E018 - America’s Drink: Coffee!

This week on Across The Peak, Rich and I tell you a little bit about the history of coffee, the health benefits of coffee consumption, and how to make a killer cuppa Joe. We also engage in a huge digression about corporate social responsibility. Enjoy!

Intro Stuff

Rich’s Drink: Peet’s Nerissimo espresso pods in his Nespresso Espresso Machine

Justin’s Drink: Wildkaffe Wilderer

Wildkaffee Coffee.png

How to Roast Your Own Coffee in Six Simple Steps

The Bean Belt: the range of latitudes within which coffee grows

A Brief History of Coffee

  • Coffee cultivation began in the 15th century on the Arabian Peninsula

    • By the 16th century it had spread to Persia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey

    • Enjoyed in homes and coffee houses, which were called "Schools of the Wise"

    • Coffee became known as the "wine of Araby"

  • Travelers to the Near East brought coffee to Europe

    • by the 17th century it was popular across the continent

    • Some called it a "bitter invention of Satan" and local clergy condemned it

    • Pope Clement VIII tried it himself and gave it papal approval

  • Coffee began to replace more common breakfast drinks of the time (beer and wine)

    • Coffee drinkers had a distinct advantage: they began their day more alert, and the quality of their work was better

    • In England "Penny Universities" became extremely popular


Coffee - the favorite drink of the civilized world
— Thomas Jefferson

  • By the mid-1600s coffee was in the New World

    • Coffee houses were popular in New Amsterdam, however

    • Tea was still massively more popular until

    • 1773 when the colonists revolted

  • Coffee Cultivation

    • By the end of the 17th century the Dutch had tried growing coffee in India (and failed)

    • The Dutch were successful on the island of Java (Indonesia)

    • The Mayor of Amsterdam gave a coffee seedling to King Louis XIV, who sent it to the New World; this single seedling is considered the parent of all the coffee plants in the Caribbean and South and Central America.

Most of our history of coffee was excerpted from here: http://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/History-of-Coffee

Health Benefits of Coffee Consumption

Coffee can negatively impact your health if it interferes with your sleep. See Episode 7 (Go the F*#k to Sleep) for more information. Also be aware of the total amount of fats and sugars you are consuming in your coffee each day.

Short-term health benefits - drinking coffee can:

  • Improve your energy and focus

  • Improve your mood

  • Make you smarter by helping your neurons fire more efficiently;

Long-term heath benefits:

  • Coffee consumption is associated with massively lowered risk of Type II Diabetes

  • Liver protection: heavy coffee drinkers have much lower risk of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer

  • Coffee is the the single biggest source of antioxidants in the western diet

  • Lowered risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia

How to Make a great Cup of Coffee

Justin’s go-to blend has two of the labels discussed: USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified. This bag of beans is the Three Sisters Blend from Kicking Horse Coffee in Vancouver, B.C.

  1. Use high quality coffee beans!

    • But beans as close as possible to when they were roasted. Roasted coffee degrades quickly.

    • Arabica beans are generally considered high in quality than Robusta beans. However…

      • Robusta has up to twice the amount of caffeine, and

      • A small amount of Robusta in your blend will result in more crema on your espresso.

    • Beans grown organically or with other special labeling requirements might be better, but caveat emptor! EthicalCoffee.net provides explanations of most labeling requirements for “Bird Friendly,” “Fair Trade,” Organic,” and more.

  2. Protect beans from oxidation! Oxygen destroys the good flavors in coffee.

    • Store your coffee at room temperature in a air-tight and light-tight container

    • Grind your beans as soon as possible before using them; the more time spent ground, the more oxygen they come in contact with.

    • Keep the container open as little time as possible.

  3. Use good water!

    • Don’t use water with heavy chlorine or fluoride flavors.

    • Use bottled water if you need to, but never use softened or distilled water. You want some minerals in your water.

    • Rich likes this Old Limestone water from Kentucky, both for his bourbon and coffee.

  4. Use additives judiciously.

    • Cream can add a velvety mouthfeel to coffee.

    • Spices can make the taste of coffee more interesting, and spices potentially add nutrients and antioxidants.

  5. Don’t get your water too hot!

    • 200 degrees is as hot as you ever want to go. Hotter water leaches more bitter tannins from the coffee.

    • With certain tools, coffee can be made with water as cool as 185 degrees.

    • Sidetrack on McDonald’s “hot coffee” lawsuit, the excellent film The Founder (available on Amazon and Netflix) and the corporate responsibility of In ‘N Out versus McDonald’s/Wal-Mart/Amazon.

  6. Miscellaneous factors that impact your cup of Joe:

    • Use the right amount of coffee. Two tablespoons per 6 ounce cup of water is generally accepted as a great starting point.

    • Use high quality filters. Look for oxygen-bleached or dioxin-free filters.

  7. Choose your type of coffee maker.

Justin's Coffee Kit.png

Book of the WEek

Don’t Make Me Pull Over: An Informal History of the American Road Trip by Richard Ratay

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Justin Carroll