Frequently Asked Questions about Coffee and Caffeine

Alejandro López-Ortiz

This FAQ is dedicated to all beverages and products that contain caffeine; including tea, coffee, chocolate, mate, caffeinated soft drinks, caffeinated pills, coffee beans, etc.

There are several newsgroups in which these topics may be of reelevance, including but not limited to alt.drugs.caffeine,,,, etc. is preferred over and

  1. The Chemistry of Caffeine and related products
    1. How much caffeine is there in [drink/food/pill]?
    2. How much caffeine there is in blend X?
    3. Chemically speaking, what is caffeine?
    4. Is it true that tea has no caffeine/What is theine, theobromine, etc?
    5. Where can I find a gif of the caffeine molecule?
    6. Is it true that espresso has less caffeine than regular coffee?
    7. How does caffeine taste?
    8. How much theobromine/theophylline there is in ...?
  2. How to brew the ultimate caffeine drink?
    1. What is the best temperature for drip coffee?
    2. Quality of coffee
    3. Why you should never use percolators
  3. Peripherals and Secondary Storage
    1. Proper care of Coffee makers...
    2. How to store coffee?
    3. Equipment reviews?
    4. What is a French Press/Cafetiere/Bodum?
  4. Caffeine and your Health
    1. Caffeine Withdrawal
    2. What happens when you overdose?
    3. Effects of caffeine on pregnant women.
    4. Caffeine and Osteoporosis (Calcium loss)
    5. Studies on the side-effects of caffeine...
    6. Caffeine and depression.
    7. Caffeine and your metabolism.
  5. Miscellaneous
    1. How do you pronounce mate?
    2. How do you spell Colombia/Colombian?
    3. How do you spell Espresso?
  6. Coffee Recipes and other beverages.
    1. Espresso
    2. Chocolate covered espresso beans
    3. Cappuccino
    4. Frappe
    5. How to make your own chocolate
    6. How to make the best cup of coffee
    7. Turkish Coffee
    8. Irish Coffee
    9. Thai Iced Coffee
    10. Vietnamese Iced Coffee
    11. Melya
  7. Administrivia
    1. List of Contributors
    2. Copyright
  1. The Chemistry of Caffeine and related products

    1. How much caffeine is there in [drink/food/pill]?

      According to the National Soft Drink Association, the following is the caffeine content in mgs per 12 oz can of soda:
         Afri-Cola 		100.0  (?)
         Jolt                    71.2
         Sugar-Free Mr. Pibb     58.8
         Mountain Dew            55.0  (no caffeine in Canada)
         Diet Mountain Dew       55.0
         Mello Yellow            52.8
         Tab                     46.8
         Coca-Cola               45.6
         Diet Cola               45.6
         Shasta Cola             44.4
         Shasta Cherry Cola      44.4
         Shasta Diet Cola        44.4
         Mr. Pibb                40.8
         OK Soda                 40.5
         Dr. Pepper              39.6
         Pepsi Cola              37.2
         Aspen                   36.0
         Diet Pepsi              35.4
         RC Cola                 36.0
         Diet RC                 36.0
         Diet Rite               36.0
         Canada Dry Cola         30.0
         Canada Dry Diet Cola    1.2
         7 Up                    0

      By means of comparison, a 7 oz cup of coffee has the following caffeine (mg) amounts, according to Bunker and McWilliams in J. Am. Diet. 74:28-32, 1979:

         Drip                    115-175
         Espresso                100mg of caffeine   
         1 serving (1.5-2oz) 
         Brewed                  80-135
         Instant                 65-100
         Decaf, brewed           3-4
         Decaf, instant          2-3
         Tea, iced (12 ozs.)     70
         Tea, brewed, imported   60
         Tea, brewed, U.S.       40
         Tea, instant            30
         Mate                    25-150mg

      The variability in the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee or tea is relatively large even if prepared by the same person using the same equipment and ingredients day after day.

      Reference Variability in caffeine consumption from coffee and tea: Possible significance for epidemiological studies by B. Stavric, R. Klassen, B. Watkinson, K. Karpinski, R. Stapley, and P. Fried in "Foundations of Chemical Toxicology", Volume 26, number 2, pp. 111-118, 1988 and an easy to read overview, Looking for the Perfect Brew by S. Eisenberg, "Science News", Volume 133, April 16, 1988, pp. 252-253.

      According to Maxwell House at 1-800-432-6333 (USA only), the cappio caffeine content per 8oz bottle is as follows:

      Coffee     100mg
      Mocha       90mg
      Cinnamon    85mg
      Vanilla     90mg

      Quote from the lab manual:

      Caffeine is present in tea leaves and in coffee to the extent of about 4%. Tea also contains two other alkaloids, theobromine and theophylline. These last two relax the smooth muscles where caffeine stimulates the heart and respiratory systems.

      The effects of theobromine are, compared to caffeine and theophylline, relatively moderate. However, cocoa contains eight times more theophylline than caffeine. As well, caffeine has been shown to combine with other substances for added potency. Thus the effects of theobromine might be enhanced by the caffeine in chocolate.

      Theobromine is highly toxic to dogs and kills many canids/year via chocolate poisoning. It takes quite a dose to reach fatal levels (more than 200 mg/kg bodyweight) but some dogs have a bad habit of eating out of garbage cans and some owners have a bad habit of feeding dogs candy. A few oreos won't hurt a dog, but a pound of chocolate can do considerable damage.

      Clinical signs of theobromine toxicity in canids usually manifest 8 hours after ingestion and can include: thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, nervousness, clonic muscle spasms, seizures and coma. Any dog thought to have ingested a large quantity of chocolate should be brought to an emergency clinic asap, where treatment usually includes the use of emetics and activated charcoal. The dog will thus need to be monitored to maintain proper fluid and electrolyte balance.

      Pathogenesis of theobromine toxicity: evidently large quantities of theobromine have a diuretic effect, relax smooth muscles, and stimulate the heart and cns.


      Fraser, Clarence M., et al, eds. The Merck Veterinary Manual, 7th ed. Rahway, NJ: Merck & Co., Inc. 1991. pp. 1643-44.

      On humans caffeine acts particularly on the brain and skeletal muscles while theophylline targets heart, bronchia, and kidneys.

      Other data on caffeine:
      Cup of coffee    90-150mg
      Instant coffee   60-80mg
      Tea              30-70mg
      Mate		 25-150mg
      Cola             30-45mg
      Chocolate bar    30mg
      Stay-awake pill  100mg
      Vivarin          200mg  
      Cold relief tablet  30mg

      The following information is from Bowes and Church's Food values of portions commonly used, by Anna De Planter Bowes. Lippincott, Phila. 1989. Pages 261-2: Caffeine.

