# How to design a hyper-coffee plant

How much caffeine could you fit into a roasted coffee bean (that will later be ground and steeped) while still having a strong coffee flavor?

I'm aiming for a super-caffeine boost -- something where you only need a thermos to last you a week, something that keeps you awake for three or four days if you take more than a couple cups per day.

It should be a dose high enough to be bad for your health if taken regularly, but not high enough that it does serious or permanent damage to your liver, brain, or heart. It should preferably work if steeped with water (cream nixes the effect).

It's from a magical plant, the magic part being that it:

• Stays in your brain, blocking tiredness for long periods of time,
• Is strengthened by sugar but deactivated by cream
• Holds its flavor/caffeine through roasting and grinding I did some research -- the average coffee bush can produce $5\space to\space 7$ pounds of coffee per year. Assuming that this is coffee cherry, $20\%$ of that weight would become roasted beans. $20\%$ of an average of $6$ pounds is $\frac{20}{100}$ $(\frac{1} {5}) \times 6$. That gives $1\frac{1}{5} (1.2)$ pounds of finished roasted beans per bush.

Since a pound is a pound, that means $1.2$ pounds of ground coffee per bush. (Please excuse me, I'm doing some mental calculations here.) A $1.2$ pound bag of ground coffee yields a good number of cups of liquid, (mm. Some sources say up to $100$, though I'm skeptical.) which would mean that this bean could dominate the coffee market if it was targeted towards drinkers who mainly drink it for the energy boost.

I imagine it could be taken in little espresso-like shots, or perhaps watered down in regular mugs. But coffee's flavor is made up of many different profiles, and I want to keep the coffee flavor in addition to the massive caffeine boost.

Are there any good solutions as to how all of this flavor and caffeine could be packed as densely as possible into a small number of beans? What structure would the plant and the beans/coffee cherry need to be? How would the plant produce that much caffeine?

The coffee should be strong enough that more than 1 and 1/2 cups of undiluted brew is lethal. In other words, this is not something you want to guzzle by the thermos.

• bless you intrepid brewer – MParm Apr 21 '18 at 18:44
• Engineered high-caffeine drinks already exist, though. – RonJohn Apr 21 '18 at 20:08
• Navy percolators run 24/7, and the effect near the end before they go offline for cleaning (and a fresh percolator is prepared) is quite nasty. I have no idea how the squids survive that...... – Thucydides Apr 21 '18 at 23:08
• Comes down not to the plant necessarily, but rather hte brewing method - see the answer re: Espresso. Cold-brewed or cold-steeped coffee can be super strong (taste and caffeine levels) as well. Of course, you don't want too strong or you'll end up being knurd. – ivanivan Apr 22 '18 at 1:49
• Suspension of disbelief broken by "fatal at 1 cup". Unless it's so distasteful as to be undrinkable the number of people who would accidentally overdose is going to overwhelm its genreal usefulness: I'm thirsty, I'll drink alot; I'm too tired to be paying attention to what I'm drinking, I drink too much. Easier for me to accept is, packaged as individual ampules broken into water, regular drink enriched in stimulant, tablets. There's nothing stopping you saying co-evolution of plant and insects/fungi/etc increased plant's stimulant levels to huge degree but flavour components aren't affected. – Smartybartfast Apr 22 '18 at 6:14

In Afghanistan I was routinely awake for days on end, a state achieved by drinking Monster, coffee, and red-bull like it was water. Its been years since I served and my circadian rhythm is still screwed up. Hell, a recent study by the military states that I and my brethren probably have permanent "circadian scarring" from such practices. On top of that, I was once awake for 4 days repelling a major attack from our area of operations. By the time day 3 had ended I and my comrades were actually attempting to open fire at hallucinated phantom enemies, some guys would suffer random outbursts of hysterical screaming. We spent 2 days after sleeping and waking up to eat and not much else, none of us were anywhere near being mentally mission capable for another 2 weeks after that. Caffeine just doesn't work like magic no-sleep juice. When you go more than a few days without sleep by using stimulants you begin causing severe (possibly even permanent) damage to your mind, organs, and nervous system.

