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Greetings from Aillio!

If you know our brand, then you know much of what we do is driven by scientific exploration -- both the Bullet and AiO rely on it. That curiosity extends also to the raw chemistry of coffee and consequently, its impact on our health -- which just so happens to be the theme for our newsletter this month, “Coffee and Health.”

But before we dive into the latest science -- and even speculate upon what may be the world's healthiest roast recipe -- we’d like to share an opportunity to improve health outcomes for coffee farmers around the world while getting a chance to win a brand new Bullet R1 V2.

Grounds for Health x Royal Coffee x Aillio

Aillio is partnering with Royal Coffee to raise money in support of Grounds for Health. Since 1996, Grounds for Health has worked in Latin America and Africa to address one of the most significant disparities in women’s health globally. Cervical cancer is a nearly 100% treatable disease, and yet in the next 15 years it could kill almost 4.5 million women – 85% of whom will live in developing countries.  

Grounds for Health focuses on helping under-served communities that represent the base of global supply chains for coffee, tea, cut flowers and cocoa.

Every ten dollar donation to Grounds for Health with be matched by Royal Coffee -- up to US$25,000! -- and includes a ticket to win an Aillio Bullet R1 V2 in a raffle to be hosted at the SCA Coffee Championship Preliminaries on October 1st in Oakland, California.

To support the cause and secure your ticket(s), simply head over to https://bit.ly/royalcoffeexaillio !

If you're a denizen of the Instagram world, please also consider sharing your donation on social media with the hashtags: #royalxaillio and #bethereason 

As for how drinking coffee impacts your health...

Coffee: All Natural and Chemical Free!

Would you want to put 4-Hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde in your body? How about 2-ethenyl-3-ethyl-5-methyl-pyrazine?

No? Not even for a million dollars? 

Years ago, the prestigious scientific journal Nature received an application for a paper that promised a comprehensive list of all products appropriately labeled “chemical-free.”

It was blank. Tongues planted firmly in cheek. But the editors were so amused they made the "study" publically available on their site.

Despite what marketers around the world may want you to believe, the world is made up of chemicals, and even your favorite all-natural products -- such as coffee -- are full of em.

Here’s a little peek at the “ingredients list” for your typical roasted coffee bean.
Photo courtesy of James Kennedy

I can't even pronounce half of these words. Even wilder: this list is far from comprehensive. It is believed that over 1000 unique compounds are responsible for the aroma of coffee.

Interestingly, many of the chemicals in coffee can be found all across nature: in what you eat, drink, and even in the air you breathe. 

It’s the mixing and matching of these compounds that produces all of your very favorite smells and tastes. Ever wonder why you’re picking up notes of vanilla while breathing in that earthy Colombian? You are likely inhaling vanillin, aka 4-Hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde, the very-same chemical that is primarily responsible for the odor and flavor of vanilla beans. Cool, right? 

In other words, if we want to properly discuss coffee’s impact on health, it is not simply a question of how many milligrams of caffeine you're consuming per day. There is so much more going on...

Coffee and Your Health

Drinking coffee every day seems to improve health outcomes across the board, and the presence of caffeine (which, by the way, is pretty healthy in its own right) simply cannot fully explain these effects. We know this because drinking decaffeinated coffee yields similar health outcomes in a dose dependent manner -- the more decaffeinated coffee you drink, the better the outcomes tend to be.

When I say "across the board" I really mean it -- we're talking a significant reduction in all-cause mortality. There is now a strong body of research indicating that coffee protects the liver (coffee cocktail anyone?), reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, improves cardivascular health, and much, much, more -- all while simultaneously drastically reducing the odds that you strangle a stranger on any given Monday morning.

So if caffeine alone isn't responsible for all these great things, then exactly what is happening here? The sheer number of chemicals in coffee makes it difficult to decipher exactly how it interacts with our bodies. This research is still very much on-going, but currently, the most likely cause of coffee's positive health effects seem to be a group of acids that can actually be found in many other plant-based foods.

Coffee just happens to be the richest natural source of these compounds.

Chlorogenic Goodness

As green coffee heats up during the roasting process, it undergoes a series of basic changes we're all familiar with -- yellow, to brown, to black. But thinking about coffee in this way is really over-simplifying an incredibly complex set of processes. Roasting is, at its core, the art of managing a cascade of unwieldly chemical reactions. The final flavor in the cup depends on how you manage these reactions.

Naturally occurring acids in coffee, whose ratios are ever-changing during the roasting process, can have a dramatic influence on flavor, which is why Q-graders must learn to distinguish between the tastes of its primary acids. Sparkling acidity comes from phosphoric acid, for instance, while citrus notes come to fore with greater concentrations of citric acid.

But when it comes to coffee and health, science is particularly interested in chlorogenic acids -- not a single compound, but a family of them. They are present in coffee in far higher concentrations than any other food product, and they exhibit powerful free-radical scavenging, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and even neuroprotective effects. 

Proposing a (Light) Roast to Your Health!

Chlorogenic acids are broken down during the roasting process into other compounds. In other words, the darker the roast, the less chlorogenic acids you have, as you can see in the helpful chart from the aforementioned study:

The effect of degree of roasting on the concentration of caffeine, CGA, GAE (total phenols) and TEAC (antioxidants) in coffee beans from different sources. Source: Quantification of Caffeine and Chlorogenic Acid in Green and Roasted Coffee Samples Using HPLC-DAD and Evaluation of the Effect of Degree of Roasting on Their Levels

That's a THREE-FOLD reduction in total chlorogenic acid content when you roast dark as opposed to light -- and we don't even know what the definition of a "light" roast is in this study. (I'm guessing we'd likely call it a medium roast... but I wasn't able to obtain more information on it.)

So if the current research is really pointing us in the correct direction -- that chlorogenic acids are primarily responsible for the health effects of coffee -- then it seems that light roasts take home the prize for healthiest coffee on the planet.

Still, we should resist the temptation to market Nordic-style espressos as cure-all health elixirs. Nutritional science is notoriously hard to pin down, and with so much left to learn, the conversation about coffee and health may one day take another turn. 

But that's what makes growing, roasting, and brewing coffee so fun to begin with: the chemistry is so complex, with so many variables, that there is always something new to learn. If you read this newsletter and feel you can offer some more insight in the chemistry of coffee as it relates to flavor or health, feel free to reach out at outreach@aillio.com -- we'll be happy to hear from you! 

That's all for now. Keep drinking great (and healthy!) coffee, everyone. 

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