Coffee 101

Where does Coffee come from?

The coffee that we love so much goes through a long process before it ends up in our cups. It starts off as a seed and is planted in large beds. The difference between  the bean (Arabica or Robusta) lies in the growing conditions and how high the altitude is. Coffee is usually grown in what is called the bean belt in countries in South America and Africa. Even Hawaii is included in the bean belt.

It will take anywhere between 3-4 years for the new coffee trees to bear any fruit. The fruit is called the coffee cherry and turns deep red when it is ready to be harvested. Once the coffee has been picked it is either processed through a dry method or wet method. Before these beans are exported they must go through a Hulling machine that removes a parchment layer from the wet process method or remove the dried husk from the cherry from the dry process method.  The next step is grading and sorting, then exporting the beans. After being shipped all over the world, coffee is repeatedly tested for quality and taste.

The final process is roasting the coffee beans. This is where we get the beans that we know and love.

How is Coffee Brewed?

There are certain components that you need before you can start brewing your perfect cup of coffee.  You need coffee beans, freshness, the grind, and water. These all play a major factor with brewing. Pick your favorite coffee beans; the fresher your beans are after you grind them, the better the coffee will taste. If you don't have water, you can't brew your coffee. The golden ratio is two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.  If you like a stronger cup of coffee just add more ground coffee.  You can always check the cup lines on your specific brewer for guidelines. The temperature depends on what brewer and what type of coffee you are making, but typically you are using boiling water.

Difference between Light, Medium, and Dark Roast?

Light Roast is light brown in color and the surface of the bean has a lack of oil. Compared to other roasts, it has the highest acidity and more caffeine.  Popular light roasts are Light City, Half City and Cinnamon.

Medium Roast is medium brown in color and has a non-oily surface. They are stronger in flavor and is the most well-balanced out of the three roasts. It is common to find that a lot of medium roasts have acidity and body. It is deemed "America's Roast" because it is so widely popular here. Popular medium roasts are City, Breakfast, and American.

Dark Roast is dark brown in color and for the bold coffee lovers. This roast is characterized by the rich, intense flavor and the oily surface. Popular dark roasts are New Orleans, Italian, and French.

What does Fair-Trade coffee mean?

When you drink your delicious cup of fair trade coffee in the morning, you are helping farmers escape poverty. Small-scale farmers that live in remote areas are vulnerable to people who offer cash for their coffee at a fraction of what it is worth. Fair Trade makes sure that farmers are guaranteed a minimum price, and even links farmers directly with importers. This allows farmers to create long-term sustainability, benefiting everyone involved. Through Fair Trade, farmers earn better incomes which allows them to hold on to their land and invest in the quality of the coffee you drink. In the end this is great for you and the environment.

What does it mean for coffee to be Certified Organic? Certified Rainforest Alliance?

For coffee to be Certified Organic that means it is grown according to the methods and standards set by the USDA. That means no chemicals (or very little) on their crops and farming methods that are not harmful to the environment. Farms also must go through a certification process in order to have the seal of organic.  It is widely known that organic coffee produces a higher quality bean. Therefore, you are getting the best coffee out there if you shop Certified Organic.

To be Rainforest Alliance Certified farms must meet the criteria set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network. This criteria allows protection to biodiversity, delivers financial benefits and decent working and living conditions to farmers and workers. It helps coffee farmers improve their day to day lives and their communities.

What is Third Wave coffee?

Third Wave coffee is a movement that is aimed to produce high-quality coffee, and to consider coffee as an artisanal food. That means all stages of production, coffee plant growing, processing, stronger relationships between coffee growers, traders, and roasters are improved.  As a result of this, third wave coffee wants the highest form of culinary appreciation of coffee. You should enjoy coffee like you would a wine or craft beer. The idea of the movement is to learn and pay more attention to your coffee.

Brewing methods for Drip, French Press, Percolator, Espresso, Moka Pot, Turkish Coffee?

Drip-  Drip or filter coffee is the most popular preparing method in North America. It is seen in the majority of food service industries and households. This method starts with pouring hot water over ground coffee beans. The brew is then strained with a paper filter. Drip coffee is clean with a high ratio of caffeine extracted. 

