Thursday, July 26, 2012

1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6(3H,7H)-dione 3,7-dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione. Gotta love IUPAC nomenclature, no really, you do.

In a couple of weeks, I will mark the 9 year mark in my hot, steamy, passionate love affair with coffee. Past ruminations on this blog have included snippets from my time working as a coffee roaster/barista, and I recently suffered through an experience which forced me to wrestle with my relationship with coffee. 

This summer I've been taking part in numerous and wildly varied clinical research studies. The reason behind this is two-fold: first, compensation can be quite good, but also my academic curiosity and ability to see what it's like on the other side of the consent form, I believe, is going to be valuable moving forward with my career. 

This morning I arrived home this morning at 2:30am after spending 36 hours in a sleep deprivation study, which not only included two constant-posture sessions (meaning I was unable to leave my hospital bed for 8 hours, and then another 12 hour span) but also rendered me caffeine free the whole time. Halfway through my head was pounding, and it was all I could do to not jump out of bed, kick down the door, declare myself done with the study and sprint to the nearest, horrible hospital coffee cart. I pushed through though. 

This is the half-bag Sivetz fluid bed air roaster that I had the privilege of playing with for many  years.

I remember my first day working at the coffee shop. I arrived mid-morning to commence training and my introduction to the art of espresso making began immediately. Prior to that morning, I had, once in awhile, enjoyed the random cup of coffee -- in no way was I a daily drinker. I also couldn't have outlined the subtle differences between a dry and a wet cappuccino, much less the differences between a latte and a cappuccino. 

Another shot of the half-bag roaster, along with a white-elephant gift from a few years back. 

 Lisa, who had been working at the shop for years before I arrived, began by demonstrating the differences between good and poor espresso shots -- by pulling them and then having me drink them. This continued until I had so many shots that I had to run to the restroom and vomit. So. Much. Espresso. 

This is a shot of the shop I used to work at, taken by a friend not too long after I left for California. Notice the custom made, automatic, compressor run tamper. Also, harder to see and behind the tamper is the single dose grinder, which eliminates having grounds sit in the grind chamber. The perfect tamp, every time.

From that day, nearly 9 years ago, I have had coffee nearly every day. I'm guessing that there has been less than 20 days in that span of time where I have not  had my daily dose, meaning that for the last 3265 out of 3285 days, I've relied and looked forward to my cup of coffee, in varied forms, to get me started. 

While I was stuck in that tiny little hospital room, with no access to internet, no phone and with enough light to make reading barely tolerable, I was feeling so bad, and in retrospect, it was not all due to my lack of caffeine, but at the time it was all I could really think about. That, and waiting for the moment when I was going to be released, of course. I began to think about my future as a doctor in residency, and the long hours that will be required (not as long as they used to be, but nevertheless, sleep deprivation still plays a part in that phase of medical training) and all I could think was that as long as I could have some coffee, I could do anything, for any length of time. Of course, this is not true, but without coffee, in my state of severe dependency on caffeine, functioning for more than 24 hours without it is extremely difficult. In fact, today, after a long, revitalizing sleep and three strong cups of coffee, I began to look up the mechanisms of caffeine withdrawal. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of disagreement in what, why and even if it is a real thing (the nay-sayers are obviously not caffeine addicts!) Perhaps the most surprising is that there is a proposal to include caffeine withdrawal in the latest DSM. I had to chuckle, as ridiculous as it sounds, I was significantly impaired yesterday afternoon and into the night as I had to stay awake without having any caffeine and how I was feeling falls under the inclusion criteria that the DSM puts forth. Here is a description from a study concerning caffeine withdrawal:
Of 49 symptom categories identified, the 10 fulfilling validity criteria were headache, fatigue, decreased energy-activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling foggy or not clearheaded. Other symptoms thought likely to represent valid symptom categories were flulike symptoms, nausea-vomiting, and muscle pain-stiffness.
There is no doubt that I met all these symptoms. I was even spending time worrying about what I would do if I found myself in some sort of survival situation, say, I don't know, an apocalyptic scenario where I was running for my life and I had to make due with no caffeine for days on end. How would I manage? If and when that does happen, I'll be sure to have a stash of "no-doze pills" in my survival kit. 
Grounds left over from an aeropress made cup of coffee. Maybe one day, when I can afford to have a La Marzocco machine installed in my kitchen along with a professional burr-grinder I won't use my aeropress on a daily basis, but until then, I'll be making these little cakes everyday.

Perhaps it is telling that I'd rather have caffeine pills than instant coffee packets as well -- I've definitely made the transition into coffee snobbery. 

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