Starbucks Will Offer Cold-Brew Coffee, In Limited Quantities

Dedicated iced coffee drinkers and dedicated snobs will tell you that the flavor of cold-brewed coffee is superior to coffee that has been brewed the regular way and cooled down. You’ll soon be able to try Starbucks’ version of the drink in certain regions of the country, but only if you get there early enough.

Because Starbucks didn’t want to fill up its freezers with coffee ice cubes to be combined with hot milk, they’ve put together a special cold-brewing blend of beans that will chill for 20 hours before being served. This long prep time means that each store that serves cold-brewed coffee will only have one batch per day, enough to make about 40 “grande” cups of the beverage.

Cold-brewed coffee is known for being less bitter, but also with a stronger flavor and more caffeine. That makes sense, given the 20 hours of brewing. Some people prefer to dilute it with water. However, Starbucks told media outlets that their blend will only have a few milligrams more caffeine than their typical iced brewed coffee.

STUDY SAYS WEED IS 114 TIMES SAFER THAN ALCOHOL

If legalized marijuana starts falling like dominoes in more states, hug a scientist. A new study from Science Reports has found that weed is even safer than previously believed. It was already known that marijuana has a very low probability as a lethal substance, but the new study shows how far below alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and meth, marijuana actually falls. The actual number is staggering.

The report discovered that marijuana is 114 times less deadly than alcohol. Researchers were able to determine this by comparing the lethal doses with the amount of typical use. Through this approach, marijuana had the lowest mortality risk to users out of all the drugs they studied. In fact—because the numbers were crossed with typical daily use—marijuana is the only drug that tested as “low risk.”

weed-stat

The report recommends that risk management would better be applied to already legal consumer drugs like alcohol and tobacco.  Similar to those easy-to-purchase items, the report staunchly “suggests a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.” The information might not be a game-changer, but any additional study that promotes legal regulation will benefit each state that is considering legalization.

In other news, today is officially the day when it’s legal to possess and grow weed in Alaska. Alaskans can possess one ounce of weed on their person, in public, and can grow up to six plants in their homes. It will take up to nine months to legalize stores in Alaska to purchase from, however. And you have to be at least 21 years old.

But blaze ’em if you’ve got ’em, Alask-ah!

Oregon will become the fourth U.S. state after Alaska, Washington, and Colorado to legalize weed. That goes into effect on July 1, and you can have a ton more on you than any of the other states: up to eight ounces. However, you won’t be able to smoke in public places, but you can walk to whichever house you’re going to, and house parties will continue to thrive in “Weird” Portland. And like in Alaska, you have to be at least 21 years old to possess in Oregon.

Why People Look More Attractive When You’re Drinking

Anyone who has been in a crowded bar around closing time would agree that the higher your alcohol consumption, the more attractive you seem to find whoever you happen to be flirting with at last call. Their smile is radiant; their eyes are sparkling- everything about them is sexy, alluring and irresistible. However, if you were stone-cold sober, you might not give them a second glance, and if you get carried away and spend the night with your new friend, you may wake up the next morning and wonder just what the hell you were thinking – and seeing.

This is called the Beer Goggles phenomenon, and most of us that partake have fallen into its trap to one degree or another. The first question that comes to mind is whether or not the individuals you’re looking at are really more attractive to you or if your judgment of things is simply being impaired by alcohol.  So perhaps they really look the same to you as later, but when drunk you just don’t care, with alcohol increasing your desire for sex and suppressing your inhibitions.

But it turns out, several studies done in the last few decades are beginning to show that it’s not all just being extra horny and less picky.  For instance, a study done by St. Andrews and Glasgow Universities found that “… men and women who have consumed a moderate amount of alcohol find the faces of members of the opposite sex 25% more attractive than their sober counterparts.”