      Chocolate                               mg caffeine
        baking choc, unsweetened, Bakers--1 oz(28 g) 25
        german sweet, Bakers -- 1 oz (28 g)           8
        semi-sweet, Bakers -- 1 oz (28 g)            13
      Choc chips
        Bakers -- 1/4 cup (43 g)                     13
        german sweet, Bakers -- 1/4 cup (43 g)       15
      Chocolate bar, Cadbury  -- 1 oz (28 g)         15
      Chocolate milk  8oz                             8
      Jello Pudding Pops, Choc (47 g)                 2
      Choc mousse from Jell-O mix (95 g)              6
      Jello choc fudge mousse (86 g)                 12
      3 heaping teaspoons of choc powder mix          8
      2 tablespoons choc syrup                        5
      1 envelope hot cocoa mix                        5
      Dietary formulas
      ensure, plus, choc, Ross Labs -- 8 oz (259 g)  10
      Cadbury Milk Chocolate Bar
      More stuff:
      Guarana "Magic Power" (quite common in Germany),
      15 ml alcohol with
      5g Guarana Seeds        250.0 mg
      Guarana capsules with
      500 mg G. seeds          25.0 mg / capsule
      (assuming 5% caffeine in seeds as stated in literature)

      Guarana soda pop is ubiquitous in Brazil and often available at tropical groceries here. It's really tasty and packs a wallop. Guarana wakes you up like crazy, but it doesn't cause coffee jitters.

      It is possible that in addition to caffeine, there is some other substance in guarana that also produces an effect, since it 'feels' different than coffee. Same goes for mate.

    2. How much caffeine there is in blend X?

      Caffeine Content in beans and blends

      (Source: Newsletter--Mountanos Bros. Coffee Co., San Francisco)

      Brazil Bourbons  1.20%
      Celebes Kalossi  1.22
      Colombia Excelso  1.37
      Colombia Supremo  1.37
      Costa Rica Tarrazu  1.35
      Ethiopian Harrar-Moka  1.13
      Guatemala Antigua  1.32
      Indian Mysore  1.37
      Jamaican Blue Mtn/Wallensford Estate  1.24
      Java Estate Kuyumas  1.20
      Kenya AA  1.36
      Kona Extra Prime  1.32
      Mexico Pluma Altura  1.17
      Mocha Mattari (Yemen)  1.01
      New Guinea  1.30
      Panama Organic  1.34
      Sumatra Mandheling-Lintong  1.30
      Tanzania Peaberry  1.42
      Zimbabwe  1.10
      Colombia Supremo Dark  1.37%
      Espresso Roast  1.32
      French Roast  1.22
      Vienna Roast  1.27
      Mocha-Java  1.17
      DECAFS--all @ .02% with Swiss Water Process
    3. Chemically speaking, what is caffeine?

      Caffeine is an alkaloid. There are numerous compounds called alkaloids, among them we have the methylxanthines, with three distinguished compounds: caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, found in cola nuts, coffee, tea, cacao beans, mate and other plants. These compounds have different biochemical effects, and are present in different ratios in the different plant sources. These compounds are very similar and differ only by the presence of methyl groups in two positions of the chemical structure. They are easily oxidized to uric acid and other methyluric acids which are also similar in chemical structure.

      Sources: Coffee, tea, cola nuts, mate, guarana.
      Effects: Stimulant of central nervous system, cardiac muscle, and
      respiratory system, diuretic Delays fatigue.

      Sources: Tea
      Effects: Cariac stimulant, smooth muscle relaxant, diuretic, vasodilator

      Sources: Principle alkaloid of the cocoa bean (1.5-3%) Cola nuts and tea
      Effects: Diuretic, smooth muscle relaxant, cardiac stimulant, vasodilator.

      (Info from Merck Index)

      The presence of the other alkaloids in colas and tea may explain why these sometimes have a stronger kick than coffee. Colas, which have lower caffeine contents than coffee are, reportedly, sometimes more active. Tea seems the strongest for some. Coffee seems more lasting for mental alertness and offers fewer jitters than the others.

      A search in CAS and produced these names and synonyms:

      RN   58-08-2  REGISTRY
      CN   1H-Purine-2,6-dione, 3,7-dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl- (9CI)  (CA INDEX NAME)
      CN   Caffeine (8CI)
      CN   1,3,7-Trimethyl-2,6-dioxopurine
      CN   1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine
      CN   7-Methyltheophylline
      CN   Alert-Pep
      CN   Cafeina
      CN   Caffein
      CN   Cafipel
      CN   Guaranine
      CN   Koffein
      CN   Mateina
      CN   Methyltheobromine
      CN   No-Doz
      CN   Refresh'n
      CN   Stim
      CN   Thein
      CN   Theine
      CN   Tri-Aqua
      MF   C8 H10 N4 O2

      The correct name is the first one, 1H-Purine-2,6-diione,3,7-dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl- (This is the "inverted name") The "uninverted name" is 3,7-Dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione

      Merck Index excerpt...

      Caffeine: 3,7-dihydro- 1,3,7-trimethyl- 1H-purine- 2,6-dione; 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine; 1,3,7-trimethyl- 2,6-dioxopurine; coffeine; thein; guaranine; methyltheobromine; No-Doz.

      C8H10N4O2; mol wt 194.19. C 49.48%, H 5.19%, N 28.85%, O 16.48%.

      Occurs in tea, coffee, mate leaves; also in guarana paste and cola nuts: Shuman, U.S. pat. 2,508,545 (1950 to General Foods). Obtained as a by-product from the manuf of caffeine-free coffee: Barch, U.S. pat. 2,817,588 (1957 to Standard Brands); Nutting, U.S. pat. 2,802,739 (1957 to Hill Bros. Coffee); Adler, Earle, U.S. pat. 2,933,395 (1960 to General Foods).

      Crystal structure: Sutor, Acta Cryst. 11, 453, (1958). Synthesis: Fischer, Ach, Ber. 28, 2473, 3135 (1895); Gepner, Kreps, J. Gen. Chem. USSR 16, 179 (1946); Bredereck et al., Ber. 83, 201 (1950); Crippa, Crippa, Farmaco Ed. Sci. 10, 616 (1955); Swidinsky, Baizer, U.S. pats. 2,785,162 and 2,785,163 (1957 to Quinine Chem. Works); Bredereck, Gotsmann, Ber. 95, 1902 (1962).

      Hexagonal prisms by sublimation, mp 238 C. Sublimes 178 C. Fast sublimation is obtained at 160-165 C under 1mm press. at 5 mm distance. d 1.23. Kb at 19 C: 0.7 x 10^(-14). Ka at 25 C: <1.0 x 10^(-14). pH of 1% soln 6.9. Aq solns of caffeine salts dissociate quickly. Absorption spectrum: Hartley, J. Chem. Soc. 87, 1802 (1905). One gram dissolves in 46 ml water, 5.5 ml water at 80 C, 1.5 ml boiling water, 66 ml alcohol, 22 ml alcohol at 60 C, 50 ml acetone, 5.5 ml chloroform, 530 ml ether, 100 ml benzene, 22 ml boiling benzene. Freely sol in pyrrole; in tetrahydrofuran contg about 4% water; also sol in ethyl acetate; slightly in petr ether. Soly in water is increased by alkali benzoates, cinnamates, citrates, or salicylates.

      Monohydrate, felted needles, contg 8.5% H2O. Efflorescent in air; complete dehydration takes place at 80 C. LD50 orally in rats: 200 mg/kg.

      Acetate, C8H10N4O2.(CH3COOH)2, granules or powder; acetic acid odor; acid reaction. Loses acetic acid on exposure to air. Soluble in water or alcohol with hydrolysis into caffeine and acetic acid. Keep well stoppered.

      Hydrochloride dihydrate, C8H10N4O2.HCl.2H2O, crystals, dec 80-100 C with loss of water and HCl. Sol in water and in alcohol with dec.

      Therap Cat: Central stimulant.

