funranium: (Pyscho)

Cross-Posted From Funranium Labs

A while back, one Mr. Kristobek presented me with the simple challenge to see how Death Wish Coffee worked out as BBotE, on the principle that one ridiculous thing taken to the power of extreme must, by definition, be More Awesome. I can't fault this logic and it is the principle to which Funranium Labs is dedicated.

More to the point the folks at Death Wish have pursued a line of questioning that has been nagging at me since the dawn of BBotE: why don't we have tastier robusta coffees? We know that the robusta beans can be 2 to 5 times the caffeine content of their arabica cousins and that they will happily grow in climates that arabica would never sprout. If the childhood memory of Li'l Herr Direktor Funranium serves, we actually had some robusta growing in the wild hammock of the Erna Nixon Park in Melbourne, FL. One of the wonderful things about robusta coffee plants is that they are rather friendly, cultivation-wise, as they're low impact farming. They're practically weeds they're so hardy.The problem is that robusta beans are regarded as tasting almost uniformly awful. Part of the reason that many mass production store bought coffees are cheap (and regarded as crap) is that their arabica beans have been cut with robusta to help bulk out the can. Yes, that sounded like I was discussing selling crack to me too.But I always wondered, there must be some robusta that isn't as awful. There must be something that can be done to breed for improved flavor while preserving the higher caffeine content. This is precisely what the folks at Death Wish did. Where I went searching for a process to improve coffee to make it more drinkable for me, they went searching for the highest possible caffeine levels they could find and then making a delicious coffee from that.Some caveats for my rather biased tasting:
  1. I am fond of light roasts, not dark. Even the choicest picked beans taken to a dark roast loses a great deal of flavor as far as I'm concerned.\

  2. The original reasons I made BBotE in the first place was because of the bitterness of arabica coffees without heavy cream & sugar masking and diabetes had made that impossible for me anymore. Thus, the average robusta is a no go. The hot perc coffee I made with the Death Wish was undrinkable to me, though others were quite fond.
In flavor, both straight and with 1 part straight vodka to 3 part BBotE addition there was an wild green grape metallic-like (go eat one sometime and and see what I mean) & licorice flavor. And then there was a very long, though muted, bitter pinch on the front sides of the tongue. The robusta bad qualities were showing in the long palate, though not cripplingly so.

When diluted with 3:1 with hot water, the grape-metallic flavor and long palate bitterness disappeared, leaving a good strong, dark coffee that finished with long feeling of menthol cool on the tongue. I think it may have made the best pairing with absinthe yet as it pulled a strong root beer flavor.

For all of these tastes, I can most definitely testify that it had more than the normal amount of caffeinated zing. I felt eyelids go a bit wider after a few minutes after my testing sips. ADDENDUM: did not comfortably get to sleep until roughly 2:30am after a half shot. Wow, and this is my caffeine tolerance talking.

Damn You LJ

Sep. 4th, 2010 09:51 am
funranium: (Default)
I had a good rant going about radiation education and MAN PLAY FIRE, OOK...until LJ ate it.

Too despondent to rebuild it.  Helping people building plausible radiogenic cancer arguments to get full benefits for their survivors is not fun research.  It is a titch early in the morning to be drinking yet.

Short Version: Ionizing Radiation is Promethean Fire.  Be an informed monkey before playing with the balefire.

Did I seriously make the Oktoberfest coupon for Funranium Labs through Oct 4th?  I suppose I have some BBotE decanting to do as well.
funranium: (SCIENCE!)

***Cross-posted from Funranium Labs***

In response to an urgent missive that asked if I was adding an extra caffeine to BBotE (or, perhaps, massive quantities of speed) I must answer with a most emphatic "No". He took a 50ml belt around 10pm before heading out the clubs, was still dancing long after the bar closed and, after willing himself to sleep sometime around 8am, woke up without the usual trashed feeling he got from his usual "Club Power Ups".

Incidentally, I think someone's been playing a bit much Mario.

