It’s an old article, but a timeless one; thanks to J for the link. This is why pubs should have espresso machines.
“Beer for the idea, coffee for the execution” could be the title of my autobiography, although Biscuit’s famous “What I Remember” still applies.
Drink Beer for Big Ideas, Coffee to Get Them Done, by Mikael Cho (Lifehacker)
A Creative Prescription: The Optimal Way to Drink Coffee and Beer
Both coffee and beer (in moderation) have shown to be helpful when you’re working on certain types of tasks; however, you shouldn’t drink either when you need to do detail-oriented or analytical projects like your finances. The increase in adrenaline from caffeine and the inhibition of your working memory from alcohol will make you more prone to make mistakes.
Beer For the Idea
The best time to have a beer (or two) would be when you’re searching for an initial idea. Because alcohol helps decrease your working memory (making you feel relaxed and less worried about what’s going on around you), you’ll have more brain power dedicated to making deeper connections.
Neuroscientists have studied the “eureka moment” and found that in order to produce moments of insight, you need to feel relaxed so that front brain thinking (obvious connections) can move to the back of the brain (where unique, lateral connections are made) and activate the anterior superior temporal gyrus, a small spot above your right ear responsible for moments of insight:
Researchers found that about five seconds before you have a “eureka moment” there is a large increase in alpha waves that activates the anterior superior temporal gyrus. These alpha waves are associated with relaxation—which explains why you often get ideas while you’re on a walk, in the shower, or on the toilet.
Alcohol is a substance that relaxes you, so it produces a similar effect on alpha waves and helping us reach creative insights. Coffee doesn’t necessarily help you access more creative parts of your brain like a couple pints of beer.
Coffee For the Execution
If you’ve already got an idea or an outline of where you want to go with your project, a cup of coffee would do wonders compared to having a beer to execute on your idea. The general consensus across caffeine studies is that it can increase quality and performance if the task you are doing seems easy and doesn’t require too much abstract thinking. In other words, after you have an initial idea or a plan laid out, a cup of coffee can help you execute and follow through on your concept faster without compromising quality.