7/27/12

Coffee May Help Treat Parkinson's Disease

Drinking too much coffee can give the average Joe the jitters, but scientists say caffeine may have the opposite effect on people with Parkinson's disease.



The Canadian study found that drinking between two and four cups of coffee a day can help control tremors, opening the door to new treatment options for the progressive neurodegenerative condition that affects more than 10,000 Kiwis.

Symptoms can include tremors, stiffness of muscles, depression, disturbance of normal sleep, fatigue and lack of sense of smell.

Parkinson's New Zealand chief executive Deirdre O'Sullivan said she was excited by the research but expressed caution at the small scale of the study.

The effect of caffeine on the healthy human brain was widely known but she had not heard any research into its effects regarding Parkinson's, she said.

Coffee could also lead to negative effects, so she said it was probably not wise for those suffering from the disease to dramatically increase their intake until more research had been done.

The study was one of the first in humans to show that caffeine can help with movement impairment in people who had the disease, said study author Ronald Postuma, of McGill University in Montreal.

Previous studies have found that people who drink caffeine are less likely to develop Parkinson's.

Sixty-one sufferers - whose symptoms included daytime sleepiness and some motor symptoms - were given either a caffeine supplement or placebo pill.

Members of the caffeine group were given 100 milligrams of caffeine twice a day for three weeks, then 200 milligrams twice a day for three weeks, which is the equivalent of between two and four cups of coffee a day.

After six weeks, the half that took the caffeine supplement experienced an improvement in their motor symptoms compared with the placebo group, Dr Postuma said.

"This was due to improvement in speed of movement and a reduction in stiffness."

Caffeine had borderline effects on sleepiness, and did not affect depression or night-time sleep quality in the study participants.

Dr Postuma said larger-scale studies need to be carried out over a longer period to clarify the caffeine-related improvements.

"Caffeine should be explored as a treatment option for Parkinson's disease. It may be useful as a supplement to medication and could therefore help reduce patient dosages."

The study was published yesterday in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

7/26/12

How to Make Delicious Hot Coffee

Millions of people make coffee in their kitchens every morning and have done so for decades. A good cup of coffee is a hot commodity. You can make the trek to your favorite coffee shop or you can learn how to make a great cup of coffee right at home. Although the type of coffee pot you own makes a difference in how your coffee tastes, you don't need an expensive, gourmet coffee pot. Get what you can afford. Good coffee is decided by an array of other factors you can control.

How to Make Delicious Hot Coffee:

* Clean your coffee pot thoroughly. This may seem elementary, but it's easy to get lazy and only rinse your coffee pot after each brew without truly cleaning it. Residue can burn and heavily affect the taste of your coffee.

* Purchase freshly roasted beans and store them properly. Try to get your beans as soon as possible after they've been roasted and buy only what you need for a week or two. When storing your beans, put them in an air-tight container. If you don't have an air-tight container, seal them in a freezer bag and store them in the freezer.

* Grind only what you will use to keep the rest of your beans fresh until you're ready for them. If your grinder let's you, shake the grinds a little to even them out for a more even cut to avoid powdery grinds.

* Pour cold, filtered water into your pot in the measure that you need. The quality of the water you use is important. Different factors, such as minerals and pollutants, can cause water to taste bad and affect the taste of your coffee.

* Insert a non-bleached coffee filter into your machine if it needs one, then put the proper measure of coffee in it. Some machines have built-in coffee filters, but if your machine does not, avoid bleached filters. The brown or gold filters don't have dyes and other chemicals that can come out in the coffee. Professional tasters use about 2 tbsp. of coffee for every 6 oz. of water.

* Turn on the machine. When the brew is complete, drink your coffee immediately. Coffee starts losing its flavor minutes after it's brewed, so if you don't drink it immediately, store it in an insulated container to preserve the flavor.

# If your coffee is too strong, adjust the grind. A coarser grind will make weaker coffee.

7/18/12

Equipment Needed to Open a Coffee Shop

So you have decided on starting a coffee shop! Congratulations! In my coffee shop business plan package, I go into more detail regarding equipment but due to space here, I am only going to give you some basic ideas of what to consider when looking at your equipment needs.

