Coffee Science: Stimulating Knowledge!

Coffee science

Let’s skip research about cancer and brain diseases and handle a more stimulating subject. coffee science! What makes the black hot beverage have its effect and how does it affect your health and your brain.

Coffee the most widely used central nervous system stimulant worldwide. People drink it to stave off sleep and keep focus even though they might have built up a resistance to those positive effects already. Caffeine is found naturally in plants, one being the coffee plants or Coffea. People have been making use of this plant for a long time, drinking coffee made from its coffee beans for over 500 years. The origin of the drink probably dates back to the 13th century but  the first credible evidence comes from the Sufi monasteries in the middle east dating back to the 15th century.

The stimulant of caffeine was first synthesized by the chemist Hermann Emil Fisher in 1895, to which he later found the precise chemical formula of the stimulant. This was one part of the work that awarded him the Nobel prize in 1902. One of many Nobel prize winners owing the medal to caffeine to be sure!

Coffee Science – Stimulating Chemistry

The caffeine molecule shares similarity with a molecule responsible for many of effects in your brain, adenosine. Since caffeine is both water and fat soluble its free to pass the blood-brain barrier making it possible to affect the brain. This similarity with adenosine is key as to why coffee have a stimulating effect on people who consume it.


coffee science

Caffeine molecule

When you’re awake and alert there’s not much adenosine to be found in your brain. As the day wears on and you start getting tired one of the things you actually feel is the accumulation of adenosine. Adenosine binding to the adenosine receptor in your brain. This binding increases feelings of tiredness until you eventually fall asleep. After sleeping the system resets and starts over, a good thing too as we’d only have one day to live otherwise.

So what does the coffee do to you?

The similarity between caffeine and adenosine means it can block the adenosine receptor without activating it. A blocker stopping adenosine from causing sleepiness, meaning you stay alert for hours to come. Actual half-life of caffeine in a healthy adult is between three and seven hours, something worth noting before brewing a night-time cup.

Caffeine also have other effects including releasing epinephrine a.k.a. adrenalin, slightly raising your blood pressure, an action that can affect your health. Over 5 cups of coffee increases your risk of both strokes and cardiovascular diseases partly due to the raised blood-pressure. Certain types of coffee also raise blood cholesterol another factor that contributes to this increased risk. On a more positive note; drinking coffee do offer some protection against Parkinson disease.

Earlier news items here on coffee science have included coffee naps. This practice means you drink a cup of coffee quickly, you have between 30 and 45 minutes before it kicks in, followed by a nap. Taking a nap directly after the cup, clears out the bound adenosine in your brain and blocks the receptors with caffeine, leaving you feeling refreshed and alert.

Another recent coffee science trend suggest drinking “butter Coffee”. I know it sounds disgusting, but actually tastes okay! The main idea is to alter how your body processes caffeine. Being aware of the placebo effect, I can say that the feeling overall was a slower more stable caffeine “high”.

Despite all this I’ve barely scratched the surface on the available coffee science, don’t overdo it and feel free to try the “butter coffee” and let me know what you thought.

Image credit: Andreas Peter and ynse via, CC BY-ND 2.0, CC BY 2.0


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