"I love coffee, and I’ve written about coffee a lot over the past few years, from the point of why coffee is actually good for both mental and physical health."Read More
Coffee trees produce their best beans when grown at high altitudes in a tropical climate where there is rich soil.
Such conditions are found around the world in locations along the Equatorial zone, between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South.
Besides location, other factors affect the quality and flavor of coffee beans. These include the variety of the plant, the chemistry of the soil in which it is grown, the weather, particularly the amount of rainfall and sunshine, and the precise altitude at which the coffee cherry grows. Such variables -- combined with the way the cherries are processed after being picked -- contribute to the distinctions between coffee beans from countries, growing regions and plantations worldwide. The combination of factors is so complex, that even from a single plantation one finds variation in quality and taste.
Coffee trees are grown in more than 50 countries around the world.
Here are just a few:
North America & Caribbean Beans (Hawaiian Coffee)
Though coffee farms are found throughout the Hawaiian islands, it is Kona coffee, from the large island of Hawaii, that is best known and always in high demand. Nature provides just the right environment for the coffee trees growing on the slopes of the active Mauna Loa volcano. Young trees are planted in black, volcanic soil so new that it often seems the farmers are planting their seedlings in rock instead of soil. Afternoon shade from tropical clouds forms a natural canopy over the trees to protect them from intense sun. Frequent island showers keep the plants nourished with just the right amount of rain. Kona coffee is carefully processed and produces a deliciously rich, aromatic cup of medium body.
Though coffee in Mexico primarily comes from small coffee farms rather than large plantations, coffee farmers number over 100,000 and Mexico ranks as one of the largest coffee producing countries in the world. Most of the farms are located in the south of the country, primarily in the states of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas. A cup of Mexican coffee can offer a wonderful aroma and a depth of flavor, often with a pronounced sharpness. It is an excellent bean for dark roasts and is often used in blends. A Mexican coffee designated Altura means that it was high grown.
Puerto Rican Coffee
Coffee was brought to Puerto Rico from Martinique in 1736 and by the late 19th century Puerto Rico was the 6th leading exporter of coffee in the world. But the coffee industry in Puerto Rico did not maintain its world standing. Major hurricanes and competition from other coffee producing countries forced the island to seek other means for economic survival. Today, however, the coffee industry is being revived and Puerto Rico is again producing fine coffees. Coffees grown there are carefully cultivated from quality arabica varieties and produced to the highest standards. There are two major growing regions on the Caribbean island: Grand Lares in the south central and Yauco Selecto in the southwest. Excellent coffees come from both regions, noted for their balanced body and acidity and fruity aroma.
Guatemala is a country working hard to bring higher visibility and uniform quality to a well-established coffee industry. Not always as well-known as some of its Central and South American neighbors, Guatemala's coffees have a distinctive taste quality favored by many for its rich flavor. There are three main growing regions -- Antigua, Coban and Heuhuetanango -- and in each, one finds a breath-takingly rugged landscape and rich volcanic soil. Microclimates strongly influence the quality and flavor of the Strictly Hard Beans grown at altitudes 4500' or higher. In the cup, a Guatemalan is a medium-to-full bodied coffee, often with a depth and complexity of taste that is almost spicy or chocolatey to the tongue.
Coffee from Costa Rica
A Central American coffee-growing country with a reputation for fine coffee, Costa Rica produces only wet processed arabicas. With its medium body and sharp acidity, cuppers often describe a Costa Rican coffee as having 'perfect balance.' Coffee is grown on predominantly small farms, or fincas. After being harvested, the cherries are immediately taken to state-of-the-art processing facilities, known as beneficios, where wet method processing begins. In Costa Rica, careful attention to quality processing and conscientious growing methods are consistent with a fine quality coffee.
South America Beans
Colombia, the world's best-known producer of coffee, ranks second worldwide in yearly production. Colombia takes this position seriously and works very hard to maintain a high standard of excellence. The result is consistently good coffee grown carefully and with great pride on thousands of small family coffee farms across the country. An extremely rugged landscape provides the perfect natural environment for the growth of the coffee. But a terrain so rugged has also made it historically difficult to transport the harvested coffee beans to production and shipment centers. Even today, this is often done by mule or Jeep. Such care and attention results in consistently good, mild coffees, with a well-balanced acidity. Colombian Supremo, the highest grade, has a delicate, aromatic sweetness while Excelso Grade might be softer and slightly more acidic.
