YeCup- A Smart Cup That'll Keep Your Coffee at the Right Temperature

Our Kickstarter of the Week column looks for the coolest new projects you can fund on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, among others. We're always looking for projects to back because some of the most interesting products we've seen of late - like the Pebble smartwatch and the Oculus Rift - have come from small companies and not giant corporations. We're watching out for what comes next.

There's always a chance that a Kickstarter will not work out, even if it's fully funded, so you should always be aware of the risks involved, but even so, crowdfunding is one of the most interesting spaces in consumer technology today, and definitely worth checking out.

And it's only through crowdfunding that you'll find projects like the Yecup, a smart cup that we found on Indiegogo.

The Yecup is a really cool idea. You've probably seen cups that can be powered by your computer's USB port to keep your tea or coffee warm. That's pretty handy, but also fairly limited. Yecup takes that idea, and then improves it, in a number of different ways.

The first big improvement is that instead of tethering the cup (which looks more like a short thermos) to your PC to charge the heating element, the Yecup comes with a battery built in. This can be used to maintain the temperature of your drink, or even bring it to a boil if it's gone cold. And because the cup is battery powered, you can do this in your car, or anywhere in the house, without needing to be next to a USB port.

The Indiegogo page doesn't mention how big the battery is, but there's a full-size USB port at the base of the cup, and the company claims that you can use this to charge your phone twice.

The second cool improvement is that the Yecup connects to your phone using Bluetooth, so you can see the current temperature of your drink. Sounds fun, but a little pointless? Sure, but you can also use the app to set the temperature you want the drink to be at, set it to boil, or check the battery level of the cup. The cup also has a button you can press to warm the drink at any time.

This also means that you can get notifications, warning you when your coffee has gone cold, or letting you know that your tea has been heated and is ready to drink, or even warning you that the cup's battery is running low.

For some reason, you can also press a button on the cup to trigger the camera on your phone - great for taking selfies, according to Yecup's Indiegogo page. Some questionable choices aside, this sounds like a really cool project, and you can see more details in the video below:

On the first day of the campaign which started on Tuesday, Yecup has already raised over $10,000 (nearly Rs. 6.5 lakh) against a target of $40,000 (over Rs. 25 lakh), and the project will be accepting funding for 39 more days. To get a Yecup, you'll have to pledge $169 (a little over Rs. 10,000), and the expected worldwide delivery (with free shipping) is November 2015.


Is the plastic used in Keurig K-Cups safe?

People continue to think they are not.

From time to time we post here comments that are left on the Coffee Detective blog by their readers...

Jul 04, 2015
Polystyrene water reservoir toxic 
by: Anonymous 

I would suggest first looking at your coffee maker. Check the bottom of the water reservoir and see what is the recycle code listing. My Keurig coffee maker had a recycle code of 6 which is polystyrene and cannot be recycled. Worse than that it leaches toxic chemicals into the water reservoir ...especially when heated. I have since called Keurig and have replaced it with an old fashioned glass carafe and drip stainless steal filter. Great coffee ... no toxins!

Jun 25, 2015
Additional Waste - Do we really need that for the convenience of one cup coffee? 
by: Anonymous 

I can't help wondering what the long term effect will be to the world adding all these K-cups to our land fills. Don't we have enough to worry about without adding more and more issues. 


The Smart Reason We Waste Our Dollars On Coffee

We adore coffee, and we’ll pay more than we need to for it, even after a devastating recession that left permanent scars on our memories. That says something about our odd human nature, but also about where entrepreneurial opportunities lie ahead.

When the global economy began circling the drain in 2008, Starbucks began laying off employees and shuttering stores. Experts debated whether Starbucks could hang on much longer. “[H]onestly, I’m over it,” Dan Macsai wrote in BusinessWeek. “And apparently, so are you.” At the time, Starbucks had 15,000 stores in 44 countries, and Macsai expected to see rapid decline.