      Therap Cat (Vet): Has been used as a cardiac and respiratory stimulant and as a diuretic.

    4. Is it true that tea has no caffeine/What is theine, theobromine, etc?

      From "Principles of biochemistry", Horton and al, 1993.

      Caffeine is sometimes called "theine" when it's in tea. This is probably due to an ancient misconception that the active constituent is different. Theophylline is present only in trace amounts. It is more diuretic, more toxic and less speedy.


      Coffee and tea contain caffeine and theophylline, respectively, which are methylated purine derivatives that inhibit cAMP phosphodiesterase. In the presence of these inhibitors, the effects of cAMP, and thus the stimulatory effects of the hormones that lead to its production, are prolonged and intensified.

      Theobromine and theophylline are two dimethylxanthines that have two rather than three methyl groups. Theobromine is considerably weaker than caffeine and theophylline, having about one tenth the stimulating effect of either.

      Theobromine is found in cocoa products, tea (only in very small amounts) and kola nuts, but is not found in coffee. In cocoa, its concentration is generally about 7 times as great as caffeine. Although, caffeine is relatively scarce in cocoa, its mainly because of theobromine that cocoa is "stimulating".

      Theophylline is found in very small amounts in tea, but has a stronger effect on the heart and breathing than caffeine. For this reason it is often the drug of choice in home remedies for treating asthma bronchitis and emphysema. The theophylline found in medicine is made from extracts from coffee or tea.

    5. Where can I find a gif of the caffeine molecule?

      Caffeine = 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine

      A different view of the caffeine molecule.

      The Department of Chemistry at Jamaica of the University of Western Indies has made available an avi and an mpeg of a rotation of the caffeine molecule, among other molecules and chemical processes. The index page contains more information and the links to the clips.

                       / \
                 N----C   C==O
                ||   ||   |
                ||   ||   |
                CH    C   N--CH3
                  \  / \ /
                   N    C
                   |   ||
                  CH3   O
      There is a gif picture at the ftp site or any of its mirror sites under
      Theobromine is also a common component of coffee, tea, chocolate, and mate (particularly in these last two).
                       / \
                 N----C   C==O
                ||   ||   |
                ||   ||   |
                CH    C   N--H
                  \  / \ /
                   N    C
                   |   ||
                  CH3   O
      Theophylline was once thought to be a major component of tea. This is not correct. Tea contains significantly more amounts of caffeine than of theophylline.
                       / \
                 N----C   C==O
                ||   ||   |
                ||   ||   |
                CH    C   N--CH3
                  \  / \ /
                   N    C
                   |   ||
                   H    O
    6. Is it true that espresso has less caffeine than regular coffee?

      Yes and no. An espresso cup has about as much caffeine as a cup of dark brew. But servings for espresso are much smaller. Which means that the content of caffeine per millilitre are much higher than with a regular brew. Moreover, caffeine is more quickly assimilated when taken in concentrated dosages, such as an espresso cup.

      The myth of lower caffeine espresso comes comes from the fact that the darker roast beans used for espresso do have less caffeine than regularly roasted beans as roasting is supposed to break up or sublimate the caffeine in the beans (I have read this quote on research articles, but found no scientific studies supporting it. Anybody out there?). But espresso is prepared using pressurized water through significant twice as much grounds as regular drip coffee, resulting in a higher percentage of caffeine per millilitre.

      Here's the caffeine content of Drip/Espresso/Brewed Coffee:

      Drip            115-175
      Espresso        100         1 serving (1.5-2oz)
      Brewed          80-135
    7. How does caffeine taste?

      Caffeine is very bitter. Barq's Root Beer contains caffeine and the company says that it has "12.78mg per 6oz" and that they "add it as a flavouring agent for the sharp bitterness"

    8. How much theobromine/theophylline there is in ...?

      Sources: Physicians Desk Reference and Institute of Food Technologies from Pafai and Jankiewicz (1991) DRUGS AND HUMAN BEHAVIOUR

      cocoa                      250mg theobromine
      bittersweet choc. bar      130mg theobromine
      5 oz cup brewed coffee     no theobromine
      tea 5oz cup brewed 3min 
      with teabag                3-4 mg theophylline
      Diet Coke                  no theobromine or theophylline
  2. How to brew the ultimate caffeine drink?

    1. What is the best temperature for drip coffee?

      According to chemical studies, the optimal water temperature for drip coffee is 95-98C. According to my notes, colder water doesn't extract enough caffeine/essential oils from the beans, and above such temperature the acidity increases wildly.

    2. Quality of coffee

      The quality of a brew depend on the following factors (in no particular order):

      1. Time since grinding the beans.
      2. Time since roasting.
      3. Cleanliness with brewing equipment.
      4. Bean quality (what crop etc).
      5. Water quality.

          Fact: Unless you are buying some major debris, bean quality is not very important, as compared to 1-3 and 5.

          Fact: A coffee can in the supermarket often contains major debris, so be careful when you choose. (See note below).

          Fact: Once you have freshly roasted and ground coffee, filtered water and equipment free of oil residues from the last brew, quality of beans makes a huge difference.

          NOTE: A coffee can in the supermarket often contains a blend of Arabica and robusta beans while most coffee houses sell only arabica beans. Arabica beans are usually flavour rich, while robusta beans have more caffeine, less flavour and are cheaper to produce.

          When you buy coffee, whether in a coffee house or in a supermarket, you want to get 100% arabica, except for espresso blends, which are a combination of both.

          For freshness, in a coffee house it is better to buy popular blends that move fast, while in a supermarket vacuum packaged containers with expiry date are your best bet.

        • Why you should never use percolators.

          Percolators violate most of the natural laws about brewing coffee.

          • Don't overextract the oils and flavour. Percolators work by taking coffee and reheating it and throwing it over the grounds over and over and over again.
          • Never reheat/boil coffee. This destroys the flavour. For best flavour, boil the water, pass it over the grounds and retain the heat. Don't reheat it.

          Violating these rules may not sound like much, but these are about the only rules there are. The effect of a percolator is to keep passing boiling water/coffee over the grounds until there is no flavour left and the flavour in the coffee is so dead that it's a worthless waste.

      6. Peripherals and Secondary Storage

        1. Proper care of coffee makers...

          It is very important that you wash your coffee maker pot and filter container thoroughly at least once a week. Bitter oils stick to the glass container and plastic filter holder.

          I used to wash the plastic filter container and rinse the glass pot. Coffee started to taste bad. When I was told to wash both thoroughly with plenty of soap the flavour improved instantly. Note: To the naked eye rinsed and soap washed pots look the same (clean that is).

          Some drip coffee makers require periodic cleansing with a solution of water and vinegar.

          If you have a coffee/teapot, the inside of which is stained with oily brown residues - also plastic/metal coffee filters, tea strainers, and stainless steel sinks in caffeine-o-phile houses - they can be restored to a shining, brand-spanking-new state by washing in hot washing powder (detergent).

          Get a large plastic jug, add 2..3 heaped tablespoons of Daz Automatic or Bold or whatever, and about a pint of hot water - just off the boil is the best.

          Swill the jug around until the detergent is dissolved, and then pour into tea/coffeepot, and let it stand for 5 minutes, swilling the pot around occasionally, just to keep the detergent moving. Put the lid on and shake it a few times (care: slippery + hot)

          Repeat as necessary. Keep it hot with a little boiling water if needed. If you have a cafetiere, dissemble it, and soak the parts in the mixture for a few minutes, agitating occasionally.

