The Unspoken Danger of Buttered Coffee

2014-07-04 09.00.50Buttered coffee is a weird new trend where you use butter instead of cream/milk. I normally drink it black, but I was still intrigued. There are apparently some benefits in terms of it having calories, and leaving you full, so you can use it as a meal replacement. I already normally skip breakfast and just have coffee, but I suppose some (non-caffeine induced) morning energy wouldn’t be a bad thing.

In doing my internet research before trying it (mostly figuring out how much to add), I came across the Bulletproof Executive. I’ve never heard of this before, but based on this one article, it seems pretty douchey:

I learned about the power of butter at 18,000 feet of elevation near Mt. Kailash in Tibet. “


2014-07-04 09.01.57Wow. Anyway, add a tablespoon of butter to coffee, and there you go. You let it dissolve in, and it’s actually pretty good. Mostly just tastes like coffee with cream, but greasier. In a good way I guess?

Amy did the Whole Life Challenge once, and apparently everyone at her gym raves about this. Seems good for people who like cream, but can’t have it either due to lactose intolerance, or silly abidance due weird paleo rules. Cause you can’t have milk, but you can have butter? It’s part of the paleo thing, which still doesn’t make sense, but I digress.

2014-07-04 09.04.272014-07-04 09.02.29The Danger

Now we come to the danger. What if you let it get cold? Coffee with cream? Nothing. Coffee with butter? Floaties. Disgusting butter floaties. Which can come as a surprise to you if you are drinking out of a capped thermos. (I just did this again in a regular mug and didn’t want floaties just for the photo.)

Never do this unless you’re going to drink it all at once. Disgusting.

G+ knows me well

It’s true, I might like one or two of those.

The Science of Storing Liquids

How do we keep a fluid in a container, and easily get it out?

A group at MIT developed a coating for ketchup bottles to have the ketchup easily slide out of the bottle.  This sounds cool but trivial until you think about how much food gets wasted at the bottom of the bottle, etc.  Naturally the formula is a secret, and patented, but you’d assume it would be somewhat related to teflon; some sort of superhydrophobic material.

Via Everyday Scientist, there’s a paper from Phys. Rev. E on the physics of coffee spilling from a cup.  From the synposis:

Each morning, blurry-eyed physicists try to solve a frustratingly complex mechanical problem: how to walk with a full cup of coffee, without letting it slosh over the sides. Writing in Physical Review E, Hans Mayer and Rouslan Krechetnikov at the University of California, Santa Barbara, report their study of the biomechanics of walking with coffee and the factors that lead to spills.

The sloshing of liquid in a cylindrical container, like a mug, is similar to the motion of a pendulum: the natural frequencies of oscillation depend on the liquid’s height and diameter (and, of course, gravity). In a typical mug, 7 cm in diameter and 10 cm tall, the lowest frequency oscillation of the coffee rocking back and forth in the cup is easily excited by walking at a normal pace.

This gives an intuitive explanation of why coffee spills, but Mayer and Krechetnikov have found that noise—potentially caused by uneven steps or small jerks of the cup — plays an important role in amplifying the natural oscillations of coffee into a full-blown spill. They set up an image analysis program to track coffee levels in cups carried by human subjects, who were asked to either focus on keeping the coffee from spilling, or to walk without paying attention.

Coffee Rambling

beansIt’s been a while since I’ve posted, partially because I was in Mexico for a week, (didn’t get swine flu!) and partially laziness. Couldn’t really think up an idea for a post here, so why not ramble on (not be confused with ranting) about one of my true loves, coffee.

If you’re not already familiar with Lifehacker, it’s a great site, and they have a lot of DIY stuff, including some stuff on coffee. As I’ve read the site, I’ve developed a list of coffee to-do’s: DIY Espresso, adding herbal tea to coffee, cold-brewed ice coffee, and roasting my own beans. In fact, this is now my summer to-do list. Expect individual posts as each of these are completed. Feel free to chastise me for being flaky and unforgetful if I don’t.

As of recently, I’ve begun drinking my coffee black, and have started to order straight espresso. I still have milk and sugar every once in a while (mostly when it’s bad coffee), but I’ve begun to appreciate the deeper flavor of it. I started mostly cause it was harder to remember to restock milk, and I’ve never been a fan of those powdered non-dairy creamers. I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

espressoI would love to make my own espresso some day, and it would be really fun to try and make some sort of espresso maker setup out of lab equipment. One day I really need to sit down and figure out the schematics for one, but for now I’ll just stick to making coffee in the lab, using a regular coffee maker. A french press when I’m just making it for myself, and don’t feel lazy; because making coffee with a french press is worth the effort.

Apparently an Aeropress is pretty similar to a french press, and takes less effort, so I should check one of those out. They get pretty rave reviews. (I guess this is another summer goal.)

