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Delusions of Competence, or: On caffiene - I'm on the downeaster alexa

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October 20th, 2011

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04:02 pm - Delusions of Competence, or: On caffiene

So, I haven't posted in a while, and I figured I'd take a few moments to share a back and forth with Phil Broughton, better known as "Herr Direktor" of Funranium Labs. Funranium makes a rather excellent little drink: a cold-brew vacuum extracted coffee, from really good beans. Phil calls this brew Black Blood of the Earth. This is a reference to the movie "Big Trouble in Little China". You can read more about the product at His Site

I ordered a case of the stuff recently, and after trying small doses for an extended period of time, decided to email my findings, as well as some notes about my own unique physiology to him. While some might deem the information I provide to be an "overshare", I have a legitimate interest in the chemistry involved, and feel the info provided is requisite to explain the scenario adequately.

From: "Dan Mahoney, System Admin"
        To: Phillip Broughton
        Date: Tue, 18 Oct 2011 22:57:00 -0400 (EDT)
        Subject: Re: Local Pickup Option?</p>
    On Thu, 15 Sep 2011, Phillip Broughton wrote:

    > Welcome to the ranks of the Test Subjects.


I'm rather enjoying BBOTE, and figured I'd make a few comments.  Science 
would say "observations".

My phisiology:

I'm 325 Lbs.  Despite being that heavy, I exhibit very few of the typical 
health issues attributed to heavy people.  I have a "slow" liver, which is 
to say, my caffeine half-life is long.  This is probably largely due to 
some of my liver being highly fatty, due to a surgery a few years ago (a 
liver abscess).

I can easily fall asleep fully wired, my mind racing, and other than some 
very lucid dreams, generally will wake up the following day feeling 
refreshed.  The same is true if I go to sleep very inebriated.  My friends 
only hate me because they're jealous.

At any rate, my caffeine half life is on the order of several days, even 
after a full detox state.  I am *not* your average caffeine consumer, and 
I find that BBOTE affects me differently from normal coffee.  You seem 
bothered by the people who view BBOTE as simply a more hyper drug delivery 
mechanism as opposed to a smoother, better drink, so I wanted to say a few 
words on that.

My relationship with caffiene and coffee:

I'm a sysadmin.  My mental chemistry is such that caffeine is a focus drug 
for me.  Code works better, background noise filters out more smoothly, 
thought processes and goal visualization are better.

I've never drank it for the taste, and while I'll admit BBOTE is sweet and 
palatable, I've always drank my coffee mixed with other things.

I can appreciate taste and quality.  However, just because I like the 
taste of turbinado sugar and kosher salt over their more generic 
equivalents doesn't obligate me to always consume them straight, and in 
general while I appreciate the tastes of coffees, it's always when cut 
with dairy.  To put a science twist here, we could say that I'm only 
changing one variable: the coffee.  The drink method is always the same.

I stopped drinking coffee and switched to tea a few months ago, as strong 
coffee makes my stomach attempt to eat itself, and the only way to make 
the gut stable was to add half and half.  (the lactose keeps the 
stomach at bay).  The higher the fat content, the less the reflux.

How BBOTE seems to work differently:

1) It would seem that the acidity of the coffee, or the other ingredients 
in traditionally brewed stuff, are at least partially responsible for the 
jitters.  With BBOTE and 2% milks, I get smooth, focused mental states, 
without the "cornholio effect" that drinking a similar amount of espresso 
and cream would give me.

2) As I'm given to understand, caffeine works by binding to the same 
receptors in the brain and body as a similar neurotransmitter, Adenosine. 
I believe that I've reached the point of being "fully blocked", above 
which there is no more noticable effect.  While I'm aware that of course, 
greater quantities of the drug can go outright to the level of "poison" 
and risk kidney/liver damage, I've definitely exceeded 100ml/day to no 
major damage.  I don't plan to continue doing so in any kind of quality, 
but there may be a fascinating avenue for study here.

3) While I would go through a *pitcher* of tea, I can get similar effects 
from ONE GLASS of bbote and milk.  What this equates to is fewer bathroom 
runs.  I think this is actually the most ideal side effect.

What I'd like to see:

1) I'd like to know what the real number is, as far as caffiene goes. 
While there's a fun-factor in not knowing, I'm more curious as to my own 
phisiology, and how it reacts so differently.  How would I go about 
finding out?

http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/chem00/chem00291.htm lists a 
possible procedure that doesn't seem to involve a chromatograph.

2) I've got several different varieties of BBOTE, but I haven't been able 
to find info on all of them.  It would really be neat if you had 
information about ALL of the origins you've carried on your site, like the 
malabor, and the death wish.  Tell us the stories!  We want to know!

