by Jeff Lund, 3/6/18
You know when you’re four hours into a seven-hour drive and the coffee you just had at the truck stop didn’t seem to do anything but give you an empty cup in which to spit sunflower seeds?
It makes me wonder if it was just my body being immune to the effects of the caffeine or if the coffee really wasn’t that strong.
Socially speaking, coffee is not just coffee, trends are increasingly becoming about the type – meaning coffee drinks rather than coffee itself. In terms of just coffee, a business can’t just say it has coffee, it has to have a type that appeals to a customer – like poor Buddy the Elf - either by being the best (totally subjective), or being the strongest (pretty objective, assuming the science is accurate).
Excluding additives to temper the taste, or coffee drinks, the easiest way to manipulate the strength of an ordinary cup of joe is to adjust the water to bean ratio.
Taking coffee strength to the next level also means choosing a variety of bean that produces strong coffee. The brands that use a bean such as the Robusta or Arabica cater to the types who want to be extreme in their coffee marketing. Folgers is for suckers, Starbucks is for hipsters, try this…
Apparently the Black Insomnia is the strongest, but what is the mission? Is it to stay awake, look cool or cause heart palpitations? That doesn’t mean that going over the recommended daily limit will cause issues, but for those who require more caffeine to get the same effect or suffer from caffeine withdrawal if they’ve been going hard for a long time, coffee strength could be an issue.
Caffeine and Kilos offer's two blends that have 50% more caffeine than a standard roast.
As is the case with pretty much everything, coffee intake is often tied to a desired lifestyle. I have had students who hated coffee but went to Starbucks every morning because they thought the cup and logo “went with their outfit” or “looked cute” but that’s for another column.
In my world, there are four strengths of coffee, usually determined by the water to bean ratio and are not based in science whatsoever.
- Fishing – strongest
- Road trip – strong
- English teacher – casual
- In-service/meeting – too weak to drink
Coffee that is provided at a meeting or a teacher in-service is often the weakest because it’s about pumping out quantity. English teachers (full disclosure: I am one) have a reputation for drinking strong cups and lots of them. This is illustrated beautifully by Dustin Hoffman’s character in Stranger than Fiction, maybe the most underrated Will Ferrell movie ever. Hoffman starts with a cup of coffee, buys a new cup, gets to his office and immediately pours another out of the maker he has brewing in his office, all while talking about literary things.
The next level is the Road Trip level, where you are hoping to get whatever the truckers do to keep 18-wheelers on the road for such long distances. The Road Trip blend is only surpassed by the Fishing blend.
This isn’t cup-by-a-campfire-on-a-relaxing-weekend blend, this is the sludge downed by commercial fisherman or ocean guides who wake up at 3 a.m. to get to their boat by 4, wait for their clients and leave the dock by 5:45 to catch the morning tide change. While the guests are taking naps, the guide is cleaning the boat, rigging rods and otherwise preparing for the next day. It takes a stiff cup to keep up with that lifestyle but there are times when it’s the only way to go.
Got a coffee strength category list? Organic chemistry final down to grandma’s?