Today it has 21,000 locations in 65 countries. So never mind. Today, the lines at Starbucks and rival chains are clogged with customers ordering 17 mocha lattes and half-caff cappuccinos and venti frapps for themselves and their friends back at the office. Today, people risk missing connecting flights at airports because they gotta have their fix—freshly dispensed by a busy barista.

Let’s not be too harsh on the experts. It was logical, it was only reasonable, to assume that human beings are economic creatures who would cut back on needless purchases when money is tight and jobs are scarce. You can make decent coffee at home for 27 cents a cup—or Maxwell House for 8 cents in a pinch, according to one connoisseur.  So why pay $2 for a drip coffee or $4.50 for a cappuccino?

The Economist once described the popularity of bottled water as “one of capitalism’s greatest mysteries.” Consider coffee to be another one of them.

But while bottled water still strikes me a strange and wasteful concept, I do believe coffee shows us some important value judgments that we tend to make, even when cost is an issue.

Yes, buying a $4 espresso drink isn’t fiscally prudent, as financial gurus have been saying for years. “A savings calculator will tell you that such a once-a-day habit adds up to $133,000 over 30 years if the same amount was invested instead at a modest interest rate,” workplace psychologist Bill Dyment concedes. “That’s 25 safaris or nice trips to Europe, a very nice car or addition to one’s retirement.”

But Dyment is willing to point to other factors that make the long-term economic factor less relevant: “There is something emotionally or physically powerful going on for those who wouldn’t miss their daily $4 coffee,” Dyment tells me. “So what drives us? Is it simply the caffeine?  No, you can satisfy that craving for much less money at home. I think there’s more to the story: The $4 coffee is a pleasing brew of social ritual, self-reward, feeling valued by attentive servers and a welcome pause in a busy day.”

I’d add to that that humans are a peculiarly tribal people. When we pay a premium for a grande latte at Starbucks or the latest iGadget from Apple, we’re buying into a particular tribe or club. That gives us a daily experience and identity that can’t easily be quantified. (And rest assured, there will always be a rival tribe of cheapskates standing off to the side, taking pleasure in the act of judging us loudly.)

Joanne Weidman, a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Los Angeles area, knows a thing or two about money issues that can cause conflict within relationships. But she too sees a reality regarding the coffee craze: We all need a safe way to splurge. “Everyone has their splurge, their personal indulgence,” she tells me. “The 1% may splurge on cars, furs or vacations, but the 99% have theirs–the unnecessarily expensive hair salon, the top-shelf whiskey, the running shoes, the occasional massage –and coffee.

“Once the habit is developed,” she says, “then it’s about the comfort that comes with routine. Jobs may come and go, marriages end, friends get sick, but Starbucks always smells the same when I walk in the door.  That’s the brilliance of the luxury brand—it’s not about money, but meaning.”

It may surprise you (it frankly shocked me), but Americans actually consume far less coffee than we did a few generations ago. Jeremy Olshan noted in 2013 that, at our peak in 1946, we drank twice as much coffee as today (and most of it was inexpensive bland, brown water). Coffee declined in popularity as warnings arose about its unhealthful effects. But now coffee is widely seen as offering health benefits (despite the occasional spoilsport), and it’s brewed with a level of care unheard of in past generations. And it’s presented as an essential glue for human community.

“Personally, I remember well the rise of the modern American coffee craze,” Dyment tells me. “It was the early 1990s and I was a young professional on the road constantly.  Coffee shops seemed to be popping up everywhere overnight and just where you needed them. I felt like I had found a public living room where I could catch up with friends, a neutral place to hold business meetings. or take care of work calls and emails. It was perfect– clean, upbeat, hip and predictable–not as casual as my home but much more relaxing than my office. What’s more, it felt good to be there.  It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t paying $4 for my coffee. I was renting the whole experience and basking in the feeling of importance in an often big, impersonal city.  I liked the experience of ordering from a pleasant barista who asked about my day and got my coffee quirks just right.”

