Chemical model of caffeine molecules.
Better living through chemistry.

There are few things nearer and dearer to a keyboard junkie’s heart than coffee. Or, more accurately, caffeine.

Geeks being, well, geeks, the amount of research and discussion about coffee, tea, and caffeine on the internet is unsurprising. But it is also awe-inspiring. The English Wikipedia article alone has more than 230 footnotes and references to such obscure factoids as interactions with oral birth control and Pseudomonas putida CBB5[doi], a non-engineered bacterial strain which can survive solely on caffeine molecules.

from Commons.Wikimedia.Org

There are also just a few media, products, howtos, FAQs… you get the picture. And people just do stuff about caffeine (like printing the graphic to the left onto a t-shirt: that is fibrous pure caffeine crystals, which I can assure you prints very well although the polyester t-shirt used at the Make shop on Granville Island is less-than attractive but has an extremely generous neck which fits the family bull-necks quite well.)

People mostly argue about preparing/consuming coffee and tea. We are not going to address non-caffeinated versions: if you like them – Great! but this is about caffeine, not uncaffeine.

from Commons.Wikimedia.Org

Briefly, whether you are preparing coffee or tea there are certain guidelines to achieve the best flavour: make sure everything is clean before preparing; use good fresh water – in particularly hardwater regions you may prefer the taste when prepared with distilled or bottled water; the fresher the product being steeped the better – with coffee, recently roasted is better, and recently ground is better – with tea, the newer the leaf, and the whole leaf, the better – in both cases this is not something to get extreme about as very good beverages can be made from non-fresh product; on the other hand, drink the brewed product quickly! For both brewed teas and coffees there are chemical changes and interactions occurring from the moment the hot water hits, and both are always best consumed within a few minutes of preparation.

BUT: the difference between a perfect Americano studiously enjoyed and the indescribable instant whatever you toss back at 03:00 is not what was in the cup but rather the reason you are drinking it. At 3 a.m. on the third day of coding sprint you probably cannot taste anything discriminatively, and you have no idea if the last meal you had was pizza, subway, or something you found in the staff fridge that did not look moldy. And you don’t care. The Americano sipped al fresco over-looking [something cool, like a beach or maybe Nicollet Ave. after sunset the weeks before Christmas] is the whole thing you are experiencing; it needs to be great.

from Commons.Wikimedia.Org

This morning I am slurping some Nicaraguan (Reyna) medium roast from Ethical Bean (yes, it is upc-tracked farm-to-market, no I don’t really care about that, it is one of the only medium or light roasts in my local grocer) prepared in a scrupulously clean french press (because I have two of them, and a dishwasher which is run almost daily) with tap water but – and this is the only really cool part – boiled at my desk in the cutest, tiniest little electric kettle from Cuisinart. The perfect size for making tea, but a bit small for the bigger coffee press.