came with).

Pour the water so it just barely covers all the grounds, then let it sit for thirty seconds or so in order to “bloom.” Blooming is when the coffee puffs up and releases CO2 at its first contact with hot water. It’s important to let the CO2 escape now rather than slipping into your cup.

Stir with the paddle-thing it came with, then fill to an inch below the top of the brewer. Or fill then stir. Just make sure it is stirred and filled, ok? We wanna get all the coffee grinds soaking, alright? Mmkay.

Let it sit for one minute or more, but not more than two minutes because you’ll be flirting with bitterness. While you’re waiting, put the filter in the cap and rinse with your hot water. You want to rinse the filter so as to get rid of any papery flavor, unless you are one of those who liked to eat the paper as much as the cupcake. I am guilty of doing this well beyond my adolescence. Rinse the filter over the cup you’ll soon fill with coffee. You want to avoid any big temperature jumps so as not to stifle the potential flavor of your (Roma) beans.

Pour out the water in your cup, screw on the filter, then carefully but quickly flip the whole brewer on top of your mug. Press until you hear the hissing of the last bits of liquid being squeezed out of your grounds. Sometimes I press all the way, but you’ll get a “cleaner” cup if you don’t.

Fill another half of the mug with water, let sit for a minute, then pour it on your keyboard, I mean, all over your pillow—no wait, just drink it. Drink it with your mouth. Open your lips and start to suck. Once the liquid fills and scolds your entire mouth, then swallow…

The Chronicles of Zipfizz: One Woman’s Story

-Marissa Tomko

Zipfizz did me dirty.

This self-proclaimed “healthy energy mix” comes in powder form with the intent that the user mixes it with water to his or her desired dilution. It does not boast that its energy comes from caffeine—one serving only contains 100 mg, which is less than one-third of the caffeine found in a grande sized Starbucks blend. Instead, Zipfizz is proud of its all-natural mixture of vitamins, particularly the 41,667 percent recommended daily intake of B-12. Yes, you read that right: 41,667 percent. The mix is only ten calories (which I love) and is artificially sweetened (which I hate). Now that you’ve learned a little bit about this beverage, back to my story . . .

In the name of research, I decided to replace my habitual cup of afternoon coffee with this strange-sounding energy drink. After knocking back my grape-flavored concoction, I awaited the natural burst of energy that I was promised. While I was waiting, I fell asleep.

I rolled over, looked at my phone, and shot up into the air like a cat that just got hosed; I had exactly five minutes to make the quarter-of-an-hour journey to my meeting for this very publication. I pulled on some boots, swished around some mouthwash, and muzzily wandered to campus.

When I arrived, I gave an exasperated hello to my fellow Pulse writers, and collapsed into my seat. I was sad that Zipfizz hadn’t affected me; I wanted it to be my new thing because carrying around the vile that the powder came in made me feel really cool! If I could go back to that moment, I’d look myself in the eye and say “Oh my dear, sweet Marissa. You don’t know what you’re in for.”

The time came to meet with my fellow writers and our editor, so I stood up—that’s when it hit me. For lack of a better medical term, I felt high. My mind was airy, my arms were jittery, and every time I spoke I wanted to face-palm myself. As I giggled my way through my meeting, I pondered if this was a normal reaction to be having. After all, I’m not exactly the poster child for having an average amount of energy. Or sleep. Or caffeine. With these variables in mind, I did a little bit of research when I got home. After perusing the internet and texting some friends, I came to a conclusion that Zipfizz has about a thousand different effects, and no two people that I talked to had identical experiences.

Maybe I’m just crazy and my Zipfizz episode was all in my head. Or maybe I’m crazy for a different reason in that it makes me feel like I’m on pain killers—I don’t know. In any case, all I can say is if you want to know if this product works, try it! As for me, I’ll continue to run some Zipfizz experiments to see if the life of excessive B-12 is the life for me.

Don’t Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part III: Red Bull

-Marissa Tomko

If you follow “Don’t Worry, Be Healthy,” you’re probably well aware of the fact that I love caffeine. After all, you know what they say, you should write about what you know!

So far, I’ve talked about the way caffeine works and given a little bit of background on coffee. But what’s next you ask? Here’s a hint: it gives you wings.