While BBotE may indeed by the club drug of the future (new ad copy: "The dance-all-night pep of meth, but delicious and without losing teeth"), the only thing I've got in BBotE is what I can extract from the beans.  Experience from environmental clean up operations tells me that nothing tends to grow well in the soils contaminated with methamphetamine and the precursor chemicals, so the bean growers around the world probably aren't lacing their beans with it.

The average coffee bean has somewhere between 10-20mg of caffeine in it, depending on varietal.  By comparison, the average 8oz cup of drip coffee has approximately 120mg of caffeine.  The is speaks to the efficiency of the normal extraction techniques as I somewhat expect that we all use more than six beans to make a cup of coffee.

So, no, there is no need to add extra caffeine.  There is plenty there to work with in the beans, you just have to work a bit to get at it.  Besides, the happy days of getting reagent grade chemicals by mail order is receding further into the sunset.  Alas...
funranium: (Big Book O' Science)
But the primary home of the Steins of Science and Coffee Science posts are now over yonder at  Please tune your ears to carnival side show barker for these links:

See! Phil seemingly suffer synesthesia as he drinks his lates concoction of Malabar BBotE.

See! Phil sample his five BBotE samples that had been in the fridge for six months.  Yes, they were left there on purpose.  Lazy failing to clean the fridge was not a factor.

There have been other misadventures.  Of course there have been.  You expect no less.

I look forward to the photodocumentation of me lying on the floor of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, dying of internal bleeding, beneath the wharf tank.  More sharing when there are pics to share.  I love mass casualty drills.
funranium: (Default)

ATTENTION PLANET EARTH: Caffeinated doom is one step closer.

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funranium: (Science Diet)
Cross-posted from Funranium Labs - Coffee Science Recent Developments (3/26/10)

Following a three week countertop exposure of Kona BBotE at room temperature in sealed bottles, the verdict is in: Black Blood of the Earth can survive shipping without prohibitive cold packaging.  I did testing with both air in the headspace of the bottle and with carbon dioxide.  A future test with nitrogen may need to be done.

The first noticed change in flavor of the air headspace happened in the first 24hrs, which I attribute to the difference in mouth feel between cold and hot beverage.  The warm BBotE was similar in flavor to what I am accustomed to when adding one part BBotE to three parts hot water from magical Japanese hot water machine in the breakroom at work.  Flavor was consistent thereafter from 2-10 days.  At 12 days, I noticed a slight tannic note sneaking in.  By 18 days, the flavor had become distinctly "tangy" even when added to hot water.  This stayed consistent thereafter.

The carbon dioxide head space had a similar flavor progression, but off the bat had a minor carbonic bite from the dissolved CO2 in solution.  The "tangy" character was less at the 18 day mark, but still there. 

Interesting to note: at no time did either trial bottle develop mold.  This is a corroboration of the observation while evaporating samples for caffeine content analysis that, even while standing open to fume hood air for three weeks, none of the BBotE samples moldered.

In other interesting news, it is possible that I have identified the chemicals responsible for creating "butt cofffee" flavor.  You know, the horrible taste from burnt, long ignored coffee.  The likely culprits that are known to be present in coffee beans are thiols (well known in chemistry labs for their fishy aroma) and putrescine.  Yes, putrescine as in "the smell of corpses".  Really, putrescine is a decay product from the breakdown of proteins, which is something that happens to all living things, including coffee beans and people (special thanks to the Funranium Labs Staff Mortician for explaining this).  Of course, heat will accelerate this process which is why being a coroner on the east coast during the summer sucks so very, very much.  The same goes for overheated and then ignored coffee.  Just beacuse you stopped heating and walked away doesn't mean the protein breakdown stopped.

At the request of one astute reader, I performed a 48hr BBotE preparaion of Sulawesi beans.  Sulawesi is well known for making a very pleasant smelling, rich, and low acid hot coffee.  Sadly, these characteristics made a somewhat weak BBotE.  Perhaps it needed more time to draw more out of the beans, but the defining description from the test panel was "bland but drinkable".  I may try some longer term preparation another day in the interest of science.  The aroma of the beans themselves is so delightful that I know something wonderful is hiding in them.

