How Coffee Professionals Approach Home Office Coffee: A Series - Part 2

PART II: HOW TO ORGANIZE AND OPTIMIZE YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE LIKE A PRO

Now that your coffee routine is broken, it's time to build a better one. This time, we're not talking about drinking tasty geshas, or juicy Ethiopians. We're not talking about buying a Chemex and throwing out your Black & Decker blade grinder.

This post is about the pharmaceutical drug caffeine and how to optimize your daily intake of it. Caffeine is the main reason we drink coffee, right? We all need it to get up, get going, and to not be a monster to the people we love. We drink coffee and things get better. But what exactly is happening? How does coffee touch the proverial soul that sends our spirit into the realm of enlightened happyness and magic? How does something with zero calories give us endless energy?

It kinda makes no sense since caffeine is actually not adding anything. Caffeine actually blocks something called adenosine. Adenosine is what makes your body / brain get ready to sleep and relax. As adenosine levels rise during the day in the bloodstream and builds up in the brain, you begin to feel less alert and more sleepy. Caffeine beats adenosine to these receptors, and the brain no longer gets adenosine's sleepy signals. In other words, caffeine hijacks receptors targeted by adenosine and won't let it through to your brain. Which is all well and good until the caffeine hit wears off. Now what?

We decided to ask coffee pros with access to endless amounts of caffeine what they do. When accessibility is a non-issue, we wanted to find out how much professionals drink and when. We wanted to find out whether 'the pros' practice self-control, or just straight up get high on their own supply. Let's find out!

What is your preferred brew method?

We surveyed eight coffee professionals across the globe with roles ranging from roaster, to exporter, to agronomist, to author. With the exception of one green coffee trader whose preference is the mokkapot, and a roaster who favors espresso, the crowd preference is for the pour over. Specific brands and models varied a little, but the most consistently cited was the Hario V60. It’s safe to assume most WFH professionals do the same, so let's see how they optimise their intake:

[I prefer the] V60. There’s something about that bloom…
Courtney, Coffee Roaster, coffee buyer, Q grader, Australia

How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Our respondents drink anywhere from one to five coffees per day, with the average drinking between two to three.

Julia, an Oslo-based sales manager, was on the high-end drinking,

4-5, easily 700ml + a cappuccino.

While Jonathan, a Montreal-based author, represented the average response,

I am pretty steady at 2 coffees per day. They are a bit large (25 grams of coffee each) and well extracted, which might make their caffeine 10-15% more concentrated than usual. I once tried to approximate my caffeine intake based on some data from SCA, and found that the 2 cups I drink are about 500-600 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is a bit above the FDA recommendation of 400 milligrams per day.

What time do you have your first coffee at?

Everyone’s first cup of coffee is being consumed between the 7 to 9am window. For Julia, the earlier the better,

As soon as humanly possible. Usually within the first hour of waking up. 7am?

What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

For those who only consume one cup a day, their preference is to keep the drinking of that one cup to the mornings. For those who consume multiple cups, most drink their last coffee right around, or after lunch time. Ending their consumption around 2pm. Martell, a green coffee trader based in Istanbul, is the exception, enjoying coffee up until,

[The] early evening.... 6pm-7pm.

 

Do you ever make exceptions (e.g. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc.)?

All respondents make exceptions. Either because they are visiting with clients,

I'll drink more coffee, always in the morning, if I have to do tasting for roasting clients.

Scott, Roasting Consultant, California

Or because of mental health,

The more stressed I am, the more coffee I unconsciously consume. It’s a vicious cycle of drinking coffee because I’m stressed and then being stressed because of all the coffees I’ve had.

In this case I’ll have a little word with myself and only allow myself 1 coffee for a few days to ‘recalibrate’ I guess.

Other times I’ll allow myself 3 coffees if it’s sharing it with someone in a meeting or something.

On the weekends I don’t drink any coffee unless I’m out at breakfast or something. I give myself a break from caffeine.

