Powdered caffeine in homemade lemonade?
June 14, 2011 9:51 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever bought powdered caffeine to add to a tart beverage to replace coffee/soda? How did it work out?

I am not a fan of coffee (I find the taste offensive and the caffeine to liquid ratio too high) and in the summer the desire is for a cool beverage so hot tea (my other go-to for caffeine) is out of the question. My roommate has been struggling with the same issue in the heat, and the two of us were thinking of ordering some powdered caffeine online and making caffeinated lemonade. We can make it the concentration we want, it'll be cold, cost effective, potentially have less sugar than soda, and in general be pretty awesome.

But before I wind up with a bunch of powdered caffeine, I want to know if anybody's tried this. I've heard that caffeine is extremely bitter (as would be expected), so then the question is: is that something that will be simple to alleviate? Could there be consequences I'm not considering? The whole idea seems so obvious that I'm struck with a sense of "why doesn't anybody else do this," and that makes me nervous, as though I'm overlooking something obvious.
posted by unknownmosquito to Food & Drink (55 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The consequences most apparent to me is that you're dealing with a poison, and could easily overdose accidentally. (The rat LD50 for caffeine is 190 milligram per Kg of body weight.)

I'd also like to point out that Mountain Dew is a citrus drink with plenty of caffeine in it.

If you want a way to safely ingest caffeine without drinking a hot beverage, well, that's why God gave us NoDoz.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:03 PM on June 14, 2011

My brother did this. It was a bad idea and here is why:

Caffeine is cheap, like super duper cheap in its powdered form, he had a massive bottle of the stuff for little money. Now mixing it into things at the level you want will not add much taste. It's not as flavorful as people think. The down side of a subtle taste is its really hard to tell how much you have added to a given drink, in fact mixing drinks on a small scale can be literally deadly.

Coffee, Tea, Soda all have a max level of caffeine, they tend to be low and the volume you consume decides the dose. When you are adding powder, the difference between a tons of caffeine and a tiny amount can be what ever you want volume wise. Figuring out those ratios takes some talent, time and experimentation. (here is the reason you should not do this)

I watched my try to learn without a scale how to measure it, he ended up with WAY too much a few times, cold sweats heart racing. Sometimes nothing at all. He ended up getting a scale and trying to work through the right amounts, he spent a month on caffeine everyday several times a day. This was a mistake, I watched as he lost sleep and became really addicted to the stuff. After a month he finally gave it up and threw out the bottle cold turkey. Shit was kinda scary. Learn to like coffee.
posted by Felex at 10:05 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm not too worried about measuring it with a scale. I'm familiar and comfortable with a milligram scale.
posted by unknownmosquito at 10:06 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have diagnosed ADHD and caffeine is enough of a stimulant that it helps me focus (immensely) even at very small doses (a 12oz can of coke with ~35mg of caffeine produces a noticeable calming effect for me) without causing weird side effects like the prescription drugs. As such, I've gone for long periods with no caffeine intake and for long periods with regular caffeine, and by and large I find it has a medicinal property for me. The biggest issue is that something like Mountain Dew has buckets of sugar in it. Really if I could drink caffeinated water that would be best.
posted by unknownmosquito at 10:09 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: Not to mention that a can of Mt Dew costs $0.50 to $1, where 20oz of caffeinated water with caffeine I add myself would cost me more like $0.01
posted by unknownmosquito at 10:11 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say this, but really, he did too. It takes a longer time then you would expect to learn what your body can and can't handle. These factors are constantly changing everyday (this was one of problems). He would not have enough water before, or work out too little, or too much, or any number of other factors.

Remember, Just because the government has decided it's ok does not mean that its safe, smart or worth it.
posted by Felex at 10:11 PM on June 14, 2011

I think what you are looking for here is Arnold Palmer. Half-Lemonade, Half-Iced Tea.

If you are looking for a bit more power, I have had Guru lemon flavored energy drinks before, and they were pretty good. I think they may even use some natural form of caffeine or vitamins or whatnot.

But I think you could also experiment with higher octane teas like Mate and then cool it down -- then you can add in lemonade or just squeeze some lemon in there.

Sounds a lot tastier and less toxic. Because when I think of a hot summer day, I would much rather grab a frosty pitcher of iced tea than reach for a dry tub of powdered caffeine.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 10:12 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: I've been drinking lots of the Arizona Southern Style Iced Tea and Mt Dew. That's actually what I'm trying to replace.

