10 Things I Just Learned About Coffee


1. One espresso has 2 calories.

2. The word ‘coffee’ is pronounced almost the same in every language around the world.

3. After water, coffee is the second most widely-consumed beverage in the world. (Tea is a close third.)

4. When you drink coffee, your brain shrinks a little, which is why some advise drinking coffee if you have a headache.

5. When making an espresso, 65% of the caffeine is extracted from the beans, whereas the French-press method of making coffee extracts 98% of the caffeine.

6. There are two hundred flavors components present in raw (green) coffee beans, but roasted beans have over two thousand present.

7. The first steam-pressured espresso machine was invented by a Frenchman in 1901.

8. In Italy, 80% of the coffee consumed is espresso while the other 20% are milk-based coffee drinks like cappucino.

Outside of Italy, those numbers are reversed.

9. The espresso-pod of coffee was invented in 1973 by Illy coffee.

10. 52% of all coffee imported into Italy comes through Trieste, whose harbor is almost entirely dedicated to coffee importation.

Speaking of coffee, I just returned from a visit to Illy where I was their guest at their Università del Caffè where I learned the art of making espresso. I had hands-on lessons from their expert barista, Michele Pauletic and delved into the craft of extracting the perfect little cup of true Italian espresso. Excuse the little bit of hyperbole, but it was truly a life-changing experience. And although I merely scratched the surface of understanding this complex drink, I have a much better understanding of what coffee is and how to get the best cup possible.

My view flying into Trieste, over the Dolomite Mountains

As soon as I come down from the buzz I got from all that coffee (one day I counted I had 9 cups of espresso), I’ll be focusing more on what I saw and learned…and I invite you to come along in the next few installments here, from my trip to Trieste.

Never miss a post!


  • March 18, 2007 4:34pm

    Interesting and thank you for sharing your wisdom but you haven’t told us how to make the perfect espresso. I’m poised in the kitchen with my espresso machine in my hand waiting for your post that will reveal everything.

  • elarael
    March 18, 2007 5:41pm

    This will be good info, no doubt! I quit caffeine while living in Seattle, but I had a hippie boyfriend at the time who drank coffee to keep him coherent during his perpetually stoned reality. He had Astounding connections with the best artisanal food and drink producers and was always introducing me to something beyond incredible.

    I am very happy that the last coffee I ever had was when he spent a half an hour one day, convincing me to try coffee grown on his friend’s organic farm in Mexico. Finally I agreed to a taste and he sat back with happiness as I was blown away! This coffee was soooo smooth and nutty and sweet – no sweetener was added – that it was a total revelation. There was not even a hint of bitterness. It was so good that it would have been impossible to drink regular coffee ever again after having had that, even if I’d wanted to.

    People who drink Starbucks have no idea what coffee actually tastes like; sorry, but it’s true. Why do you think they offer so many syrups? Check out the tiny coffeehouses instead, where espresso can be an art form. So thank you,anyway, for spreading the word about how to make espresso what it is supposed to be – truly tasty and delicious!

  • March 18, 2007 6:28pm

    If it’s true that one’s brain shrinks after drinking coffee, I’ll be very disturbed. Does one’s brain grow back – does the shrinking reverse itself? Is there a limit to how much brain one loses to coffe-induced shrinking? Is anything specifically affected by drinking too much coffee?

    Despite these questions, it would be a fairly good (and odd) insult, if one wanted to insult one’s brain power, one could call someone a “coffee brain.”

  • March 18, 2007 9:46pm

    Great info- I have migraines, and the “coffee effect” is real and my physician says to try coffee first before drugs and the brain doesn’t shrink, the coffee acts as a vasodilator making the blood vessels constrict, not the brain.

    Thanks for the fun facts!

  • March 18, 2007 10:57pm

    Vasoconstrictor, not vasodilator, right? But yes — it rocks in terms of headaches sometimes. Though a former boyfriend of mine had really bad migraines, to the point that one time a migraine caused a minor (thankfully) stroke because the blood vessels constricted so tightly. So he’s not allowed to have caffeine anymore (duh).

    I’m waiting to hear your tips on making the best espresso. Mmm. But I’m a BIG fan of the AeroPress that I’ve been using for the past month. DELICIOUS, smooth java comes from that press.

  • March 18, 2007 11:07pm

    Hmmm… I’m a bit skeptical about “coffee is the second most widely-consumed beverage in the world. (Tea is a close third.)”. Virtually everybody in India and China, the two most populated countries in the world, drinks tea, and lots of it.


