10 Coffee Concoctions to Kick Your Brain into Overdrive
It’s a pain in the ass, but you really have no say in when you’re going to be tired. The brain, that fickle upstairs tenant, has all the control, and no matter how much you want to keep going, it has the final say.
A quick shot of espresso will do the trick most of the time, but not always. Before you switch to a less-legal stimulant (you know what I’m talking about), try out one of these 10 coffee concoctions to kick your brain into overdrive.
#1 - Double-Brewed Coffee
How do I pack more caffeine into my coffee, you ask? That’s simple: just double brew it.
Depending on how you normally brew your coffee, there are a number of ways to double brew, but in general it’s a straightforward process. Simply make some coffee and then use that coffee as the “hot water” for a second brew with new grounds.
To illustrate, imagine making a double brew with a French press, just like in this video:
First, whip up a fresh batch just as you would normally. Once your coffee is done steeping, strain it and drain it into another vessel, and refill your French press with new grounds. Next, pour your hot coffee over this new bed of grounds, let it steep for a few minutes, then strain, drain, and enjoy!
Mechanically, it’s all quite basic. You’re just layering more caffeine on top of what you already have. This approach can work with just about any manual coffee maker, but some automatic brewers may burn your second batch.
You should also keep in mind that caffeine isn’t the only part you’ll be doubling up on. When you double brew your coffee you are going to get a second dose of all the flavors, resulting in a strong cup in every sense of the word.
If you give this method a try, choose your roast carefully: pick something sweet and certainly not something with a lot of acidity. However, if you find the bitterness simply too much, try some of these other techniques for improving flavor.
#2 - Make Cold Brew Concentrate
I’ll be upfront with you right now: the science behind cold brew caffeine content is a little foggy. Some claim that it does have more caffeine than standard drip coffee, and others say that it doesn’t.
Setting up your cold brew, you may think that it must have more caffeine, because cold brew calls for a higher coffee-to-water ratio than just about any other brew method. However, temperature plays a big role because the higher the temperature, the better the rate of extraction.
Because cold coffee concentrate is brewed at room temperature, it won’t do as good a job at emptying your beans of their prized caffeine, but it’s not that simple.
There are still other variables that determine caffeine extraction apart from coffee-to-water ratio and temperature: time, grind size, and brew method all contribute significantly to the end result.
Cold brew concentrate uses more grounds and a lot more time than any other method, but it also uses a coarser grind and an immersion brew method, two factors that generally produce less caffeine concentration.
Sticking with the standard cold brew concentrate method, you will most likely end up with a caffeine content roughly equal to that of drip coffee. But if you tinker with some of the other variables, grind a little finer, for example, you can easily increase your share of caffeine.
To put it simply, if you want a bona fide grave robber of a cold brew, do one (or all) of these three things: grind finer, brew longer, or add more beans.
If you want to make things easier on yourself, order yourself a bottle of Chameleon Cold Brew. Their cold coffees rank pretty high on the caffeine scale.
#3 - Chaga Mushroom Coffee
I agree this one sounds a tad strange, but it may be one of the best places to turn to if you’re looking for a holistic alternative to simple caffeine boosters.
Before I dive into the health benefits of mushrooms, I’ll address the elephant in the room: mushroom beverages actually do taste good. Though you may only be familiar with a handful of mushrooms, none of which you’d consider drinking, there are many variants you haven’t heard of that have been consumed in liquid form by cultures across the globe.
For example, in WWII Finnish soldiers used chaga mushrooms as a coffee substitute, and many other cultures have been drinking mushroom teas for much longer.
To get from whole shroom to tasty liquid, a process similar to making instant coffee is used. These mushrooms are first boiled for hours in water then sent through an alcohol bath (which preps fat-soluble compounds for digestion) and finally dried into a fine powder and mixed in with coffee grounds.
Regardless of how liquid mushroom tastes, you may still be wondering why even bother. Consider for a second that 40% of medicines in the West use some form of mushroom, and now imagine combining those health benefits with your daily cup of joe.
For just about any ailment you could think of, even fatigue, there is a mushroom to fix it. Lion’s mane mushroom is highly linked with improved cognitive function, and chaga mushrooms have a blend of powerful antioxidants and immune-boosting properties.
Those are just a couple of the coffee-pairing mushrooms you could go with. There are many others that offer a wide range of stimulating and health-bolstering effects.
#4 - Bulletproof Coffee
Taking the trend-susceptible Silicon Valley by storm before weaseling its way into techy wannabes’ mugs around the world, Bulletproof Coffee was at one point the “it” coffee beverage for the health minded.
