Tag Archives: Coffee

Numbers from Around the Web: Round 3

Will Lam loves coffee. As the chief blogger over at Indie Coffee Blog he’s constantly trying new roasts, new places and letting his readers know about good coffee spots around his hometown of Toronto. In 2011 he decided to go a step further and really track his coffee habits. Let’s look at a few of his awesome insights:

Number of Cups of Coffee Consumed (total and by type):

Frequency of Coffee Consumption:

Total Spending by Location on Coffee:

I highly recommend reading his fascinating blog post about what he learned by tracking his coffee habits over an entire year. You can find that here. Will also used his new found love of data collection to steer him to his local QS Meetup. Way to go Will and thanks for letting us learn from your data!

We got such great feedback on the orignal NFATW post that we decided to turn it into a regular feature. Every few weeks be on the lookout for new posts profiling interesting individuals and their data. If you have an interesting story or link to share leave a comment or contact the author here.

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Numbers From Around The Web: Round 1

We got such great feedback on the orignal NFATW post that we decided to turn it into a regular feature. Every few weeks be on the lookout for new posts profiling interesting individuals and their data. If you have an interesting story or link to share leave a comment or contact the author here.

Michael Allen Smith
Michael is an avid coffee drinker and contributor to the caffeine-obsessed blog I Need Coffee. He recently wrote up a nice post about his experimentation exploring how his coffee consumption and sleep quality. Using a simple spreadsheet, Michael tracked his daily coffee intake, the time of his last coffee, chocolate consumption and sleep quality (rated 1-5 after waking). He has a nice explanation for the simplicity in his tracking methodology:

What I discovered is that the more complicated you make the tracking, the less likely you’ll maintain the data.

So what did Michael find out? After a few months of data tracking it turns out he gets the best sleep when he drinks 3 cups of coffee per day and has a coffee after 1PM.
Data from Michael's coffee experimentMichaels's coffee intake from March 24, 2011 - December 24, 2011. The red line is a 3 day moving average.

Michael also leaves us with some great parting thoughts that we can all apply as we initiate and work through our own experiments:

Look at the data and dial in the level that works best for you. [...] Only you can answer these questions.

If you’re interested in coffee and caffeine, you might also enjoy this post by Robin BarooahThe False God of Coffee

Matt Danzico
Matt Danzico is a journalist (and self-described nerd) living and working in Washington DC. He took it upon himself to engage in a year-long experiment of sorts in 2011. Dubbed Time Hack, the project sought to explore the complex interplay between our actions and our perception of time.

The year-long project aims to test whether time itself is flexible and whether our brains measure time differently than the clocks around us.

While this may not seem like a strict QS self-experiment, I think it worth discussing. Time is something that everyone battles with. We want more time to do this or that, we track productivity, we keep calendars and to do lists handy at all time. Why? To conquer time of course. But what if time is relative (and not just in the Einstienian sense) and it our perception of time depends on our behavior? Matt explored this idea for a full year and has some really interesting – and quite fun – data to show for it. He actively engaged in new experiences every day and tracked his perception of time and compared it to objective measures of time (stopwatch, video, etc.). Even more interesting (in my opinion) than the measurement of time, he also recorded his perceptions of specific details that occurred during each event. I’ll highlight a few of my favorites here, but take some time and dig through his blog. It’s well worth it.

Day 345: Visit an airport dressed as a Star Wars character.

  • Estimated time: 0:49:41
  • Actual time: 0:57:55.8

Day 297: Wash clothes with a washboard.

  • Estimated time: 1:21:00
  • Actual time: 1:09:31.1

Time is a fascinating subject and I am eagerly awaiting Matt’s analysis of his year long experiment. Until then I suggest keeping yourself busy by listening to these two wonderful podcasts on time by the always interesting folks over at Radio Lab: Time and Beyond Time.

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The false god of coffee

This year I decided to stop drinking coffee, my only source of caffeine.  Anyone who knows me will recognize this as a radical step. I’ve been drinking coffee since age 10, and I’d developed quite an obsession for the perfect cup.

In the past, I’ve experimented with quitting a few times by simply going cold turkey. Each time, the physical withdrawal, basically headaches, was over within 10 days, but after a month or two I would become convinced that coffee was good for my concentration and start drinking it again.

coffee making.JPG My reason to quit this time was the growing suspicion that coffee was causing mood swings and crashes that are bad for my overall sense of well-being. For this experiment I decided to stop very gradually. I thought that if I allowed the psychological withdrawal to occur gradually alongside the physiological, I would be able to observe my ‘coffee-desire’ without acting on it, and learn the skill I would need to avoid relapsing in future.

I made the same amount of coffee each day, using a vac-pot. Although I didn’t measure caffeine content, I did control many factors including grind, age of beans, water temperature and water/coffee contact time. From this controlled pot of coffee, I used measuring cups to discard an additional 20ml per week. I used notebook software to keep some records of my progress and I started with a 3 cup pot in mid-April ’09. Towards the end of July I wrote “I am increasingly wanting to abandon this project altogether”, but I continued and on 8th August I was down to a half shot glass per day, and decided I was done.

Over the past few days (starting around 12th Oct), I noticed myself increasingly thinking “I am having trouble concentrating and coffee might help”. These thoughts came to a crescendo on Wednesday. This time, I was armed with data.

As part of a separate experiment, I have been keeping track of the amount of time I spend working on projects.  I work in 25 minute intervals which I time with a coffee timer, and I mark an X in a paper journal for each interval that I successfully complete.  If I get distracted, I don’t mark the X, and if I can’t concentrate, I abandon it and don’t mark an X rather than sitting out the timer. I’ve been doing this since the end of June, so I tabulated the data and created a graph* of my hours of concentration per day, and overlaid a bar showing when I drank my last coffee.

concentration-vs-coffee-chart.png Causality is a complex issue. Obviously this is an n=1 experiment and I am intentionally doing other things that may well be improving my concentration, but one thing is very clear; the amount of time I spend concentrating has not deteriorated since I quit coffee, so I can easily reject the hypothesis “I need coffee to help me concentrate.”

I see this as a success for self-quantification.  Whether or not it provides a general insight into the effects of caffeine, it validates the utility of self-tracking for making individualized personal decisions.

I will be doing more experiments.

*At the QS MeetUp someone correctly pointed out that I had an error in the labeling of my x-axis on the chart I showed there.  This meant that I’d placed the “quitting bar” in the wrong place – near to september 4th, happily this doesn’t affect the conclusion, and the graph shown here is the corrected version.

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