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Caffeine Extraction 101

Here we look at three caffeine extraction methods:
Extracting caffeine from caffeine pills, from coffee grounds, and from tea leaves/bags.

Caffeine is a stimulant and is found within nature in both the tea bush and the coffee plant. Kola nuts and guarana berries also are a rich source of caffeine. Caffeine is excellent for keeping you mentally alert and for warding off drowsiness. Most cultures the world over ingest some form of caffeine-related beverage or food every day.

However, these extraction methods below are impractical and are only for fun. Caffeine is much cheaper (time and money-wise) to buy in caffeine anhydrous powder format.

Method One – Extraction from Pills

Crushing a caffeine pill may seem like the easiest option. Here’s how –

What you need

A mortar and pestle or a wooden rolling pin
Caffeine pills (any generic kind)
Dichloromethane or other organic solvent such as 95%+ ethanol
Erlenmeyer flask
Fritted glass filter and vacuum pump
Watch glass or other glass cover for the Erlenmeyer flask
Büchner funnel

Instructions

  1. Begin in a well ventilated area
  2. Crush up the pills until they resemble a fine powder
  3. Transfer the powder to the Erlenmeyer flask
  4. Pour 120mL of DCM (dichloromethane) or ethanol into the flask
  5. Place the watch glass or cover on top and stir manually (or use a stir stick) until the solids sink to the bottom (only caffeine and povidone will be soluble in the DCM)
  6. Let the mixture settle until it forms two layers and wait until the solids form in the bottom
  7. Pour the solution into a fritted glass filter and use a vacuum pump to separate the liquid from the solids
  8. Repeat this process until the filtrate is almost. But use 50mL of DCM (instead of the original 120mL) in the Erlenmeyer flask each time.
  9. Stop this process either after four cycles or once the solution is almost clear
  10. Remove the DCM via distillation. Then break up the left over powder at the bottom of the flask and transfer the powder to a beaker
  11. Recrystallize the powder by dissolving it in hot water. The impurities should remain soluble while heating and the caffeine should drop out of solution.
  12. Let the solution cool and then place in a freezer once at room temperature so that more caffeine recrystallizes.
  13. Pull the caffeine out of the freezer and add it to a Büchner funnel. Once it “deflates”, turn off the vacuum and add cold water.
  14. Turn the vacuum on again. The caffeine should look purer/whiter than before
  15. Repeat this Büchner funnel process 1-2 more times until the caffeine stops becoming whiter
  16. Run the vacuum until the caffeine is dry
  17. transfer the caffeine to a crystallizing dish and heat (at low temp) in the oven
  18. Once dry, crush the caffeine into a fine powder. This is your yielded pure caffeine.

Caffeine Pill Extraction Instructional Video

Method Two – Extraction from Tea Leaves

This method requires several more steps and more chemistry equipment. It’s technically more of an extraction than the caffeine pills, since the pill method was more of a separation process.

This video demonstrates the procedure below.

What you need
Water
6 tea bags
6 grams of Na2CO3 (sodium carbonate)
Filter paper
A Separatory funnel
An Erlenmeyer flask
Dichloromethane (DCM)

Instructions

  1. Place the tea bags, water, and sodium carbonate while swirling the mixture gently
  2. Bring the solution to a boil for about 10 minutes
  3. Introduce a lid to limit water loss. Remove the lid and let the bubbles settle if it starts overflowing.
  4. Transfer the mixture to an Erlenmeyer flask while keeping the tea bags in the beaker
  5. Add 60mL of water and repeat the process
  6. Add this new batch of tea to the existing batch in the Erlenmeyer flask
  7. OPTIONAL: Filter the tea extract before the separation process
  8. Transfer the tea extract to a separatory funnel and add DCM (dichloromethane) to the funnel
  9. Cap the separatory funnel and shake gently
  10. Allow the layers to settle and drain the bottom DCM layer
  11. Repeat this process three times and use 15mL of DCM each time
  12. Set up distillation to remove the DCM
  13. Remove the crude caffeine from the flask and transfer to a test tube.
  14. Add DCM to the test tube and boil it off until you are left with caffeine crystals.
  15. Vacuum filter the crystals and wash them using cold 95% ethanol
  16. Dry the crystals under vacuum

Method Three – Extraction from Coffee

This is basically the same process as the tea extraction.
What you need
Ground coffee
Sodium carbonate
Distilled water
Watch glass (optiona)
Beaker
Paper coffee filters
Dichloromethane (DCM)
A Separatory funnel
Instructions

  1. Add 10g of ground coffee, 4g of sodium carbonate, and 60mL of distilled water to a beaker
  2. Place a watch glass on top and boil the mixture for at least 15 minutes. To limit foaming, shake the beaker.
  3. Filter the grinds from the solution using gravity filtration with a paper filter. Place the watch glass on top of the filter to limit heat loss while filtering.
  4. Wash the original flask with boiling water and refilter. Then add another 100mL of water while filtering. Microwave the gravity filter if it becomes too cool.
  5. Transfer the coffee to the separatory funnel and add 15mL of DCM.
  6. Once the caffeine separates at the bottom, pour only the caffeine (the clear layer) into a beaker.
  7. After filtering the first time, refilter with another 15mL of DCM, then a final, third time with 10mL of DCM.
  8. You should be left with a cloudy solution. Pour this back into the filter and add a saturated salt solution to pull out the water.
  9. After filtering, add this solution to a beaker and add a drying agent, such as molecular sieves, to remove remaining water. Do this for 20 minutes.
  10. Add this solution to a clean beaker. Bring this to a boil to remove DCM the solvent. Be careful not to overheat and burn the remaining caffeine. DCM has a low boiling point.
  11. You should be left with brown, crude caffeine. Recrystallize this using 95% ethanol and place in a freezer.
  12. Take the contents out of the freezer and place in a vacuum filter. Dry in the vacuum for 30 minutes. This should yield pure, white caffeine.