Courtney, Coffee Roaster, coffee buyer, Q grader, Australia

How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

While a couple of the respondents have maintained a steady routine throughout the years, most have decreased their consumption over time. Scott summarized the prevailing reasoning toward a decrease in caffeine intake,

I drink far less coffee than I used to. My caffeine tolerance has declined a lot, and coffee interferes with my sleep more readily than it used to :(

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

A couple of respondents thought they have a pretty normal drinking routine, while several reported a variety of unusual habits ranging from perfecting moka pot (not generally seen as the brewer of choice amongst specialty coffee pros) recipes, to pairing coffee drinking with completing annoying tasks (LOL). Jonathan, from Montreal, focuses on water,

I use water that has a lower hardness (and in particular less bicarbonate) compared with Montreal tap water. This helps preserve some of the crisp acidity that I really enjoy in coffee.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Respondents’ answers for this question ranged from the social,

The relationship with the people throughout the chain (from farmer to roaster to barista) has improved how I view and value coffee.

Julia, Sales Manager for coffee equipment - ROEST Sample Roaster, Oslo

To equipment related,

Using the decent espresso machine has helped making home coffee making much more exciting and interesting again. The machine provides a lot of control of and feedback from the espresso process, and it is endlessly fascinating.

Scott, Roasting Consultant, California

To health related,

Finding and drinking excellent quality decaf in the afternoon. Balancing my circadian rhythm and coffee consumption has been challenging. But I've found I can have all the coffee I want and sleep perfect as long as I stop at a certain time and switch to good decaf. You can have your coffee and eat it too.

Andy, Roaster, Montreal

In summary, we recommend the following to maximize home coffee consumption for enjoyment and health:

Drink all your caffeine in the morning. Make a firm cutoff and stick to it to optimize productivity and sleep.

Think about reducing your coffee intake. Over time, the coffee professionals we surveyed have consistently been reducing their intake over the years. They have found either through unplanned experimentation, or through digging and more purposeful experimentation, that when you brew better quality coffee (based on both plant type and the dose/extraction technique), it is more strongly caffeinated, so you don’t need to drink a large overall volume to get a good dose of caffeine.

Good decaf can be a great coffee hack. You can indulge in a third or fourth cup of coffee in the evening, if you have a good decaf. It is possible to get all the best flavors and antioxidant benefits of coffee without any of the drawbacks of losing sleep from caffeine.

Better quality coffee leads to better coffee experiences, and can leave you needing less of it overall. When you optimize for quality over quantity, you will start to see how this can change your overall productivity and sense of wellbeing.

For those who are interested in the responses in full, read on:

 

Coffee Aficionado: Nadine

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Exporter, importer.

Question: Your location?

Answer: Guatemala.

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer: Clever dripper

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer: One!

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: 7:00am.

Question: What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

Answer: 8:00am.

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc )

Answer: Sure, when visiting coffee shops...

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: Same.

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer: Measure everything and use good water.

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: That taste is everything.

Coffee Aficionado: Julia

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Sales Manager for coffee equipment - ROEST Sample Roaster.

Question: Your location?

Answer: Oslo, Norway.

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer: V60 pour over.

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer: 4-5, easily 700ml + a Cappuccino.

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: As soon as humanly possible. Usually within the first hour of waking up. 7am?

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc )

Answer: Sometimes.

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: I usually drink more and more coffee, then do a detox for a month, and then restart all over. Overall I have consistently drank lots of coffee for the last decade.

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer: Yearly detoxing?

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: The relationship with the people throughout the chain (from farmer to roaster to barista) has improved how I view and value coffee.

Coffee Aficionado: Melanie

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Green coffee buyer/consultant.

Question: Your location?

Answer: Montreal.

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer: Pour over. I have a V60 and Chemex and use the V60 most often.

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer: 1-3. It really depends on how good my first brew is. If it’s great, I only need/want one cup in the morning, and I might have a second decaf cup in the afternoon to go with something sweet (I def have a sweet tooth). If the first brew is not good, I’ll make a second caffeinated cup to make up for the poorly brewed one.

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: Between 8-8:30am.

Question: What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

Answer: No later than 2pm.

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc )

Answer: Yes, if I’m socializing or working and someone offers coffee, I will typically accept.

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: I’m much more aware of when I’m drinking caffeine in a day and more strict about not having it “too late” in the day. Caffeine too late in the day affects my sleep quality and length.

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer: My coffee drinking is "my first meal of the day" because I do intermittant fasting. When I was adjusting to my fasting schedule, having coffee as the first thing I ingested in the day (aside from water, of course) really helped my body to adjust to fasting.

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: More overall awareness of my body and what it needs/needs less of.

Coffee Aficionado: Courtney

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Coffee Roaster, coffee buyer, Q grader.

Question: Your location?

Answer: Australia.

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer: V60. There’s something about that bloom...

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer: Two.

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: When I first get into work. It’s my treat for getting out of bed and starting work.

