Beverages - Coffee
( Originally Published 1913 )
When one leads a regular and frugal life, and has besides the quality of being able to govern his temper, he will not find it necessary to resort to artificial stimulants in order to keep himself up to the mark, or as a consolation factor whenever disappointed or depressed. When one has, however, eaten a full meal of meat, etc., and feels tired and sleepy afterward, it is only natural that he should long for some drink such as coffee. This stirs him up and enlivens him, and he feels much better. For this enlivening action of the coffee we must thank an Arabian shepherd who discovered the coffee bush, having noticed that his flocks were always very active and lively after having eaten the beans which he saw on these bushes. He made and drank a decoction from the beans, and himself experienced a sense of exhilaration. As his neighbors reproved him, saying that he had sinned against the laws of the prophets, and took him before the Kadi, the story came out, and now the Mohammedans consider this beverage as a gift of God, as a reward for their abstinence from alcohol.
In order that the coffee shall possess this stimulating property, together with an excellent taste and fine aroma, which also enhances the taste, it must first be of a good quality and the next great requirement is that it be freshly ground and made just before using. It is also important that only soft—and when possible distilled—water be used for making coffee. It is often well-nigh impossible for those who must take their meals in restaurants to ever be able to drink a really good aromatic cup of coffee, since it is the custom in most coffeehouses—fortunately not often here in Austria-Hungary—to make a supply for the whole day and to then deal out this black soup as it is required. Although it is asserted that coffee is more healthful when chicory is added, it certainly does not at all improve the taste. Unfortunately, just in that country which obtains the very best coffee from its colonies—Hollanda very great quantity of chicory is used. We must, therefore, pardon the Saxons for their extensive use of such coffee. I have, nevertheless, sometimes drunk better coffee in the very heart of Saxony than in some parts of northern Germany. This does not, of course, refer to the Hanseatic cities, which are renowned for their excellent coffee. Concerning the Dutch coffee, the wife of a greatly esteemed clinician told me that, unfortunately, the very finest coffee from the Dutch colonies—that coming from Preangor—is chiefly sent to, Austria, and that in Holland itself it is difficult to get any of it. This is unfortunately frequently the case with the native products of a country.
The very excellent quality of coffee drank in Austria is well known in other countries, and our Carlsbad coffee is everywhere praised. The very fine cream and milk which we drink here may help to make it so, for coffee is always improved when cream is added to it. In Scandinavia, especially in Denmark and Sweden, the coffee is excellent,—no doubt partially because of the very fine cream. A most important point is the fresh roasting and grinding of coffee, and this is carefully carried out in Carlsbad and in Austria-Hungary in general, but not always in Germany. In one of the very best hotels in Carlsbad coffee is prepared as follows: the roasted coffee is first very finely ground, and is then firmly pressed into a coffee machine, then only one large spoonful of water which has just reached the boiling point is poured over it, and the machine is covered so that the aroma cannot escape. As soon as this water has soaked through the coffee, more of the freshly boiling water is poured over it. The water used for this purpose must be freshly boiled and not such as has been standing for hours on the fire. Drinking-water, and not general utility water, should be used for this purpose. The cream, when used hot, must also be freshly brought to the boiling point, and not first boiled and then left to cool, and afterward warmed up again as required ; in that case the coffee will have a grayish color, and "fat-eyes" will gather upon its surface. For making good coffee, 2 decigrams of coffee beans and 1/6 liter of water are required. A good mixture is preferable to only one kind of coffee. When the nerves are easily excited i decigram of coffee will be sufficient.
The exhilarating action of coffee is due to its caffeine content. It excites the central nervous system, and large quantities will cause sleeplessness; it is consequently not advisable to take coffee at the evening meal, although many persons are able through habit to drink it just before going to bed without being kept awake. Owing to the caffeine coffee prevents fatigue, as has been experimentally shown by Schumburg with both coffee and tea; in muscular exertion it has a refreshing action. I have personally observed that when taking long tramps of 20 to 30 kilometers I did not get at all tired and made the rest of the way quite easy by taking coffee with my midday meal—after having walked 12 kilometers. When the muscles have already become exhausted caffeine does not have much effect, according to Schumburg. It has, likewise, a stimulating action upon the vasomotor system and the heart activity; the pulse is also increased.
Owing to the increased blood-pressure caused by the caffeine, the use of coffee should be forbidden in arteriosclerosis; caffeine-free coffee is very much better, and it is also well tolerated by the stomach. Coffee, owing to its property of stimulating the intellectual activity and of removing fatigue, is often greatly misused by brainworkers. While it does for a time brace one up for working, the work is paid for with interest by the increased wear and tear, so to speak, of important organs of the body. As far as the stomach is concerned, coffee often causes less injury than tea,—which contains more tannin,—especially when there is overacidity of the stomach; it must, however, not be too strong. Generally speaking, coffee is not indicated in affections of the stomach. Coffee acts as an antidote for certain poisons such as opium and alcohol. Binz found that dogs which had been stupefied by alcohol could be waked up by coffee. It also has a favorable action upon metabolism in the sense that by its use the end-product of nitrogen, e.g., urea, is eliminated in larger quantities, as is also common salt. Coffee has a diuretic effect. On the other hand, it has an unfavorable action in the uric acid diathesis, as caffeine promotes the formation of uric acid to a considerable extent.
Umber and Schittenhelm strictly prohibit the use of coffee in gout. I consider it a mistake, however, to suddenly absolutely forbid coffee or any similar substance which people may have been accustomed to taking all their lives. It is more practical and even more healthful not to forbid them entirely, but to allow very small quantities. When a person has good kidneys the quantity of uric acid furnished by the caffeine can be readily eliminated; it will only be necessary to lessen the quantity of uric acid by making the coffee quite weak.
The drinking of pure black coffee I consider injurious not only for invalids, but for healthy persons as well, especially when they are at all "nervous"; but a little coffee of good quality with a good deal of cream is, I believe, not injurious for the majority of people. For persons who cannot take ordinary coffee that free from caffeine would prove useful. It tastes very good with cream.