First of all, do yourself a favor and DO NOT buy any used equipment unless you know the exact age, where it came from, who used it, and that maintenance records are verifiable. I am only referring to anything with a motor or compressor. Used sinks, tables, counters, etc are fine as long as they are in decent shape. All other equipment, be VERY careful!

Even if you get it from a friend, you might be assured by them that the equipment was maintained properly and often, however did they get it used and can they get that guarantee from whom they bought it from? And how old really is it?

As you may have guessed, I fell into this trap and had things breaking down when I did not expect it shortly after I opened my coffee shop. Yes even my espresso machine. I was in a bad spot then! Luckily I had access to a one group machine for backup and a local guy was able to fix the other fast but you may not be as lucky.

I eventually upgraded to mostly new equipment when, but this can be avoided by getting new equipment at the start. You will be glad you did it, trust me!

Equipment Needs

Cash register or POS computer? - A computer POS (point of sale) system is good there is no doubt about it. These are the ones that have the touch screen monitors and such. However, they are probably (and arguably) best for analyzing your sales and inventory only, and not much more. They do not speed up your customer line.

If you want one of these guys, be prepared to pay about $5000 for a base system. The price goes up for multiple terminals and printers, monitors, a kitchen printer, etc.

In my opinion though, a POS fast food register that has price look ups (PLU) and department categories is sufficient for most coffee shops. Try to get one that allows you to download the information to your computer. Most have this feature today. It may, however increase your manual inventory and sales tracking if you have to put this info into your accounting software and spreadsheets manually but it can be a big money saver. If you get in the habit of entering the figures daily, you will not have a huge amount of data entry to do at month's end. You can usually get these types of registers for about $800 or so.

If you end up opening other stores, I think the touch screen computer POS may be the way to go then because it will make your management and inventory control much easier, and you can link all of your stores together and control them from one place.

Espresso Machine

This is the Mack daddy of the whole business, your life blood. DO NOT SKIMP ON IT! However, having said that there is the line of overkill you do not need to cross either. I say, two group maximum, if you need more power or want a backup, get a one group as well.

The feasibility of a three or four group is great but it's difficult to get more than one person working on them due to spacing of the group heads, etc. Ordinarily, you do not need more than one person pulling shots and making the espresso beverages anyway. It is almost impossible for one barista to use all four groups at one time so you be the judge! However that may be up to debate if you get REALLY busy. However, a two group is always my choice.

There are three basic types of espresso machines: Semi-Automatic, Automatic or Super Automatic. Well My choice is always the automatic because you can program them to cut off a shot at 23 seconds, or whatever you choose but still do it manually. The semi-automatic requires manual shut off by the operator.

The super automatic machine will grind the beans, tamp, pull the shot, shut it off and even discard the used grounds. Yes, I am serious. I believe you lose a lot of 'art' when you use one of these. You'd be surprised at the amount of people that love to see a barista set up and then pull a great shot. These super autos are also big bucks. But if all you want to do is move your cattle call through the line, this is the machine for you!

The boiler capacity should be large enough for a big rush, 9-14 liters should be sufficient. You do not want to run out of steam or hot water in a rush and with a smaller boiler that will happen! Trust me on this from experience!

Buy a machine based on the availability to get parts and service locally. Do not buy based on price alone, or 'coolness' or 'features' of a machine. They are all good these days. Features will not mean anything if you cannot get local service on your machine.

As far as water softeners, the choice to get a whole water system softener is going to depend on where you are located. In central Texas, the water is VERY hard but I chose to not soften my whole water system, just for the espresso machine. If you are not familiar with hard water, this is what causes lime build-up. It's a white, crusty looking build up that will kill your $5000 or 10,000 espresso machine. It clogs up the piping that in time, builds up to the point of the water not being able to get through. Then your machine needs to be completely taken apart and de-limed. Not pretty and not cheap!

You will most likely have to have a complete de-liming performed several times over the life of your machine, however if your water is very hard and you do not soften it for your espresso machine, you will most likely have to have it de-limed at a minimum of once per year. This will get time-consuming and expensive, even if you learn to do it yourself. I had my one group de-limed for about $900 so do the math. Avoid lime scale build-up by getting a water softener.

Espresso Grinders

You will need one for decaf and one for regular espresso. There are several manufacturers and models. I will tell you though to be sure it's automatic and has a doser/coffee hopper. They make a doserless model that grinds right into the portafilter and though this is freshly ground espresso, it does not work well in a rush! The units with a hopper allow the hopper to fill with ground espresso and have a lid to keep out the air. The bigger units have a bigger hopper and vice versa. Also, these have a bean hopper that you can get about 2 lbs of espresso beans in.

