The Skinny on... Coffee

What goes into a great cup of coffee? Here's the buzz on buying, brewing, sipping and enjoying all kinds of Joe.
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Some call it Joe, some call it java, and others consider it liquid talent. Whatever name it goes by, coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Here's everything you need to know about the deep, dark brew.

Bean Basics

The key to the best-tasting coffee is freshness. Purists will tell you that whole beans begin to lose flavor in as little as a week, grinds in only an hour and brewed coffee in mere minutes. While most of us don't have the time (or the inclination) to grind beans to order, proper storage can keep your coffee tasting good longer.

Buying coffee in whole beans, from a source that does a brisk business (the beans are likely fresher when turnover is fast), and grinding a daily batch is the simplest way to ensure rich, smooth flavor.

Fancy Drinks Demystified

Sure, fancy coffee drinks are delicious—and loaded with fat and calories, but choose wisely (ask for nonfat milk, sugar-free syrup and skip the whip) and you can still indulge. Here’s a sampling of several popular items:

Starbucks® Java Chip Frappuccino® with whipped cream (16 oz)
PointsPlus values: 12

Starbucks® Java Chip Frappuccino® Light with skim milk, no whip (16 oz):
PointsPlus values: 6

Dunkin’ Donuts® Mocha Spice Latte (10 oz):
PointsPlus values: 6

Dunkin’ Donuts® Vanilla Latte Lite (10 oz):
PointsPlus values: 2

Regular brewed coffee (10 oz), with 1 oz of skim milk:
PointsPlus values: 0

Coffee grinders are inexpensive, and there are even coffee makers with built-in grinders.

Store whole beans in an air-tight container (some suggest storing beans in the freezer) for as long as several weeks. If you do freeze coffee beans, bring them up to room temperature before grinding. If this is too much fuss, you can also buy whole beans and have them ground at the store.

That Unmistakable Jolt
The buzz you get from drinking coffee isn't your imagination; caffeine's effects are very real, and most people do fine with 200-300 milligrams per day. Above 500 milligrams, you risk side effects like irritability, insomnia and headaches. But the amount you'll get in each cup depends on what you're drinking and how it's prepared. Eight ounces of brewed coffee has about 100 milligrams of caffeine, while decaf has less than 10. Espresso, typically served in a much smaller 2-ounce serving, has 125 milligrams. And a single Starbucks® Grande (that's 16 ounces) averages 372 milligrams, but could zap you with more than 500!

Myths and Facts
  • Recent studies show that drinking three cups of caffeinated coffee each day can help prevent memory loss. Researchers aren't sure why, but it only helps women (sorry, fellas!).
  • It takes about 50 beans to make enough grinds for one cup of coffee.
  • Coffee certified as Fair Trade is produced by democratically organized farmers who receive a guaranteed minimum price in exchange for providing fair labor conditions and practicing environmental sustainability.
  • The United States consumes 20 percent of the world's coffee, making us the largest market in the world.

Coffee and the Plan
Weight Watchers doesn't have hard and fast rules about coffee consumption—like everything else, coffee (or any caffeinated drink) is fine in moderation. If you are taking medications, talk with your doctor to make sure coffee consumption won't cause a health risk. Just be sure to count the PointsPlus™ values in whatever milk or sugar you add to your daily dose, and if it's caffeinated, don't count it towards your daily water requirement (up to three cups of decaf can count, though!).

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