I find Mate really gross too, not sure what exactly about it, it's just too bitter I suppose. b1tr0t, if you're still around, I'm interested to hear more about Pu-erh. It looks similar to Mate?
posted by unknownmosquito at 10:14 PM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: And re: toxicity, erowid states:

"The LD_50 of caffeine (that is the lethal dosage reported to kill 50% of the population) is estimated at 10 grams for oral administration. As it is usually the case, lethal dosage varies from individual to individual according to weight. Ingestion of 150 mg/kg of caffeine seems to be the LD_50 for all people. That is, people weighting 50 kilos have an LD_50 of approx. 7.5 grams, people weighting 80 kilos have an LD_50 of about 12 grams."

So obviously it is toxic at some point, but the effects of such are greatly exaggerated. With responsibility and care in measuring/dosing, as with any substance, this is a non-issue.
posted by unknownmosquito at 10:17 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Of course some portion of a population may well die well before the LD50 of any drug.

As someone who has overdosed on caffeine as a matter of personal education I can inform you that you will merely wish that you would die somewhere around 5-7mg/kg via enteral administration (with no caffeine habituation, that is).

If you find coffee to be too caffeinated, with it's concentration of well less than 1mg/ml, I am sure that the taste your target dose of caffeine will be inconsequential in a suitably sweet solution.

I'd just put it in geltabs though, why drink a bunch of sugar if you're mostly looking for a drug effect or vice verse (why take some drugs when you're mostly looking for sugar)?

If you want to do something edgy, make caffeine freebase and smoke it.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 10:29 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had powdered caffeine that I ordered off the internet when I was a teen. I used to lick my finger, dip it in the caffeine, and eat it directly. I think the danger is greatly overstated here, I never had anything so scary as heart palpitations or convulsions despite being rather uncareful.

It is somewhat bitter, so depending on how much you want, you may need some flavor in addition to water. Lemonade would work just fine, as would ice tea, I'd think.
posted by zug at 10:30 PM on June 14, 2011

A half-dozen years back, my local mega-chain grocery store carried coffee-and-chocolate syrup. Squirt a little bit into a glass of cold milk: instant iced mocha. Great, right?

Except, of course, I started putting a lot of syrup into each drink. What could go wrong?

Yeah, after the sleepless nights, heart palpitations, and nausea got old, I quit the stuff cold turkey.

And just a few months after I first saw it on the shelves, the store quit carrying that syrup. Haven't seen it anywhere since.

Nthing the suggestion that it's way too easy to give yourself a very unpleasant megadose of caffeine when you start dealing with the high-concentration stuff, let alone pure caffeine.
posted by Dimpy at 10:31 PM on June 14, 2011

My father buys 5lbs or so at a time through a chemical supplier client of his. He adds it by the spoonful to everything he can, basically. I've had some of his concoctions, and hoo boy do they work. He tends to have it in coffee or diet coke. He's also been known to marinate venison with some in the marinade.

He's also a recovering addict and alcoholic, so take that into stride. I don't suggest monkeying around with it on a whim.
posted by Hwin at 10:41 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Take a NoDoz and have a glass of regular lemonade. Issues with self-medicating aside, if you're really looking or medicinal value, just take it as a pill. You wouldn't take ibuprofen dissolved in a beverage, would you? Would you buy a tub of aspirin powder and make your own tablets? And you get the benefit of something that produced by a controlled process. NoDoz is 200mg per tablet.

The whole idea seems so obvious that I'm struck with a sense of "why doesn't anybody else do this," and that makes me nervous, as though I'm overlooking something obvious.

Believe it or not the government regulates caffeinated beverages somewhat loosely. In Canada there are regulations on what kinds of soda can be caffeinated (only colas; Canadian Mtn Dew is caffeine-free by government regulation). And various regulators got pretty worked up over alcohol-caffeine beverages (the infamous Four Loko). Finally, there are plenty of caffeinated beverages on the market already - coffee, tea, cola, other sodas, Red Bull, other energy drinks, etc etc. Some of these are sugar free, like Diet Red Bugg (or whatever they call it). Most people don't bother to DIY because milligram scales are a pain to use and then there's the whole issue of assessing solubility, whether your powdered caffeine is of a consistent purity, etc, etc.
posted by GuyZero at 10:43 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, if you didn't already know, you can buy caffeinated gum - STAY ALERT Military Caffeine Energy Gum. In bulk it's like a quater a piece.
posted by GuyZero at 10:47 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

The problem is that caffeine isn't a very good stimulant for what it's typically used for (alertness and concentration). In the low doses you get from soda or coffee, it mimics the effects of being alert in that your heart rate increases, your vasoconstrictors tighten, and you feel more alert. But once you cross a certain threshold (and it's a fairly sharp cut-off) your heart races, you perspire more, and your previously enhanced "concentration" becomes more manic and less focused.