Though Bulletproof Coffee isn’t without some unique benefits, it has recently nosedived in popularity due to its high price and its producer’s sinking legitimacy. Many people will agree that the brand’s interesting coffee formula (coffee + coconut oil + grass-fed butter) is a great way to supercharge your coffee, but many will point out that they use non-Bulletproof products.
If you want to see more of the controversy behind Bulletproof’s “upgraded” line of products, check out Joe Rogan’s rant.
Aside from the brand’s pseudo-scientific products, the basic formula is solid. It goes a little something like this: brew up a fresh cup of coffee (8 oz) and stir in 1–2 oz of coconut oil and 1–2 oz of grass-fed butter.
Replacing a typical breakfast with bulletproof-style coffee is a great way to give your body both the fats and energy that it needs without weighing it down with carbs. It is a lot easier for your body to convert coconut oil into energy than sugars, and the butter provides many necessary nutrients, as well as help sustaining your energy levels.
Apart from the physical benefits, adding butter to your coffee makes it taste damn delicious!
It may sound strange, but considering the ultimate source (the cow) there is not too big of a difference between adding cream or adding butter to your coffee. Butter coffee has a silky texture that feels more like soup than drink, yet it tastes downright sinful.
#5 - Nootropic Coffee
Sure it sounds exciting, but what exactly is a nootropic? Put simply, “nootropic” is a term used to describe any type of supplement that can improve brain performance.
These compounds, of which there are many, can boost your memory, ability to focus, overall mood, physical performance, and motivation. Although they are found in numerous foods, it is hard to get a concentrated dose of any one nootropic from a standard diet.
They are most commonly found in powdered form, which have been popularized lately by the over-bulky fitness nuts who dump heaping spoonfuls of it into the thick smoothies that never leave their side.
However, for an average day’s coffee, you won’t be using the same nootropics these walking tanks use: you’ll be using compounds like alpha-GPC, taurine, L-theanine, and DMAE. These nootropics are a great fit for coffee, because they benefit a wide range of cognitive functions and delay the onset of fatigue.
Here is a quick rundown of what these specific compounds can do for you:
- Alpha-GPC improves memory and focus.
- Taurine reduces fatigue and boosts metabolism.
- L-theanine helps to limit stress.
- DMAE increases your energy and mental focus.
Instead of going out and buying all the individual ingredients trying your hand at nutrition science, there are a few coffee producers that sell pre-mixed batches. Kimera Koffee, which uses all four of the nootropics listed above, is a great place to start.
#6 - Extra-Caffeinated Beans
If all these other options are too complicated for you, then you could just go the easy route and simply buy beans with more caffeine.
Down at the bean level, there are so many variants that no one person could possibly keep track of it all. Each coffee farmer has his own growing conditions, and each roaster adds their own unique twist, but the majority of coffee can be split into two types of beans: arabica and robusta.
As the sweeter and more flavorful bean, arabica is the more popular of the two, yet robusta has nearly twice the amount of caffeine. Though its flavor may be a bit strong for the average coffee consumer, robusta is the surefire choice if caffeine is your main consideration.
Because robusta beans produce more bitter tasting roasts, I’d understand your hesitation to putting it on your grocery list. For some added assurance that your coffee of choice is both powerful and tasty, check out Death Wish Coffee.
If the name doesn’t scare you away, then the amount of caffeine packed into these beans just may. Compared to your average Starbucks coffee, Death Wish Coffee has nearly triple the amount of caffeine. This hard-to-believe caffeine level is the result of a secret roasting method and a careful bean selection process.
Caffeine may be this roastery’s top focus, but it isn’t the only consideration. A cup of coffee is worth little if it doesn’t taste good, so the fellas over at Death Wish put all their roasts through an intense cupping process. This coffee will undoubtedly taste much stronger than most others, yet it won’t leave you with the impression of brewed dirt like some robustas will.
#7 - Pair It with a Slice of Grapefruit
Despite the numerous coffee additives I’ve listed so far, not every caffeine booster goes in your coffee. If you have a momma like I have, then as a child you were inundated with fruits in the morning to help you “grow up big and strong.”
My mother’s favorite go-to was grapefruit, and she loved to explain how healthy it was for me. Though I doubt my mother ever read through any nutritional science articles — like a fine country lady, her version of the truth came from nowhere else but her imagination — she was certainly onto something.
Grapefruit and coffee is one of the best ways to give yourself a generous dose of sustainable energy. For the same reason that grapefruits have such a uniquely bitter taste, they can lengthen the effects of caffeine on the body.
Naringin, a chemical compound found almost exclusively in grapefruits, both give them their signature flavor and slow the breakdown of caffeine. By inhibiting a certain enzyme group in the liver, caffeine will stay in your bloodstream for longer, keeping you going even as your coworkers hit their midday slump.