Other studies have shown similar trends. For instance, another study done at the University of Bristol with 84 college students showed that, on average, they rated people’s attractiveness 10% higher a mere 15 minutes after drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, as little as 24 U.S. ounces of beer. Further, the sex of the individual the students looked at didn’t matter. Yes, guys will rate guys more attractive and women will rate women more attractive after drinking too, regardless of their normal sexual preferences.

Interestingly enough, this boost in attractiveness is not universal. In a study done at the University of Leicester in 2011, it showed that adults actually find the faces of 10 years old, less attractive when drunk, not more as when looking at adult faces.  Further, these individuals were able to accurately judge the ages of the people whose faces they were looking at pictures of.  So while attractiveness varied based on whether one has been drinking or not, the ability to judge age did not.

In any event, so if it’s truly not just us lowering our standards, what’s going on here to make other adult faces look more attractive? While further research still needs done, the leading theory currently is that it has something to do with bilateral symmetry. This simply means that if a human body was split down the vertical center, humans typically find people more attractive the closer each side of the individual is to being a mirror of the other.

A series of studies, such as one done at the London’s Roehampton University, suggest that alcohol impairs our ability to perceive asymmetry, and this could potentially be the reason for people appearing more attractive when one is under the influence.

The researchers described the experiment thusly:

We tested the hypotheses that acute alcohol consumption decreases ability to detect asymmetry in faces and reduces preference for symmetrical faces over asymmetrical faces. Twenty images of a pair of faces and then 20 images of a single face were displayed on a computer, one at a time. Participants were instructed to state which face of each of the face pairs displayed was most attractive and then whether the single face being displayed was symmetrical or not. Data were collected near campus bars at Roehampton University. Sixty-four self-selecting students who undertook the study were classified as either sober (control) or intoxicated with alcohol. For each face pair or single face displayed, participant response was recorded and details of the alcohol consumption of participants that day were also obtained.

What this boiled down to was that the sober test participants were more drawn to people with symmetrical faces, and were better at picking them out, which supported the researchers’ hypothesis. Further, intoxicated individuals were less able to notice asymmetry. An unexpected discovery was that males proved better than females at determining whether faces were asymmetrical or not. It is theorized that this perhaps has something to do with the fact that, in general, men are more sexually stimulated visually than women are, so whether consciously or not, naturally pay more attention to such things.

The researchers concluded: “The reduced ability of inebriated people to perceive asymmetry may be an important mechanism underlying the higher ratings of facial attractiveness they give for members of the opposite sex and hence their increased frequency of mate choice.”

Interestingly enough, it would seem that beer goggles work both ways. Not only will alcohol make those around you become more attractive to you, it can also turn you into a vision of epic awesomeness… at least in your own mind. (Where have you been your whole life?) That said, the alcohol in this case isn’t strictly necessary; you just need to think you drank some.

Apropos, Laurent Begue at the Pierre Mendes-France University conducted an experiment to explore the phenomenon of The Drunker I Am, The Hotter I Get Syndrome. She asked 19 patrons in a French bar to rate their attractiveness on a scale of one to seven. Their alcohol levels were then measured with a breathalyzer test. Not surprisingly, the participants who were more biffed were also more full of themselves.

That was an extremely limited sample-size, though, so as a follow-up, Begue performed a balanced placebo test with 96 male volunteers. They were told they were conducting market research for fruit cocktail, and that half of the group would be given an alcoholic drink while the other would test the non-alcoholic version. After giving the booze enough time to work its magic, all the guys recorded a fake advertising spot for the fake beverage company. Immediately after, they watched a playback and rated their own wonderfulness.

As alluded to, not just those who had alcohol, but those who believed they had alcohol, gave themselves the best reviews. Those who hadn’t had anything to drink – or had but didn’t know that they had – were the humblest among the bunch. So what have we learned? At least according to this study, in part we feel happier and more attractive after a few cocktails seemingly because we assume that we will be in the first place.