          In both cases, the residue just falls off with almost no scrubbing. It does great things with over-used filter machine filters, too.

          Important: Rinse off all detergent afterwards, use lots of fresh water.

        2. How to store coffee?

          One should always store coffee beans in a glass, air tight container. Air is coffee's principle enemy. Glass is best because it doesn't retain the odors of the beans or the oils, which could contaminate future beans stored in the same container. However, if you use glass, make sure the container is not exposed to light, as sunlight is believed to reduce freshness.

          For consumption within:

          1 week
          room temperature is fine
          2 weeks to a month
          freeze them

          This prevents the chemical reactions that produce stale beans and lifeless coffee.

        3. Equipment reviews?

        4. What is a French Press/Cafetiere/Bodum

          French presses are usually glass containers with a wire mesh attached to a plunger. To make coffee, you first boil water, then pour water into the container which should contain one or two spoons of coffee per cup. You let it rest for 2-3 minutes and then plunge the wire mesh. This filters the coffee.
      7. Caffeine and your Health

        Important: This information was excerpted from several sources, no claims are made to its accuracy. The FAQ mantainer is not a medical doctor and cannot vouch for the accuracy of this information.

        1. Caffeine Withdrawal: Procedures and Symptoms.

          How to cut caffeine intake?

          Most people report a very good success ratio by cutting down caffeine intake at the rate of 1/2 cup of coffee a day. This is known as Caffeine Fading. Alternatively you might try reducing coffee intake in discrete steps of two-five cups of coffee less per week (depending on how high is your initial intake). If you are drinking more than 10 cups of coffee a day, you should seriously consider cutting down.

          The best way to proceed is to consume caffeine regularly for a week, while keeping a precise log of the times and amounts of caffeine intake (remember that chocolate, tea, soda beverages and many headache pills contain caffeine as well as coffee). At the end of the week proceed to reduce your coffee intake at the rate recommended above. Remember to have substitutes available for drinking: if you are not going to have a hot cup of coffee at your 10 minute break, you might consider having hot chocolate or herbal tea, but NOT decaff, since decaff has been shown to also be addictive. This should take you through the works without much problem.

          Some other people quit cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms are quite nasty this way (see section below) but they can usually be countered with lots of sleep and exercise. Many people report being able to stop drinking caffeine almost cold-turkey while on holidays on the beach. If quitting cold turkey is proving too hard even in the beach, drinking a coke might help.

          What are the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal?

          Regular caffeine consumption reduces sensitivity to caffeine. When caffeine intake is reduced, the body becomes oversensitive to adenosine. In response to this oversensitiveness, blood pressure drops dramatically, causing an excess of blood in the head (though not necessarily on the brain), leading to a headache.

          This headache, well known among coffee drinkers, usually lasts from one to five days, and can be alleviated with analgesics such as aspirin. It is also alleviated with caffeine intake (in fact several analgesics contain caffeine dosages).

          Often, people which are reducing caffeine intake report being irritable, unable to work, nervous, restless, amd feeling sleepy, as well as having a headache. In extreme cases, nausea and vomiting has also been reported.


          Caffeine and Health. J. E. James, Academic Press, 1991. Progress in Clinical and Biological Research Volume 158. G. A. Spiller, Ed. Alan R. Liss Inc, 1984.

        2. What happens when you overdose?

          From Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-3-R (American Psychiatric Association, 1987):

          Caffeine-Induced Organic Mental Disorder 305.90 Caffeine Intoxication

          1. Recent consumption of caffeine, usually in excess of 250 mg.
          2. At least five of the following signs:
            1. restlessness
            2. nervousness
            3. excitement
            4. insomnia
            5. flushed face
            6. diuresis
            7. gastrointestinal disturbance
            8. muscle twitching
            9. rambling flow of thought and speech
            10. tachycardia or cardiac arrhythmia
            11. periods of inexhaustibility
            12. psychomotor agitation
          3. Not due to any physical or other mental disorder, such as an Anxiety Disorder.

          Basically, overdosing on caffeine will probably be very very unpleasant but not kill or deliver permanent damage. However, People do die from it.

          Toxic dose

          The LD_50 of caffeine (that is the lethal dosage reported to kill 50% of the population) is estimated at 10 grams for oral administration. As it is usually the case, lethal dosage varies from individual to individual according to weight. Ingestion of 150mg/kg of caffeine seems to be the LD_50 for all people. That is, people weighting 50 kilos have an LD_50 of approx. 7.5 grams, people weighting 80 kilos have an LD_50 of about 12 grams.

          In cups of coffee the LD_50 varies from 50 to 200 cups of coffee or about 50 vivarins (200mg each).

          One exceptional case documents survival after ingesting 24 grams. The minimum lethal dose ever reported was 3.2 grams intravenously, this does not represent the oral MLD (minimum lethal dose).

          In small children ingestion of 35 mg/kg can lead to moderate toxicity. The amount of caffeine in an average cup of coffee is 50 - 200 mg. Infants metabolize caffeine very slowly.

          • Acute caffeine poisoning gives early symptoms of anorexia, tremor, and restlessness. Followed by nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, and confusion. Serious intoxication may cause delirium, seizures, supraventricular and ventricular tachyarrhythmias, hypokalemia, and hyperglycemia.
          • Chronic high-dose caffeine intake can lead to nervousness, irritability, anxiety, tremulousness, muscle twitching, insomnia, palpitations and hyperreflexia. For blood testing, cross-reaction with theophylline assays will detect toxic amounts. (Method IA) Blood concentration of 1-10 mg/L is normal in coffee drinkers, while 80 mg/L has been associated with death.
          • Emergency Measures
            • Maintain the airway and assist ventilation. (See Appendix A)
            • Treat seizures & hypotension if they occur.
            • Hypokalemia usually goes away by itself.
            • Monitor Vital Signs.
          • Specific drugs & antidotes. Beta blockers effectively reverse cardiotoxic effects mediated by excessive beta-adrenergic stimulation. Treat hypotension or tachyarrhythmias with intravenous propanolol, .01 - .02 mg/kg. , or esmolol, .05 mg/kg , carefully titrated with low doses. Esmolol is preferred because of its short half life and low cardioselectivity.
          • Decontamination
            • Induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage.
            • Administer activated charcoal and cathartic.
            • Gut emptying is probably not needed if 1 2 are performed promptly.
          Appendix A
          Performing airway assistance.
          1. If no neck injury is suspected, place in the "Sniffing" position by tilting the head back and extending the front of the neck.
          2. Apply the "Jaw Thrust" to move the tongue out of the way without flexing the neck: Place thumb fingers from both hands under the back of the jaw and thrust the jaw forward so that the chin sticks out. This should also hurt the patient, allowing you to judge depth of coma. :)
          3. Tilt the head to the side to allow vomit and snot to drain out.
          From conversations on alt.drugs.caffeine:

          The toxic dose is going to vary from person to person, depending primarily on built-up tolerance. A couple people report swallowing 10 to 13 vivarin and ending up in the hospital with their stomaches pumped, while a few say they've taken that many and barely stayed awake.

          A symptom lacking in the clinical manual but reported by at least two people on the net is a loss of motor ability: inability to move, speak, or even blink. The experience is consistently described as very unpleasant and not fun at all, even by those very familiar with caffeine nausea and headaches.