That said, I caution you not to overdo it with this fatigue-defying combo. The inhibitory effects of naringin are strong, so eat no more than a slice of grapefruit (or a single cup of grapefruit juice) with your coffee.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t make this an everyday thing. Naringin’s effects are cumulative, meaning that they will build up with continued use. If you had grapefruit with your coffee every day of the week, you might not be able to sleep come Friday, though some of you might consider that a good thing.
Even if you’re looking to pull a rager over the weekend, I urge you to take it slow in the beginning. Caffeine affects everyone differently, and adding another player only can makes things a tad unpredictable.
#8 - Do It Right
Instead of running wild with funky additives, getting the most out of your coffee may be a simple case of fixing your brew process. Coffee beans are fickle creatures that don’t like to give up their contents easily. It takes some special persuasion if you want to get all your beans have to offer.
There are three rules to follow if you want to make sure you’re working your coffee for all it’s got:
Firstly, make sure your beans are fresh. All those favorable coffee compounds are vulnerable to oxygen, so make sure you keep your beans locked away in an airtight container. Additionally, use fresh ground coffee whenever possible.
Secondly, great coffee is all about good balancing skills. The ratio of coffee to water you use not only impacts flavor, but also the amount of caffeine. The standard coffee-to-water ratio for drip coffee is 1:14, but this ratio varies between brew methods.
Like with double brewed coffee and cold brew concentrate, you can easily alter the amount of caffeine in your coffee by playing with the ratios. However, be aware that even minute changes in your ratios will drastically impact flavor.
Lastly, use water between 195–205°F. As we’ve seen with cold brew coffee, temperature has a big impact on extraction. Unless you substitute with a longer brew time, using water below the recommended temperature range will result in an under-extracted cup.
Depending on which brew method you use, there may be other considerations to keep in mind, like flow rate with pour over coffee. But if you keep those three basic principles in mind, you’ll be oh-so-much closer to strong coffee.
#9 - Small, regular doses
The secret to caffeine hacking may lie in the timing. Most people are inclined to think that a venti coffee with an extra shot in morning is enough to hold them for the majority of the day, only to hit a debilitating slump hours later.
Consuming your coffee in small doses spread about an hour apart is a great way to keep the flow going without overdoing it. For a good example, just head to Italy where the businessmen and women take constant and regular espresso breaks.
The exact prescription is between 20–200 mg per hour, and although slugging back an 8 oz cup of joe every hour may seem like a recipe for a heart attack, a small shot of espresso (roughly 60 mg of caffeine) is the ticket to success.
Aside from an increase in bathroom visits (FYI coffee makes you pee), there may be some other adverse effects of giving yourself sustained caffeine throughout the day. The effects of coffee vary, and some people can develop a tolerance or dependence much quicker than other people.
If you’re going to give this technique a try pay close attention to your body’s reaction. If, over time, you notice that this method is having less and less of an effect, it may be time to switch it up.
#10 - Understand How Caffeine Affects Your Body
After that previous suggestion, it’s only proper to wrap things up with a quick beat about caffeine tolerance. I’ve been wagging my finger, urging you to take it slow with each of these tricks, so let me now clarify why.
Caffeine is a psychoactive substance that impacts your brain’s functioning. It’s a drug, and if you want to get the most out of it you should always regard it as such. Your body is unique (yay you!) and despite what the general consensus is on caffeine, it will undoubtedly affect you in a unique way.
The basic idea with coffee is that if one cup doesn’t do it for you, then just drink another; however, this can quickly lead to caffeine abuse. Some people need more caffeine, some people need less, and some others need none at all.
It may be strange to think, but if your daily dose just isn’t doing it for you anymore, cutting back may work better than drinking more. This is because caffeine can set up an abnormal situation in your body in which you’re literally fighting with your brain, and between these two your brain will eventually emerge victorious.
If you notice that you are constantly increasing the amount of coffee you drink each day, try cutting back for a while to give your body time to return to normal. Moving forward, be wary of your tolerance and try to drink coffee only when you really need it.
Before you try any of the tips I’ve listed, make sure you’re not stuck in a game of catch up. If you’re looking for an extra caffeine kick because those three morning cups no longer cut it, then I recommend a break before anything else.
I know what it’s like to be stuck staring at your computer screen as dreamy thoughts of sleep drift through your head. Sometimes a simple cup of joe won’t cut it, and we just need a little extra kick in the butt.
I hope you’ve found the weapon you need to fight off fatigue in this list. Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let me know of any tricks I haven’t mentioned. If you liked the article, don’t forget to share it with your friends!