  • jess
    March 19, 2007 12:03am

    Like Michelle, I am concerned about the brain swelling back up. If it doesn’t, I’m pretty sure that rattling I’ve been hearing is my old walnut rolling around in my noggin. Does decaf shrink it as well?
    I’ve heard that the vacuum pots make the best coffee- but is that for specifically ‘American style’?

  • March 19, 2007 3:13am

    I can’t wait to hear more! My husband and I are really getting into coffee a bit more. We’ve participated in a few cupping sessions recently and have gotten to know a few great roasters. My husband had the amazing opportunity to travel to Guatemala to photograph a coffee plantation. He went down with a group of roasters and learned about the process from berry to green beans.
    Anyway.. all that to say, I am excited to hear and see what you learned from Illy.

  • Judith in Umbria
    March 19, 2007 4:09am

    They invited you after all!
    Illy is my favorite, if pricey, brand of ready roasted coffee.
    I really like my own roasting, or if I can convince them to do it my level, fresh roasted. Problem is, if you can’t get outside fast, it is a nasty. smelly and dirty job. Roasting coffee, as you now know, doesn’t smell great like brewing coffee.
    Anyway, now you know Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which is more than this Italian resident does.

  • March 19, 2007 4:34am

    Good to hear you had such a good time in Italy : )Illy coffe is one of my favourite brands too, and they are sooo stylish ; )(check their espresso cups collections…)

  • March 19, 2007 5:32am

    Yes, Illy is certainly wonderful, and like Judith said, a little more expensive than others–partly why I drink Guglielmo, which I think is the best value for the euro. I knew a lot of espresso was brewed around here, but only 20% goes into cappuccino? Wow!

  • March 19, 2007 8:35am

    i drink Ricoré now ;-)

  • March 19, 2007 8:36am

    btw, neat spoon!

  • March 19, 2007 9:58am

    I love those spoons too…I was so tempted to pocket them. And considering the amount of cups of espresso I drank, I would have had quite a collection by the time I left.

    (You can get them in their Espressamente shops, online in the US here or in Europe via their web site.)

    I really wanted the kooky Jeff Koons espresso cups…but they’re out of production. They suggested I check Ebay!

  • the pauper
    March 19, 2007 1:43pm

    just like what Deborah and Jessica said.. not sure that your brain actually shrinks. your blood vessels constrict, which is slightly different.

    i also question the coffee as #2 thing, but obviously water, coffee, and tea are all way up there. for instance, did you get your facts from Illy?

  • Joanne
    March 19, 2007 1:48pm

    There’s no doubt the Italians know how to brew the best coffee. Fabulous posts everyone! i love how some posters are concerned with coffee induced shrinking brains…

  • chanelle
    March 19, 2007 4:43pm

    i am giddy with anticipation! or maybe i am buzzed from my triple espresso this morning.

  • March 19, 2007 6:05pm

    i can’t believe one espresso only has 2 calories! wow~

  • March 19, 2007 6:36pm

    A very cool experience no doubt! I would love to visit Illy someday. I grew up in Kenya, (where they grow some of the greatest coffee in my humble opinion) and the Swahili the word for coffee is Kahawa. So if you are ever in Kenya you can say “Kahawa ya moto sana, tafadhali” (A very hot coffee, please.)

  • Magda
    March 20, 2007 8:24am

    The Polish word for coffee is “kawa” (KAH-va). I’m just having a cup.

    I had no idea expresso had less caffeine than French-press coffee. Thanks for all the coffee wisdom!

  • Sandy
    March 20, 2007 9:45am

    I want that cute little cup!!

    And, the photo of the mountains is awesome! I am so amazed at the sheer beauty of this earth! I hope to see more of it one day. I think everyone deserves to get up in a plane once in awhile and see how lovely this planet really is… when you can’t see all the people living on it. :-)

  • Anna
    March 20, 2007 12:09pm

    David, can’t wait to read the rest of the coffee story. But I have a quick little question about something totally unrelated: Chocolate Orbit/Idiot Cake. When I tried to email you through the link on your site, my email was bounced back to me. Was this intentional? Are you no longer taking emails from your fans? :)

  • March 20, 2007 1:21pm

    Anna: Yes, unfortunately my email link via the web site is still down. I was hoping to get it fixed this past weekend, but if readers have any inquiries, please feel free to leave them in the comments in the meantime.

  • March 21, 2007 1:25pm

    oooh, lucky you! One of the things I want to own one day when I’m big is a good espresso machine. I grew up drinking little cups of espresso to copy my parents and I never lost the habit – there is little else to compare with the joy of a truly good espresso. So, next time I come to Paris coffee is at your place, right? ;-)

  • March 22, 2007 6:56pm

    Another interesting coffee fact – “Coffee is the second most traded product in dollars in the world, outdone only by petroleum.”

    For more see here and here.