Pseudoephedrine in low doses is actually a much better drug for the purposes of concentration and alertness. You can find it in over-the-counter antihistamines.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:47 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't try to buy bulk pseudoephedrine over the internet though. At least not in the US.
posted by GuyZero at 10:49 PM on June 14, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, that's about the same line of thinking I had not too long ago. Except for me it was "Kool-Aid + caffeine = cheap energy drink". I ended up figuring out that 1/8 of a teaspoon is about 100mg, and from there just eyeballed dosage. It worked pretty well, and then well... I started getting bored and creative. Caffeinated waffles. Caffeinated eggs. Eventually it got to where I got impatient with mixing it and just shook out ~100mg of caffeine and absorbed it sub-lingually.

I haven't run into any of the side-effects of caffeine intoxication yet, so I'd say it's worked out pretty well for me. I stay away from dosing too many things with it though. It's more bitter than I like for mixing it into drinks. In theory some time I'm going to dig up citric acid (sourness) to counterbalance that. Memail me if you have more questions. This is a concept that I've spent a lot of time dinking around with.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:51 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use guarana powder in cocktails all the time. I get it in 200 mg gelcap form, just pop it open and pour the powder in. Don't have more than the maximum dose listed on the bottle and you'll be fine.

To make it taste good:

Muddle a few slices of ginger
Add juice of half a lime
1 barspoon full of super (to taste, really)
4-6 dashes Angostura bitters (again, to taste)

Shake well over ice and double strain to get the ginger chunks out
Top with ice and soda water

Generally at the bar there's a couple ounces of vodka in as well, though I use the virgin formula to stay awake if I need to (I also add some muddled serrano to mine to give it some heat).
posted by Jawn at 11:06 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, this is pretty much what I was hoping to hear. I was thinking of getting some citric acid at the same time, and I'm just going to get a scale so I can be super precise with dosing. No reason not to, really, a small expense upfront that will pay for itself in about a month.

And to those who mention pills: coffee isn't too strong for me. It's the caffeine to liquid ratio. I want to be able to take in, say 60 mg of caffeine over the course of like an hour. Coffee is too concentrated. Taking a pill or drinking coffee is too much too fast, and I find that it's too stimmy.

Not to mention I get looks if I'm taking caffeine pills in public, people are always like "what on earth are you taking?"

That said I'm also going to look into pu-erh some more because that sounds good.
posted by unknownmosquito at 2:44 AM on June 15, 2011

Not to mention that a can of Mt Dew costs $0.50 to $1, where 20oz of caffeinated water with caffeine I add myself would cost me more like $0.01

Far be it for me to promote soda drinking, or to assess your motivations for rationalizing powdered caffeine consumption (OK, this is pretty much what I was hoping to hear), but the typical sale price for name brand soda by the case is $0.25, if not less.
posted by fairmettle at 2:53 AM on June 15, 2011

There is (or used to be, I haven't shopped for it in about a year) a flavor of Crystal Light that is caffeinated. I think it was strawberry-something.
posted by lakeroon at 3:25 AM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: That's still 25x as expensive. So if I drink 4 cans a day (not unheard of for me, as I sit at a computer and like to have something to sip on throughout my shift), that's $1/day, $30/month, and $360/year.

That's $360/year and 308g of sugar daily with the concentration I like of caffeine, which totals to 216mg in 48oz of liquid spread out over 8 hours.

If we round that out to 200mg of caffeine/day, I can get the same intake with whatever liquid I like (water for sake of argument, which is basically free because we filter tap water at home). 100g of caffeine is like $8, and that's 500 doses, so that means each day of happily sipping a caffeinated beverage would cost me $0.016 instead of the $0.25 if I only buy soda when it's on sale. This doesn't even bring up all the sugar in soda, the cost of coffee or tea in comparison, etc etc. Many people spend $3-$5 on a hot coffee every morning, and I'll get the same morning bump for 1.6 cents.

