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In this blog we will talk about the benefits of coffee and other topics related to you enjoying the coffee more.

Midlife Coffee And Tea Drinking May Protect Against Late-Life Dementia

Stockholm, Sweden — Midlife coffee drinking can decrease the risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease (AD) later in life. This conclusion is made in a Finnish Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) Study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

This study has been conducted at the University of Kuopio, Finland in collaboration with Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and the National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland. The study included participants from the survivors of population-based cohorts previously surveyed within the North Karelia Project and the FINMONICA study in 1972, 1977, 1982 or 1987 (midlife visit). After an average follow-up of 21 years, 1409 individuals (71%) aged 65 to 79 completed the re-examination in 1998. A total of 61 cases were identified as demented (48 with AD).

“We aimed to study the association between coffee and tea consumption at midlife and dementia/AD risk in late-life, because the long-term impact of caffeine on the central nervous system was still unknown, and as the pathologic processes leading to Alzheimer’s disease may start decades before the clinical manifestation of the disease,” says lead researcher, associate professor Miia Kivipelto, from the University of Kuopio, Finland and Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

At the midlife examination, the consumption of coffee and tea was assessed with a previously validated semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire. Coffee drinking was categorized into three groups: 0-2 cups (low), 3-5 cups (moderate) and >5 cups (high) per day. Further, the question concerning tea consumption was dichotomized into those not drinking tea (0 cup/day) vs. those drinking tea (≥1 cup/day).

The study found that coffee drinkers at midlife had lower risk for dementia and AD later in life compared to those drinking no or only little coffee. The lowest risk (65% decreased) was found among moderate coffee drinkers (drinking 3-5 cups of coffee/day). Adjustments for various confounders did not change the results. Tea drinking was relatively uncommon and was not associated with dementia/AD.

Kivipelto also notes that, “Given the large amount of coffee consumption globally, the results might have important implications for the prevention of or delaying the onset of dementia/AD. The finding needs to be confirmed by other studies, but it opens the possibility that dietary interventions could modify the risk of dementia/AD. Also, identification of mechanisms of how coffee exerts its protection against dementia/AD might help in the development of new therapies for these diseases.”



How to spot a cafe that will make you a great coffee – Never again drink burnt, weak, milky, acrid coffee – Part 2

The second part in the “How to spot a cafe that will make you a great coffee” series will deal with a couple of points; coffee grinding and tamping.


The way the coffee is ground is extremely important. There are numerous criteria for best practice for a variety of reasons. One of the most important is that the coffee has to be ground on demand. Ground coffee oxidises almost immediately and starts losing flavour within just 30 seconds of being ground. There are 2 ways to tell if the coffee is ground on demand:

1. If the grinder has an electronic doser, than the coffee will always be ground on demand. An electronic doser looks like this (the chrome front part of the grinder): 

Basically the coffee dosing is done electronically and there is no handle to pull to release the ground coffee. These units are best for grinding on demand and providing consistency of the coffee dose.

2. Alternatively if the cafe has a manual dosing grinder, you need to make sure that the barista switches on the grinder for every new cup of coffee. Just watch the barista making a coffee and you will see if this is so.

This way you are making sure that the coffee will be fresh and contain all the flavour and aroma that it should. There are other things that need to be monitored when the coffee is ground but they will be difficult to spot. The point discussed is the easiest to notice.


Another necessary part of making every coffee is the “Tamping” of the ground coffee in the group handle. Here is an image of the process.

Tamping is the process of compressing the ground coffee in the porta-filter so that the hot water from the espresso machine will penetrate through the coffee evenly.  Coffee that was incorrectly tamped could be weak, flavourless or acrid and bitter. The pressure that needs to be used when temping is about 15kg. This is quite a lot and can only be done using a hand held tamper (unless a tamper machine is used). The tamper looks like this:

It comes in many varieties but essentially it allows the barista to put enough pressure evenly over the ground coffee in the porta-filter.

If the barista is not tamping the coffee via a hand held tamper you can be sure that the coffee is not going to be very good.

To summarise this part in the series always look for coffee being ground on demand and make sure that the barista is tamping the coffee with hand held tamper.

In the next installment I will discuss milk frothing and other small but necessary things to look for.

How to spot a cafe that will make you a great coffee – Never again drink burnt, weak, milky, acrid coffee – Part 1

We have had numerous discussions with our cafe customers as to what makes a good espresso based coffee. Through those discussions we found that most people are not aware of all the elements of making a great coffee. Which made me think that there should be information available for the general public to quickly make assumptions as to whether a cafe will be able to make a decent coffee or not. Following is the first part in a series where you will learn what you need to watch out for when buying a coffee to make sure that your coffee will be of good quality. There will also be some information as to why some elements of coffee making are necessary to make a good coffee.