If you’re not a college student, have never taken a long drive, or have never been into a 7-11, then maybe there’s a chance that my hint means nothing to you. But as for the rest of you, you know what I’m talking about—Red Bull.

I have been a fan of this beverage since I was a freshman, and in the past two and a half years, I’ve heard it all: “They’re full of sugar,” “You drink too much caffeine,” and “Did you know you don’t need that much taurine in your diet?” I am fully aware of all of these things, and my guess is that you are too. I could write about how energy drinks are bad for you, and list the negative health effects you may or may not experience when drinking them. But what I find to be more interesting is why we still drink them, despite what we know about them. It all comes down to one thing: killer advertising.

In my opinion, Red Bull has one of the most effective advertising campaigns out there. It doesn’t sell a drink; it sells a lifestyle. The brand appeals to the adventuring, extremist, free-spirited athlete in all of us. The Red Bull website has next to nothing to do with that skinny silver can that I love to drink from; it’s full of sports videos, action photography, and the latest remixes. Red Bull’s Twitter profile is slightly more geared toward the actual beverage, but its main purpose is still to sell a persona. The bio on the social media site reads: “Red Bull is the only Energy Drink that #GivesYouWings. Likes: F1, racing, skate, surf, snow, moto, BMX, MTB, X Games, wake, music, art, culture, gaming. Fun.” The feed is full of inspiring thoughts, crazy videos, and has snow-covered mountains as a background picture—that right there sold me!

I know, I know—you think I’m a sucker for advertising. And maybe I am. But this campaign does more than sell a product. It taps into the person inside of us that we love the most: the fun-loving, dancing, carefree one that we wish we could be all the time. Even though drinking a Red Bull doesn’t make that come true when we’re studying or driving home on the interstate, it is sure to remind us that that person is still there, and that the possibilities are endless.

Don’t Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part II: Coffee

-Marissa Tomko

There was one dark spot in my otherwise bright and sunny morning today—and I liked it. It sucked me in as I sleepily stumbled down my stairs toward its bitter lure, welcoming the way in which its steam burned my face. Black as night, I consumed it: my morning cup (or should I say pot) of coffee.

Legend has it that coffee was first discovered in the thirteenth century by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. As the story goes, he noticed that his goats were especially energetic after eating the berries that grew on a certain type of tree. He spread the news to the nearby monastery, where monks used the coffee berries to prolong their prayer time. While the credibility of this story is questioned, the origin of coffee can certainly be traced back to Ethiopia.

Since those spunky goats, coffee has become a profitable crop grown around the world in what is called the bean belt. It lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, with Hawaii being the only state in the US to grow the bitter bean. Be that as it may, the US has turned coffee into a $30 billion industry; CNBC estimates that our country drinks 400 million cups of coffee a day.

Mayo Clinic suggests that 200-300 milligrams of caffeine a day isn’t bad for you, but that drinking upwards of 500 milligrams is not healthy. To put that into more comprehensible terms, consider that a grande-sized coffee from Starbucks has 330 milligrams of caffeine. I don’t know about you, but when I do the math, I exceed my recommended dosage. In my defense though, I spread my intake throughout the day, save a recent work experience where I downed about 565 milligrams in twenty minutes. Needless to say I learned my lesson.

Coffee addicts often hear about the negative consequences of their habit: insomnia, anxiety, withdrawal headaches, and blood pressure spikes. But what about the positives? I will never forget the moment I read in a Newsweek article that claimed that women who drink four cups of coffee per day reduce their risk of becoming clinically depressed by 20 percent. Upon further investigation, I learned that those four cups also decrease my risk for liver cirrhosis by 80 percent, particularly alcoholic cirrhosis. While I drink alcohol responsibly, I interpreted this as a sign to drink my favorite caffeinated beverage with reckless abandon (thus my overdose in the workplace).

Sometimes you wake up smiling on the right side of the bed, and sometimes you don’t. In any case, I urge you to take a cue from those crazy Ethiopian goats, and kickstart your day with a fresh cup of joe.