THAT'S my motivation. I'm cheap and I don't want diabetes. I just wanted to see if anyone else had done it even half as haphazardly as I intend to go about it. I know how to work a scale, and a milligram scale can read tenths of a milligram. I'm not going to overdose on caffeine. I'm not a dumb kid, I'm a responsible adult, especially when it comes to the consumption of any potentially-addictive substance.

I think the general assumption here is that I think of caffeine as fundamentally safe, and safe enough to just dose randomly. While the general public may (wrongly) believe this, and I appreciate everyone's concern, I understand the weight of taking any mind-altering substance, even as mild as caffeine. Each batch will be carefully dosed using a scale and I specifically intend on maintaining a very careful intake (as I do now through knowing the caffeine content in all of my drinks) and in fact feel that this will give me more control over my caffeine habit.

So I don't mean to sound defensive, I just want everyone to rest assured that I know exactly what I'm getting into from a toxicity/drug standpoint.

I was mostly concerned about the taste.
posted by unknownmosquito at 3:29 AM on June 15, 2011

I've bought caffeine powder before but it is incredibly bitter and you'll have to add a metric fuckton of sugar to make your concoction palatable. There's a reason energy drinks taste so gross.
posted by turkeyphant at 3:32 AM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: derp, edit, $365/year, check out my crazy math skills. For some reason I did $1*30*12 instead of just $1*365.

Also the total cost caffeinating my own drinks would be $5.69/year. So that's essentially $300 in my pocket every year after the cost of lemons/citric acid/lemonade mix and a scale.

Maybe some of you can sneeze at $300 in savings but I sure can't.
posted by unknownmosquito at 3:42 AM on June 15, 2011

You may well have considered this: coffee made with partly caffeinated and partly decaf coffee. You can get the caffeine/liquid ratio you want.

Make it iced for the summer, cold brewed: coffee (at the caf/decaf ratio you wish), cold water, in a French press. Stir, let sit overnight in the fridge, wake up and push down on the French press. Pour over ice.
posted by teragram at 4:50 AM on June 15, 2011

Better living through chemistry, unknownmosquito!

Caffeine is weird stuff. However, if you use similar amounts in non-coffee beverages, I can't see that it's any different than drinking coffee. That's the real question... is it different?

The rest is accurate measurement and taste issues. I think it is described as flavorless, IIRC.
posted by FauxScot at 4:55 AM on June 15, 2011

Crystal Light Energy drink powder is cheap, sugarfree, and highly caffeinated.
posted by miyabo at 5:08 AM on June 15, 2011

Making your own iced tea will let you control your sugar input (and taste better). I have a glass quart jar at work. A little after lunch I fill it with cold water and five tea bags and let it steep until it's time to go home. Then I move it to the fridge. When I come in the next day, my iced tea is ready. Add sugar to taste (I like using the raw sugar). Having some lemon/lemon juice on hand is nice but not necessary. Drink throughout the day, then repeat after I pour the last glass.
posted by mikepop at 5:31 AM on June 15, 2011

Obviously you've made up your mind about this, but is there a reason diet soda is out of the question?
posted by MadamM at 5:36 AM on June 15, 2011

Screw all this complex stuff, and just buy caffeinated water. It's been chemically altered (bound to something, I think) so that it doesn't taste like anything. Not carbonated, no sweeteners. Just water with tasteless caffeine.

Put a case or two in the fridge, and you're done. Then, if you want to lemonadize it, you can. Or not.
posted by aramaic at 5:45 AM on June 15, 2011

OP has several concerns:
* Slow consumption of a measured amount of caffeine
* Cold for summer
* Lower amount of sugar

This thread feels kind of like a pile-on telling the OP s/he doesn't know what s/he's doing, and to buy X product instead, rather than answering the questions. If you're going to suggest alternatives to the OP's ideas, want to take all of the above into account? "Buy X premade" doesn't address the price issue.

Hey, OP, you'd probably want to be really careful with making sure the caffeine is well-dissolved into the drinks. I'd be worried that it would all sink to the bottom of a pitcher, so you'd get only a little for the first few glasses then OD on the last one. Or if you add it to individual servings, that some would be left in the glass, and if you use the same glass all day you might end up with more than you thought by the last glass of the day.
posted by galadriel at 6:06 AM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

So I am an organic chemist and I work in a lab. I have done exactly what you are going to do before and it works fine. Don't worry at all, just be sure to get good mixing in your formulation (I recommend making a more concentrated stock and then diluting it to your desired concentration.)