French Press- This method consists of pouring hot water over coffee grinds and letting it steep for a few minutes. After you finish with steeping the coffee, the plunger/filter is pressed down to separate the grinds. French press coffee usually has a medium body, less bold than espresso. It gives off an amazing aroma and flavor. This method is gaining more popularity because of how simple and cheap it is.

Percolator-Comes in electric or stove top. This method continually cycles the boiling brew through the coffee grounds. All you have to do is pour the desired amount of water into the water chamber and the desired amount of ground coffee is placed into the top chamber. It is important to remember that the water level is below the coffee chamber. Using a percolator makes a nice, strong and hot cup of coffee.

Espresso- This brew is prepared by pushing hot water through a layer of compacted ground coffee. This process is all contained in a port-filter. This method allows espresso to be a very concentrated form of coffee, with a lot of delicious aroma, flavor, and body. Espresso is distinct because of the foamy layer on top and the low volume of the drink.

Moka Pot- This method is the alternative to espresso. The moka pot uses steam pressure to push water through coffee grinds, similar to how you get an espresso, just with less pressure. The result is coffee that is bold but lacks the cream of an espresso.

Turkish Coffee- Traditional way to drink coffee in the Middle East. This method requires finely ground coffee, almost to a powder form. You must add boiling water to the ground coffee. You do need an ibrik or a saucepan.

The difference between Arabica and Robusta?

All the coffee we drink falls into one of these two coffee plant categories.

Arabica coffee has half as much caffeine as Robusta. 70% of the world's coffee is Arabica and it is sweet and softer in taste with tones of sugar, fruit and berries. Arabica beans mostly come from Latin America. Arabica plants are ultimately a little pricier most likely due to the amount of time this crop takes to yield and reach maturity. 

Robusta beans have twice as much caffeine as Arabica and make up 30% of the world's coffee. This coffee is characterized by its strong, harsh taste. Robusta coffee plants can grow at lower altitudes and produce fruit more quickly than Arabica. These plants can be found in Africa and Indonesia.

Difference between ground and whole bean coffee?

The ultimate debate among coffee lovers around the world is whether ground or whole bean coffee is better. It is honestly up to each person what they prefer, with each having their own pros and cons. Coffee begins as a whole bean and during the roasting process it still maintains that status.  Ground coffee is what happens when you grind the beans. The only difference is the size of what comes in the bag and the freshness. Whole bean is fresher than ground coffee because ground coffee is more susceptible to staling.  A lot of coffee drinkers love to buy whole bean and grind the coffee right before they brew it at their own convenience.  This preserves the freshness of the coffee and lets you have the optimum taste. It is honestly up to the coffee drinker and what they prefer.

Difference between a blend and a single origin coffee?

A blend coffee can combine anywhere between two-four coffees from different origins around the world. Blends are created for exceptional flavor that will excite your palate because of their smooth and well-rounded taste. Single origin coffee means that the coffee beans come from one country or region. These coffees have different flavors that reflect where the beans originated from.

How to store coffee beans?

To make sure your beans are preserved so their quality is intact, store them in an airtight container in a dark, cool place. You don't want any elements comprising your beans.  You can also keep your coffee beans in a resealable bag, which is usually what they come in.

Can coffee really stunt your growth?

Research has proven that coffee does not stunt your growth. Even though it is a common myth there is no hard scientific evidence to prove that this is true. The whole idea that coffee can stunt your growth most likely comes from the belief that caffeine can be a risk factor for osteoporosis. Even that claim was proven invalid over time.  

Is Coffee bad for you?

The answer is no. A lot of research has proved that coffee is not the cause of any serious diseases. In fact, it can even reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer disease, Stroke, certain cancers, and even Gout. Coffee can increase reaction times and improve short term memory. The main issue is how much caffeine you can consume. Excessive consumption can lead to massive headaches, jittery feelings, insomnia, and temporary elevation in blood pressure. For most people drinking a cup or two a day won't do anybody any harm.