I would like to also welcome Test Subject Puppeteer to the ranks of the BBotE cohort.  After approximately 1.5oz each of Kona and Kenya BBotE, in straight and vodka mixed formats, he declared "I feel alert...actually, I feel really competent".  It was as if he had consumed the elixir from Egg Shen's gourd.  He felt kind of invincible.  This may explain the later attempts make his mummy puppet dance on the bar while standing on a folding chair.  Following a near mishap, he decided it more prudent to instead stand on the table and dance with his puppet.  At 2am, he rode his bike from West Hollywood to his home in Koreatown and went to sleep, at his own chosing, not because he was tired.  His remaining BBotE supply is now being rationed for a future night of exceptional productivity.

Test Subject Censorian gives this self-assessment:

"4:00am: drank ~1 oz of batch 031510-1-3. Effects were subtle but noticeable. (I was staying up all night in order to get to work on time.) In 22 minutes I went from groggy zombie hell to efficient focused web surf(land). I had five tabs open, all dedicated to different aspects of the California Aqueduct and Los Angeles Aqueduct intersection. At 6:00am I was comparing two different topographical maps of the area around the St. Francis Dam. By 7:00 am, I felt the effects declining, and opted for a Diet Rock Star, rather than waste BBotE on such menial work. At 7:30am I left, feeling quiet but functional, for my first training day at the U.S. Census Bureau."

In the meantime, keep watching here, the Etsy store, or the Funranium Labs facebook page for the official announcement that Black Blood of the Earth is available for shipping.  It won't be long now...
funranium: (SCIENCE!)

Cross-posted from Funranium Labs - Coffee Science (Recent Developments 3/7/10)

So, last week I finally got some quantitative analytical work done on the BBotE courtesy of some chemists who demanded to know exactly how much caffeine they were consuming and why it was so tasty.  Thus far, I've only had the qualitative results of "Yup, sure seems to make people awake in small quantities."  We're getting down to brass tacks here and asking how much for the monkey.

First, let's revisit a toxicology concept known a Lethal Dose, or LD.  It is normally quoted like this: "LD 50/60".  This translates as the acute dose that will kill 50% of the exposed unfortunates (see also: the title of my friends page) within 60 days.  This *does not* mean that 50% is all that dose will kill, but it is important to put a milestone for measurement and at some point it is hard to tell if it is the acute dose that killed or something else.  Also, this only works for acute dose; chronic exposure is a lot more difficult to quantify.  In general, acute dose is organ failure, chronic dose is cancer.

For caffeine the LD50 is 192mg/kg of body weight in rat.  It is somewhat concerning to me that the second suggestion from Google when I type in LD50 is "LD50 caffeine".  A normal 7fl.oz. cup of coffee contains between 110-170mg of caffeine depending on the varietal and how much robusta bean they snuck in on you.  The standard toxicological model 70kg man would need to drink in the neighborhood of 90 cups of coffee to achieve LD50.  Keep in mind that some people are "weak rats" and their lethal dose threshold is considerably lower.  Still, that's a lot of coffee.  Just think of all the urination involved with that much fluid...

Okay, now that's out of the way.  For the experimental set up, I made preparations of 24, 48, 72, and 96hr steeped Kona all from the same batch of beans to check time variation in caffeine quantitiy.  From the remaining beans, I also made a small pot of perc coffee and espresso to then test the BBotE against different preparation methodologies.  Sadly, the espresso sample did not make it to the lab for analysis.  5ml of each sample was then placed in a small vial and allowed to evaporate in a fume hood.  Once this was done, the dried residue was brought back up in a solution of methylenechloride preparation for sample loading into the gas chromatography (GC) unit. 