There is a definite downside here though. When a panel of impartial, sober judges took a look-see at the advertising spots, the segments done by the guys that gave themselves top marks were voted the least appealing. That, perhaps, explains why it’s so hard to impress that hot number who just showed up at the bar, when you’ve had more beers than you can count. You need to seek out someone who’s been at it as long as you – and has their outward facing beer goggles on.

So in the end, it would seem from the studies to date that, while it’s not yet fully understood, the “beer goggle” effect is probably real beyond being partially influenced by the simple fact that when your standards and inhibitions are lowered while your libido is increased, you’re going to partner up with those you might not otherwise have. But beyond that, attractiveness based on bilateral symmetry may be coming into play as well, literally making certain people seem more attractive than they otherwise would to you.

The Truth About the Post-Workout Beer

If you exercise, chances are you also drink. I know this because according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine, people tend to drink more alcohol on the days they’ve exercised. Especially beer. It could be because we reward ourselves with a post-run brewski, or because we’ve used up all of our willpower on exercise, so we have none left to deny ourselves that drink or two. Whatever the reason, if you’re drinking thinking that it’ll help you sleep, relax your muscles, numb the pain, or increase blood flow to help you recover faster, as they say in AA, that’s just stinkin’ thinkin’.

“It’s detrimental to drink alcohol after any type of exercise or workout,” says Professor Matthew Barnes of New Zealand’s Massey University School of Sport and Medicine. “I’ve never really seen anything that says it’s useful as far as recovery.”

He’s also never seen anything that says alcohol is useful for comptetion. Barnes’ most recent study on the impact of alcohol on sports performance and recovery in men concluded that “the consumption of even low doses of alcohol prior to athletic endeavour should be discouraged due to the ergolytic effects of alcohol on endurance performance.” Ergolytic meaning performance impairing. These effects, the study’s authors wrote, “are likely to inhibit recovery and adaptation to exercise.”

How does alcohol screw you up? Let us count the ways. Because it’s a diuretic, you’ll urinate more. “That leads to dehydration,” says Barnes, “and the result is detrimental effects on muscular contraction.” Every gram of alcohol you ingest increases urine flow by about two teaspoons. To put that in perspective, a 12-ounce can of beer contains about 14 grams of alcohol. That’s an extra half-cup of pee.

Alcohol also interferes with how your body produces energy. Pushing all that liquor into your liver leaves you with less glucose, the sugar needed to power your muscles. If an athlete runs out of it, they hit that proverbial wall “and most likely won’t finish the race,” Barnes says.

As for fixing your injuries, “if you consume alcohol, probably any amount, it’ll increase blood flow to [injured areas], because it’s a reasonably good vasodilator,” explains Barnes. But that’s not necessarily a good thing—it could make an injury bleed or swell even more, causing more pain. The body’s regulatory system functions quite well without the alcohol, Barnes says.

Alcohol can also poison muscle fibers. Beer, in particular, affects the fast-twitch anaerobic fibers by inhibiting an enzyme that helps fuel the muscle. When that happens, the fibers don’t adapt like they should for up to three days. The result: a longer recovery period.

As for that pain you say a glass of pinot erases? “Alcohol makes you feel less pain because of the effects on the nerve endings,” says Barnes. “So you can mask that pain with alcohol.” Which may not be as helpful as it sounds. “The pain’s there for a reason,” adds Barnes. “Ignoring it’s probably not a better approach.”

Athletes in particular seem to think that after a grueling game or an extreme workout, alcohol will help them relax and sleep better. “But it actually disrupts people’s sleep pattern,” says Barnes. “They don’t get a restful night’s sleep. And you need a restful sleep. That’s when growth hormones are released in your body, during the night.”

Finally, there’s the drunken food choices. One athlete Barnes studied had only three carrots the entire day after drinking, while another went through seven meat pies. “Athletes’ diets tend to go out the window,” Barnes says. “Alcohol throws them completely out of sync. They go for convenience.” That inadequate or improper fueling can lead to poor performance.