Bulk Coffee Grinder

These are the types you see in the food store bulk coffee aisle. Be sure to get the full scale version, not the shorter one. The only difference I can see is the taller one is easier to get a bag under to grind beans for customers. The shorter one is not! Try to have one grinder for regular and decaf, and another for flavored coffee if you will serve it. Using the same for all three will make the regular and decaf coffee taste like the flavored coffee. This grinder will need proper maintenance and burr replacement after so many hours as well. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations on this.

Coffee Maker (drip)

Be sure to buy for your volume. Automatics are best as they are plumbed to a water line. Pour over units will you need to fill manually! The air pot brewers are the better fits because they brew the coffee directly into the air pots. There are single unit models and double unit models. You will save a lot of time especially in a rush, with a double brew unit.

Pastry Case (refrigerated and non)

There are several different sizes. Take your floor space into consideration but also buy for capacity and visual display. A nice, attractive unit that holds and displays a nice array of pastries is key for merchandising. Dual zone cases are a good idea because they let you have part cold, and part room temperature (dry case) pastries that do not need to be refrigerated.

Blender

There are several models to choose from but some have features you just won't need. Be sure to get a commercial blender. Consumer units do not have the heavy duty types of motors that commercial units have. That means they will break down a lot faster than a commercial one! I would suggest you give Vitamix a look here.

Sandwich Prep Unit

These come in single, double and triple door units. Of course, plan for your overall room but your needs as well. The larger units have more capacity inside the unit, but the bigger plus is the prep top area that has more compartments to put meats, vegetables, etc in. If you are planning on a regular deli and Panini service, I would say the double door unit would be good. You may even get away with the smaller one!

Under Counter Refrigerator

Do yourself a favor and get a double door unit. These are basically like the sandwich prep units but without the top compartments. The inside capacity should be big enough to hold a good portion of your dairy, as well as opened soy cartons, smoothie mix, bottled water and soda (if you do not have a larger unit or merchandiser for water and soda. Plan accordingly.

Storage Refrigerator

This is for the back of your shop. This will be your commercial refrigerator in the back area to house your back stock of refrigerated items such as milk, as well as your baking ingredients, food items, etc. There are double and single door units.

Ice Maker

Getting an ice maker that can make an average of 600-1000 lbs per day is good. It will give you enough and still be able to make more within 24 hours. In a busy shop, you'd be surprised how much ice you can go through: sodas, fruit smoothies, frappes, frozen chai.

Freezer

You will need one of these to keep your ice cream, and other food ingredients that can and need to be frozen.

Oven

Get this based on your baking level. A 1/4 size may be too small and a full size may be too big. The median unit is a 1/2 size and has 3 racks.

Convection oven? Most pastries, pies and other baking can be done well in a convection oven. That is an oven that has a blower wheel that disperses the heat evenly and faster throughout the oven. Therefore your baking time is usually cut in half.

Panini Grill

Cast iron (non-ceramic) with ribbed plates are the better units. With the ribbed, rather than flat plates you will get the 'grill marks' on the bread and that always looks impressive. I recommend a double plate unit so you can effectively grill up to four Panini at once if you have a large order.

Three Compartment Sink

This will be essential per most health departments for wash, rinse and sanitize. If you have a commercial dishwasher, it usually overrides the 3 bay sink. However, most restaurants have both. You don't need a big one, just one big enough to get your biggest 'washable' piece of baking or cooking hardware into.

Hand Sink(s)

Check your health department requirements because you may need a hand sink every so many feet or based on how many employees you have, or based on your floor plan. These are sinks only big enough to wash your hands in and that is it. That is why they are so small.

Furniture

Pick and choose what is in between comfortable and not. This will help you avoid squatters that love to stay all day. Ordinarily, people in your store is a good thing but not if they are taking up space and just being comfy! This will include your tables and chairs, as well as couch, wing hairs, etc. If you are an eclectic coffee house, good finds can be had at Goodwill and other resale shops.

Phone

Just get one that you can hear when it rings! A cordless phone is a great idea.

