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The Benefits of Coffee in COPD…

Posted Mar 23 2010 12:00am

As regular readers may know, I’ve had a pretty bad spell lately and, today, my breathing has been really bad, and not responding to my meds.

Anyway, a couple of hours ago, I needed to make some bread, as I’ve eaten my emergency stash of bread rolls which, as you might imagine, didn’t help my breathing. Anyway, once I set my dough aside for its final proving, I thought, what the hell, and fired up my new Dualit espresso machine.

Duakit espressivo, Krups burr grinder, portafilter, and a jar of beans. Sorry about the odd perspective – not much room in the kitchen and I had to use a wide-angle lens. And the a-f focused on the tiles!

My beans, in Kilner jars, live in the fridge (surplus beans, left in their bags and resealed with bag clips, can be safely frozen). I keep a small amount of ground coffee, in a tightly-capped jar, in the drawer. At this time my grinder was sat on an expanded polystyrene pad, but it wasn’t really needed, and I binned it.

The machines are recent acquisitions, and haven’t been used much, so I thought it was time (I have tried it – made sure it worked), I used them in anger.

I’d already ground a few Old Brown Java beans, as well as an espresso blend which I’d tried and which is savagely bitter, so I tried the OBJ.

Very nice it was, too, a double shot with a little sugar. No nausea, the normal almost instant reaction to coffee, and I realised, after a few minutes I’d stopped wheezing and it was easier to breathe. 2 hours later and I’m still doing well.

It had to be the coffee, so I went online to check it out, and found a bunch of people with COPD saying the same thing. Question is – why? Well, it turns out that one of the principal ingredients in COPD meds, a drug called Theophylline, is found in coffee (tea, too, at higher levels).

So there you go – another weapon in the fight against COPD (if this is widely known, I haven’t noticed it – most COPD websites I looked at advised avoiding coffee).

Do bear in mind, though, that espresso, despite its reputation, has a fairly low caffeine content  compared to other methods (because there’s a small volume of water in contact with a small amount of coffee, very briefly), which is beneficial in COPD (caffeine is bad news, see below). Filter coffee has the highest levels of caffeine, because a large volume of water is in contact with a much larger about of coffee (than espresso), for much longer (and filter papers absorb coffee’s aromatic oils, adversely affecting the flavour). Percolated coffee is high in caffeine too.

I would advise choosing your coffee blend carefully, as a high caffeine content will make you twitchy, push up your heart rate and that will bump up your blood pressure. Judging from my experience, the particular Old Brown Java that I have is quite low in caffeine.

Originally the beans were carried as ballast in sailing ships, where they sloshed around in sea water and whatever crap found its way into the bilges. That’s the legend – I’m not entirely convinced, because a lot more than sea water sloshed around the bilges, including sewage and dead rats. Live rats, too, of course, dribbling rat pee and Weil’s disease wherever they went.

Whatever, the beans were cleaned up, dried out and, when roasted and ground, were found to have developed a unique flavour, and OBJ was born – it’s also, I suspect, how coffee became to be universally known as Java in the US.

Different companies treat their OBJ differently. Some allow the beans to weather outdoors, some bury them in the ground, other just store them in warehouses. Whatever the method, the beans are matured from 2 to 7 years.

I got mine at thebeanshop.com , and their website says “Old Brown Java was traditionally used as ballast on sailing ships where the sea water gave the coffee a distinct flavour. Its mild acidity, heavy-bodied taste and sweetness is still attained through a weathering process and it takes two years to become ‘old brown java’ ”. Whatever, I like it, and it likes me.

And my breathing improves dramatically, so it would make sense to drink coffee throughout the day, starting when I get up.

Note: Coffee is a diuretic, useful if, like me, you retain fluid as if there’s a world shortage, and it can also have a laxative effect. You have been warned!

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