Caffeine facts

Caffeine 101

Posted on November 28th 2013 by Maddie

Coffee contains caffeine. You know that, I know that, it’s pretty general knowledge.

I mean it is part of the appeal for sure. My own love of coffee sprung from necessity in school; late nights studying required a boost, as did those early morning classes. Now my daily dose is either part of a rousing morning routine or a mid-afternoon indulgence.

Let’s get down to understanding the caffeine in our cup. Seeing as how 90% of North Americans consume caffeine on a regular basis, it is good to know what all the hype is about.

Over our next Blog entries on caffeine, you’ll become well equipped to answer most Trivial Pursuit questions on the topic, and finally best my know-it-all brother (who of course always wins Trivial Pursuit).

For starters, what is caffeine?

Caffeine is an odorless alkaloid. It’s a natural ingredient that is found in the green coffee bean. It is also found in a number of other plants, including tea, cocoa, kola, guarana and yerba mate.

It can also be used as a food additive in carbonated drinks and over-the-counter medications, including cough, cold and pain remedies.

Caffeine is the largest psychoactive stimulant used by people, which speeds up the central nervous system.

Wait, you called caffeine a drug?

Yes, caffeine is a drug, is legal and is in most places, unregulated. However it is classified by the FDA as GRAS (generally recognized as safe). That is because the typical dose is much lower than what is considered toxic (1 gram for an average adult). Spoiler alert: There is only about 120 mg of caffeine in the average brewed mug.

So it affects our central nervous system; what does that mean?

Caffeine affects our central nervous system and tolerance varies by individual. The interesting thing about caffeine is that, similar to alcohol, it treats all of us differently. Where I might be able to fall asleep soon after drinking coffee, you might not be able to.

For some, a small amount of caffeine will have positive effects such as enhancing mood, increasing alertness and ability to concentrate. For those who are more sensitive, it can cause insomnia, headaches, irritability and jitters.

Besides alertness, are there any other positive side effects?

Recent international studies have shown that caffeine has demonstrated protective effects against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease when consumed in moderation.

But, I’ve heard it’s a diuretic?

Caffeine is a mild diuretic. Which means it makes you dehydrated. Not coffee, but the caffeine within coffee. This basically causes the body to release more water into urine. However, with regular consumption a tolerance is built and these effects dissipate.

How is caffeine absorbed?

As you first sip coffee, caffeine enters your blood stream through the lining of your mouth, throat, and stomach. So, your stomach contents can account for different effects of caffeine. It can take up to forty-five minutes for the majority of caffeine to be absorbed and the effects can last up to three hours.

How much caffeine is in coffee?

Caffeine is water soluble. So with water, the caffeine is extracted. There is only so much caffeine available to be extracted from coffee. Kicking Horse Coffee strictly uses Arabica beans which have less caffeine than Robusta.

Now, let’s take a cup of brewed Kicking Horse® Coffee?

Within this cup 98.6% is water, which means 1.4% of that cup is dissolved coffee solids. So, how much caffeine is in that 1.4% of coffee? Not much. Only 1.2% of the 1.4% of coffee is caffeine. This means your average brewed cup of Kicking Horse Coffee has only 0.0168% caffeine.

Now that we have the basics covered, our next entries will tackle some of the caffeine myths. Do dark roast coffees have more caffeine than light roasts? Espresso vs. drip? Insert Jeopardy countdown…