Question: What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

Answer: Just after lunch. I get tired after lunch and need something to wake me up and finish the work day.

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag,

workload demands, mental health needs etc )

Answer: The more stressed I am, the more coffee I unconsciously consume. It’s a viscous cycle of drinking coffee because I’m stressed and then being stressed because of all the coffees I’ve had. In this case I’ll have a little word with myself and only allow myself 1 coffee for a few days to ‘recalibrate’ I guess. Other times I’ll allow myself 3 coffees if it’s sharing it with someone in a meeting or something. On the weekends I don’t drink any coffee unless I’m out at breakfast or something. I give myself a break from caffeine.

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: Less coffee. I have started to appreciate each coffee a bit more. And when I drink coffee I want to really enjoy it! Less is more sometimes.

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer: I ask about where it’s from. Who grew it. How much they get paid. Ethical coffee tastes sweeter and that’s a fact :)

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: Caffeine is a drug and stores can build up in your body. Giving yourself a rest sometimes, is a sustainable way to enjoy coffee for life.

Coffee Aficionado:Scott

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Roasting consultant.

Question: Your location?

Answer: California, USA

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer:  I prefer making pourovers at home, rotating between a few different pourover brewers, sometimes pouring manually and sometimes using the decent espresso machine to dispense the water.

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer:  Just one if I'm not tasting coffee for clients, or as much as necessary if I am.

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: 8AM, right after breakfast.

Question: What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

Answer: Same.

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc ).

Answer: I'll drink more coffee, always in the morning, if I have to do tasting for roasting clients.

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: I drink far less coffee than I used to. My caffeine tolerance has declined a lot, and coffee interferes with my sleep more readily than it used to :(

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer: Hmmm... My current coffee routine is pretty normal! In recent years I've slowed down on experimentation and focused more on making coffee the ways that consumers would at home, so that I can relate to their experience and help and coach them to improve their coffee.

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: Using the decent espresso machine has helped making home coffee making much more exciting and interesting again. The machine provides a lot of control of and feedback from the espresso process, and it is endlessly fascinating.

Coffee Aficionado: Jonathan

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Author.

Question: Your location?

Answer: Montreal.

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer: Pour over.

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer: I am pretty steady at 2 coffees per day. They are a bit large (25 grams of coffee each) and well extracted, which might make their caffeine 10-15% more concentrated than usual. I once tried to approximate my caffeine intake based on some data from SCA, and found that the 2 cups I drink are about 500-600 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is a bit above the FDA recommendation of 400 milligrams per day.

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: Whenever I wake up, that's usually around 8 AM.

Question: What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

Answer: Typically right after lunch, around 1 PM.

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc )

Answer:  I sometimes drink a third cup of coffee on special occasions, or when I'm very excited to try a different coffee. I almost always get a bit overcaffeinated when I do this, so I avoid it.

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: I have had a phase where I had way too much coffee maybe about 8 years ago, before I knew much about specialty coffee. I slowed down to about 1-2 cups per day because it caused sleep issues for me, and I've been hovering about 1-3 cups per day for the past few years. Now that I learned how to extract the coffee well and use a bit more coffee beans per dose, I rarely drink more than 2 cups.

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer: I use water that has a lower hardness (and in particular less bicarbonate) compared with Montreal tap water. This helps preserve some of the crisp acidity that I really enjoy in coffee.

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: A whole lot of things. I went from brewing pour overs very inconsistently and liking one out of 10 cups I brewed, to updating my whole equipment and learning everything I could about the science of coffee brewing, and now I really like almost every cup I make.

Question: On a scale between 1-10, how good is your sleep? 1 being terrible (very segmented, minimal sleep hours, 3-4 hours, takes a long time to fall asleep, etc.), 10 being perfect (uninterrupted, 7-8 hours per night)

Answer: 9. If I did not have an infant, my sleep would be at a 10.

Coffee Aficionado: Martell

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Green coffee trader.

Question: Your location?

Answer: Istanbul, Turkey.

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer: At home, I prefer a moka pot. As you know, we are always "on" when it comes to work. So when I am at home, I tend to revert back to my introvertism. 

And so a moka pot for me is super easy and relaxed. No major stress in prep and easy to clean. If I am out or at the office, I prefer a pourover (V-60 or Chemex). Having all the equipment I need and a solid grinder allows more time to perfect the brew and experiment.

