Happy Monday! Here’s some interesting news stories from last week featuring coffee: a recent study looked into the benefits of a good night sleep and a good cup of coffee to help manage chronic pain, researchers at Lancaster University found a way to significantly improve the efficiency of turning coffee waste into biofuel, a latte artist’s amazing creations are earning him some well deserved attention, and the brewing of the worlds tiniest cup of coffee (video).
A recent study done under the combined efforts of Boston Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) looked into the effect of sleep loss on chronic pain sufferers and what role alertness plays. Using lab mice, the researchers first recorded a baseline for normal sleep patterns and pain sensitivity in the mice and then sleep-deprived the mice by keeping them awake in a non-stressful way using toys and activities, similar to the way humans will stay up past their bedtimes watching TV or falling into an internet black hole when they know they should be sleeping (I’ve got a Youtube weakness; it haunts me). The mice were then tested for sensitivity in a “blind fashion” when exposed to heat, cold, pressure, capsaicin (the agent in hot chili peppers), and loud sounds (to test non-pain sensitivity). According to sleep physiologist Chloe Alexandre, PhD, of BIDMC, “We found that five consecutive days of moderate sleep deprivation can significantly exacerbate pain sensitivity over time in otherwise healthy mice. The response was specific to pain, and was not due to a state of general hyperexcitability to any stimuli.” Here’s where it gets interesting – painkillers like ibuprofen and morphine did not block the sleep-loss-induced pain hypersensitivity, but caffeine and modafinil, drugs used to promote alertness and wakefulness, did. An even stranger twist? In non-sleep-deprived mice, these compounds had no analgesic properties. From this study, researchers concluded that “rather than just taking painkillers, patients with chronic pain might benefit from better sleep habits or sleep-promoting medications at night, coupled with daytime alertness-promoting agents to try to break the pain cycle.”
According to researchers at Lancaster University, only a small amount of companies are currently utilizing used coffee grounds to make biofuel, but they’ve found a way to increase the commercial competitiveness of the endeavor by streamlining the process. The traditional process involves cooking used coffee grounds mixed with hexane at 60 °C for 1-2 hours, followed by evaporating the hexane, and then making a biodiesel and glycerol by-product by adding methanol and a catalyst, followed by more separating. Led by Dr Vesna Najdanovic-Visak, a lecturer in Lancaster University’s Engineering Department, the researchers at Lancaster University were able to combine the processes by using just methanol and a catalyst, thereby saving on chemical waste and removing the need for hexane. In addition, their method is optimized to take only 10 minutes and produces the same yields as the traditional process, saving time and energy costs in the process. As stated by Dr Najdanovic-Visak, “A huge amount of spent coffee grounds, which are currently just being dumped in landfill, could now be used to bring significant environmental benefits over diesel from fossil fuel sources.”
Kangbin Lee, a Korean barista and coffee artist, is garnering a lot of attention with his amazing works of “Creamart” on Instagram, with close to 100k followers. Check out some of his work below and then go check out his Instagram for more.
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Watch the video below to see Director/Designer/Animator Lucas Zanotto brew of the world’s smallest cup of coffee, using a single bean, a nail file, and a candle, among other things.