I can however suggest that you don't advertise that you are doing this to other people, and especially don't go walking around with a small vial of white powder on your person. I have been kicked out of bars for "dealing speed" when in fact I was just rather drunk and doing shots of caffeine laced lime cordial. Luckily no cops were called and the caffeine was just confiscated but it could have gone very differently and the police aren't going to understand your drunken pleas of "Lets just take a NMR and you'll see it is just caffeine."

Also with your citric acid idea, We used to do Lab kamikaze's which consisted of lab ethanol sugar and citric acid chilled in ice/methanol. They were really nice but also a good way to end up sick as they went down way too easy.

I don't think I would do any of these things anymore (well except mixing lab ethanol to make infusions of things it makes the best blackberry vodka) but to do when you're young and stupid you should be fine. As always YMMV but it didn't hurt me. Just try to keep it under half a gram and you will be fine, even half a gram is pushing it but it is about as much as in a quadruple speedball anyways.

(Quadruple speedball= 4 shots of espresso in a large togo cup (20 oz) topped up with filter coffee wonderful stuff if you need to set up 10 reactions)
posted by koolkat at 6:31 AM on June 15, 2011 [10 favorites]

Two suggestions from the lab:

1. Make a concentrated stock solution (e.g., 10X). It's much easier to weigh a large mass compared to a small one, and the error is generally smaller. It's also easier to dispense a specific volume rather than weigh out a specific mass.

2. When making your stock solution, don't bother trying to weigh out a precise amount. That's a pain. Instead, add an approximate amount of powder to the scale, record the weight, and use that number to calculate the appropriate volume of solution you need for the desired concentration.

Precipitation should not be an issue as long as you don't exceed the solubility in water 2.17g/100mL @ 25°C.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also the total cost caffeinating my own drinks would be $5.69/year. So that's essentially $300 in my pocket every year after the cost of lemons/citric acid/lemonade mix and a scale.

Maybe some of you can sneeze at $300 in savings but I sure can't.

Lemons, which would be the optimal solution health-wise, plus sufficient sugar to make it palatable, are not a negligible cost.
posted by fairmettle at 7:21 AM on June 15, 2011

If you'd still like to have a soda once in a while, check into non-name-brands. I buy my diet cola at Aldi's, and the price comes out to pennies a can. Plus, the amount of caffeine in a can is usually much lower than in Diet Coke or Pepsi. The taste often doesn't match up very well with whatever kind of soda you're used to, but if you can get over that, it's fine. I've never noticed an Mountain Dew knock-off, but that doesn't mean one doesn't exist.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:27 AM on June 15, 2011

To add some detail to dephlogisticated's comment: Dump out out a pile of caffeine powder on the scale (hey look, that's 11.3 grams!), and add sugar to get 10x the weight total (i.e. add sugar until the scale reads 113 grams). Then mix thoroughly, and when you want to put 50mg caffeine in a glass of lemonade, you just measure out 0.5g of your "special sugar", then sweeten to taste with normal sugar.
The point is that you never need to use the accuracy of your scale beyond 0.0X grams (which is still a very small quantity) as opposed to 0.00X range (a very very small quantity).

Note, you need this to mix completely and stay that way, and not have your fine powder sift to the bottom of the container, so perhaps powdered sugar would be the thing that would mix more homogenously.
posted by aimedwander at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2011

I'm sorry but I haven't read every comment yet...

Why not simply iced tea? You can get different kinds of tea to change up the flavour. You can experiment with strength / tea type to accomodate your desired caffeine level. And you can add as little sugar as you like (I prefer very, very little sugar, but then I also drink my coffee black.)

You can brew it up by the pitcher, and it's just SO much better than buying iced tea, or using an iced tea mix.
posted by utsutsu at 7:59 AM on June 15, 2011

Why don't you just make homemade iced tea?
posted by Kololo at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2011

Or buy a bottle of Wake Ups caffeine pills, and take one when you're drinking your cold drink?
posted by Kololo at 8:30 AM on June 15, 2011

Since you specifically mentioned the idea of caffeinated water, water joe does exist. This doesn't really address your cost concerns, but it might not be too bad if you purchase online in bulk. Then you don't have to futz with taste agents, measurement, etc.