So coffee indeed became the affordable luxury; and the cup itself remains merely a cover charge for the larger experience.

Yes, at some level it still seems crazy how many Americans continue to spend more than $1,000 a year on their coffee fix. It’s nuts how it’s a $30 billion (and growing) industry. It’s bizarre how mobs of people crowd coffee chains and then linger for 20 to 25 minutes while mixing the perfect amount of vanilla, nutmeg, half-and-half and Splenda into those drinks.

It doesn’t make sense at a rational level, but it makes perfect sense at an emotional level. It’s a very human source of delight. And, in this age of ongoing automation and downsizing and outsourcing, more and more of the business opportunities of the future will involve creating such rituals of delight.

SOURCE: forbes.com

Coffee’s Next Generation of Roasters

After the success of once-scrappy roasters, such as California’s Blue Bottle and Portland’s Stumptown, a new generation of small shops is reshaping America’s coffee obsession

ABOUT 15 YEARS AGO, a handful of small-time roasters set out to revolutionize their industry by approaching a cup of coffee with a chef’s reverence for ingredients and a bartender’s flair for presentation. They pioneered a direct-trade system, sourcing beans straight from farms around the world. Thanks to their efforts, America fell in love with flavorful, fragrant single-origin coffees and expertly crafted cappuccinos made with milk so creamy and sweet that sugar became unnecessary.

Those once-scrappy roasters—Blue Bottle, Counter Culture, Intelligentsia and Stumptown—have now grown from regional companies with cult followings to national players with global profiles. In 2014, Google Ventures, Morgan Stanley and other investors raised $26 million for Blue Bottle. When the company opened in Tokyo earlier this year, there was a three-hour, Apple Store–like wait to get in the door. Stumptown, meanwhile, is now sold at the Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers.

But as these purveyors grow into mature, influential organizations, the next class of innovators is surfacing. Populated by veterans of those first pioneering brands, this new guard isn’t reinventing coffee so much as continuing a transformation already underway. Small, creative and hyperlocal, they’re sourcing even more adventurously and sustainably, importing the best beans from the farthest corners of the earth. And they’re opening in ever-smaller cities, turning America’s long-brewing revolution into a full-blown indie coffee diaspora.

In Miami—a place not especially known for its coffee geekery—hipsters line up at Panther Coffee, founded in 2010 by Leticia and Joel Pollock (a Stumptown alum), for a taste of beans sourced from Finca Kilimanjaro, an experimental farm in El Salvador run by Aida Batlle, a fifth-generation farmer acclaimed for her ecologically aware practices. Kathleen Pratt, co-founder of Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, Maine, started as a barista at Blue Bottle in San Francisco and eventually opened the company’s large roasting facility and coffee shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 2012, Pratt and her husband, Will (who had been a Blue Bottle roaster), decamped to Maine; they launched Tandem five months later in the former office of a scrap-metal yard. “We wanted it to feel like you’re walking into our home,” says Pratt, who learned at Blue Bottle “how important it is to create an overall experience.” In addition to beans sourced from Rutsiro, Rwanda, Nyeri, Kenya, and Caldono, Colombia, Tandem offers free tasting sessions each Friday to demystify its coffees’ flavors and scents and allow customers to watch the roasting process. Last year, the Pratts opened a second shop in a converted mid-century gas station, adding a bakery. Now Tandem sells about 900 pounds of coffee per week.

A return to intimate spaces and individualized attention is a distinguishing feature of coffee’s newest all-stars. In Williamsburg, Dillon Edwards—formerly of Blue Bottle and Stumptown—opened Parlor Coffee in 2012 in the back of a barbershop. It was one of the tiniest coffee bars in the city at the time, just a single barista behind a Speedster espresso machine, and its quaint atmosphere stood in stark contrast to the jam-packed rush-hour scenes at the city’s Stumptown and Blue Bottle outposts. Last year, Edwards became a fully operational roaster, and Parlor is now selling beans to larger destinations like Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel and Greenpoint’s Propeller cafe.

