Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Candy coated coffee beans

My favourite coffee shop occasionally gives out free samples of candy coated coffee beans. I like the concept, but I've always been a little wary of them. I'm sensitive to caffeine, and Mary P. has this disturbing story she likes to tell.

It's a true story, about a woman who ended up in the emergency ward at her local hospital with a dangerously high heart rate. She was eating candy coated coffee beans like they were — well, like they were candy. She didn't realize just how much caffeine they actually contain.

So I have been looking at these appealing treats a little suspiciously and wondering:  just how much caffeine do they contain? The sales staff in the coffee shop weren't able to tell me.

The answer is this:  a small serving (28 grams = 1 oz.) contains nearly twice as much caffeine as a regular cup of coffee.

type serving caffeine
drip 250ml = 8oz 115-175mg
espresso 30ml = 1oz 100mg
candy coated beans 28g 226mg

Some comments are in order. First, the amount of caffeine in a cup of java varies depending on how strong the brew is. That's why the amount of caffeine in drip coffee is presented as a range, 115-175mg.

Second, you may be surprised to see that a serving of espresso has less caffeine than a serving of drip coffee. Why? Espresso is served in much smaller amounts, as you can see from the table. It is also brewed more quickly (30 seconds instead of ~6 minutes), so less caffeine is extracted — see below.

Third, as I've already stated, a serving of candy coated coffee beans contains nearly twice as much caffeine as a regular cup of coffee. Bear that in mind, and save yourself a trip to emergency.

I know there are a lot of coffee lovers out there. Here, for your amusement, is a little bonus information.

Espresso myths exposed!
  1. Myth:  Espresso carries more of a caffeine jolt than regular brewed coffee.

    False:  Espresso is brewed from Arabica beans, which have a richer taste and a lower caffeine content than the less prized (and less expensive) Robusta beans. Because a cup of espresso takes no more than 30 seconds to brew, less caffeine is extracted than in drip coffee — which takes anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes.

  2. Myth:  Bigger is better.

    False:  Large cups don't do espresso justice. The proper portion of espresso is one ounce, and the cup should be very small so that it holds the heat. Thick china cups are preferred. Large cups dissipate the heat and the crema (foam) which carries the aroma in a fine cup of espresso.

    [An aside: Speaking as a vertically-challenged man, I feel compelled to point out that this "bigger is better" business is always a myth — in whatever context it arises. So to speak.]

  3. Myth:  Put your coffee for espresso in the freezer for freshness.

    False:  Freezing the coffee coagulates the natural oils contained in the bean. In an espresso, those oils emulsify producing the wonderful body of this special cup of coffee.
I apologize if that last sentence sounds like a bit of a sales pitch. In fact, it is:  the Web site is hosted by Illy coffee.

copyright © 2006, Stephen Peltz


At 12:01 AM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Carolyn said...

I find this post disturbing for a couple reasons.

1. I just received a rather large bag of candy coated coffee beans for my birthday last week.
2. I become intolerably hyper and unfocused from a regular cup of coffee (which I drink rarely, adn usually when I need the extra "something" at work.
3. I have a hard time eating one or two of something that is delicious.

I'll post the address of the hospital after I'm admitted.

At 5:00 AM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

I've never seen candy coated coffee beans. they might even be illegal in the UK as we have pretty tight laws on what counts as foodstuff & and what counts as herbal medicine, and we have recently changed the law that herbal medicines have to have the same clearance as chemical medicines before being offered for sale (basically they need to have scientifically tested and evidence of benefits & side effects produced). I'll have to go check:-)

At 5:06 AM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Juggling Mother said...

I've checked. You can get them here. Just not in that many places obviously:-)

At 8:29 AM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Bill said...

I knew the caffeine content of espresso was lower than regular coffee, that's just one of the useless facts my brain seems to store well. Now if I could only keep all the useful facts in order, maybe its because I drink too much coffee.(-:

That said, Carolyn made a point that caffeine makes her unfocused, this is not a side effect I had heard of. I will have to look into that, it may be another good reason to reduce my coffee intake (Darn).

At 11:20 AM, February 22, 2006, Blogger LoryKC said...

Back in college, my favorite coffee shop sold chocolate-covered espresso beans. A much more delicious way to stay up all night than a pot of coffee or dose of No-doz but I'll admit, I was pretty jumpy during the exam!