I'm surprised by the hostility towards your idea in this thread.
posted by kavasa at 8:58 AM on June 15, 2011

So I've read all the OP's comments and OP while I may not condone self-medicating, I get the feeling you have thought this through as far as it can be thought. Having said that:

Then mix thoroughly

Once upon a time I got to see a presentation by a woman who had invented a better way to mix powders for pharmaceutical manufacturers. from a medicine point of view this is a non-trivial problem. So if you don't want one batch of lemonade to be useless and the next to make your heart race, really, really mix thoroughly. As someone else mentioned, you might want to make sugar+caffeine concentrate liquid and dilute that. It's probably safe to boil the sugar+caffeine mixture in some water to make a caffeinated simple syrup. Then you'll be pretty much guaranteed of getting a fixed amount of caffeine per liquid volume.
posted by GuyZero at 9:24 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not real iced tea. Make it at home. If you have a keurig its as easy as putting ice in a glass and making a tea cup over it.
posted by majortom1981 at 9:24 AM on June 15, 2011

Especially with you high sensitivity, you wouldn't need to go anywhere near the LD50 to do serious damage to your heart. That said caffeine toxicity is really fucking scary and it should really fucking scare you*. If you are going to play with the powder I'd make a stock liquid solution of precisely measured potency and use serial dilutions with a glass pippet. Liquid measurement is much easier and much more foolproof than dry. Whenever you mix anything make sure that you get it to form a proper swirl for at least a few seconds.

That said, from your description of your needs, why not make your own soda? With about $100 worth of initial investment, another $35 to double production, it can easily be cheap to almost free. Back in the day all the caffeine in sodas came from kola nuts (hence the cola) and kola nut powder is pretty cheap in bulk. Not only would you have a constant supply of safe delicious caffeinated beverage but you would also be able to impress your friends with your awesome tasty skills. It does require some amount of time investment but is very much worth it and the equipment is all the same stuff you would need to make beer or mead. If you want any more direction in terms of making homemade soda or booze feel free to MeMail me.

*Back when I was taking Organic Chemistry I was the insane motherfucker who threw the curve, O Chem requires insanity, and at one point in lab one of the pre-meds pulled me aside after a conversation turned to that. He mentioned quietly that pre-meds tend to be desperate and crazy people and all of them were using powdered caffeine. He went on to further describe what caffeine toxicity does to a person, it slowly (as caffeine takes a while to take effect) very slowly makes your heart beat faster and faster like a poem by Poe. There is nothing anyone can do, even if you were already in an ER, and it would take you a long while to realize that that is where you needed to be, they wouldn't be able to do anything as your heart beat faster and faster until it rips itself to shreds. This is in fact caffeine's primary purpose, as an insecticide to keep bugs away from tea leaves, coffee beans, kola nuts and the like; the only reason the dose in the plants doesn't kill us is that we are huge compared to a bug. Needless to say the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I watched my drinks very very carefully after that.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:48 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was actually thinking of a literal solution—i.e., caffeine in water, at 10X or 100X the dose you want in your beverage. Then you dilute a small amount of your stock solution in a large volume of liquid (juice, water, Koolaid) to prepare your beverage. This saves you the trouble of having to do weighing and calculations every time you want a drink. You could add sugar to the stock solution too, but that will complicate the calculation.

To clarify #2, it's really a pain to add and remove solid powder from a scale in order to get a precise weight, at least when you're dealing with milligram quantities. It's far easier to dump an approximate amount on the scale, record that mass, and then vary the volume of solution accordingly to achieve a given concentration.

weight/volume = concentration

So if you have a concentration in mind for your stock solution (e.g. 100mg/mL), and you measure out a random number on the scale (834mg), just solve for volume (in this case, 8.34mL).

If you want to be precise (and I encourage you to do so), you should use moles instead of weight, but otherwise the calculation is the same. Note that for molarity calculations (as distinct from molality), you would add water to reach 8.34mL, not add 8.34mL, because the powder itself contributes to the volume. Memail me if you need help.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:57 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since you specifically mentioned the idea of caffeinated water, water joe does exist. This doesn't really address your cost concerns, but it might not be too bad if you purchase online in bulk. Then you don't have to futz with taste agents, measurement, etc.

You could make ice cubes with Water Joe, and add them to a small amount of regular lemonade or any other beverage you like. Or ice cubes with a solution of dissolved powdered caffeine, as dephlogisticated says.
posted by homelystar at 11:15 AM on June 15, 2011

"I ended up figuring out that 1/8 of a teaspoon is about 100mg, and from there just eyeballed dosage."