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer: On average, I have about 3 cups of coffee (morning, midday, evening).

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: Usually between 8am-10am.

Question: What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

Answer: Usually early evening.... 6pm-7pm.

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc )

Answer: Definitely. I can say that since Covid-19 and working from home my caffeine intake has increased. But to add some balance, I still have my 2-3 cups of coffee in addition to an herbal or black tea somewhere in the afternoon. This breaks things up a bit and ensures things don't get too monotonous.

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: Overall, my coffee habits have been consistent. Working in coffee, we cup and sample hundreds of coffee each year. So we usually know what we want and what makes us happy.

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer:  When it comes to brewing with the moka pot. I have learned to perfect the taste. Sadly many in specialty coffee run from moka pots as they believe there isn't consistency and that the extractions are too high. However, it is all about grind size, water and time. So to perfect the moka pot...I do the following: 1. Grind size should be slightly finer than a V-60. 

2. Water should be preheated using a kettle.

With a coarser grind size and preheated water, you will literally have the moka pot on the stovetop for about 2-3 mins which I believe offers a balanced extraction and sweeter cup.
I immediately remove the moka pot from the heat as soon as I hear the coffee rising to the top. The moka pot is super hot so it will continue to extract without direct heat. And once it has finished, I immediately transfer to my cup. The profiles are super clean and the nuances of the bean show through in the cup. Even when the coffee is cold I can still drink and there is no trace of astringency.

Many people discard the coffee grounds when they are finished. But occasionally I like to collect them over a period of a week to make a body scrub. I usually combine the dried spent coffee grounds with olive oil and ground oatmeal. It is the perfect exfoliant and is totally natural. Because there are no products which can spoil the scrub, it can last in a sealed glass jar for a good month.

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: Working in both greens and retail , I have learned to listen to my instincts when it comes to coffee and what I consider quality. 


The industry has gotten too caught up in hype: cup scores, brand names. I'm finding that people are drinking very astringent, over/under extracted coffees only because they score "90+". Because a coffee is 90+ doesn't mean the roaster knows how to truly bring out the flavors of the coffee. So in the Middle East I am finding a lot of coffee with great potential but is completely fucked(excuse my language) because the roaster doesn't have the skillset and has too much of an ego to ask for help. Many can't even tell you the base notes, who the farmers are and how those coffees got from the farm to cup. Because of this, I have gone against the grain of many and prefer to focus on a few easy W-h Questions: What is the purpose of the coffee? What quality or profile is needed for that purpose? Who will enjoy it? Whether mainstream or specialty, there is a customer for everything. And at this point in time we need to service the customer. Alienation is dead. Inclusivity is the only way forward. And that must be the case for the coffee sector.

Coffee Aficionado: Epaphras

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Coffee Agronomist & Farmer Liason.

Question: Your location?

Answer: Kayanza and Muramvya, Burundi.

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer: Chemex.

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer: One cup.

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: 9:00 AM

Question: What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

Answer: Only one cup a day!

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc )

Answer: Yes, depends on workload demands.

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: Less coffee over the years.

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer: Nothing.

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: I feel more motivated after a cup of coffee.

Coffee Aficionado: Andy

Question: Your role in the coffee industry, or relationship to it?

Answer: Roaster.

Question: Your location?

Answer: Montreal.

Question: What is your preferred brew method?

Answer: Espresso.

Question: How many coffees do you have per day on average?

Answer: Three.

Question: What time do you have your first coffee at?

Answer: 7:30am.

Question: What time do you have your last coffee of the day at?

Answer: Noon.

Question: Do you ever make exceptions? (eg. access to a better coffee bag, workload demands, mental health needs etc )

Answer: Yes, for work demands like quality control or I have access to a higher quality coffee I will indulge an extra cup

Question: How has this routine changed over the years? More coffee? Less coffee?

Answer: Less coffee and a tighter drinking window.

Question: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you do with coffee that more people would benefit from?

Answer: Have a lot of coffee early and pair it with more complex or annoying tasks, re-make your coffee till it tastes good, if you don't have access to good coffee or good coffee equipment, add a slice of orange in your coffee cup, that's what good coffee tastes like anyway.

Question: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your relationship with caffeine?

Answer: Finding and drinking excellent quality decaf in the afternoon. Balancing my circadian rhythm and coffee consumption has been challenging. But I've found I can have all the coffee I want and sleep perfect as long as I stop at a certain time and switch to good decaf. You can have your coffee and eat it too.

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