Coffitivity – Coffee shop sounds to increase your creativity

Coffitivity - coffee shop sounds at homeHome working can be a great thing – you get to work in your pyjamas for a start (I don’t recommend you make a habit of it, though). You are also free to many of the distractions of the workplace, like idle conversations with colleagues and random interruptions. There is a downside, though – working from home can be lonely, and it can be too quiet.

The creators of Coffitivity realised that the ambience of a coffee shop is actually a great help in getting the creative juices going, and in getting work done. The mixture of calm and commotion is apparently just right for encouraging creativity, so they came up with an idea to let you play the sounds of a coffee shop while you work.

It’s simple, really – just visit Coffitivity.com and the sound will start. It’s non-specific, so you won’t be able to overhear people’s conversations, but you do get the impression that there are people around, doing what people do in coffee shops. For best results, Coffitivity recommend playing your own music over the top of their soundtrack, just slightly louder than the coffee shop sounds.

Does it work? Well, a soundtrack is never going to be a full replacement for working in a coffee shop. You lack the physical ambience, the smells and, of course, the coffee and cakes! But it does quickly form a sort of white noise background to whatever you’re doing. I’m not sure yet whether it is actually helpful (I’m running it as I write this), but it’s an interesting idea that I’m willing to try out for a while.

Why not swing on by Coffitivity.com and see what you think? If you have other people around you, you might want to put headphones in, but I’d be very interested to know whether you think Coffitivity is helpful, distracting, or just silly. Let us know in the comments.

5 Amazing Android Apps for Coffee Addicts

Roasted coffee beansThis is a guest post by William Judd.

Good morning everybody and welcome to this article! Today we’re going to be looking at five brilliant Android apps for coffee lovers. If coffee is the secret to your ebullient nature, then this is the app for you. Let’s get right into it, shall we?

5. Hidden Menu Coffee Drinks
There’s something about ordering a drink that’s not on the menu that’s quite exciting – particularly when you actually get it! This app taps into that excitement, offering a range of secret menu items you can ask for at Starbucks. These are all modifications of existing drinks, ensuring that your barista doesn’t need to be in on it to be able to fulfill the order. You’ll get both a plain English version and a Starbucks-specific code for each drink, allowing you to easily show or tell the barista what you’d like. With twenty-five recipes on tap and a further 50 available by purchasing the Pro version, you’ll definitely have some experimenting to do.

4. Coffee Recipes
This app is similar in idea, but offers a much broader execution. While the Hidden Menu app offered only Starbucks drinks, this app shows you 90 different coffee recipes that you can make yourself or ask your friendly neighbordhood barista for. With a range of apps including both well-known options and rather esoteric ones, even the most jaded coffee orderer will find plenty new to try. This is a good app for trainee baristas, as it’ll widely expand the range of drinks at your disposal.

3. Coffee Finder
This app is again for the lovers of the big American and Canadian chains – Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Dunkin’ Donuts and the like. These and five other chains are shown on a map, allowing you to easily find the nearest coffee outlet wherever you are. This is, however, limited to the United States and Canada – when I used the app in the United Kingdom, I found that only Starbucks offered up any results. If you are in North America, this is definitely a great app, but those in other nations are probably best off using the standard Google Maps app.

2. Coffeemania
This app is similar to our number 4 entry, but offers an even greater number of coffee recipes. There’s more than 250 in total, with a wide range of options including hot and cold drinks and even coffee-based food. There are also some informational sections, which contain educational material on brewing methods and vessels (although some options, like senseo pods, aren’t shown). The app is not brilliantly laid out, but it gets the job done and is more than worth the free install.

1. Baristame
This is the best app on the list by far, as it offers both solid educational content on espresso based drinks and a beautiful design. With excellent diagrams of each drink in its database, you’ll find Baristame is a pleasure to use. Each drink also contains information on its origin and any variants that exist. If you want to test your coffee knowledge, you can do so in the quiz mode that the app offers. The Pro variant is probably the most worthwhile of any of the apps on this list – for $1, you get a lot of additional educational content, including information on brewing methods and even coffee-producing nations. A well designed app that’s perfect for coffee lovers!

Conclusion
So there we have it – five coffee app selections for Android. Thanks for reading the article and be sure to let me know in the comments below what you thought of it. If you find any great coffee apps that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments or message me on Twitter @wsjudd – I’m always interested in finding out that next great app! Have a good day and I’ll see you next time.

Coffee in history: The surprising effects of your favourite caffeinated beverage

This is a guest post by William Judd.

Coffee beans in a heart shapeCoffee is the second most-traded good in the world, after petroleum, and it is a ubiquitous indulgence in the western world that’s consumed by millions each morning. It’s hard to become that big without turning up in some odd places, and coffee has definitely done it all. Did you know that coffee was a key part of the development of stock exchanges, computing equipment and even revolutions? Read on to find the secret life of coffee.