        3. Effects of caffeine on pregnant women.

          Caffeine has long been suspect of causing mal-formations in fetus, and that it may reduce fertility rates.

          These reports have proved controversial. What is known is that caffeine does causes malformations in rats, when ingested at rates comparable to 70 cups a day for humans. Many other species respond equally to such large amounts of caffeine.

          Data is scant, as experimentation on humans is not feasible. In any case moderation in caffeine ingestion seems to be a prudent course for pregnant women. Recent references are Pastore and Savitz, Case-control study of caffeinated beverages and preterm delivery. American Journal of Epidemiology, Jan 1995.

          On men, it has been shown that caffeine reduces rates of sperm motility which may account for some findings of reduced fertility.

        4. Caffeine and Osteoporosis (Calcium loss)

          From the Journal of AMA: (JAMA, 26 Jan. 1994, p. 280-3.)

          "There was a significant association between (drinking more) caffeinated coffee and decreasing bone mineral density at both the hip and the spine, independent of age, obesity, years since menopause, and the use of tobacco, estrogen, alcohol, thiazides, and calcium supplements [in women]."

          Except when:

          "Bone density did not vary [...] in women who reported drinking at least one glass of milk per day during most of their adult lives."

          That is, if you drink a glass of milk a day, there is no need to worry about the caffeine related loss of calcium.

        5. Studies on the side-effects of caffeine.

          OAKLAND, California (UPI) -- Coffee may be good for life. A major study has found fewer suicides among coffee drinkers than those who abstained from the hot black brew.

          The study of nearly 130,000 Northern California residents and the records of 4,500 who have died looked at the effects of coffee and tea on mortality.

          Cardiologist Arthur Klatsky said of the surprising results, ``This is not a fluke finding because our study was very large, involved a multiracial population, men, women, and examined closely numerous factors related to mortality such as alcohol consumption and smoking.''

          The unique survey also found no link between coffee consumption and death risk. And it confirmed a ``weak'' connection of coffee or tea to heart attack risk -- but not to other cardiovascular conditions such as stroke.

          The study was conducted by the health maintenance organization Kaiser Permanente and was reported Wednesday in the Annals of Epidemiology.

        6. Caffeine and depression.

        7. Caffeine and your metabolism.

          Caffeine increases the level of circulating fatty acids. This has been shown to increase the oxidation of these fuels, hence enhancing fat oxidation. Caffeine has been used for years by runners and endurance people to enhance fatty acid metabolism. It's particularly effective in those who are not habitual users.

          Caffeine is not an appetite suppressant. It does affect metabolism, though it is a good question whether its use truly makes any difference during a diet. The questionable rationale for its original inclusion in diet pills was to make a poor man's amphetamine-like preparation from the non-stimulant sympathomimetic phenylpropanolamine and the stimulant caffeine. (That you end up with something very non-amphetamine like is neither here nor there.) The combination drugs were called "Dexatrim" or Dexa-whosis (as in Dexedrine) for a reason, namely, to assert its similarity in the minds of prospective buyers. However, caffeine has not been in OTC diet pills for many years per order of the FDA, which stated that there was no evidence of efficacy for such a combination.

          From Goodman and Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics:

          Caffeine in combination with an analgesic, such as aspirin, is widely used in the treatment of ordinary types of headache. There are few data to substantiate its efficacy for this purpose. Caffeine is also used in combination with an ergot alkaloid in the treatment of migrane (Chapter 39).

          Ergotamine is usually administered orally (in combination with caffeine) or sublingually [...] If a patient cannot tolerate ergotamine orally, rectal administration of a mixture of caffeine and ergotamine tartarate may be attempted.

          The bioavailability [of ergotamine] after sublingual administration is also poor and is often inadequate for therapeutic purposes [...] the concurrent administration of caffeine (50-100 mg per mg of ergotamine) improves both the rate and extent of absorption [...] However, there is little correspondence between the concentration of ergotamine in plasma and the intensity or duration of therapeutic or toxic effects.

          Caffeine enhances the action of the ergot alkaloids in the treatment of migrane, a discovery that must be credited to the sufferers from the disease who observed that strong coffee gave symptomatic relief, especially when combined with the ergot alkaloids. As mentioned, caffeine increases the oral and rectal absorption of ergotamine, and it is widely believed that this accounts for its enhancement of therapeutic effects.

          Nowadays most of researchers believe that the stimulatory actions are attributable to the antagonism of the adenosine. Agonists at the adenosine receptors produce sedation while antagonists at these sites, like caffeine and theophylline induce stimulation, and what is even more important, the latter substance also reverse agonists-induced symptoms of sedation, thus indicating that this effects go through these receptors.

          Another possibility, however, is that methylxanthines enhance release of excitatory aminoacids, like glutamate and aspartate, which are the main stimulatory neurotransmitters in the brain.

          As to the side effects: methylxanthines inhibit protective activity of common antiepileptic drugs in exptl. animals in doses comparable to those used in humans when correction to the surface area is made. It should be underlined, that although tolerance develop to the stimulatory effects of theo or caffeine when administered on a chronic base, we found no tolerance to the above effects . This hazardous influence was even enhanced over time. Therefore, it should be emphasized that individuals suffering from epilepsy should avoid, or at least reduce consumption of coffee and other caffeine-containing beverages.

          • Miscellaneous

            1. How do you pronounce mate?

              MAH-teh. MAH like in malt, and -teh like in Gral. Patten.

            2. How do you spell Colombia/Colombian?

            3. How do you spell Espresso?

              By far, the most common spelling used throughout the world today is "espresso". This is a shortened form of the original Italian name for the drink "caffe espresso" (accent marks omitted). This spelling is considered to be the correct spelling by the vast majority of of coffee consumers, vendors, retailers, and producers.

              Some English language dictionaries also list "expresso" as a variant spelling. However, this does not mean the spelling is 'equally valid'. (see the post by Jesse Sheidlower included below)

              It was pointed out during the great "espresso vs. expresso" debate (spring 94) that the Italian alphabet does not even contain the letter "X", which is incorrect.

              Further, it was discovered that at least three dictionaries contained incorrect definitions of the word "espresso". The American Heritage Dictionary gave the following definition:

              "A strong coffee brewed by forcing steam under pressure through darkly roasted, powdered coffee beans."

              The Oxford English Dictionary said:

              "Coffee brewed by forcing steam through powdered coffee beans"

              The Webster New World Dictionary gives:

              "coffee prepared in a special machine from finely ground coffee beans, through which steam under high pressure is forced."

              All three of these are wrong. In fact, espresso is a strong coffee brewed by quickly forcing hot water through darkly roasted, finely ground coffee beans.

              (Some espresso makers do use steam, but only to force the hot water through the ground coffee. The steam NEVER touches the coffee. Many espresso makers use no steam at all. Instead, they use either a pump or a piston to quickly force hot water through the ground coffee.)