3) Since I've discovered BBOTE, my local coffee shop, The Grind in Redwood 
City, hasn't done their usual level of business with me.  While you are 
also a small, local business, there's an option that intruiges me: what 
would be the possibility of doing science, and BBOTEifying a few of their 
house blends as a custom order, so I could compare levels on the same 
beans, which differ only by prep methods?

I think that's all I've got.  Thanks for putting up with my blather!

He replied less than 24 hours later, in equal depth and volume. I've removed the "quoted" portion, as well as sanitizing the email address.

    From: Phillip Broughton
    To: "Dan Mahoney, System Admin"
    Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2011 09:46:12 -0700
    Subject: Re: Local Pickup Option?</p>

I'm not sure bothered is quite the correct term. Disappointed perhaps?
I'm resigned to the fact that there are a lot of people who shotgun
BBotE just for the kick without ever taking the time to enjoy what
they're drinking. I've got a similar feeling about how I watch far too
many people consume good alcohol; it grows out of their experience of
bad booze, throwing it back to get it the hell away from your tongue.
Making a cocktail or whatever still makes me happy as you're tinkering
with the BBotE and finding new things in it that work for you.

In short, yer doin' it rite :). For the record, what is your normal
preparation mix? When tea just won't cut it or the whim takes her, My
Lovely Assistant prepares Retiro (the only BBotE she actually likes)
with a ~5:1 milk to BBotE mix with a teaspoon of, as you mentioned,
turbinado sugar.

As far as going above my normal recommended daily allowance, I do it
fairly regularly but not by much and I space out the consumption. 75ml
in the morning with email checking ritual and 75ml more in the late
afternoon to fight the siesta impulse, so more than 100ml, but not all
that much more and separated by more than 6hrs. More than that and I
start getting the overdose indicators (tinnitis, auras).

The concentration effects you discuss were first described by a former
housemate and puppeteer who declared that BBotE gave him "delusions of
competence". The ability to sit down, think of something "impossible",
and then focus and make it happen. This generally agrees with the
hallucinogenic properties of caffeine (intense focus, detail study,
with auditory & visual effects at higher doses). My reckoning of what
is going on is that I've managed to selectively extract caffeine while
leaving the theophylline (a definite stimulant we normally use as an
asthma medication) behind. Theophylline is also present in tea in high
quantities, but a hot elution of coffee will give you a big hit of
both chemicals. Theophylline is also the first liver metabolite of
caffeine. So, if I give you a caffeine-only hit with BBotE, you get
theophylline no faster than your own liver can make it and get to
enjoy the caffeine effects alone for longer.

Or, at least, that's my observation.

As far as getting hard numbers, it has proven harder than I expected.
Currently have quite a few samples in the hands of a food scientist
out in College Park, MD. That first methylene chloride extraction
method was where we started that destroyed the GC column, followed by
a gravimetric attempt that proved impossibly wrong. I think I can be
patient and wait for the scientist with actual expertise in this field
to figure it out.

The reason I don't list the sourcing for all BBotE varieties is that I
don't have permission from their roasters to mention them. Santa Cruz
Roastin Co., Ritual Coffee, Death Wish, and Caffe Vita have been most
kind in letting me promote their wares while making something
delicious from them; not everyone wants to be associated with what
some see as a dangerous product lest there be liability issues. *sigh*
However, I have done my best to tell the tale of the tastings that
made those given varieties the regulars that they are...though you may
have to dig a ways back.

Ah, The Grind. I know them well from my days in Mountain View. If you
have some beans you'd like to volunteer for experimental processing,
I'd be happy to turn them into BBotE for you and see what happens.
Since you'd be providing the beans, I'd have no option but to make the
resulting BBotE drastically cheaper for you of course. Need at least
2lbs of any given variety for a good statistical sample.

Alright, enough of *my* blather. Thanks for dropping a line and back to work.


All in all, I'm extremely satisfied with this purchase, and if you come to my Thanksgiving Thing (which is perhaps the subject of my next post), I'd love to share some with you.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)
Needs a little fix in the html

[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<lj-cut="cut">') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

Needs a little fix in the html

s/<lj-cut="cut">/<lj-cut text="cut">/
[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
Was fixing as you noted. Fixed now.
[User Picture]
Date:October 20th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
Interesting! I'm not familiar with BBotE at all, I'll have to google it, but it's neat that he's so prompt and thorough with his responses!
[User Picture]
Date:October 21st, 2011 02:47 am (UTC)
Fascinating. I'm going ot have to investigate this a bit further.

Also, how have you been?
[User Picture]
Date:October 21st, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
I've been pondering this ever since Warren Ellis talked about it. However given the price, I've not yet splurged on it. I /do/ do a lot of cold brewing, and have more than one espresso machine.

Around the office, I am "He who has the good stuff" while we have free coffee, I'm the guy with "Normal" clear on up to, as I call it "Programmer's Delight"

Or as one guy who formerly declared himself a god of coffee "I WANT TO RUN HOME NOW OMG WHEEE!"

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