As you know, in most cases, the better the equipment the better the result. It is the same in making coffee. The espresso machine is extremely important. Coffee extraction has to occur under very specific conditions. These include a particular pressure and water temperature. Most commercial espresso machines are designed such that the temperature can vary up 4 degrees depending on the intensity of machine use at any given time. 4 degrees doesn’t sound like much, but it will make a HUGE difference to the way your coffee tastes. In a lot of cases this difference in temperature is what is giving you either a burnt or weak tasting coffee.  This also affects the consistency of your coffee. How many times have you purchased a coffee from the same cafe only to find that it did not taste like the last cup? This is one of the reasons.

There are coffee machines that don’t have this problem due to the fact that they have multiple builers that keep temperature independently of any others. These machines usually cost double or triple compared to the norm. The best of these are La Marzocco and Synesso. These are Rolls Royce of coffee machines. So if you walk into a cafe and notice that the coffee is made on one of these machines, it is a good bet that the owners spent a lot of money on the equipment in an effort to produce the best coffee they can. A good sign…

On the other hand a quick way to spot a cafe that does not have great coffee equipment is to see a cafe with coffee advertising outside. I’m talking about umbrellas, flags, barriers, awnings etc… with cafe brand name stamped all over them. These cafes were given their coffee making equipment for FREE. Now that’s great for the cafe, but do you think they were givengood equipment for free? Not really. They got pretty much the cheapest one can get and in some cases borderline passable.  Exactly the  type of equipment that DOES NOT make good coffee. This is true for most cafes with coffee branding.

To summarise this point, look for Synesso or La Marzocco coffee machines and you will be assured that the cafe owner at least tries to give its customers the best coffee they can. In the majority of cases the brand name will be prominently displayed on the machine.

Look out for the next instalment in this series where we will discuss the grinding and the tamping requirements.

Eight reasons to drink coffee

According to research, the potential benefits of caffeine for maintenance of proper brain functioning has only recently begun to be appreciated. Proper brain functioning? Those of us who stumble blindly, mumbling unintelligibly, from bed to coffee pot first thing in the morning already appreciate the effect of caffeine on proper brain functioning — but the benefits now seem to be further-reaching than the need to simply shake off the morning cobwebs.

In a study published in a special supplement to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers explored the potential benefits of caffeine and found substantial evidence that it may be protective against the cognitive decline seen in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

For the study (“Therapeutic Opportunities for Caffeine in Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases”) a group of international experts looked into the effects of caffeine on the brain. The result was a collection of original studies exploring a number of topics ranging from molecular targets of caffeine, neurophysiological modifications and adaptations, to the potential mechanisms underlying the behavioral and protective actions of caffeine in distinct brain pathologies.

Here’s a brief summary of what they found:

1. Caffeine has a positive effect on cognition, memory performance, and the ability to complete complex tasks.

2. An inverse association between regular caffeine consumption and the incidence of Parkinson’s disease was found — in other words, caffeine looks to be protective against Parkinson’s disease.

3 . The consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine was seen to decrease the cognitive decline associated with aging, as well as the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Caffeine prevented motor deficits, normalized brain function, and prevented brain degeneration.

Other studies have shown:

5. Caffeine improves a sense of well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability.

6. Caffeine enhances aerobic endurance.

7. Consumption of coffee can lead to a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

8. Coffee has a whopping amount of antioxidants — on average, Americans receive 1,299 milligrams of antioxidants from their 1.64 cups of daily coffee. The closest competitor was tea at 294 milligrams. Rounding out the top five sources were bananas, 76 milligrams; dry beans, 72 milligrams; and corn, 48 milligrams.


Concerns about coffee?

Some of the concerns about coffee include heart disease hypertension, cancer, and leaching of calcium. A New York Times’ article in 2008 debunked many of these myths and found this: An analysis of 10 studies of more than 400,000 people found no increase in heart disease among daily coffee drinkers, whether their coffee came with caffeine or not. A study of 155,000 nurses, women who drank coffee with or without caffeine for a decade were no more likely to develop hypertension than non-coffee drinkers. An international review of 66 studies last year, scientists found coffee drinking had little if any effect on the risk of developing pancreatic or kidney cancer. Coffee and tea drinkers who consume the currently recommended amount of calcium need not worry about caffeine’s effect on their bones. (And of course, if you have concerns about coffee, be sure to check with your doctor.)

Fighting cancer with coffee

While it is best known for its stimulating effect, coffee can also have many associated health benefits. For example, many recent studies have suggested that regular coffee-drinkers had a smaller risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.

