Coffee

Because sometimes physics quizzes mean cake for breakfast
Because sometimes physics quizzes mean cake for breakfast

A good cup of coffee is one of my favorite things in the world. I love the smell, the taste, and the simple ritual of setting aside a few minutes of the day to relax.

Taste

Coffee is prevalent on college campuses but there are some that don’t share my love for it. About 25% of the population are called supertasters. They have a greater amount of tastebuds on their tongue and as such, are very sensitive to bitter tastes, like coffee. Supertasters are also sensitive to sweet tastes and don’t like to eat a lot of sugar, which means that they are rarely overweight. Interestingly enough, more women than men are supertasters – perhaps to allow pregnant women to better detect poisons that could harm their babies.

Another 25% of the population are nontasters, meaning they have a smaller amount of tastebuds on their tongue. Bitter tastes, like coffee or dark alcohol, are no problem for these people. Because they are less sensitive to flavors, they may overeat salty and sweet foods, causing them to gain weight. On the bright side, nontasters have a lower risk of cancer and heart disease even though they have a greater risk of obesity. This may be because nontasters are less sensitive to bitter tastes, they are more likely to eat their vegetables, which decreases their risk of disease. Nontasters are more likely to be men.

Coffee is also a fascinating example of personal taste preferences. I take my coffee the same way my mother does – dark, strong, and with a touch of cream. I love to find out how others take theirs. It’s one of those quirky little everyday differences that people have, which I think are so interesting. A friend of mine works as a firefighter and takes his coffee pitch black. When I asked him why he drank it that way, he said that after years of having firehouse coffee he just learned to like it. For me, this was a perfect example of how our surroundings and our history can affect our taste preferences.

Health

As much I love my coffee, there are some health effects that I need to take into consideration. It seems like every week, a new study comes out on coffee. It’s good for you, and then it’s bad for you, and then all of a sudden it’s good for you again!

Personal genetics play a role in the health of coffee too. My professor showed us a study on how caffeine affects the risk of having a heart attack. For people with one genotype, their risk decreased with additional cups after the first. For another group, their risk rose with every cup of coffee they had. If you were in the second group, you might want to avoid coffee. The first group could happily drink four cups a day without any risk to their heart.

As we move toward a world where nutrition is more personalized, it will become easier to get genetic tests and find out which group you fall in. For now though, wading through all the conflicting health reports on coffee can be confusing and I choose to deal with it by enjoying my coffee in moderation. Most experts agree that 200-300 mg of caffeine a day (about 2-4 cups) is safe; I try to stick to 1-2 (admittedly large) mugs of coffee a day.

Sources/Further Reading:

Making Coffee

Occasionally, I’ll buy coffee on campus or at a cafe but it’s too expensive to make it an everyday habit. In college, I’ve tried a couple different methods for making my own coffee. I tried a coffee maker, French press, and plastic one cup coffee filter cone before finally settling on the filter cone. My main problems with the coffee maker and French press was that they made more coffee than I wanted and were a little harder to clean but I know plenty of people in college who happily use them.

The plastic filter cone (like this http://www.peets.com/coffee/coffee-equipment-41/brewing-equipment/filtropa-cone-2.html) was the first coffee maker I learned how to use, and is still my favorite. It’s cheap, simple, easy to clean, and doesn’t take up too much space – all important factors in my college kitchen.

The coffee will taste better if you grind it yourself. Freshly ground coffee tastes better but I tend to grind a few cups worth at a time, for convenience. Store it in an airtight container in a dark place.

photo 3

How to use a plastic coffee cone

 I like to make the coffee in a tea pot if I’m making it for multiple cups so I don’t end up with one strong cup and one weak one. You can also switch the filter from cup to cup.  

Time: 3 minutes

Yield: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 2 heaping Tbsp. ground coffee
  • water

Instructions

  1. Boil water.
  2. Place the coffee cone over a mug and put a paper filter into the cone.
  3. Pour water into the cone until the filter soaks it up. If you use boiling water, it will warm up the filter and mug, keeping your coffee hot. I’m impatient and like to drink my coffee right away so I rinse my filter with cold water instead, resulting in slightly cooler coffee.
  4. Dump the ground coffee into the filter.
  5. Pour about two times the amount of water as coffee into the filter and wait 30 seconds (you can skip the waiting if your coffee is freshly ground or if you are in a hurry – it’s really not that big of a deal).
  6. Keep pouring water into the filter until your cup is full.
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