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Perktitude: The Science of That Morning Coffee Buzz

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 12:07pm

You know the feeling; you drag yourself out of bed before the sun is up, groggily bump into chair leg after table leg, finding your way through the clutter of the house and habitually flip on the switch to your home espresso maker. When you get back to the kitchen a few minutes later, the aroma starts to percolate your brain into action and as those first flavors caress your lips, gently coating your throat with warmth, you instantly remember the reason you're able to get up and go in the morning: Perktitude. 

What Causes the Coffee Buzz?
What causes that wonderful feeling coming from your home espresso maker each day? Well, for every 8 ounces of espresso coffee, there is exactly 400 milligrams of caffeine. Caffeine, as you probably well know, is a naturally occurring stimulant found in many different types of seeds, leaves and plants - one of which is the coffee bean. 

Caffeine is present in these products to act as a natural pesticide, killing insects and parasites that harm these plants, while also acting as a memory reward enhancer for pollinators. Now, we know that coffee isn't killing us (in fact recent studies show that coffee drinkers live longer and have a lower risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer and many other ailments), so it's the last part we need to focus on. 

The caffeine acts as a sort of "pleasant present" for pollinators to encourage more pollination of the plant in the future; in essence, caffeine is there to propagate the plant's survival as a species. As you're probably guessing by now, that "pleasant present" comes in the form of...the coffee buzz! 

The caffeine actually serves to counteract a substance that's found in high concentrations in your nervous system: adenosine. Caffeine is so similarly shaped to the adenosine receptors, it is able to fit into them, blocking the substance from affecting the brain and nervous system. Adenosine is most well-known for being the inhibitor neuraltransmitter that suppresses the activity in your central nervous system. This is mostly a protective role but essentially, it slows your brain down. 

That's why when you drink caffeine, you feel sharper and more alive. Through the antagonization of the adenosine, an increase in neurotransmission takes place along with the increased production of acetylcholine, dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine, cortisol, epinephrine and endorphins. With all of that stuff firing around in your brain, the coffee buzz starts to seem aptly named.

At excessive rates, caffeine has even been known to inhibit GABA neurotransmission which explains elevated breathing rates, anxiety, insomnia and rapid heart beats.

Why Liquid Coffee Works Better for Perktitude 
Further, since the caffeine you're drinking is in liquid form and the stimulant is both lipid and water-soluble, it crosses the blood-brain barrier with ease, meaning the morning coffee buzz you get from your home espresso machine is instantaneously stimulating. This is the imprint that is left in the brain of the coffee bean pollinator--as well as anyone else who ingests it. 

So, when you take a shot tomorrow from your home espresso maker and wonder why you're coming back every morning, it's because nature wants you to!  In a way, you're saving the species of the home espresso maker because of the rewards caffeine brings you each and every day.  

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