In any case, you can buy 100% clinically pure powdered caffeine by the pound online that does not posses any appreciable flavor or scent what so ever. You can add as much as you like to whatever you want if you are looking to overdose and induce cardiac arrest and seizures. There is no plausible reason to synthesize a strain of toxic coffee bean to do so.

• "none of us were anywhere near being mentally mission capable for another 2 weeks after that." Now we know when to order a Wave 2 attack... :) – RonJohn Apr 22 '18 at 0:54
• "you can buy 100% clinically pure powdered caffeine by the pound online" Late by a week. :( newsweek.com/… – RonJohn Apr 22 '18 at 0:56
• Correction: You can now ILLEGALLY buy 100% clinically pure caffeine products on the internet. – TCAT117 Apr 22 '18 at 1:30
• @RonJohn Take a look at the WWI and WWII battles. Performance will certainly be reduced, but when it's a matter of life and death, people fight no matter what. – user39548 Jun 27 '18 at 18:57
• Yes, it does. However, odds are the enemy is experiencing fatigue (both combat-induced and overwork-induced) as well. – user39548 Jul 13 '18 at 13:04

As @kingledion said, you cannot simply megadose caffeine to achieve the effects you describe. From a realistic standpoint:

• there is no known drug that safely keeps you alert for three or four days,
• sleep is physically and mentally necessary: caffeine doesn't change that
• your body builds up a tolerance for caffeine even with normal caffeine addiction

I'm not sure how scientifically grounded you want your solution to be, but current scientific understanding is that sleep serves important functions. Given how vulnerable it makes you, it must have an evolutionary justification. Even jellyfish have a quiescent mode.

Having said that, if you're content with a certain amount of hand-waving, I I would suggest either an enzyme that prevented the caffeine from metabolizing (wouldn't actually work, though, as your body would just build up a tolerance) or a neurotransmitter inhibitor / enhancer that buffered the brain's sensitivity to caffeine or, y'know, 'super-caffeine' that just hand-waves away all the problems.

• Provigil and other anti-narcolepsy drugs are being researched by the military in order for soldiers to remain awake and alert for prolonged periods of time. I believe British Army research suggests that it is possible to remain on these drugs for 72 hours at a time without damage to the person. – Thucydides Apr 21 '18 at 23:14

A deadly dose of caffeine is about 10 grams. Every 100 grams of coffee has about 40 mg of caffeine. An 8 ounce cup of coffee will have about 100 mg of caffeine. A shot of espresso has about 200 mg of caffeine per 100 grams. Therefore, the deadly dose of espresso will be about a gallon; but that is the average lethal dose.

Medical advise varies from place to place on the internet, but my favorite source (the Mayo clinic) suggests no more than 800 mg per day (four cups of coffee) for long term health. The espresso limit per day becomes 4 ounces.

Since a 32 ounce thermos is easy to find, it is relatively trivial with readily available coffee beans and readily available brewing methods to keep a week's supply of max caffeine in a thermos. I would say you can already accomplish the requirements of the question with equipment in your kitchen.

• I didn't know about the lethal dose. But I was looking for something that is lethal at a 2 cup dose when undiluted, and how the structure of the bean and the plant would have to be to concentrate that caffeine into a bean. – FoxElemental Apr 21 '18 at 19:58

(I don't know if this could work)

(Also, I know you want coffee but I have a different method that could work)

Essentially, this plant would release a fear-inducing chemical over a long period of time (in the same way carbohydrates release energy over a long period of time). This would work as people wouldn't be able to fall asleep due to the adrenaline and fear.

This chemical could be stand-alone (i.e no coffee at all), or be fused with the coffee (to amplify the effect).

Alternative answer; Studies show that sleep is your bodies way of purging out toxins and recharging, though a lot of it is still unknown.

Instead of caffeine, what if the plant created an enzyme that has an effect similar to the self clean mode that the body uses; flush toxins, recharge energy, reboot the system.

Another possibility is that it could be a mind altering chemical that either causes the human brain to mimic a dolphin brain, where half of it shuts down at a time, or a giraffe brain, which only needs 30 total minutes of sleep a day, usually in 5 minute chunks.

If like a dolphin different parts of the human brain shut down at different concentrations of the chemical, it could be used to minimize the need for sleep.
If the sleep cycle could be accelerated then a human might be able to get by on micro naps instead of needing long solid chunks of sleep.