A stimulating drink

With an average individual consumption of 4.5 kilograms per year, coffee is undoubtedly one of the most popular beverages in industrialized countries. The attraction is in large part the result of coffee’s ability to wake us up, stimulation characterized by reduced fatigue and heightened awareness. Caffeine is behind this effect: in fact, caffeine makes its way to the brain very quickly (five minutes following ingestion), where it causes, through various complex mechanisms, an increase in the levels of dopamine in the body, as well as stimulation of the nervous system. The sensation of pleasure caused by the stimulating effect of coffee easily encourages many to keep drinking it and can, like any other psychoactive drug, cause a certain level of dependency. Fortunately, coffee is not a drug like many others; it is instead considered a very complex beverage that contains large quantities of phytochemical compounds with various functions within the body.

Rich in phytochemical compounds

In addition to its high caffeine content, coffee beans contain at least 800 different phytochemical compounds that could benefit the human body. Amongst them are cafestol and kahweal diterpenes, which accelerates the elimination of carcinogenic substances; caffeic and chlorogenic acids, which are powerful antioxidants; as well as a selection of other polyphenols with well-defined health benefits. Considering the major role played by these phytochemicals in the prevention of chronic illnesses such as cancer, their presence in coffee suggests that the drink could have cancer-fighting potential.

Anti-cancerous effects

Data currently available indicates that the regular consumption of coffee is in fact associated with a reduction in the risk of developing certain types of cancer. A recent analysis of 60 studies shows that regular coffee drinkers have an approximately 20% risk of developing cancer, which is lower than the one for people who don’t drink coffee at all, or do only rarely (1). This protective effect is found for many types of cancer (bladder, mouth, colon, esophagus, endometrium, brain), but seems to be particularly pronounced when it comes to liver cancer: people who regular drinking coffee have a 45% less risk of developing this type of disease.

In another recent study, a team of Swedish researchers found that women who drink substantial amounts of coffee (five or more cups per day) saw their risk of developing breast cancer drop by 20%, compared to those who drank a cup or less per day (2). This protective effect found in coffee is particularly spectacular for a cancer sub-type called ER-negative (a tumour that is not driven by estrogen), where a 57% risk reduction was seen amongst coffee drinkers. This result is interesting, as ER-negative tumours account for about one-third of breast cancers and are responsible for a higher mortality rate, because of their resistance to treatment.

All of this goes to show that coffee is another example of the huge potential of compounds found in plant-based products that can interfere with the development of many chronic diseases. However, as is the case with our diet in general, moderation should still be exercised: in high quantities, caffeine can cause gastro-esophageal reflux and ulcers, and disrupt your sleep patterns. In reasonable quantities, however (meaning between three and four coffees per day), this drink appears to have a positive impact on the prevention of cancer.

(1) Yu et al. Coffee consumption and risk of cancers : a meta-analysis of cohort studies. BMC Cancer 2011 ; 11 : 96.

(2) Li et al. Coffee consumption modifies risk of estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research 2011, published online May 14, 2011

Drink to Your Health: Coffee as Health Food?


When does a menu item become a health food? While there’s no simple answer, 19,000 primarily positive scientific studies surely meet even the toughest criteria.


Coffee has been through the scientific ringer, you might say, and almost invariably has come out with flying colors. Over the past few decades, not only have old myths about coffee gone the way of the Edsel, but significant positive health benefits have been uncovered through intense and exacting scientific inquiry. Existing evidence suggests that coffee may simply need to update its image to match the facts.


Antioxidant Powerhouse


Probably the best kept secret about coffee is that it delivers more antioxidants than even the latest antioxidant bellwether, green tea. Green coffee beans contain about 1,000 antioxidants, and the brewing process adds 300 more. The roasting process, by the way, creates its own set of healthful compounds which, like some antioxidants, are unique to coffee alone.


Coffee, in fact, has four times the antioxidant content of green tea, according to a study conducted in Switzerland by the Nestle Research Center and recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The study found that coffee also outruns cocoa, herbal teas and red wine. Of course, precise antioxidant content varies from cup to cup, depending on the type of bean (Robustas have twice the antioxidants of Arabicas, although the difference is reduced in the roasting process) and the level of “solubles” in the cup, determined by the brewing method, time and amount of coffee used.


The health benefits of antioxidants are broad, since the compounds neutralize errant molecules known as “free radicals.” These electrically unbalanced cells kill healthy cells as they try to stabilize themselves by robbing sub-atomic particles. This process has been implicated in premature aging, cardiovascular disease, degenerative brain disorders, cancer, cataracts, the decline of the immune and nervous system, and other health problems.