One factor driving the proliferation of independent cafes and roasters is that it’s never been easier to source obscure, overlooked coffees. The supply chains that established coffee importers spent years creating—and, in many cases, jealously guarding—are now accessible to small buyers with good taste. And a group of influential wholesale roasters is supplying high-end beans to neighborhood cafes (and even selling directly to customers online). At various coffee shops in Portage County, Wisconsin, you can now find beans hailing from Gitesi—a well-respected washing station in Rwanda, where the coffee seed is removed from its skin and dried—by way of Ruby Coffee Roasters, a local outfit started by former Intelligentsia roaster Jared Linzmeier.

But the past year’s most anticipated opening was Supersonic Coffee in Berkeley, California. The first roasting company in the U.S. to buy from Nordic Approach, a renowned Norway-based importer that sources only high-quality “green” coffees, Supersonic will light-roast in the so-called Scandinavian style used by groundbreaking roasters in Northern Europe. “We wanted to look five years ahead,” says John Laird, one of Supersonic’s founders, “and do something that would feel fresh down the line.”


Panther has two locations in Miami: an airy shop in Wynwood (2390 NW 2nd Ave.) and one in a converted garage in Sunset Harbour (1875 Purdy Ave.), which feels more like a local bar. panthercoffee.com


The coffee bar in the back of Brooklyn barbershop Persons of Interest (84 Havemeyer St.) is one of the most stylish in the city; the roastery and tasting room are open to the public on Sundays. parlorcoffee.com


Supersonic will soon open a shop adjacent to its roasting facility in Berkeley, California (2322 Fifth St.); until then, they’re serving out of a 1965 Airstream trailer in the parking lot.


The Portland, Maine–based company has a tiny coffee bar at its roasting facility (122 Anderson St.) and a new bakery (742 Congress St.) in a 1960s gas station in West End. tandemcoffee.com

SOURCE: wsj.com 

Saving coffee from extinction

sky reflected in a cup of Ethiopian coffee
Photo: Jenny Williams/RBG Kew

Two billion cups of coffee are drunk around the world every day and 25 million families rely on growing coffee for a living. Over the past 15 years, consumption of the drink has risen by 43% - but researchers are warning that the world's most popular coffee, Arabica, is under threat.
Although there are 124 known species of coffee, most of the coffee that's grown comes from just two - Arabica and Robusta.

Robusta makes up about 30% of global coffee production, and is mainly used for instant coffee. As the name implies, it is a strong plant - but for many, its taste cannot compare to the smooth and complex flavours of Arabica.

It is Arabica that drives the industry and accounts for the majority of coffee grown worldwide, but it is a more fragile plant and only tolerates a narrow band of environmental conditions. It is particularly sensitive to changes in temperature and rainfall.

In 2012, research by a team from the UK's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, revealed a bleak picture for wild coffee in Ethiopia, where Arabica originated. They did a computer modelling exercise to predict how environmental changes would affect Arabica for the rest of the century. They forecast that the number of locations where wild Arabica coffee grows could decrease by 85% by 2080 - the worst-case outcome was a 99.7% reduction.

Dry coffee leaves
Coffee leaves feeling the heat Photo: Jenny Williams/RBG Kew

"If we don't do anything now and over the next 20 years, by end of the century, wild Arabica in Ethiopia could be extinct - that's in the worst-case scenario," says Dr Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at Kew, who led the project.

The report made headlines around the world and spurred the industry into action. Since then, the team from Kew and their partners in Ethiopia have covered 25,000km in Ethiopia, visiting coffee producing areas to compare their predictions with what is happening in reality. "It's important to see what's happening on the ground, observing what influence climate change is having on coffee now, and talking to farmers. They can tell us what has happened, sometimes taking us back many decades, with several generations of farmers involved," says Davis.