              Once these errors and the origins of the word "espresso" had been pointed out, the argument "but expresso is in the dictionary" quickly began to crumble. The final death blow to this position came in a post by dictionary editor Jesse Sheidlower. This post is reproduced in its entirety below:

              Jesse Sheidlower writes

              I find this thread fascinating. I regret that it demonstrates an unfamiliarity with dictionaries and how to use them, but no matter. I believe that I am the only dictionary editor to participate in this discussion, so let me waste a bit more bandwidth addressing some of the points made so far, and introducing a few others:

              • The OED, Second Edition, does include _espresso_ and _expresso_, the latter being a variant of the former. It correctly derives it from Italian _caffe espresso_. [Accents left off here.] Whoever claimed it derives the term from a would-be Italian _caffe expresso_ was in error.
              • There _is_ an "x" in Latin and Italian.
              • There are four major American dictionaries (published by Merriam Webster, Webster's New World, Random House, and American Heritage). The most recent edition of each gives _espresso_ as the main form, and _expresso_ as a variant only. The fact that _expresso_ is listed in the dictionary does not mean that it is equally common: the front matter for each dictionary explains this. The person who claimed that three dictionaries including OED give _expresso_ as "equally valid" was in error.
              • Dictionaries, in general, do not dictate usage: they reflect the usage that exists in the language. If a dictionary says that _espresso_ is the main spelling, it means that in the experience of its editors (based on an examination of the language), _espresso_ is notably more common. It does not mean that the editors have a vendetta against _expresso_.
              • To the linguist who rejects the authority of dictionaries: I agree that language is constantly changing; I'm sure that every dictionary editor in the country does as well. Dictionaries are outdated before they go to press. But I think they remain accurate to a large extent. Also, if you are going to disagree with the conclusions of a dictionary, you should be prepared to back yourself up. I can defend, with extensive written evidence, our decision to give _espresso_ as the preferred form.
              • The spelling _espresso_ is the form used by the copy desks of the _New York Times,_ _Gourmet,_ _Bon Appetit,_ The _Wine Spectator,_ the _Wall St. Journal,_ the _L.A. Times,_ _Time,_ _Newsweek,_ and to my knowledge every other major or minor newspaper or magazine, general or food-related, in the English-speaking world. The fact that a handwritten menu on an Italian restaurant door spells it "expresso" is trivial by comparison.
              • In sum: though both _espresso_ and _expresso_ are found, the former is by far the more common. It is also to be favored on immediate etymological evidence, since the Italian word from which it is directly borrowed is spelled _espresso_. The form _espresso_ is clearly preferred by all mainstream sources.
              • Coffee Recipes and other beverages.

                1. Espresso

                  After living in Italy (Rome) for two years and living off espresso, Mr. X have found American espresso doesn't cut it. Heres how to do it.

                  • Get good dark roasted espresso beans, imported Italian brand if you can find it.
                  • Pack your strainer real full. Pack it hard. your instructions will say NOT to pack it, but don't listen.
                  • Don't use too much water. Espresso in Italy is as thick as syrup. Very thick.
                  • Add two spoons of sugar, it's a sweet, thick liquid in Italy.

                  Drink fast.


                  If using a stove top espresso machine, clean after each use, paying attention to the seal and strainer.

                  1. For best results, get arabica beans that have been roasted dark ("Italian Roast" is darkest) and are oily-looking. Other roasts are for other types of brewing: espresso machines won't draw the earthy flavour of Sumatran out, for example. A small amount of other beans might add a nice note to the flavour, though (I've had surprising success adding a few of Thanksgiving Coffee's "High-Caffeine Pony Express" beans, which are actually robusta beans from Thailand).
                  2. Grind those beans until they're very fine, but not quite a powder. Put them into the appropriate piece of your machine and tamp it down (but don't pack all the grounds in tight).
                  3. Watch the espresso as it drips down. Does a nice layer of foam form on the top? If it does, all is well; that foam is made from the flavourful oils, and it is called crema. If not, go to the coffee roaster and demand quadruple your money back.
                  4. Never make more than 2oz at a time. If you're making two cups of espresso, make two separate shots. This is important. The idea is that the water rushes through and draws out only the most flavourful part of the grounds. More than 2oz and you're drawing out less flavourful stuff and diluting your espresso. If you're really hardcore, make only 1oz at a time; this is called caffe ristretto.

                2. Chocolate covered espresso beans

                  You won't get single, glossy beans, but the taste is there!

                  1. Put dark roast coffee beans on a waxpaper-covered baking sheet.
                  2. Melt some chocolate by puting a container with the chocolate in a pan of boiling water, stir the chocolate when it is getting hot. Some experimentation regarding what chocolate to use is in place. I used chocolate chips of from Girardelli. One should probably aim for dark and not too sweet chocolate.
                  3. Pour the chocolate over the beans and smear it so that each bean is covered - you should have a single layer of covered beans not too far apart.
                  4. When the beans have cooled off a little bit, put the sheet in the fridge/freezer.
                  5. When solid, break off a piece and enjoy.

                3. Cappuccino

                  Disclaimer: People prepare cappuccino in many different ways, and in their very own way each one of them is correct. The following recipe, which is commonly used in Latin countries, has been tasted by several of my North-American friends and they unanimously agreed that cappuccino prepared using this recipe tastes much better than the standard fare in USA/Canada.

                  Start with cold milk (it doesn't really need to be ice-cold), use homo milk or carnation. 2% or skim is just not thick enough (admittedly, it is easier to produce foam with skim milk).

                  Place the milk on a special cappuccino glass with a cappuccino basket. (Cappuccino glasses have a thinner bottom).

                  Aerate the milk near the top, within 2cm (1 in) of the top. Move the glass down as the milk aerates. It is a good idea to have an oscillating motion while aerating the milk.

                  Aerating the milk in another container, then pouring in a glass and adding the foam with a spoon is sacrilege.

                  Anybody who has done so should make a pilgrimage to San Francisco's Girardelli's. Otherwise entry to heaven will be denied (god, is after all, Italian. At least the catholic one).

                  If you need to aerate the milk on a separate container, aerate exactly the amount of milk required for one cup, so no need to add foam with a spoon.

                  Once the milk has been aerated, promptly clean the aerator with a wet rag. Failure to do so will quickly result in rotten milk flavour coming from the aerator.

                  Another warning on similar lines applies to restaurant type coffee machines: leave the aerator valve open when powering the machine up and down. When the machine is off a partial vacuum is formed in the boiler that will suck milk residue into the boiler. This then coats the inside of the boiler and can cause bad smelling steam until the boiler is flushed. Some machines have a vacuum bleed valve to prevent this problem but many don't.

                  Wait for the steam pressure to build up again (for some cappuccino makers wait time is near zero, for others it maybe as long as 60 secs).

                  Prepare the espresso coffee, you may add it directly on to the glass if possible or use a cup and then pour it from the cup on the milk.

                  According to Jym Dyer: In Italy, the milk is added TO the espresso, not the other way around, that way the milk is floating; on top, where you then add the sugar, and stir it up.

                  Cappuccino tastes better when is really hot, and has two teaspoons of sugar. (small teaspoons, like the ones in expensive silverware).

                  Then accompany said cappuccino with a warm tea bisquet or english muffin with marmalade, or alternatively with a baguette sandwich or panini.

                4. Frappe

                  Frappe coffee is widely consumed in parts of Europe and LatinAmerica especially in summer. Originally was made with cold espresso. Nowadays is prepared in most places by shaking into a shaker 1-2 teaspoons of instant coffee with sugar, water and ice-cubes and it is served in a long glass with ice, milk to taste and a straw. The important thing is the thick froth on top of the glass.