If you still think a post-race beer isn’t a bad idea, consider this: alcohol interferes with your muscles’ post-workout rebuilding process by reducing protein synthesis. “So not only does alcohol interfere with recovery of muscle damage and injury,” says Barnes, “it also reduces the processes responsible for building muscle.” There is a tiny silver lining: while not beneficial, a few glasses of alcohol comsumedafter a solid recovery meal and drink won’t necessarily cancel out all of the work you just did.

So opt for water or a sports drink right after a competition. “The key is to regain the weight loss, to get back to that pre-exercise weight,” says Barnes. As for a post-race meal, Barnes suggests something with about 20g of protein (enough to optimize protein synthesis post-exercise) and around 50g of carbs (usually high glycemic index, simple carbs to speed up glycogen synthesis), like a chicken sandwich or a baked potato and tuna. Then, if you must, you can have some alcohol.

“Other than the social side of it, I can’t see a benefit to alcohol at all, really,” Barnes says. “If you’re an athlete and you’re drinking alcohol, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.”

Coffee May Reduce Risk Of Melanoma

Here’s some more (potentially) good news for coffee devotees: A new study finds that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day – a fairly hefty amount, by most counts – is linked to a reduced risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Melanoma is currently the fifth most common form of cancer in the U.S., and it’s the leading cause of skin cancer-related deaths. About 77,000 people are diagnosed with it each year, and 9,500 die of it each year. Though UV light – especially UVB rays – is the most powerful modifiable risk factor, there are other factors that raise or lower a person’s risk. The compounds in coffee have been shown to reduce skin cancer risk in lab studies, but in human studies, the results have been more variable, and the connection not so clear-cut.

To address the question in a large sample of people, researchers looked at data from over 447,000 participants, 50-71 years old, who were cancer-free at the beginning of the study. In the more than decade-long study period, just over 2,900 of the participants developed malignant melanoma, and over 1,900 developed another form of skin cancer, melanoma in situ. The researchers looked for correlations between diet and skin cancer development.

The found that among the most committed coffee drinkers – four cups a day – the risk of malignant melanoma fell by 20%. The connection applied only to caffeinated coffee and melanoma – it wasn’t there for decaffeinated coffee, or the other form of skin cancer included in the study, melanoma in-situ.

There are some good reasons that coffee may reduce skin cancer risk. In mice and in skin cell cultures, various components of coffee have been shown to affect a number of molecular pathways that can reduce risk for UV-related skin cancer. Among them, coffee compounds have been shown to suppress carcinogenesis (the formation of cancer), reduce inflammation, and reduce oxidative stress and DNA damage in cells.

Though the current study was a large one, the authors point out that previous studies have found less convincing results – one study found a link between coffee drinking and reduced skin cancer risk in women but not men. Another study found no connection to melanoma, but a connection to basal cell carcinoma. Other have provided similarly mixed results.

Still, given the biological pathways that coffee is known to affect, it’s very plausible that coffee may reduce risk of melanoma. But more research will be needed before we know for sure how the connection works. Coffee has been linked to a number of positive health effects – from reduced risk of death to reduced risk of certain cancers and diabetes to reduced risk of depression and Parkinson’s disease. Other studies, however, have found increased mortality in younger people who drink larger amounts of coffee; it’s studies like these that make researchers hesitant to give consumers the go-ahead to drink coffee ad libitum.

“The most important thing that individuals can do to reduce their risk of melanoma,” study author Erikka Loftfield tells me, “is to reduce sun and UV radiation exposure. While our results, and some from other recent studies, may be encouraging to coffee drinkers, they do not indicate that individuals should alter their coffee intake.”

There probably won’t ever be a definitive answer to the coffee question, because the answer probably varies from person to person. But the majority of research seems to say that for most people, coffee may do more good than harm. You probably shouldn’t pick up the habit if you’re not currently a coffee drinker, but if you’re already in the habit of a couple of cups a day, it probably won’t hurt, and in many ways, it may even help.

