Everyone’s Favorite Health Drink

  Coffee can be indispensable in the workplace. We just read a study about how coffee really works. Kind of the reverse of the conventional wisdom. According to this study, in layman’s terms, coffee doesn’t really “wake you up” as much as it keeps you from getting sleepy. Here are the details

   This doesn’t entirely fit with experience if you think about that, actually unpleasant, sensation of being too wired from too much coffee. But, I’m not a scientist. Although, we once did a project at a lab with combinatorial chemists and they always had two pots going at all times…one had green tape wrapped around the handle to indicate that it was double-strength. (Ok, that was a gratuitous mention of “combinatorial chemistry” but the two handles thing is true.)

   The green handle is symptomatic of the problem of individual preference. In an office, it can be difficult to get agreement. In a doctor or dentist office, or in a one- or two-person office, it is even more difficult as the small volume of sporadic consumption makes entire pots of coffee potentially wasteful. Hence the popularity of the K-Cup.

   First of all, a few jobs ago (before anyone in the midwest had heard of Starbucks) several of us in our work group tried to engineer a satisfactory single-cup solution. We emptied out tea bags and put coffee in and tried steeping it. We put a scoop of coffee into a filter stuffed into a funnel and then did a pour-through. These methods were OK, if a little awkward from a labor and clean-up perspective. K-Cups excel at convenience. You buy an expensive hardware component and pretty expensive individual capsules but you can crank out good-tasting single-cups all day. But there are a couple of things to feel guilty about.

   There is a large waste to cup ratio. Many of the capsules are not too environmentally friendly, though some are biodegradeble. And, they are expensive. According to a New York times article, on a per pound basis, some K-cup coffee sells at approximately a whopping $50 per pound!  

   There are alternatives though. There are single-cup makers and there is even a commercially made version of the tea bag. My personal favorite is theAeroPress. It makes coffee as good as a French press but with way easier clean-up.

   Some people get their best work done at a coffee shop. The coffee probably helps but there are definitely other factors at play. One is probably getting away from the office where there are distractions (like the phone, co-workers, your boss) lying in wait. Personally, I like the white noise distractions at a coffee house…the conversation going on at the next table that you don’t care about, the banging they apparently have to do to dislodge used espresso grounds, the hissing of the milk steamer, and the background music. Even the fact that you know you aren’t going to be sitting there all day…you have an hour or two to get to a stopping point on what you are working on and then that’s it. (And if you have more time available, keep in mind that Starbucks furnishes their shops primarily with non-cushioned chairs, probably for a reason.) All of that forces you to boost your concentration level and put on your task blinders and crank away, head down and oblivious.

   A couple of app-makers must have noticed the benefits of background noise, probably while brainstorming ideas for apps while sitting in a coffee shop. So, if you want that vibe but don’t feel like actually leaving your desk, you can import the audio portion to your ear buds from one of the sources below.

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