Type 2 Diabetes


Three major, long-term studies, as well as numerous smaller studies, have confirmed coffee’s properties for preventing type 2, or “adult-onset,” diabetes. A new Finnish study found that women who drank three to four cups of coffee a day reduced their diabetes risk by 29%. For men, the reduction was 27%. Those who drank more had higher risk reduction levels — women who drank ten or more cups of coffee daily lowered their risk by 80%, while men had a 55% lower risk.


This study came on the heels of a study at Harvard University School of Public Health that found the risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be cut in half in men and reduced by 30% in women. Again, the protection proved to be directly proportional to the amount of coffee one drinks. Men who drank six or more cups a day reduced their diabetes risk by 54%, four to five cups by 29% and one to three by 7%. In women, the figures were, respectively, 29%, 30% and 1%. Results were adjusted to offset other risk factors such as age, weight and exercise, and so coffee drinking was isolated as the cause of the benefit. The Harvard study, in turn, confirmed an earlier Dutch study that reached the similarly dramatic conclusions.


Results also suggested that unique coffee compounds contribute to the beneficial effect. Other caffeinated beverages did not offer the same level of protection, and decaffeinated coffee provided lesser protection, while decaffeinated tea offered none.


Colon Cancer


Another coffee compound has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer. While scientists had long suspected a connection between coffee and cancer protection, last fall German researchers identified the link. A powerful antioxidant found almost exclusively in coffee, methylpyridinium, boosts blood enzymes widely believed to protect against colon cancer. Methylpyridinium is formed in the roasting process from a chemical found naturally in coffee beans. The stronger the coffee, the study also found, the higher the level of the compound, with darker roasts containing two to three times more than medium roasts.


Parkinson’s Disease


At least six independent studies have confirmed a link between coffee drinking and the prevention of Parkinson’s Disease. The research shows that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are 60 to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s. Three of the studies also show that the more they drink, the lower the risk.


Performance Booster


Research has also proved that, in addition to protecting against disease, coffee has a positive functional impact on an array of human activities. A study published in Current Sports Medicine Reports found that the caffeine in coffee improves performance and endurance during prolonged, exhaustive exercise. To a lesser extent, it also boosts short-term, high-intensity athletic performance, as well as enhances concentration, reduces fatigue and heightens alertness. The reason lies in caffeine’s effect on brain receptors, enabling better energy uptake.


A Brazilian study has determined that drinking a few cups of coffee a day will also increase male fertility. According to scientists at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the caffeine in coffee appears to increase sperm “motility,” that is, the speed at which they move. Since sperm “hyperactivity” is critical to fertilization, heightened motility increases the odds of pregnancy.


Other studies have shown that coffee and caffeine also have a positive influence on mental function. Coffee increases alertness and Improves performance on tests of mental function.


Other Benefits


Research continues every day on coffee, caffeine and health. Hundreds of new studies are published every month by scientists and research institutes around the world. In fact, the NCA’s Scientific Advisory Group (SAG), a committee of scientists, doctors and serious students of health issues, monitors and analyzes the scientific literature on a regular basis. SAG also selectively funds promising research proposals for completion.


The literature reveals many other benefits of coffee drinking as well. Coffee consumption has been proven to cut the risk of liver cirrhosis by 80%, to help manage asthma and even control attacks when medication is unavailable, and in moderation to decrease the risk of developing acute coronary disease. It’s also shown that coffee can stop a headache, boost mood, prevent cavities, and even offset damage of smoking and heavy alcohol intake.


“Overall, the research shows that coffee is far more healthful than it is harmful,” says Tom DePaulis, PhD, research scientist at Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Coffee Studies. “For most people, very little bad comes from drinking it, but a lot of good.”



Coffee lowers risk of prostate cancer

New Delhi: Men who are heavy coffee drinkers are at lower risk for prostate cancer, says a study.

The researchers found that those who consumed six or more cups a day were almost 20 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer over two decades than those who drank none, according to New York Times Friday.
Scientists at Harvard University followed 47,911 men who periodically described their coffee consumption.

“More important, the heavy coffee drinkers were 60 per cent less likely than the non-drinkers to develop a lethal form of the disease,” it said.

“Even men who drank just one to three cups of coffee benefited: They were nearly 30 per cent less likely to develop lethal prostate cancer,” the study said.

It did not matter whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated.

The study, published online in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute , is one of the first to link coffee consumption to a lower risk of prostate cancer.

“We’re not yet telling men to drink more coffee,” the daily quoted the lead author of the study Kathryn M. Wilson, research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, as saying. “But there’s mounting evidence that if they do, they don’t have to worry about it,” she said.

Coffee is a major dietary source of antioxidants, and other studies have suggested that drinking it is associated with health benefits, including a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.