                5. How to make your own chocolate

                  Here's the recipe for making a real chocolate beverage. Important steps are in boldface.


                  • 1-2kg (2-4pounds) of cocoa beans.
                  • A manually operated grinder.


                  • Sift through the beans removing any impurities (pieces of grass, leaves, etc).
                  • Place the beans in a pan (no teflon) and roast them. Stir frequently. As the beans roast they start making "pop" sounds like popcorn. Beans are ready when you estimate that approx 50-75% of the beans have popped. Do not let the beans burn, though a bit of black on each bean is ok.
                  • Peel the beans. Peeling roasted cocoa beans is like peeling baked potatoes: The hotter they are the easier it is to peel the darn things, at the expense of third degree burns on your fingers. (Tip: Use kitchen mittens and brush the beans in your hands). If the beans are too hard to peel roast them a bit longer.
                  • Grind the beans into a pan. They produce a dark oily paste called "cocoa paste".
                  • The oil in the cocoa has a bitter taste that you have to get used to. I like it this way, but not all people do. Here are the alternatives:

                    With oil, which gives you a richer flavour:

                    Spread aluminum foil on a table and make small pies of chocolate, about 1/4 of an inch high, and 6 inches in diameter. Let them rest overnight. The morning after they are hard tablets. Remove them from the aluminum foil and rap them in it. Store in the freezer.

                    Without oil, some flavour is gone, less bitter, weaker (whimper) chocolate:

                    Put the paste inside a thin cloth (like linen), close the cloth and squeeze until the oil comes out. If you manage to get most of the oil out, what is left is high quality cocoa powder, like Droste's.

                    What is left now is either bitter tablets or bitter cocoa powder.

                  You can now make a nice beverage as follows:

                  • Boil a liter of milk (or water, like in ancient Mexican style. Like water for chocolate, "Como agua para chocolate": you know).
                  • When the milk is warm (not hot) add a chocolate pie in pieces. Stir with a blender (but be careful! the blender's electric cord should NOT touch the pot or any other hot thing around it).
                  • When the chocolate has dissolved add 1/2-3/4 cups of sugar (depending how sweet you like your chocolate) and blend in fast. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved in the chocolate otherwise it would be bitter no matter how much sugar you may add afterwards.
                  • Add a teaspoon of cinnamon or natural vanilla flavour (artificial vanilla flavour with chocolate results in an awful medicine like flavour) if you like, and blend again.
                  • Let the mixture boil, when it starts to get bubbly quickly remove the pan from the stove top, and rest the bottom against a soaked cloth. Put again on stove top, it should get bubbly almost immediately, remove once again and repeat one last time. This aerates the chocolate which enhances flavour.
                  • In a mug, put about 1/2-3/4 of the chocolate mixture, and add cold milk, until the temperature and/or the concentration of the flavour is right for your tastes. Accompany with French Pastries. Yum Yum!!


                6. How to make the best cup of coffee?

                  The best coffee I ever tasted was while in the coffee growing regions of Mexico, in the state of Veracruz, in the town of Coatepec. The quality of the coffee was mostly due to the method of preparation than to the quality of the grains (which is at about the same level as an average colombian coffee). Here's how to make it:

                  • Grind the coffee grains from coarse to very coarse.
                  • Boil in a pan a litre of water (four cups).
                  • When the water is boiling, turn off the stove and add 8-12 table spoons of coffee (2-3 spoons per each cup).
                  • Add two-three teaspoons of sugar per cup (for a total of 8-12 spoons of sugar).
                  • Stir very slowly (the water is so hot that the sugar dissolves mostly on its own).
                  • Let the coffee rest for about 5 minutes.
                  • Strain the coffee using a metal strainer! Like the ones used for cooking. The strainer should be like the ones used by granny for making tea. The diameter is a bit smaller that a cup, with a semi-sphere shape.
                  • This coffee has grit in the bottom, even after being strained. Therefore do not stir the pot or the cup. If the coffee is shaked, let it rest for about five minutes. Needless to say, do not drink the last sip of coffee from the cup: it's all grit. If you want to add milk, add carnation.

                  Warning: This coffee may fool you 'cause it has a very smooth taste but is extremely strong. Caffeine content per millilitre is right there with espresso, but you can't tell!

                  Note: For some strange reason, when preparing this coffee I tend to have a success ratio of about one out of two attempts. I still don't know what I'm doing wrong, since, as far as I can tell, always repeat the same steps. Perhaps sometimes I don't let the coffee rest long enough.

                  This type of coffee is similar in nature to the French press. And in principle, you could possibly add sugar to the ground coffee, then pour water, and lastly press with the strainer.

                7. Turkish Coffee

                  Turkish coffee is prepared using a little copper pot called briki.

                  Use a heaping teaspoon of very finely ground coffee and, optionally, one heaping teaspoon of sugar (to taste). Use about 3oz of coffee. [Add the sugar only just before boiling point.] Turkish coffee without sugar is called sade, with a little sugar is "orta s,ekerli" and with lots of sugar is "c,ok s,ekerli".

                  The trick of it is to heat it until it froths pour the froth into the coffee dup and heat it a second time. When it froths again, pour the rest into the cup.

                  The grounds will settle to the bottom of the cup as you drink the coffee and towards the end, it'll start to taste bitter and the texture will be more like wet coffee grounds than a drink. As soon as this happens stop or your next sip will taste really, really bitter. Instead, turn your cup upside down on the saucer, and let someone read your fortune!

                8. Irish Coffee

                  • Sturdy wine glass or glass with stem
                  • 1 teaspoon sugar
                  • 1 or 2 tablespoon Irish whiskey
                  • black coffee
                  • cream, lightly whipped
                  1. Place spoon in glass. Heat glass by pouring in warm water. When glass is warm, pour out the water. Leave spoon in glass.
                  2. Put sugar, whiskey and coffee in glass. Stir to dissolve sugar. Still leave spoon in glass.
                  3. Now for the tricky bit: Put dollop of cream on top, allow the cream to slide down the back of spoon (the spoon which was in the coffee), the tip of the spoon should remain in the coffee.
                  Be careful not to stir after the cream has been added. The cream should form a foamy layer about 1 cm (or half an inch) thick on top of the black coffee.

                9. Thai Iced Coffee

                  Make very strong coffee (50-100% more coffee to water than usual), use something like Cafe Du Monde which has chicory in it. Pour 6-8 oz into cup and add about 1 Tbs sweetened condensed milk. Stir, then pour over ice.

                  You'll have to experiment with the strength and milk so you get lots of taste after the ice/water dilutes it.

                  Alternatively, this version which comes from a newspaper article of many years ago simply calls for grinding two or three fresh cardamom pods and putting them in with the coffee grounds. Make a strong coffee with a fresh dark roast, chill it, sweeten and add half-and-half to taste.

                  Lastly, we have the following recipe:

                  Makes 1 8-cup pot of coffee

                  • 6 tablespoons whole rich coffee beans, ground fine
                  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander powder
                  • 4 or 5 whole green cardamom pods, ground
                  • Place the coffee and spices in the filter cone of your coffee maker. Brew coffee as usual; let it cool.
                  • In a tall glass, dissolve 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar in an ounce of the coffee (it's easier to dissolve than if you put it right over ice). Add 5-6 ice cubes and pour coffee to within about 1" of the top of the glass.
                  • Rest a spoon on top of the coffee and slowly pour whipping cream into the spoon. This will make the cream float on top of the coffee rather than dispersing into it right away.
                  • To be totally cool, serve with Flexi-Straws and paper umbrellas...

