30 January 2008

Story of a complex drink

Last December Andrea Illy, Chairman of illycafe and a chemist by training, gave a lecture titled The Science of Coffee at the New York Academy of Sciences. The podcast of the lecture is here.

It is an informative presentation if you don't mind using your imagination every time Mr. Illy says "On this slide you will see..."

Some highlights:

• Coffee originated in Ethiopia where "tiny" wild coffee plants still grow in forests.

• An average espresso cup has 40 mg of caffeine, while an average filtered cup of coffee has 120 mg of the same.

• The 2 main coffee species in cultivation are arabica and robusta (there used to be 80 spcies in cultivation). The latter is less flavorful but has more caffeine.

• Humans apparently have a "kind of" self-regulating physiological limit to caffeine consumption: too much of it curbs further intake.

• The flavor of coffee is due to the chemicals generated during roasting of the beans. The 2 main chemical processes are the Maillard reaction* and the degradation of polycyclic compounds present in green beans.

*Takes place between amino acids and reducing sugars, not between carbohydrates and sugars as Mr. Illy claims in a moment of confusion.


budak said...

Do you make Turkish coffee at home (that evil brew with a dark ooze of grinds at the bottom)? :P


No, I don't. I should though...