Coffee fruit
Ripe red coffee cherries, ready for harvest. Photo: Jenny Williams/RBG Kew

Read the rest of the article at bbc.com

Artsy coffee chain Blue Bottle brews long queues in Tokyo

In this April 27, 2015 photo,  Michael Lin, 35, right, and Emily Chiu, 33, left, both travelers from Taipei, speak during an interview at a coffee shop of Blue Bottle Coffee Inc., in Tokyo. Japan, famous for green tea, is welcoming artisanal American coffee roaster Blue Bottle with long lines that have at times meant a four-hour wait for a cup. (AP Photo / Shuji Kajiyama)

In this April 27, 2015 photo, Michael Lin, 35, right, and Emily Chiu, 33, left, both travelers from Taipei, speak during an interview at a coffee shop of Blue Bottle Coffee Inc., in Tokyo. Japan, famous for green tea, is welcoming artisanal American coffee roaster Blue Bottle with long lines that have at times meant a four-hour wait for a cup. (AP Photo / Shuji Kajiyama)

TOKYO (AP) - Japan, famous for green tea, is welcoming artisanal American coffee roaster Blue Bottle with long lines that have at times meant a four-hour wait for a cup.

The company, which began in Oakland, California in 2002, hopes its early popularity is more than a passing fad. Japan's consumer culture is littered with manias for Western food imports: pancakes, popcorn, doughnuts, even Taco Bell.

Success in Japan is important for Blue Bottle, which operates 17 cafes in the San Francisco Bay area, New York and Los Angeles. Japan is its first foray outside of the U.S. Blue Bottle raised nearly $26 million last year to invest in expansion, including financing from Silicon Valley executives, setting the stage for a test of whether an artsy gourmet coffee chain can go big.

Founder James Freeman, a musician, was inspired by Japan's old-style "kissaten" coffee-shops: tiny dimly-lit establishments, with good music and a barista behind a wooden counter. Think places for quiet serious thinking and real drip coffee, not sweet, frivolous drinks.

"We care about every part of the coffee. We call it from seed to cup," said Saki Igawa, the business operations manager for Blue Bottle in Japan.

Attention to detail that dovetails with aspects of Japanese culture accounts for part of the coffee chain's early popularity. The spread of Starbucks internationally, which has created a cookie-cutter coffee culture that some people want to trade up from, is another factor. Blue Bottle is also benefiting from the image problems in Japan of fast food chains and highly processed foods.

"It's a new era in eating out," said food industry consultant Jotaro Fujii who contends that Blue Bottle's arrival and the decline of McDonald's in Japan is part of a bigger trend of consumer interest in the safety and quality of the entire food supply chain.

McDonald's is suffering declining popularity in Japan, a problem exacerbated after plastic pieces, and even a tooth, was found in its food last year, setting off outrage among consumers.

Upscale burger chain Shake Shack, which started as a hot dog stand in New York, is expected to arrive in Japan soon, said Fujii.

Such chains, including Blue Bottle, are likely to aim for 50 or at most 100 outlets in Japan, not the thousands that fast-food eateries, such as McDonald's, has achieved here, he said.

Instead, they will focus on fortifying a brand image, which can lead to other kinds of lucrative businesses.

Although the prevalent image of Japan might be tea, it has long had plenty of affection for coffee.

Starbucks has been a hit since arriving in 1995. It now has more than 1,000 shops in Japan. Not a single prefecture (state) is without a Starbucks with one opening in holdout Tottori Prefecture this month - not surprisingly, welcomed with long lines.

Even convenience stores are serving freshly brewed coffee. Japan also invented "manga-kissa," or a cafe-cum-library, where you can curl up with a comic book and sip on coffee for hours.

Such newcomers have hammered the once omnipresent kissaten. Their numbers have dropped by half from the 1980s, or to 77,000 in 2009, according to a Japanese government study.