Observations during sample prep:

  1. Before serving, I generally recommend people shake the bottle before pouring.  The 24hr sample was the most "frothy" with decreasing frothiness with time.  This went counter to expectation as I guessed that longer exposure would draw more oils out causing this effect.
  2. The light transmissivity was directly proportional to time in solution.  The longer the sample had been let steep, the more opaque it was.
  3. The evaporation rate was directly proportional to time in solution.  The longer the sample had been let steep, the longer it took to evaporate.  Strangely, the perc coffee sample took the longest to evaporate.
  4. None of the BBotE samples moldered while exposed to open air, though the perc coffee did so within two days.

    Figure 1: Samples in methylene chloride, with color gradient presented

The samples were presented to the GC lab manager, along with a complimentary bottle of BBotE in thanks for letting us abuse her machine. After a brief training run using ethanol blanks, we ran ran the 24hr sample and saw a really nice sharp caffeine peak comes up on the trace.  At this point, I left the lab and handed control of the machine over to the Funranium Labs Staff Chemist.  He ran the 48hr, and saw slightly a lower peak...hmmm.  So then he ran the perc and also saw a lower peak than the 24hr.  With some head scratching, he ran the 96hr... 

Have you ever played with an oscilloscope and turned the gain up too high such that you lost the top of the peak and looked squared off at the top?  Well that's what we had.  It was around this time that the GC lab manager came back in, declared "HOLY CRAP!!!" and ended the run.  She then looked with concern at the trace, then the bottle of BBotE I had given her, and then asked my chemist, "How much of this do I drink to *not* die, because this is awesome."

And thus she was welcomed to the Esoteric Order of Funranium Labs Test Subjects.

I learned this all by my chemist reporting to my office with a hangdog look on his face.  "I've got some bad news and some good news, Phil."

Phil: "Okay, what the bad news?"
Chemist: "There was so much caffeine it oversaturated the detector and probably blew the calibration."
P: "Crap.  What's the good news?"
C (jumping up and down with glee): "There was so much caffeine it oversaturated the detector and probably blew the calibration!"

We'll be trying again next week with a 10000:1 dilution in hopes that we'll get a number that we can use, rather than a borked machine.  I am finding likely that I will need to make an LD50 statement on future bottles of BBotE rather than the imprecise "High Caffeine Content".

funranium: (Science Diet)
Funranium Labs field research operative [ profile] leifvignirsson has taken it upon himself to administer samples of his stock of The Black Blood of the Earth (BBotE) to friends and co-workers.  After consuming his aliquot, Test Subject X-Ray Technician then embarked on a road trip to Sacramento.  Somewhere outside of our fair capital, he was pulled over and issued a ticket for speeding.  This, of course, prompts a new disclaimer:

"Funranium Labs accepts no responsibility for the perceived effects of time dilation you may experience while imbibing BBotE or BBotE-based concotions.  Any attempts you make to adjust actions to your BBotE frame of reference including, but not limited to, increased driving speed, watching movies/listening to music at x4 play, and playing video games at inadvisably high difficulty will be regarded as hilarious by Funranium Labs personnel." 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programing.
funranium: (SCIENCE!)
Extreme case test subjects are important for boundary data in any study. Test Subject Philosopher was chosen due to my prior philosopher experiences in college. Anecdotal evidence suggest that philosophers are either teetotalers indulging only in self generation of endorphins and adrenalin or that they subsist on a diet almost exclusively composed of coffee, alcohol, peyote, and tobacco (though not necessarily in that order).

After an administration of approximately 40ml of the Black Blood of the Earth, within 10 minutes the subject reported heightened alertness. Prior to administration, the subject had been exhibiting signs of fatigue (i.e. yawning), possibly boredom, in the previous five hours; this ceased after administration. Eyes appeared to be opened wider although there was no twitching in the extremities at this time.

Reports after my departure suggest that subject began engaging in "risky behaviors". The subject made a curry based on the Black Blood of the Earth (since dubbed "The Eye of Kali")and consumed it, doing further self-administration.