Instructional Video

Conclusion

Whichever method you choose to do so, do remember that pure caffeine is extremely potent and it is important to read up on the effects in order to know exactly how much to use in your drinks, baking, and so on.

Piracetam, Noopept, Theanine and Caffeine: Hack your Brain for Increased Productivity

You’re going to run a marathon. You’ve already decided. Well, in your heart at least, because you still haven’t gotten off the couch to start that elaborate training routine you’ve come up with.

So what do you do in the meantime? Dream up how great it will be when you finally run. The adrenaline as you pass over the finish line, the cheers from your friend and family, the pride that you’ll feel. Dreaming big will make sure that you act big, won’t it? After all, you need concrete goals to get anywhere.

Take those big dreams, toss in some supplements for focus, maybe a few more supplements for concentration, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to succeed. Right?

Unfortunately some recent studies indicate not necessarily [1]. One study had some participants envision a happy resolution to a crisis in another country, while the rest were just asked to state the facts of the crisis. When later asked to donate $25 or more, it turns out the participants who only recited cold facts were much more likely to donate.

The results were repeated in two more trials. One used similar procedures (this time related to donating time to a charity) while the other replaced stating the facts with imagining wasting time — establishing that it wasn’t stating facts that increased will to act, but it was positive dreaming that reduced it.

The takeaway here is that, to a certain extent, positive fantasies reduce the amount of effort you’re willing to put into making that fantasy come true. The downside is that it’s not exactly easy to quit daydreaming. Every second you spend distracted from a task is very likely a second you’re going to spend imagining how great it will feel once you finish.

Fortunately with nootropics, it’s not just a matter of you trying to force yourself to focus. By adding a few crucial supplements for focus to your daily routine, you can watch your concentration skyrocket. Less time dreaming, more time doing — what more could you ask for?

Piracetam

Start off your pursuit of boosted concentration with piracetam powder, one of the oldest and most widely researched nootropics out there. Before we go any further on its concentration-boosting benefits, take a moment to consider that piracetam also shows promise for positive effects on cognition, learning, and memory [1]. If your area-of-needed focus is academic or otherwise cognitively oriented, you’re looking at added benefits from piracetam straight from the get go.

On to its benefits for focus and concentration: Piracetam has repeatedly shown itself to benefit both, allowing users to participate in tasks for longer, less interrupted stints — it makes cognitive flow easier. Piracetam, an AMPA modulator, induces this effect by increasing the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain [2]. Communication between brain hemispheres is boosted, manifesting as a feeling of focus and clarity.

Noopept

If piracetam isn’t quite cutting it or you’re just looking to up your edge even further, check out noopept. It’s actually derived from the racetam family, meaning that it has some similarities to piracetam. It’s definitely its own beast though, and you’ll find a clear cut illustration of the differences before you even start to read up on the effects. While a typical piracetam dose will run between 1 to 3 grams, noopept powder is about a thousand times stronger, working efficiently at doses as small as 10 mg [3].

This might make you think it’s simply a jacked up piracetam, but noopept has its own distinct effects. Noopept is touted for anti-anxiety benefits in addition to its cognitive gains [4]. The upshot of this is that you spend less time worrying — if you aren’t worrying, it’s a heck of a lot easier to stop working. Add in the facts that noopept has shown to be neuroprotective and that its effects actually build over time [5], and you’re looking at a very potent productivity aid.

Caffeine and Theanine

Last but not least, a knock-out combo that will see your morning coffee benefiting you in completely new ways. While both of the following are effective supplements for concentration on their own, mixing l-theanine and caffeine powder will produce a synergistic effect that goes well beyond what you’d get from taking either individually.

Theanine is actually an amino acid that you’ve probably come across before without realizing it: it’s found in green tea. Taken on its own, it affects both your GABA and glutumate receptors, and is well-documented for having calming, relaxing effects [6].

Caffeine on its own stimulates a whole slew of neurotransmitters, but leaves you feeling wired and sets you up for an eventual crash. Together? Theanine takes the edge off of caffeine, smooths out the comedown, and makes it much easier to focus. A trialed study found that participants on a combination of theanine and caffeine were much better at focusing on difficult cognitive tasks [7]. So next time you grab a coffee to give yourself energy boosts, add in some theanine – and unlock your full potential.

Focus and concentration don’t come easy, and even with nootropic supplementation require discipline and practice. With the right stack, though, it’s possible to “hack” your brain into increased productivity. Experiment with combinations and compounds, find what works best for you, and boot those endless daydreams out of your head!

Sources

  1. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201302/positive-fantasies-can-reduce-future-effort
  2. http://examine.com/supplements/Piracetam/
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12596521
  4. http://examine.com/supplements/Noopept/
  5. http://www.braintropic.com/noopept/
  6. http://examine.com/supplements/Theanine/
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18681988