Radio System

If u can, get extra speakers and have one in at least all four corners for best sound quality.

Credit Card Machine

This is the swiper w/pin pad - If you accept credit and debit cards, this is essential. Usually they are purchased from your credit card processor. Leasing one of these is usually a rip-off. Try to buy it outright.

Prep Tables

These are stainless steel or aluminum and great to make a kitchen prep area. They clean easily too. They come in various heights and widths, with or without a backsplash and usually have a shelf underneath.

So there you have some information to get you started on planning your equipment needs for staring a coffee shop. Be sure you take your floor space into account when figuring the sizes of your equipment. Also be sure you account for your anticipated customer volume. Early planning is key to having the right equipment to begin with.

7/10/12

Benefits of Organic Coffee

By definition, foods labeled certified organic in the United States cannot be genetically modified. This is one of my main concerns regarding food. Many foods in the United States are genetically modified, and there is no law dictating that you, the consumer be informed about these genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As of 2011 nearly 75% of corn planted in the US was genetically modified. For you vegans supplementing your protein with soy, guess what, nearly 95% of soybeans planted in the United States are genetically modified! I will not go into the myriad forms of genetic modifications performed on plants, but one of the most "successful" was Monsanto genetically engineering corn to resist an herbicide THEY MANUFACTURE. GMO's are relatively new, and there is no real tracking system in the US to know what the long-term health affects will be. I for one, do not want to be a part of a massive epidemiological study to find out.

Other than prohibiting GMO's, organic certification prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. This requirement has many, far-reaching implications and benefits:

Environmental and Health Benefits of Organic Farming

For the farmer, not being able to use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers will require more work, but also involves much more attention to the coffee trees. This close relationship with the crop may result in higher quality coffees. An added benefit for the farmer is not being exposed to toxic chemical residues. This not only helps the farmer, but their family and the community. There have been numerous studies that correlate disease and long-term health problems with exposure to pesticides used in agriculture. Pesticide exposure can be harmful in the best of situations, but in developing countries the outcome can become deadly.

In the United States, farming and synthetic fertilizers go hand in hand. Without the use of synthetic fertilizers we never would have become the great producer of food that we are. Petro-chemical fertilizers are a powerful source of nitrogen which promotes rapid vegetative growth. Without the use of synthetic fertilizers, coffee growers have to do things differently. They must mulch and compost plant matter. This process mandates re-using coffee tree and other crop cuttings instead of burning them. This process helps maintain a healthy soil and sustainable environment.

Mass Produced Coffee

With conventionally grown crops farmers are in a battle to increase production and reduce costs - at all costs. With coffee and other crops there is a history of slashing and burning vegetation. They do this to open up the land to plant coffee in rows for mass production. This results in nutrient rich top soil being washed away, which creates an endless spiral of having to add synthetic fertilizers to grow the coffee. Mass deforestation and organic farming do not go hand in hand. Organic coffee may cost more, but it helps preserve the rainforest and tends to be much higher quality than coffees that cost a few cents less.

Physiological and Quality Benefits of Organic Coffee Production

Many organic coffees are grown at high elevations in shaded conditions. High elevations and shade contribute to a slow developing coffee, especially in the absence of synthetic fertilizers. Coffee beans grow denser and more complex than coffees grown at low elevations in direct sun. Not only does organic coffee production preserve the environment, but results in better coffees!

A couple items that correlate with complex flavor development in organically grown coffees are antioxidant and nutrient accumulations. Some of the complex and intense flavors associated with organic coffee can be attributed to being shade grown*, but there have been numerous research studies that show that organically grown foods contain higher levels of antioxidants and nutrients. There have been other studies that directly correlate better flavor with organic farming practices. Although there have not been extensive studies comparing the phenolic content of organic versus conventionally grown coffees, it stands to reason that coffee would follow the same trend as other organically produced crops. It is well known that coffee contains loads of antioxidants, which may provide many health benefits. It is our belief that organically grown coffees present the best possible solution for easy consumption of these various antioxidants. Not only are antioxidants higher in organically grown crops, but you don't have to worry about toxic pesticide residues or genetically modified organisms.

Conclusion:

Above, I have outlined the major benefits of organic coffee, but for me organic coffee is much more. There are numerous cultural and social implications which come with exclusively roasting certified organic coffees. By going organic we can make the world a better place.

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