Image by puuikibeach from http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/3299635718/

Don't Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part I

-Marissa Tomko

The list of things that I love more than caffeine consists of one item: my mom. If you aren’t her, then I’m sorry if that was harsh and unexpected. I guess I’m just at a point in my life where I’m honest about my priorities.

Unlike my mom, whom I’ve relied on since, well, forever, I’ve had a dependency on caffeine since I was 17 years old. Most of my sweatshirts are dribbled with coffee stains, and you can usually bet that the straggling Red Bull cans around my house after a night out are mine. In the past four years, I think I’ve gone a total of five days without caffeine, and when I think about them, all I can recall are screaming headaches, hostile moods, and a life of reclusion under my duvet.

I’ve always been aware that my addiction is unhealthy, but even the most disapproving conversation or accidental overdose during a long day at work hasn’t even slightly swayed me into thinking that I need to change. I have a healthy diet, I exercise regularly, and I don’t smoke. What more do you want from me?!

But even after hundreds upon hundreds of daily pick-me-ups, I still don’t really know how caffeine works or what it’s actually doing to me. That’s why I’ve decided to write a short series on the caffeinated beverages in my life. I want to know where they come from, what they consist of, and the different effects they cause. Will any alarming discoveries deter me from my ritualistic drinking? Probably not, but at least I’ll be an informed citizen.

In this introductory post, I’m just going to give a quick rundown on how caffeine works: Our bodies produce energy because of a chemical called adenosine. By connecting to phosphates in the body, it creates adenosine troposphere (ATP). When that molecular bond is broken, energy is released. When adenosine connects to its receptors in the brain, there aren’t any available to create ATP, and we get tired. When we ingest caffeine (the molecule shown above), it bonds with the receptors, thus forcing adenosine to hang around with phosphates, which boosts the energy in our bodies!

That’s not all though! Caffeine also effects the pituitary gland by telling it to emit the hormones that create adrenaline. This quickens your heart beat and causes you to feel kind of crazy and energized. The pituitary gland also produces dopamine when it senses caffeine, which is the chemical that makes us feel good and happy—I’ll drink to that!

Don’t be latte for my next installment on—you guessed it—coffee!

Don't Worry Be Healthy: While You Were Sleeping

-Marissa Tomko

My name is Marissa, and I have an addiction.

I’ve had it since I was a senior in high school, and I push away anyone who tries to help me. But I can’t do anything about it—I need to feel that buzz. Because let me tell you something, I never feel more alive than when I have a cup of coffee in my hand. Wait—what did you think I was talking about?

In the college life I lead, sleep has taken a back-seat to almost everything else that I do. I just don’t have the time for it, so I cope with caffeine. Usually, I can handle it because I’m too busy to think about how wired I am and too wired to think about how snappy I should be due to my lack of ZZZs. But every once in a while it catches up to me and I ask myself if there could possibly be a better way. Sure, I could sleep a full eight hours every night as opposed to the five or six that I usually pick up, but I’m not really willing to slack in school, club meetings, or my social life. I just need more hours in a day! Is that too much to ask? Apparently, it’s not.

Enter the Uberman sleep schedule, a polyphasic sleeping cycle that increases your awake time by 25 percent. Thinking about what I could do with six extra hours a day makes me giddy; I could finish my to-do list, work out more, and be able to hang out with anyone or anything that isn’t my homework. But at what cost? After looking into it, I believe the cost would be my sanity. The Uberman cycle is nothing short of ridiculous–it calls for just two hours of sleep each day by asking its victims to take twenty minute naps every four hours. The logic behind this lunacy is that it forces your body to enter the REM cycle after a minute or two, thus cutting out the rest of the sleep stages. Doing this is supposed to enhance your life not only by giving you more time, but by making you feel more alert after the month-long adaption period. Yeah, alright.

The Polyphasic Society claims that the reason that there is nothing known about the long term effects of this cycle is because most people “give up” on the process. If you ask me, it’s because they come to their senses like this guy who chronicled his Uberman experience for Men’s Health Magazine.

Overall, I don’t think I could ever adapt to this cycle. You’d have to be über crazy to follow the Uberman cycle. The mere thought of the sleep deprivation that would ensue makes me feel cranky.

Image by Andy Melton from http://www.flickr.com/photos/trekkyandy/2856742505/