Please don't do this
posted by Blasdelb at 11:32 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

* Slow consumption of a measured amount of caffeine
* Cold for summer
* Lower amount of sugar

I agree with teragram -- the best solution here is half-caf. An aeropress is $25, and will last you pretty much forever; if you buy the steel filter along with it, it really will last you forever. Making iced coffee with this is really easy, too: just make your shots as usual, pour them over ice, and add cold water to taste.

Store-brand coffee is $10 for 3 or 4 pounds at Costco or Sam's. Get a bag of decaf and a bag of regular, make your cups of coffee with half of each, and you're looking at maybe $120 a year (if you can go through 4 pounds of coffee in a month, I sure can't) for a steady supply of half-caf coffee drinks with zero sugar. Use a splash of milk and/or sugar-free coffee syrup (chocolate! hazelnut!) to mitigate the flavor issue. I think this compares quite well with the cost/sugar ratio of the caffeinated lemonade idea, when all is said and done... and as you've surely noticed from this thread, messing around with powdered caffeine is not a socially-approved drug-taking behavior, whereas drinking half-caf is.

I don't agree with the This Is A Bad Idea chorus -- if you're sufficiently careful with it, the powder should be fine -- but there is something to be said for being able to buy, prepare, and consume your drug of choice openly: anywhere, any time, in front of anyone.
posted by vorfeed at 11:34 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah, and as for "should" be fine: that's if you are careful both with dosage and with controlling access to your caffeinated lemonade. A lot of people cannot have caffeine, and they don't expect it to be in homemade lemonade -- the last thing you want is to re-enact the final scene from Thinner with your post-heart-surgery Grandma or your roommate's six year old cousin.
posted by vorfeed at 11:43 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

So first let me say that I fully support your right to put whatever chemicals into your body that you want. It's your body after all. So don't take this as another response trying to discourage you from your powdered caffeine plan.

But I'm just really curious. Why can't you make tea with the same tea/tea bags that you usually drink hot and then just put it in the fridge/over ice and then drink it? You can get a huge box of 100 Lipton tea bags for less than $5 at a grocery store, so it's cheap. It has no sugar, and if you want it a little sweet you can add as much sugar as you like, and it'll still have way less sugar than soda or even lemonade. You can even get some citric acid by adding lemon juice or making a half lemonade/half iced tea amalgamation.
posted by katyggls at 12:06 PM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: Just so everybody knows, I love iced tea, I love love love it. I grew up in the Smoky Mountains and it has long been a go-to drink in the summer.

But I drink sweet tea the way southerners do: you heat the tea until it's almost boiling, and then add as much sugar as the water will dissolve, and then chill the super saturated solution into a palatable beverage.

I love it like that, but it's far from healthy. And while I don't mind having it from time to time, I don't like thinking about how much sugar I'm consuming while I'm drinking it.

I think if anything this thread has convinced me to be super careful. I was thinking of dosing out the caffeine into 25mg segments and keeping it in little vials or bottles of some sort, so that I can just add it to my water bottle along with lemonade, or whatever else I'm drinking.

Note that I said 25mg. I think that the biggest issue people have with it is that they make the assumption that it's safe because it's legal, but I think it mostly just speaks to the failure of drug education that anyone equates legality to safety of substances in either direction.
posted by unknownmosquito at 2:42 PM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: Oh and a reminder for those suggesting iced coffee: I just don't really like coffee. :P I know that's not relevant for most folks and that this solution is sort of the long way around but I find the taste pretty repulsive. I can only stomach it if it's equal parts milk and sugar and then it's hardly coffee.
posted by unknownmosquito at 2:52 PM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, and of course, everyone will know that's the special lemonade. We're all students so there's not much likelihood of someone's grandmother or little cousin finding the "special lemonade," and it'll probably only be caffeinated to the same level as Mountain Dew anyway.
posted by unknownmosquito at 2:56 PM on June 15, 2011

So you know you can make tea without sugar, right? I used to dislike cold unsweetened tea, but give yourself a few weeks and you'll discover it's the best thing ever. Nearly as good as hot black tea.
posted by GuyZero at 3:26 PM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: I understand that it's theoretically an option, yes, but while I find cold coffee not terribly tasteful I find unsweetened tea absolutely vile. Blame my upbringing, blame me for being a picky kid, but it's gross. Sorry. Taste is taste. Maybe I'll give it a shot after I figure out how to appreciate beer.
posted by unknownmosquito at 5:55 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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