By Diane Quagliani, MBA, RD
Research on the health benefits of coffee mainly investigates the bean in its brewed beverage form. Some studies suggest higher levels of coffee intake (at least six or seven cups a day) are associated with lower risk for type 2 diabetes. Others show the consumption of coffee may be linked to reduced risk of stroke, several types of cancers including liver, skin, colorectal, breast, oral, pharyngeal and esophageal cancers, and possibly cardiovascular disease (although research on the relationship between coffee and heart disease is somewhat mixed).
Coffee may help boost brain function, too. Drinking at least three cups of coffee a day was associated with slower decline in cognitive abilities in women, probably due to coffee’s caffeine content. Coffee consumption also is linked to lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, possibly by protecting the brain’s dopaminergic cells against neurotoxicity.
While the reasons for coffee’s potential health benefits are still brewing, researchers theorize that its rich blend of antioxidants play a strong role—and some studies show protective effects can come from both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. In general, study subjects who drink the most java receive the greatest health benefits; however, most adults including pregnant women should limit caffeine to less than 300 mg a day, or about the amount found in three cups of coffee. Of course, the usual cautions apply to those troubled by caffeine jitters, insomnia or gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
Cooking With Coffee
By Serena Ball, MS, RD
More than 800 aroma compounds are associated with coffee, including nutty, earthy, fruity, buttery, chocolaty, cinnamon, caramel, spicy and winey. With so many flavor profiles, coffee pairs perfectly with many foods. Its acidic nature and spicy, smoky flavors make it an ideal ingredient for marinades to tenderize tougher, inexpensive cuts of meat. Using coffee in recipes like pot roast or onion jam add winey, gamy flavors that complement sandwiches and a variety of meats.
Roasted coffee beans are porous and easily absorb moisture and odors lurking in refrigerators and freezers, so store whole beans at room temperature in a ceramic canister for no more than a few weeks. Never refrigerate coffee beans; if necessary, store them very tightly wrapped in the freezer for a couple months, but do not defrost and re-freeze beans since this breaks down oils and impacts flavor. Ideally, you should grind beans just before using, but ground beans may be stored in an airtight container if used within a few days.
Working With Coffee in Food Service
By Mary Kimbrough RD, LD
Its starring role in foodservice settings may be as a beverage, but coffee can turn traditional menu items into upscale versions at a reasonable cost. While some commercial kitchens grind whole coffee beans for service in specialty areas, most facilities use urns or pour-over pots, on-demand brewing systems, or a combination—and which brewing equipment you have is often linked to standing quantity coffee orders.
Shelf-stable and frozen coffees used in on-demand brewing systems are roasted, brewed and concentrated in air-tight packages to preserve delicate flavors and aromas. These liquid instant coffees and espressos work well as ingredients in desserts that contain chocolate or creamy dairy, such as coffee angel food cake or mocha icing. Keep shelf-stable liquid coffees in dry storage for a year. Frozen liquid coffees must be thawed before use, but may be stored frozen for up to a year or several weeks if thawed and refrigerated.
Urns and pour-over pots use ground coffee, which adds a creative twist to beef, pork and chicken when mixed with spices for a rub. Ground coffee packs should be kept in cool, dry storage and opened just prior to use. And try using brewed coffee in barbecue sauces, gravies and marinades for meats, or in baked beans to help build deep, roasted flavors.