Thank you for your participation in this study, [ profile] zentiger.
funranium: (Default)

Amongst the presents that I will be giving this year is the gift of no sleep. I have become proficient enough with The Black Blood Of The Earth (BBotE) extraction process that I believe I'll be able to make approximately 30 gallons worth by Xmas Eve. The nice folks at St. George are kindly letting me recycle their delicious booze empties as BBotE reliquaries.

For those of you who enjoy large numbers, this will be the caffiene equivalent of 18,432 cups of conventional coffee, as opposed to the weapons grade material that I an creating.

Remember the $300 Tricky Dick Fun Bill episode of Futurama? That's what this holiday season is gonna be like.

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funranium: (Default)

Except for the next time I do it for the pound of Yucatan still in my fridge, I vow that I will never, ever, EVER use a Turkish coffee grind to make the Black Blood of the Earth again. The sediment and thoroughly extracted oils are quite sufficient to completely plug filter paper such that air has a hard time passing.

As I was squeezing the filter to get every last bit of Turkish grind Ethiopian Yirgacheffe bean juice, the paper would form these glossy black boils. I like to imagine that if Chlthuloid horrors had acne, it would look like that. With just a bit extra pressure, a fine jet of black sludge sprang forth from the eldritch zit, flying several feet across the kitchen, staining all it touched...including skin.

Until this evening, I don't think I truly understood what the word "ichor" meant.

Happy early Halloween.

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funranium: (Default)

So last night's discovery, in the aftermath of making some more Black Blood of the Earth, was that my cat Plooka likes coffee. And by like I really mean "This shit's as good as catnip, man. Pass me another hit."

He will happily snarf up coffee grounds. He spent a good 15 minutes licking my fingers clean and nibbling the fingernails to get at anything stuck under there. The whole time he was rolling around in the kind of ecstasy he normally reserves for big pile of The Nip on his kitty condo.

Seriously, cats.

New rule: cups if coffee are not to be left unattended at my house.

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funranium: (SCIENCE!)
Do not, under any  circumstances, create the Black Blood of the Earth (BBotE) using a flavored coffee.  I can't speak to the flavor yet, but the environmental consequences are severe.

I just did this with a pound of french vanilla coffee, all at once.  1 pound of coffee + 2L of water = approximately 900mL of BBotE

When you get to the straining step to free the precious black ichor from the grounds, the 50ml first poured through the filter yielded enough oil to completely saturate it.  Of course, the act of pouring also aerosolizes oils as well.  My home now smells like a cathouse where the whores rub themselves with can after can of General Foods "International French Vanilla Cafe" coffee instead of perfume.

I am afraid to bring open flame near the coffee filter once it dries...
funranium: (Science Diet)
In honor of Egg Shen from Big Trouble in Little China, I have decided to name this ultra-coffee "Black Blood of the Earth" or BBotE for short.

Also I forgot a memorable moment that needs sharing:

[ profile] blark's cup of unadulterated BBotE is now half empty.  He grabs his water bottle and pours the remainder into the cup.  He looks at it and then puts his hand up because He Needs An Adult.  He says with concern, "I added water but it didn't change color."

We all wander over to peak into the dark heart of his mug.  Even diluted to 50% of the original strength, it is still as black, oily, and potentially lethal as a tar pit.

Black Blood of the Earth, indeed.

funranium: (SCIENCE!)
A couple days ago, [ profile] chronovore made a post regarding viennese triple cold brewing.  I looked around my kitchen and decided that I had most of the important labware necessary to conduct this experiment.  This was worthwhile because the process claims to extract 100% of the caffiene with minimal acidity courtesy of using cold water rather than hot.  The directions which I pulled from teh interwubs instructed me to do the following:

1) Get a pound of coffee (I chose Colombian medium roast)
2) Give it a nice medium grind
3) Steep it in 9 cups of cold water for 12-24 hours
4) Strain and serve diluted 3:1 or 4:1 with water or milk

The first important question was "How do I get a coffee filter into my separatory funnels?"  This sticking point and the more important one of pressure cementing of the coffee in the tip of the funnel made preparation difficult.  See below:


The true glory was met by the third iteration of the experiment where I put the grind in a 4L Erlenmeyer flask, covered with a watch glass, and let it sit on the counter for a day.  Batch 3 was by far the most potent.  By my calculations, I produced the equivalent of 145 cups of conventional coffee worth of caffiene in 5.7 cups of volume.  I am terrified by the idea of passing Batch 3 through this entire process two more times to achieve the coffee [ profile] chronovore had.

