Four FAQs about cold-brew coffee, ceramic pans, climate change, and kidney cancer

Cold Bre Iced Coffe StarbucksFAQ#1: Is cold-brew  coffee really any better than other methods of making coffee?  Consumer Reports says it is. Cold-brew coffee makes sense on a certain level. Heat destroys some flavors, denatures proteins, and accelerates chemical reactions. Avoiding heat avoids the problems associated with heat; however, many coffee drinkers have grown accustomed to, and even fond of, the effects of heat. The process of brewing hot coffee can be a huge part of the flavor and tasting experience for some (and a negative aspect for others).


One thing to consider is the condition of the coffee bean itself. Normally coffee beans are roasted in a fairly high-temperature operation over a short period of time. This is an intense process of heating and cooling at a level that not many other food products experience. The act of cold brewing a ground bean that has been subjected to extreme heat might seem a bit fruitless to many. There is evidence, however, that the cold brewing process produces less acid and that can translate to more flavor (at least for some). In the end, it is best to remember that “the consumer is king” and the individual’s taste and preference will rule.


[Editor's note: In Chicago, Starbucks sells cold brew coffee for $3.04 for a  small cup.  Here's what I learned about the product from the  baristas  at my neighborhood Starbucks. The only type you can purchase is iced caffeinated coffee. A cold-brew cup has more caffeine than a typical equivalent hot-brew cup would contain. Without milk or cream, the product looks quite muddy.  (See  accompanying photo.) The taste is definitely different from hot-brew coffee. (Neither my husband nor I liked it as well as hot brew, even on an 87° F summer afternoon.)


The  June 2016  issue of  Consumer Reports  contains a great deal of information about cold-brew coffee and the equipment that's marketed to make it. However, the baristas at the Starbucks I visited said their facility didn't use any special equipment, just let the beans do their thing for 22 hours. That's a long time to wait for any cup of coffee! Actually,  Consumer Reports says, "the machines make the process convenient, but, unlike hot brewing, they do not influence the coffee's taste."]


FAQ#2: My Harriet Carter catalog is highlighting Red Copper pans with a copper-infused ceramic surface that is non-stick and "faster and healthier than ever."  These have also been advertised on TV.  The claims are that this product is scratch-resistant, safe to use with metal utensils, and oven-safe to 500 degrees.  Are these pans really as much of an advancement as the advertising suggests?


I haven’t used one, but the reviews on Amazon (1,744 of them as of this writing) are fairly good, with an average of 4 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately 18% of the ratings are 1 star--the lowest available. That’s a bit alarming to me. I probably won’t be buying a Red Copper pan. The exposed rivets are a put-off to me because they're difficult to clean. Furthermore, the Red Copper pan looks the same as all of the non-stick pans I've owned in the past. Most of the similar pans I've purchased started sticking and peeling pretty quickly and wound up in the trash.


FAQ#3: How will climate change affect our food?

Climate change has always had an effect on the cost, availability, and nutrition of our foods. Crops have long been bred by nature and mankind to survive heat, cold, drought, wind and other calamities. Now genetic modifications make the process much faster. It will take a great deal of scientific review and cooperation to determine the best path forward for GMOs. Fortunately, there are many other paths for farmers and agriculturalists to take; some examples include improved varieties, alternative crops with better production potential, new farming methods, and new storage and processing methods.


To read more about the effects of  climate change on food,  go to "What will global warming do to our food supply?"


FAQ#4: Does meat consumption cause kidney cancer?  A Time magazine article in the November 9th issue suggested a link between these. 


Realistically, the people surveyed in the study may have experienced other causes besides eating meat that could have brought about the kidney cancer risk such as obesity, smoking, chemical exposure, environmental exposure, drugs, and other eating habits. Also, the authors of the Time article stated:  “They [the researchers] did not find that meat consumption causes cancer and more research will need to be done to explore the connection.” I hope they receive funding for peer-reviewed research and that they will rely on sound design of experiments and techniques to do their work.




Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D., Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

(Note: Dr. Bowser is also a member of the Shelf Life Advice Advisory Board.)


Consumer Reports "Cold Brew for Hot Days," June, 2016.  "Red Copper Pan"  "University of Texas Study Links Meat to Kidney Cancer"


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