And for skin cancer risk, always wear sunscreen. That much, we do know.

Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? This Map Shows Where Americans Get Their Coffee Fix

Think Starbucks has a stranglehold on the American coffee market?

You must not be from the Northeast.

When it comes to getting a cup of joe, Starbucks is the place to go for many — some 46 million Americans got a Starbucks gift card for Christmas — but its rival Dunkin’ Donuts is putting up a solid fight.

As the map below shows, Dunkin’ Donuts shops actually outnumber Starbucks locations in the caffeine-fueled Megalopolis stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C.

Created by Reddit user cingraham using POI Factory data, the map shows how many coffee shops are in a region — the bigger the hex, the more stores — and whether Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts has more locations in that region.

On Reddit, commenters were quick to defend their favorite coffee place — or attack the competition.

“I hate Starbucks, it tastes like burnt poop,” one commenter quipped.

“How is Dunkin’ Donuts even competing?” a pro-Starbucks commenter asked, returning fire. “Their coffee is not even close.”

A few commenters noted the benefits of healthy competition.

“Dunkin and Starbucks have set themselves up in working class and high income areas, respectively, and in some areas such as downtown [Chicago] it’s a fierce battle,” one commenter wrote. “We as the consumers are winning in the end.”

Of course, even in the Northeast Starbucks is still a gigantic player.

Crain’s New York Business reported that Starbucks rules Manhattan, with 205 locations on the island, while Dunkin’ Donuts’ owns the Big Apple as a whole with 536 NYC locations.

The fight stretches across the nation.

As Starbucks tries to become the “Willy Wonka of coffee” with its new, fancier store options, Dunkin’ Donuts is unleashing a ground-level assault, opening new stores across the U.S.

Dunkin’ Donuts announced Monday that it had opened 405 new restaurants in 2014, in such new territory as California, Nevada and Colorado — the Seattle-based Starbucks’ heartland.

Dunkin’ Donuts plans to open as many as 440 new stores in 2015, and the company’s long-term goal is 17,000 U.S. locations.

For the moment, Starbucks has a decided numerical advantage.

The number of Starbucks locations nationwide has held steady at around 12,000 for the past few years, while Dunkin’ Donuts reports having roughly 7,000 stores nationwide.

Grind and brew coffee from bed with a smart coffee machine

Connected coffee makers definitely aren’t a new idea at this point, but despite the fact that the concept has been floating around for the past few years, there still aren’t all that many of them out on the market. That’s about to change, though, as Smarter (the company behind the iKettle) has just joined the fray and announced a network-connected coffee machine.

Set to be on display at CES 2015 in Vegas next week, the machine is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from an app-enabled bean brewer. It can be remotely activated with your smartphone, send you alerts when your brew is ready, and even detect when you’ve returned home and ask if you’d like a fresh cup.

That might not be particularly groundbreaking, but networking tech aside, Smarter’s new coffee maker does bring a few new features into the mix — including a built-in grinder, which is a pretty big deal. On-demand bean grinding basically translates to fresher, tastier cups of joe; not to mention the fact that it saves you the trouble of grinding the beans yourself.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Smarter Wi-Fi Coffee Machine only brews one cup at a time. This might be music to your ears if you’re a singe-serving enthusiast, but if you’re the type who needs an entire carafe of caffeine to wake up in the morning, it could be a big drawback.

Smarter’s Wi-Fi coffee maker isn’t set to hit stores until March, but will be available for viewing (and hopefully making coffee) at CES next week, so be sure to circle back for details — we’ll definitely be stopping by.

This Hanukkah, give the gift of He’Brew beer

Here’s one way to toast the start of Hanukkah: Head to your local liquor store at sundown for some He’Brew: The Chosen Beer brews by New York-based Shmaltz Brewing Co.

Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass the Beer, a dark ale brewed with eight varieties of malts and eight varieties of hops. The festive beer is also 8 percent alcohol by volume — a nod to Hanukkah’s eight nights.

