Cold-brewed or regular?
A new trend is taking coffee houses across the nation by storm, that is to say, brewing coffee with cold water. In the New York Times article "Iced Coffee and Tea: (Not) Taking the Heat," the difference between hot and cold brewing is explained:
"As water moves into the coffee particles or tea leaves, it dissolves or suspends hundreds of different substances and extracts them from the solids. If the water is hot, it extracts more rapidly and completely. Hot water also cooks as it extracts, forcing chemical reactions that transform some of the extracted substances into other things, and driving some aroma substances out of the liquid. Cold water, in contrast, extracts more slowly and selectively, produces a simpler extract, and doesn't change the original flavor substances as much."
With cold-brewing, the result is a smoother taste with less acid - to the point where those who have had to forego coffee due to acid reflux or other digestive complaints are able to enjoy the beverage once again. Caffeine is reduced by about one-third as well.
Importance of type, growing conditions and roast
Even if cold-brewed coffee is embraced as a less-acidic, lower-caffeinated alternative, other concerns are still at hand - specifically, chemicals used in growing the beans and the formation of acrylamide during the roasting process. With conventional growing practices, the coffee plants are sprayed with a mixture of harmful chemicals, including cypermethrin, diazinon, endosulfan and methyl parathion. Exceptionally toxic when ingested, these substances also jeopardize the health of coffee plantation workers and wildlife. Choosing organically grown beans is the only way to avoid the poisons.
Another toxin to be aware of is acrylamide, a carcinogenic substance created when certain foods are heated. The type of roast has a substantial impact on the acrylamide levels in coffee. According to the journal Royal Society of Chemistry, Rita Alves of the University of Porto in Portugal found that specific types of coffee have lower levels of acrylamide:
"Alves and her team have analyzed acrylamide levels in espresso coffee and shown that light roasts contain significantly more acrylamide than dark ones. Bean type also appears to affect acrylamide levels and Robusta espressos contain almost twice as much acrylamide as their Arabica counterparts."
All things considered, "Alves admits that it is nigh on impossible to cut acrylamide levels in coffee without affecting quality, but suggests opting for higher levels of Arabica beans and a darker roast. A short espresso rather than a 'lungo', which takes twice as long to prepare, may also have a lower level of acrylamide because the chemical has less opportunity to transfer to the drink."
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