The results of one pass, undiluted, were remarkable:

Subject 1, [ profile] blark, consumed samples of Batches 1, 2, and 3 showing wakefulness but no other untoward effects.  He declared the coffee to be "tasty".

Subject 2, Astro Mike, who consumed Batch 3, was similarly unphased.

Subject 3, [ profile] _bats_, had several sips of Batch 3 prior to breakfast with two cups of Baker's Square coffee and followed it with the remainder of the Batch 3 mug upon return.  [ profile] _bats_  entered a state of hyperactivity requiring "walkies" outside, rapid speech, and much bouncing from one foot to another prior to complete burnout and crash for a period of an hour.  Full recovery was made within three hours.

Subject 4, [profile] elonwy_h , had 1/4 of a cup of Batch 3 upon arrival at my house, though anectodal evidence suggests she had consumed 3 cups of "Big Island Style" coffee in the morning beforehand.  She exhibited hypervigilance, emitting high pitched yelps and squeaks at the slightest noise or startling movement.  She too showed the nervous energy of [ profile] _bats_ with similar crash, though not as severe.

Subject 5, my father, added his 100mL of Batch 3 to his half empty cup of coffee as a top off.  No noticable effects.  He described the coffee as "good".

Strangley, both [ profile] _bats_ and [profile] elonwy_h reported a sensation of time contraction where four hours of elapsed time seemed to be no more than one hour of subjective time, tops.

I need an NSF grant for further exploration.  There seems to be some kind of sex linked trait going on here.

funranium: (Rad Worker)
Working at Berkeley has forced me to pick up a new quasi-healthy habit.  If I wish to be functional in the morning, I must have a large cappuccino or any documents I try to read will just be nonsensical derivatives of Pheonician scribblings that might as well be in Pheonician.  Heaven help the poor soul that depends on my math before 10am without coffee.

This is healthy, in a sense, because Mountain Dew and Coke just don't seem to be cutting it to keep me awake and alert anymore.  I've managed to cut soda consumption down to almost nothing save that used as an adult beverage mixer.  The necessity of cappuccino means I can keep soda consumption at that level. 

Also, beer is so much healthier than soda.  I almost convinced a group of mothers a couple months ago to ditch the Cokes for their group of nine toddlers and set them up with some Leviathan Imperial Stout based on the nutrition benefits and history of beer w.r.t. water cleanliness.  Almost.  Beer, unless it is Buzz Beer, does not help with the staying awake.  There is also that whole "fit for duty" clause in my contract.

Now, one could say that I should try to get more sleep such that I do not feel fatigued in the morning.  Despite the temptation yesterday to go to bed at 7:30pm, I can't really imagine myself hitting the hay at a single digit PM hour anymore than I am thrilled about waking up at single digit AM one.  What I really want back is the free cycling of Pole.  It felt so good an comfortable to go to sleep when I was tired and wake up whenever, every day, for nine months.  I found that if left to my own devices I settle in to a sleep schedule that's only requires 5-6 hours, but typically has me going to bed around 6-8am.  Sadly, that doesn't work so well with a normal job.  Not a lot of call for graveyard shift rad safety support at UC Berkeley.  At a nuclear power plant however...

No, no, no.  Despite the camel choking quantities of money they pay and my general support of nuclear power in America, no.  Not going back to corporate hell if I can help it.  Besides, that wouldn't be free cycling either, just different hours.

In conclusion, Go Team Coffee!

December 2012

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