How caffeine evolved

At the New York Times, Carl Zimmer examines new research on the genomics of the Coffea canephora plant and the evolution of caffeine:

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Which is better: coffee or an electric shock to the head?

Kiki Sanford on a strange scientific study comparing the effects of caffeine to zapping your brain tissue with electricity.

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Keurig's K-Cup coffee DRM cracked


When they unveiled the stupid idea of locking out competitors' coffee-pods, I predicted this would happen, and I still wonder if Keurig will be dumb enough to bring a test-case that makes some good law; after all, they are a good candidate for Battle Station Most Likely to Have a Convenient Thermal Exhaust Port.

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Civil War carbine with a "coffee grinder" for corn and wheat


Notwithstanding the rumors of Civil War era carbines with attached coffee-grinders to help soldiers with their bean-juice, the grinder on on this 1859 "Coffee Mill" Sharps Carbine is thought to have been used for corn or wheat.

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Vacuum stainless-steel coffee press


For French press coffee geeks who also happen to be klutzes like me, no more broken carafes with this bad boy. I’ve had mine for years and it is still like brand new. Also for whatever reason, the plunger mesh is MUCH tougher than on the Bodum products and does not shred nearly as easily. Next time you smash your carafe on your Bodum just buy one of these. -- A.T. Salzman

Thermos 34-Ounce Vacuum Insulated Stainless-Steel Gourmet Coffee Press: $40

On space-borne espresso pods

The Awl has the last word on Lavazza sending an espresso pod machine into space: "actual garbage that has been toasted, ground up, dehydrated and put into a non-biodegradable plastic coffin...a good reason to never leave this big dumb rock with all of its perfectly fine non-garbage coffee."

Starbucks employees offered free tuition at Arizona State U


Starbucks is offering to pay some or all tuition at Arizona State University for any 20+ hour/week employees, with no requirement that these employees remain with the company after attaining their degrees (employees who already have two years' credit get the remainder free; others will pay part, but are eligible for grants and aid). ASU has a very large online education offering, and Starbucks employees surveyed by the company often cite a desire to finish their degrees.

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Rocket-ship pour-over coffee drip


Thinkgeek's Rocket Fuel Pour-Over Coffee Drip ($10) is a great, science-fictional way to make your single-cup pour-overs. Why flange when you can fin? It's made by the fine folks at Gama-Go.

Bottled cold brew coffee with marijuana extract

Legal pomegranateLegal is a new bottled cold brew coffee drink augmented with cannabis extract, brewed in Washington state where marijuana is legal. (via Laughing Squid)

Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino: a $55 Starbucks drink


The Sexagintuple Vanilla Bean Mocha Frappuccino now holds the record for most expensive on-menu Starbucks beverage, coming in at a whopping $54; the 128 oz drink had 55 shots of espresso, with an estimated caffeine dose of 4.5g. Its owner, Andrew Chifari, spent about five days consuming it. He ordered it as his free bonus drink on the Starbucks loyalty card scheme, which gets him one free drink for every 12 (my own joke about this, worn as thin as onion-paper, goes like this: every tenth drink, I ask the folks at Giddy Up to give me "one of everything in a bucket with a piece of banana bread stuck in the top"). Andrew set out to break previous most-expensive-Starbucks-beverage record by enlisting the assistance of the baristas, as he explained to Consumerist:

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Summer cold-brew coffee reminder


The sun's finally out in London, so it's time to repost last summer's cheap, easy, no-mess cold-brew coffee technique. This is the best cup of coffee you're likely to drink this summer.

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Orikaso: folding, cheap, amazing polypropylene flat-pack dinnerware



Orikaso is a line of super-cheap, incredibly durable, brilliantly conceived flat-pack plates, cups and bowls, created by Jay Cousins (here's his blog). They're made out of super-durable, long-lived, environmentally sound polypropylene. Folding them takes bare seconds, and once folded, they stay folded and are perfectly water-tight. They unfold in seconds, and are (theoretically -- I haven't tested this) top-shelf dishwasher safe. My favorite piece is the cup, which has lots of grace-notes, like metric volume measurements on both side and imperial on the other, and a handle that's so clever I actually giggled the first time I used it. The whole thing is basically a magic-trick.

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Profile of Aeropress and Aerobie inventor Alan Adler


Alan Adler is a Stanford engineering professor and inventor who's had two remarkable -- and wildly different -- successes: the long-flying Aerobie disc, and the Aeropress, a revolutionary, brilliant, dead-simple $30 coffee maker that makes pretty much the best cup of coffee you've ever tasted. I've given Aeropresses to a dozen friends, I keep one in my travel-bag, and I've got Aeropresses at home and at the office. I use mine to make hot coffee and to filter cold-brew (including hotel-room minibar cold-brew that I brew in breast-milk bags).

Zachary Crockett has a great, long piece on Adler and the process that led to the creation of these two remarkable products. Adler's first success, the Aerobie, was the result of lucking out with the major TV networks and magazines, who provided him with the publicity he needed to get his business off the ground (literally). But with the Aeropress, the defining factor was the Internet, where a combination of coffee-nerd message-boards (where Adler could interact directly with his customers) and an easy means for coffee-shop owners all over the world to order Aeropresses for retail sale made the Aeropress into a global hit.

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How a coffee-order chatbot turned into a bank


This great 2011 post by Roy Rapoport tells the story of how a software company created and incrementally improved a chat-bot that collected and organized the team's coffee orders -- and how the system grew, drip by drip, into a full-fledged bank. Rapoport presents it as a cautionary tale about feature creep -- but it's also a neat parable about how all currency arises from debt, which is the thesis of Debt: The First 5,000 Years, which is one of the most provocative books I've read in years.

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