5. Coffee breaks

The coffee break is commonplace across all kinds of businesses in the western world and beyond; a routine social gathering where workers take a few minutes to talk with their colleagues and higher-ups over a warm cup of coffee. The coffee break’s popularity in the United States is thought to be down to the work of behavioural psychologist John B. Watson, who developed Behaviorism and later worked with Maxwell House, a large coffee brand in the United States. The coffee break may have its origins even further back this though, with Time writing in 1951 that coffee breaks were written into union contracts. The true origin of the coffee break apparently originated in the late 19th century in the small town of Stoughton, Wisconsin, where the wives of Norwegian immigrants took regular breaks with coffee. The town still celebrates Stoughton Coffee Break Festival each year.

4. Haitian Revolution

Saint Domingue was the most treasured colony of the French empire in 1791, with the Caribbean colony producing about 60% of the world’s coffee and 40% of the world’s sugar at the time. Around 452,000 slaves worked to harvest the coffee, controlled by only 40,000 whites and 28,000 free blacks and mulattos. While the white plantation owners were scared of a slave revolt and prepared accordingly, when the revolution came in 1791 they were unable to stop it. The conflict continued until 1804, when plantation owners were roundly defeated and the plantations burned. The revolution brought a stop to slavery in the colony, which was reformed as the independent Haitian Republic. The revolution was the most successful slave revolt in the Americas, and was one of only two successful revolts against European powers before the 19th century – the other being the United States. Coffee production has never recovered, but that seems a trivial price to pay.

3. Espresso machine

According to my part-Turkish flatmate, the first espresso machine was developed in Italy by an inventive business owner irritated with the long coffee breaks his workers took. He devised a machine that forced water at high pressure through coffee grounds, producing a single-serve coffee drink that could be produced quickly. While it’s a cool story, I sadly haven’t been able to find any citations for it. According to what I have been able to find, the first espresso machine patent for an industrial espresso machine was developed in 1884, but it wasn’t until 1901 that key improvements including single-serve were perfected. Espresso has continued to evolve as a rapid single-serve beverage, most noticeably with the development of encapsulated single-serve coffee pods in 1959.

2. Stock exchanges and businesses

Coffee houses quickly became popular places for wealthy businessmen and intellectuals to meet in Europe and the United States; indeed such establishments were nicknamed penny universities (after the cost of the drink and the quality of the discussion therein). The biggest stock exchange in the world was started by 64 traders at the Tontine Coffee House in New York; it is now called the New York Stock Exchange. A number of other massive firms also began life as coffee houses, including the East India Company (which started life as the Jerusalem Cafe) and Lloyds of London (which began as Lloyd’s coffeehouse).

1. Webcams

My favourite instance of coffee prompting scientific enquiry came in 1991, when the very first webcam was developed. It was engineered in the Computer Science department at Cambridge, where a camera was pointed at a coffee pot and hooked up the network. Computer scientists working in the university could connect to a web page to check the level of coffee in the pot, potentially saving themselves a wasted trip. The same coffee camera was still running in 2001, when the development of high-speed Internet allowed the past vision of video telephones to finally become a reality. The webcam has since become ubiquitous on portable computers like laptops, mobile phones and tablets although the coffee cam has since shut down.

Conclusion

So there you have it – five interesting instances of coffee in history. I hope you’ve discovered something interesting about coffee. If I’ve left anything off, let me know in the comments below!

How many shots would it take to kill you?

Coffee beans in a heart shapeHow much coffee would it take to take you down? Ultimately, the answer to the question depends on what type of coffee you’re drinking, as each will contain a different amount of caffeine. A mug of filter coffee contains the most caffeine, at 120 mg. Instant coffee provides 75g and espresso 107 mg, although you’re unlikely to have an entire mug of pure espresso.

According to caffeine information site energyfiend.com, if you weigh 160 pounds (approximately 11.5 stone or 72.5 kilograms), then you would have to drink 142 shots of espresso in one day to die from the resultant caffeine overdose. That’s equivalent to about 6.29 litres, so hardly a normal amount. By contrast, you’re about as likely to die from the water itself if it’s consumed in a short period, particularly if you’re being physically active at the same time. Instant coffee would kill the same person in 192 cups, while filter coffee kills in just 75 cups.

The lesson here? It’s unlikely you’d be able to drink enough coffee to kill yourself. However, there are drawbacks to caffeine consumption besides death – nervousness, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, headaches and heart palpitations are all symptoms of a caffeine overdose. The Department of Health reckons that you shouldn’t drink more than five single espressos per day, although this varies person by person.  That’s equivalent to seven cups of instant coffee.

If you’re beneath the limit though, side effects are generally considered to be mildly good. If you have one or two ESE coffee pods per day (which contains a single shot of espresso each), studies have shown that you are less likely to develop prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease and even some form of diabetes. You’re also more likely to suffer from headaches and acid reflux, though.

So keep drinking coffee in moderation… but try not to drink 75 cups of filter coffee, 192 cups of instant or 142 ESE pods in one day, OK?

This article was written by William Judd. Will writes for Mobile Fun, who imbibe rather a lot of coffee as well as being the UK’s leading online retailers of mobile accessories.