Of course, these things cannot be good for you but I like to live dangerously! ;)

At 11:26 AM, February 22, 2006, Blogger LoryKC said...

--you're right, bigger is not always better--good things come in little packages! (OK--I stole that from a Hershey's commercial for those little Hershey's kisses) but as my hubbie is also in the "vertically-challenged" group I've found it to be true in other areas of life as well!
Drink your espresso in little cups! Lots of little cups! ;)

At 12:27 PM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Carolyn said...

I think my extreme lack of focus comes from how hyper I get. I talk fast, go from topic to topic...it's a mess!

At 12:37 PM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Mary P. said...

Interestingly, people with ADHD are often coffee addicts, because the caffiene helps them focus. (Ritalin, after all, is a stimulant. Seems counter-intuitive, but it works.)

The woman in my story's heart rate was pushing 200 beats per minute, and it stayed there for close to two hours. Had she not been so young (early 20's) she'd almost certainly have had a heart attack.

At 12:47 PM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Bill said...

What is interesting is that the chocolate covered coffee bean has been with us for some time. My sister D bought me a bag as a gag gift for christmas in the early 80's.

I've been popping the things ever since.

I'm in withdrawl, one cup of coffee a day and no more beans (booo Hooo).

At 1:08 PM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Ariel said...

When you say "candy coated" are we talking "chocolate coated?"

I am choosing to believe that the two are unrelated, since I've taken to popping chocolate coated coffee beans in class to overcome the afternoon doldrums.

Great post.

At 1:08 PM, February 22, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Carolyn:
Best wishes to you during your upcoming hospital stay. Let me know when you plan to eat the beans, and I'll try to time a card so that it gets to you on the right day.

• Mrs. Aginoth:
I suspect the beans are rarer in England just because you folks are oriented to tea rather than coffee. Perhaps tea leaves can be chocolate coated?

• Bill:

• Lory:
I love Hershey's kisses! A perfect illustration of the deep truth that good things come in small packages.

Lots of little cups of "espresso" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) — now I know why your blog is always cheery.

• Mary P.:
When I hear your story, I'm surprised they don't put a warning label on them. It sounds like a lucrative lawsuit in the making.

• Bill:
It's tough to give up a food you love. And a food combined with a drug — that's gotta hurt.

At 1:50 AM, February 23, 2006, Blogger 49erDweet said...

Q, one tiny aside. Brits used to be oriented more toward tea than coffee, but I sure saw lot's of public coffee drinking going on there a year ago, and it seems to be being served at more and more places. Not saying at all that tea is passé, only that it didn't seem to be as dominant in London as it once was. But mrs. aginoth would know better than I.

At 9:29 AM, February 23, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Ariel:
I hate to break it to you — though you can probably see this coming.

The source I cited is actually talking about chocolate coated beans. I only used "candy coated" because of the package of Second Cup beans I photographed. They were vanilla latté flavoured, or some such thing. (And they were delicious, I might add.)

• 49er:
I'm not shocked to hear it. Coffee is vastly superior to tea, right? I'm sure we're all agreed on this. Even the Brits had to figure it out some time.

Now if we could just convince them that the right side of the road is the right side of the road.

At 10:25 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Bill said...

Hey leave the tea drinkers alone (-:

Why do you think there are more varieties of Tea than coffee? (excluding all the new flavoured, pseudo coffees)


At 11:47 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Why do you think there are more varieties of Tea than coffee?

Maybe they're trying for a breakthrough — tea that tastes good.

At 11:54 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Lynne said...

Coffee is very much part of the culture in the pacific northwest. Might be hard to believe that I normally only have one cup a day. I may break that rule sometimes but not often. Or maybe I will have tea in the afternoon instead. But I will not have those chocolate beans. They ARE dangerous, I just can't handle them.

At 11:59 AM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Lynne said...

PS: That is one big cup of coffee per day.

At 6:49 AM, October 02, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since a "serving" is a pretty random quantity I weighed my bag of beans. The average chocolate coated coffee bean is almost exactly 1g, and contains 8mg of caffeine. 12 beans equal an espresso. If you're worried about the caffeine content, don't eat so many.


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