                  One other fun note: I got a fresh vanilla bean recently and put it to good use by sealing it in an airtight container with my sugar. The sugar gets the faintest vanilla aroma and is incredible in Real Chocolate Milk (TM) and iced coffee.

                  One final note: this would probably be even better with iced espresso, because the espresso is so much more powerful and loses its taste less when it's cold.

                  Another recipe:

                  • Strong, black ground coffee
                  • Sugar
                  • Evaporated (not condensed) milk
                  • Cardamom pods

                  Prepare a pot of coffee at a good European strength (Miriam Nadel suggests 2 tablespoons per cup, which I'd say is about right). In the ground coffee, add 2 or 3 freshly ground cardamom pods. (I've used green ones, I imagine the brown ones would give a slightly different flavour.) Sweeten while hot, then cool quickly.

                  Serve over ice, with unsweetened evaporated milk (or heavy cream if you're feeling extra indulgent). To get the layered effect, place a spoon atop the coffee and pour the milk carefully into the spoon so that it floats on the top of the coffee.

                  The recipe I have calls for:

                  • 1/4 cup strong French roasted coffee
                  • 1/2 cup boiling water
                  • 2 tsp sweetened condensed milk
                  • Mix the above and pour over ice.

                  I'd probably use less water and more coffee and milk.

                  There is also a stronger version of Thai coffee called "Oleng" which is very strong to me and to a lot of coffee lovers.

                  6 to 8 tablespoons ground espresso or French roast coffee 4 to 6 green cardamom pods, crushed Sugar to taste Half-and-half or cream Ice cubes

                  Put the cardamom pods and the ground dark-roast coffee into a coffee press, espresso maker, or the filter of a drip coffee maker (if using a drip-style coffee maker, use half the water). Brew coffee as for espresso, stir in sugar.

                  Fill a large glass with ice and pour coffee over ice, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top. Place a spoon at the surface of the coffee and slowly pour half-and-half or cream into the spoon, so that it spreads across the top of the coffee rather than sinking in. (You'll stir it in yourself anyway, but this is a much prettier presentation and it's as used in most Thai restaurants.)

                  As with Vietnamese coffee, the struggle here is to keep from downing this all in ten seconds.

                10. Vietnamese Iced Coffee

                  Same coffee as above. Sweetened condensed (not evaporated) milk Ice

                  Make even stronger coffee, preferably in a Vietnamese coffee maker. (This is a metal cylinder with tiny holes in the bottom and a perforated disc that fits into it; you put coffee in the bottom of the cylinder, place the disc atop it, then fill with boiling water and a very rich infusion of coffee drips slowly from the bottom.)

                  If you are using a Vietnamese coffee maker, put two tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of a cup and put the coffee maker on top of the cup. If you are making espresso or cafe filter (the infusion method where you press the plunger down through the grounds after several minutes of infusion), mix the sweetened condensed milk and the coffee any way you like.

                  When the milk is dissolved in the coffee (yes, dissolved *is* the right word here!), pour the combination over ice and sip.

                  Thai and Vietnamese coffees are very different.

                  Ca phe sua da (Vietnamese style iced coffee)

                  • 2 to 4 tablespoons finely ground dark roast coffee (preferably with chicory)
                  • 2 to 4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (e.g., Borden Eagle Brand, not evaporated milk!)
                  • Boiling water
                  • Vietnamese coffee press [see notes]
                  • Ice cubes

                  Place ground coffee in Vietnamese coffee press and screw lid down on the grounds. Put the sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of a coffee cup and set the coffee maker on the rim. Pour boiling water over the screw lid of the press; adjust the tension on the screw lid just till bubbles appear through the water, and the coffee drips slowly out the bottom of the press.

                  When all water has dripped through, stir the milk and coffee together. You can drink them like this, just warm, as ca phe sua neng, but I prefer it over ice, as ca phe sua da. To serve it that way, pour the milk-coffee mixture over ice, stir, and drink as slowly as you can manage. I always gulp mine too fast. :-)


                  A Vietnamese coffee press looks like a stainless steel top hat. There's a "brim" that rests on the coffee cup; in the middle of that is a cylinder with tiny perforations in the bottom. Above that rises a threaded rod, to which you screw the top of the press, which is a disc with similar tiny perforations. Water trickles through these, extracts flavour from the coffee, and then trickles through the bottom perforations. It is excruciatingly slow. Loosening the top disc speeds the process, but also weakens the resulting coffee and adds sediment to the brew.

                  If you can't find a Vietnamese coffee press, regular-strength espresso is an adequate substitute, particularly if made with French-roast beans or with a dark coffee with chicory. I've seen the commonly available Medaglia d'Oro brand coffee cans in Vietnamese restaurants, and it works, though you'll lose some of the subtle bitterness that the chicory offers. I think Luzianne brand coffee comes with chicory and is usable in Vietnamese coffee, though at home I generally get French roast from my normal coffee provider.

                  Of these two coffees, Vietnamese coffee should taste more or less like melted Haagen-Dasz coffee ice cream, while Thai iced coffee has a more fragrant and lighter flavour from the cardamom and half-and-half rather than the condensed milk. Both are exquisite, and not difficult to make once you've got the equipment.

                  As a final tip, I often use my old-fashioned on-the-stove espresso maker (the one shaped like an hourglass, where you put water in the bottom, coffee in the middle, and as it boils the coffee comes out in the top) for Thai iced coffee. The simplest way is merely to put the cardamom and sugar right in with the coffee, so that what comes out the top is ready to pour over ice and add half and half. It makes a delicious and very passable version of restaurant-style Thai iced coffee.

                11. Melya

                  • Espresso
                  • Honey
                  • Unsweetened cocoa

                  Brew espresso; for this purpose, a Bialetti-style stovetop will work. In a coffee mug, place 1 teaspoon of unsweetened powdered cocoa; then cover a teaspoon with honey and drizzle it into the cup. Stir while the coffee brews; this is the fun part. The cocoa seems to coat the honey without mixing, so you get a dusty, sticky mass that looks as though it will never mix. Then all at once, presto! It looks like dark chocolate sauce. Pour hot espresso over the honey, stirring to dissolve. Serve with cream (optional). I have never served this cold but I imagine it would be interesting; I use it as a great hot drink for cold days, though, so all my memories are of grey skies, heavy sweaters, damp feet and big smiles.

              • Administrivia

                1. List of Contributors

                  This FAQ is a collective effort. Here's a list of most (all?) of the contributors.

                  • Oktay Ahiska (
                  • Marc Aurel (
                  • Scott Austin (
                  • Tom Benjamin (
                  • Jennifer Beyer (
                  • Steve Bliss (
                  • David Alan Bozak (dab@moxie)
                  • Rajiv (
                  • Jack Carter (
                  • Richard Drapeau (
                  • Jym Dyer (
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                2. Copyright

                  This FAQ is Copyright (C) 1994,1995 by Alex Lopez-Ortiz. This text, in whole or in part, may not be sold in any medium, including, but not limited to, electronic, CD-ROM, or published in print, without the explicit, written permission of Alex Lopez-Ortiz.

              Copyright (C) 1994, Alex López-Ortiz.

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