Reunion Ale ’14 — A Beer for Hope, a collaboration with Georgia-based Terrapin Beer Co., is a dark imperial brown ale brewed with toasted coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, coffee and cocoa nibs. A portion of proceeds benefits the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research.

Rejewvenator, a mix between a Belgian-style dubbel ale and a dopplebock European-style lager, was brewed with California merlot wine and Concord grapes from New York.

St. Lenny’s — The Immaculate Collaboration, a Belgian-style rye double IPA, was brewed in partnership with Cathedral Square Brewery in St. Louis. The boozy beer is 10 percent alcohol by volume.

Jewbilation 18 celebrates He’Brew’s 18th anniversary with 18 malts and 18 hops. The black session barleywine is not 18 percent alcohol by volume (that would be a little much) but it’s still a winter warmer at 12.4 percent ABV.

The 5th Annual He’Brew Gift Pack comes with eight bottles of special release Shmaltz beers — one for every night of Hanukkah. Jewbilation 18, Hanukkah, Chanukah: Pass the Beer, Reunion Ale ’14 — A Beer for Hope and St. Lenny’s — The Immaculate Collaboration are all included in the gift pack. Also inside: A custom glass, Hanukkah candles and instructions on building your own beer menorah.

Starbucks launching mobile ordering, will add beer, wine and snacks

Starbucks Corp, aiming to give cooling U.S. traffic a jolt, on Thursday announced it will add beer, wine, and evening snacks to thousands of domestic cafes, widen lunch offerings and roll out mobile ordering.

Such efforts are part of the world’s biggest coffee chain’s plan to broaden its appeal as a destination with consumers who are spending more time shopping online rather than in malls and Main Street stores.

The company, which is hosting its biennial investor meeting in Seattle, said it would lay out its five-year plans to double U.S. food revenue to over $4 billion by expanding food choices, particularly during lunch hours.

Starbucks plans to reap about $1 billion in new sales from the addition of evening menus, including beer, wine and food, at nearly 3,000 of its 11,900 cafes in the United States.

The company also will detail the launch of a new mobile ordering and payment system that it says will make getting a coffee fix even more convenient. That same technology will underpin deliveries in select U.S. markets next year.

Additionally, in coming months, it will debut express stores, coffee trucks and upscale “reserve” shops, which will offer premium specialized coffee sourced from small farms.

Starbucks’ U.S.-dominated Americas unit had a traffic gain of 1 percent in the latest quarter, versus the 5 percent jump in the year-earlier period. An increase in sales of food, such as croissants and breakfast sandwiches, has helped offset slowing traffic in the last three quarters.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz in January warned that a “seismic” shift to online shopping was taking a bite out of traffic to U.S. brick-and-mortar stores.

That, executives said, contributed to a moderate slowdown in traffic in December 2013.

Traffic softened earlier this year than last and the weakness is expected to continue through the holiday season, said Steven Barr, who leads PwC’s U.S. retail and consumer practice.

The chain, which has 21,000 shops worldwide serving 70 million customers weekly, forecast fiscal 2019 revenue of nearly $30 billion, up from $16 billion in the fiscal 2014 ended Sept. 28.

Plans for the Asia-Pacific region include doubling its cafes in China to over 3,000 by 2019.

Rogue’s Sriracha Hot Stout Beer is really a thing

We love Sriracha, and we love beer. But together? Jury is out.

Rogue, the West Coast producer of such beers as the American Ale, Portland State IPA and the Beard beer, as well as ciders and sodas, are doing a hot sauce and beer mashup with their latest brew, the Sriracha Hot Stout Beer.

It’s made with Huy Fong original hot chili sauce, and sun-ripened Rogue Farms ingredients, and, according to Rogue, “is ready to drink with soups, sauces, pasta, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, chow mein or anything you’d like to wash down with a spicy kick.”

It’s available for pre-order now on the Rogue site for $13 and will begin shipping on Dec. 8.