That’s pretty much all I feel like covering, before I bid you farewell, I’ll leave you with a few more miscellaneous coffee links: a fun coffee cup from ThinkGeek, an amusing story from Not Always Right, and I highly recommend you check out Joel’s posts on coffee over at Infiniflux.

Photos: [FlickrFlickr]

Delicious coffee
Best when you just drink it black
So many to-dos


Caribou Coffee Blows

I was in lab late on Wednesday night, and along with my Hawaiian Chicken sandwich and Nutty Bars from Vital Vittles, I picked up a can of Iced Regular Coffee, made by Caribou Coffee. I wanted to link to the product page, but I couldn’t find it on their site.

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Note that the can says, a splash of milk. Milk drink with a splash of coffee would be a more accurate description. I don’t drink my coffee black or anything, I do use milk, but still this was too much.

The milk wasn’t the only problem, the coffee itself sucked. Let’s take a look at the ingredients:

Coffee: Vague, but okay.
Reduced Fat Milk: I prefer whole milk or half and half myself, but this works.
Sugar: Glad to hear they used real sugar.
Sodium Bicarbonate: Hmm. I found a few patents involving coffee and sodium bicarbonate, but this one says: “It has been common in the past to add sodium bicarbonate to milk-added coffee beverages in order to prevent milk coagulation. Sodium bicarbonate is used because it is colorless and odorless, and has little effect on flavor.” Okay, good enough for me.
Natural Flavors: I hate this, this does not count as an ingredient unless you tell me what it is.
Carrageenan: Perfectly normal sounding What the hell is this? Let’s go into this some more.

Wikipedia tells us: “Carrageenans or carrageenins are a family of linear sulphated polysaccharides extracted from red seaweeds.” Continuing on, “Carrageenan has also been used to thicken skim milk, in an attempt to emulate the consistency of whole milk. This usage did not become popular. It’s used in some brands of soy milk.” Ah ha!

Wait, Wikipedia also tells us (with no cited references, however) that it’s also used as a sexual lubricant and microbicide, “Laboratory studies suggest that carrageenans might function as topical microbicides, blocking sexually transmitted viruses such as HPV and herpes, though not HIV.”

And there’s more, according to a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Physiology, “exposure of human intestinal epithelial cells to carrageenan triggers a distinct inflammatory pathway”.

Not only does the coffee have too much milk, and taste like crap, it might invoke an immunological response in my GI tract. Oh, but on the plus side, if I’m out of anti-STD lube, I can dip my junk into the coffee. Worst purchase ever.


Chemistry classifies coffee

Lindinger’s group at the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland published a study back in March 2008 in Analytical Chemistry about analyzing coffee with mass spec. I read about this on Engadget then promptly forgot about it. I even gave a presentation on it for my Analytical class, only later to see this in my RSS bookmarks.

Basically by using PTR-MS (proton transfer reaction mass spectrometry) they did an analysis of different coffees. They emphasized that this was a data-driven study, not a chemical analysis study, because they weren’t necessarily analyzing the different compounds individually. Rather, what they were doing was taking the results of the mass spec, then combining them with the ‘results’ of a 10-member panel of coffee experts to create a model. So they just took the intensities of the different peaks (all the compounds that had 108 m/z, 110 m/z, etc.) and compared them to the ‘intensities’ of the panel ratings. A rough scheme is shown below.

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The panelists rated the intensity of different qualities (coffee, bitter, cocoa, roasted, woody, cereal, butter toffee, acid, citrus, winey, and flowery) of the coffee. They ran a blind study, and the panel was able to produce reproducible results, so they apparently know what they’re doing. I would imagine they look something like this:

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Once the model was created, they did PTR-MS on another set of coffees, had the panel do their tests, then compare how well the model was able to predict it. You can see in the graph below that they were pretty successful. You can see that there are only 8 qualities below; they decided to scrap a few qualities, but didn’t really explain why. The ones that they got rid of were: winey, flowery, cereal. You can assume that they took those out because they didn’t fit with the model as well, and that’s probably because those qualities are made up. Nobody drinks coffee and thinks, oh that was nice and flowery. But not winey enough. Nonsense.

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I’d like to see them create a model that determines if coffee is good or bad. Sure, that’s even more arbitrary, but it’s more useful. Then we could take samples from a bunch of different coffee shops, and finally scientifically prove that Starbucks’ coffee blows.

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Lindinger, C., Labbe, D., Pollien, P., Rytz, A., Juillerat, M., Yeretzian, C., Blank, I. (2008). When Machine Tastes Coffee: Instrumental Approach To Predict the Sensory Profile of Espresso Coffee. Analytical Chemistry, 80(5), 1574-1581. DOI: 10.1021/ac702196z

Photo: Louisiana State Museum
Photo: Flickr