Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writer's Block: What's in your coffee?

Ever wonder what's really inside coffee? Well, here's the breakdown -- at least the partial breakdown. For the full WIRED magazine article, click here.

Caffeine
This is why the world produces more than 16 billion pounds of coffee beans per year. It's actually an alkaloid plant toxin (like nicotine and cocaine), a bug killer that stimulates us by blocking neuroreceptors for the sleep chemical adenosine. The result: you, awake.

Water
Hot H2O is a super solvent, leaching flavors and oils out of the coffee bean. A good cup of joe is 98.75 percent water and 1.25 percent soluble plant matter. Caffeine is a diuretic, so coffee newbies pee out the water quickly; java junkies build up resistance.

2-Ethylphenol
Creates a tarlike, medicinal odor in your morning wake-up. It's also a component of cockroach alarm pheromones, chemical signals that warn the colony of danger.

Quinic acid
Gives coffee its slightly sour flavor. On the plus side, it's one of the starter chemicals in the formulation of Tamiflu.

3,5 Dicaffeoylquinic acid
When scientists pretreat neurons with this acid in the lab, the cells are significantly (though not completely) protected from free-radical damage. Yup: Coffee is a good source of antioxidants.

Trigonelline
Chemically, it's a molecule of niacin with a methyl group attached. It breaks down into pyridines, which give coffee its sweet, earthy taste and also prevent the tooth-eating bacterium Streptococcus mutans from attaching to your teeth. Coffee fights the Cavity Creeps.