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5 Ways That Science Is Improving Your Coffee

Humans drink 2.25 billion cups of coffee a day. It's clear that coffee has a hold on our collective reward circuitry — including that of scientists and entrepreneurs, who have been improving our understanding of the beans and developing ways to brew better coffee.

This article originally appeared on Popularmechanics.com.

By Bret Stetka

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Coffee Evolution
A team of international researchers recently taught us a lot more about our morning cup, biologically speaking. In a study published earlier this month, the authors sequenced the genome of the coffee species Coffea canephora, better known as Robusta and often used in instant roasts. Coffee’s genes encode for numerous enzymes involved in the production of flavonoids and alkaloids, compounds that serve various metabolic and defense functions for the plant. Luckily for us, they also contribute to coffee’s aroma and flavor. As might be expected, coffee DNA ramps up caffeine production for various evolutionary reasons.

Caffeine serves as an insecticide, causing certain predators to drop dead or bug off. It also seeps into the soil from fallen fruits and seeds, inhibiting the growth of competitor species. And some insects appear, like us, to enjoy an energy boost from caffeine, keeping crucial pollinators coming back. The benefits are apparently so valuable that, according to the study in Science, caffeine appears to have evolved independently in coffee, tea, and cacao, rather than in a common ancestor to all three plants.

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