Jody Victor: Engineering a Better Bean

Nick Brown from Daily Coffee News wrote about a new genome sequencing project – however this isn’t the human genome, but rather that of a coffee bean. Coffea arabica, to be precise. Researchers believe their work will lead to “new high-quality, adaptable coffee varieties.”

The research is being done at the University of California, Davis. University researchers collaborated with Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics farm in California’s Central Coast Region near Santa Barbara.

23 samples of Geisha coffee trees at varied levels of development were collected from Good Land Organics to be sequenced along with 22 other Geisha samples within 13 alternative varieties. Researchers’ goal was to best understand genetic diversity within the various varieties.

The research looked at 1.19 million base pairs—to give you an idea of the magnitude of the project, that is about 1/3 of the base pairs examined in the human genome. This initial study, while one of a kind, found little genetic diversity among the samples.
The new genome sequence has been posted to Phytozome.net, the public database for comparative plant genomics.

Considering the Cost of the K-Cups, To-Go Coffee and Traditionally Brewed Coffee

To say that the K-Cup has been a zeitgeist in the world of coffee wouldn’t be an overstatement. Keurig has revolutionized the way we drink coffee at home, at work and presumably has affected the amount of to-go coffee some people purchase. But are K-Cups all they are cracked up to be?

While there has been small, quiet, but growing public outcry over the additional waste created by K-Cups versus brewing coffee at home or the office, K-Cups are undoubtedly creating more waste than traditional brewing when at home or the office and some of the pods are not recyclable.

If you want to recycle your K-Cups the first thing to check is the bottom of the K-Cup for that trusty recycle symbol – note the number and make sure your local recycling program takes that kind of plastic. Next the foil top has to be completely removed and the K-Cup rinsed out thoroughly. If you are familiar with recycling practices you know that you can’t recycle dirty food containers.

There is even a company now offering a cutting tool to help ease the process. If you love your single cup maker, the easiest way to “go green” while drinking your coffee is to purchase a reusable filter cup in which you place your own ground coffee. There are also several options on in the market for off-brand single cup makers that only use a reusable filter cup.

The Atlantic reported: “The best estimates say the Keurig pods buried in 2014 would actually circle the Earth … more than 12 [times]…last year [Keurig Green Mountain] sold 9.8 billion Keurig-brewed portion packs.”

The 2015 article notes that, “K-Cups are extremely profitable, selling standard coffee grounds for around $40 per pound.” Which means consumers are paying more per pound for their K-Cup coffee than some highly sought after coffees like Jamaican Blue Mountain.
A New York Times article estimates K-Cup coffee can cost consumers as much as $50 a pound and states that most high-end coffees cost around $20 a pound.

While what about those who are replacing their morning Starkbucks with K-Cup coffee? A Fox Business article states that:

“While Keurig-brewed coffee costs more than traditionally brewed coffee, consumers still save a significant amount of money over the long run by using a Keurig brewer rather than buying a daily drink at Starbucks. You would save roughly $1.25 a day or $456 a year assuming you would forgo a daily $1.75 twelve-ounce cup of coffee from Starbucks and instead make a ten-ounce cup of coffee from your Keurig. After subtracting out the cost of the Keurig machine, you will still end up with hundreds of extra dollars in your pocket at the end of the first year.”

The Fox Business article also noted that even if consumers bought their morning coffee at McDonalds, K-Cups would save them $183 dollars a year.

A CNN Money article tells readers that to-go coffee drank from a disposable cup is good for the environment either as the cups are almost exclusively non-recyclable do to the mixture of paper and plastic products in the cups. The article claims that nearly 60 billion paper cups get thrown into the garbage each year in the US.

It seems the best over-all option is to brew your coffee traditionally or from a completely reusable single-cup solution.

Coffee and Cooking: Amish Pot Roast

While coffee is probably one of the most common beverages in our world, presumably being consumed by millions of people every morning, coffee can play more roles than that of a beverage. In fact, coffee is often used as an ingredient in baking and cooking.

One recipe including coffee as an ingredient that has made the rounds on the internet is one called “Amish Pot Roast”. While you are sure to find many variations on this recipe if you search, the recipe found below is standard recipe based on Google’s top hits for “Amish Pot Roast”. It is straight forward and sure to become a family favorite. Especially for anyone who is a “meat and potatoes” person.

Ingredients
• 3-4 lb. beef roast (rump)
• 1 tbsp. oil
• ¼ c. soy sauce
• 1 c. coffee
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 garlic clove minced
• ½ tsp. oregano
• 2 onions, sliced

Instructions
1. Sear roast in 1 tablespoon oil on all sides in heavy Dutch oven.
2. Pour sauce over meat.
3. Put half of onions on meat, the other half in sauce.
4. Cover and roast 4-5 hours at 325 degrees.

Experiment with the amount of coffee. Some recipes call for instant coffee rather than regular grounds. Many people elect to include carrots and potatoes to the recipe so you’ve got a “one pot meal”. You can add these veggies straight to the pan with the roast, though 4-5 hours is a long time for carrots and potatoes. You can also substitute a round or tip roast if you prefer – with the price of beef these days you may want to buy whatever is on sale. Remember that in cooking spices are all “to taste”. If you want a bit more garlic or want to leave out the Bay leaves, go for it! Make the recipe your own.

Alexa and Coffee

The Victor crew came across this cute video that some college students came up with. Using a coffee pot and Alexa via a Raspberry Pi hooked to a microphone, they can ask the coffee maker for the weather. They added two arms: one places the filter in place and the other scoops the grounds. Not a very good job though. It also cannot be asked to start the brew process. They added googly eyes to the top and as the weather report is given, it looks like it’s actually giving the weather report.

Have your coffee and protein too!

If you have a coffee maker that uses k-cups, there is something new for you to try. LonoLife has coffee pods that contain 10 grams of protein – more than a large egg. Each pod has Kona coffee along with collagen, an animal protein supplement that became popular with the Paleo diet movement. It is the main protein found in bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. Other coffees that contain protein use whey as the main protein.

LonoLife also has Beef Bone Broth with 10g protein for your Keurig. It is made from grass-fed cows. Maybe Chicken Bone Broth is your thing – they have that too. The chicken has 8g Protein. Perhaps you would like Thai Curry Beef with 10g Protein – with a lemongrass flavor.

Bonus: here is a link for gift ideas for coffee-lovers.