But Blue Bottle's popularity is part of a rediscovery of cafes serving carefully prepared, quality coffee, a trend already long evident in the U.S.

Blue Bottle's first Japan shop, which has a roaster, is in Kiyosumi, an older part of Tokyo, chosen because it reminded Freeman, the founder, of Oakland. It opened in February. The second shop, in a backstreet of Tokyo's fashionable Omotesando, opened in March.

A third, likely opening later this year in Tokyo's Daikanyama shopping area, will feature a menu that reflects Blue Bottle's recent acquisition of San Francisco-based Tartine Bakery, which serves croissants, sandwiches and pastries.

Blends such as "Giant Steps," combining African and Indonesian-grown beans for a chocolate taste, sell for 450 yen ($3.75) a cup. A latte costs 520 yen ($4.30).

On a recent day, the Blue Bottle shop in Kiyosumi, Tokyo, was filled with sunlight pouring through huge windows, the hum of a giant roaster, the fragrant aroma of fresh coffee and a crowd of people.

Takuya Nakagawa, a 39-year-old hairdresser, who came all the way from rural Toyama Prefecture (state), was impressed with the coffee's taste and the store's stylish stark decor. He bought granola and coffee beans as souvenir gifts.

"I just love the taste," he said. "This kind of place doesn't exist in Toyama."

True to its inspiration, Blue Bottle is learning from Japan, said Andrew Smith, 29, of San Francisco, a barista and one of three Americans who came to work for the chain in Japan.

"People here have different ways of conceptualizing about coffee so they taste things differently," Smith said.

"They are looking for different kinds of things in coffee. And that is a fun way to learn how everyone in the world perceives coffee differently."

SOURCE: Philly.com

Literally & Figuratively Coffee Keeps You Up!

Couple Of Cups Of Coffee A Day May Keep Erectile Dysfunction Away

Coffee may offer more of a "lift" than thought; men suffering from erectile dysfunction linked to obesity or hypertension may get some help with their problem from a few cups of coffee day, a study indicates.

Men who consume two or three cups of coffee, and its caffeine, each day are less prone to erectile dysfunction (ED) than counterparts who consume little or no caffeine, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found.

The study found an association between caffeine intake and lowered incidence but could not prove a direct cause and effect, the researchers acknowledge.

Still, they point out, caffeine is known to be beneficial to heart health in some ways, including blood vessel circulation, and erectile function -- as well as dysfunction -- is linked to blood flow and therefore cardiovascular health.

Caffeine's effect on ED is likely due to its ability to relax and open arteries, improving blood flow to the penis, the researchers suggest.

In the study involving 3,724 men who were surveyed on their health and lifestyle -- diets, exercise, consumption of caffeine and alcohol -- those who drank 85 to 170 milligrams of caffeine daily were 42 percent less likely to have issues with ED, the researchers found.

The effect of caffeine in reducing erectile dysfunction was readily apparent in men who were overweight, obese or who had high blood pressure; however, men with diabetes experienced no similar improvement, they report.

"Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for ED, so this was not surprising," says Dr. David Lopez, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the university's health center.

"Even though we saw a reduction in the prevalence of erectile dysfunction with men who were obese, overweight and hypertensive, that was not true of men with diabetes," he says.

Erectile dysfunction affects around 44 percent of men over the age of 40, and by age 70 that rate reaches 70 percent. In total, ED affects around 30 million men in America, figures from the National Institutes of Health show.

Coffee is not the only possible source of caffeine in diet, the researchers note, as it is also found in tea, soda and some sports drinks.

The study findings are in line with previous research about the health benefits of reasonable levels of caffeine consumption, one expert says.

"These findings also support the latest U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee position that drinking three to five cups a day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease; two conditions that are well established as significant risk factors for erectile dysfunction," says Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, director of Male Reproductive Medicine at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

SOURCE: TechTimes