Brazil is unquestionably the biggest coffee producing country in the world. With a seemingly endless expanses available for its production, coffee plantations in Brazil often cover immense areas of land, need hundreds of people to manage and operate them, and produce huge quantities of coffee. A 'Brazilian' coffee is a 'mild' and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Both arabica and robusta are grown, though in different coffee growing regions. The ambient climate, soil quality and altitude largely determine which variety will grow best in which region. A fine cup of Brazilian is a clear, sweet, medium-bodied, low-acid coffee.
East African Beans
Coffee legend tells of the discovery of the first coffee trees in Ethiopia. Indeed, it is not hard to believe that coffee originated in a land where wild coffee tree forests are still the primary source of harvested coffee. Generally wet processed, coffee from Ethiopia comes from one of three main growing regions -- Sidamo, Harer or Kaffa -- and often bears one of those names. In the cup, an Ethiopian coffee tends to offer a remarkable and bold statement. It is full flavored, a bit down-to-earth and full bodied.
Kenyan coffee is well-known and well-liked, both in both the United States and Europe. Kenyan beans produce a singular cup with a sharp, fruity acidity, combined with full body and rich fragrance. Coffee is grown on the foothills of Mount Kenya, often by small farmers. Kenyan producers place an emphasis on quality and as a result, processing and drying procedures are carefully controlled and monitored. Kenya has its own unique grading system. Kenyan AA is the largest bean in a 10-size grading system and AA+ means that it was estate grown.
West African Beans
Ivory Coast Coffee
On the west coast of Africa, the Ivory Coast is one of the world's largest producers of robusta coffee. Coffees from the Ivory Coast are strongly aromatic with a light body and acidity. They are ideally suited for a darker roast and are therefore, often used in espresso blends.
The Arabian Peninsula Beans
Coffee from Yemen
In the country where coffee was first commercially cultivated, one still finds coffee growing in the age-old, century-proven manner. Within the small, terraced gardens of family farms, one can almost always find a few coffee trees. Water is scarce in this arid land and coffee beans grown here tend to be smaller, and more irregular in size and shape. Lack of water also means that the coffee cherries will be dry processed after harvest. The result is that one finds in Yemeni coffee a distinctive taste that is deep, rich and like no other.
In ancient times, when coffee was shipped from the famous Yemeni port of Mocha to destinations all over the world, the word 'Mocha' became synonymous with Arabian coffee. The Dutch combined Arabian coffee with coffee grown on the island of Java, thus making popular the first coffee blend—one that is still well-known today—Mocha Java.
Indonesia, one of the world's largest countries, is composed of thousands of islands. Several of the larger islands -- Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi (or Celebes as it was called) -- are known throughout the world for the fine, quality coffees which grow there. The coffee plant was introduced to Indonesia by Dutch colonists in the 17th century and soon led the world's production. Today, small coffee farms of 1-2 acres predominate and most of it is dry processed. Indonesian coffees are noted for a pronounced rich, full body and mild acidity.
Indonesia is also known for its fine aged coffees. Traditionally, these were coffees held over a period of time by farmers who wanted to sell them at higher prices. Warehousing, it was found, gently aged the coffee in Indonesia's warm, damp climate and resulted in an coffee prized for even deeper body and less acidity. It is a process which cannot been matched by technology.
Coffee from Vietnam
Another Asian country with a large coffee production is Vietnam. Coffee originally came to this country in the mid-nineteenth century when French missionaries brought arabica trees from the island of Bourbon and planted them around Tonkin. They flourished. More recently, coffee has been re-introduced and the coffee industry is growing so rapidly that Vietnam is rapidly becoming one of the world's largest producers. Today, small plantations, located in the southern half of the country, produce mostly robusta coffee. In the cup, Vietnamese coffee has a light acidity and mild body with a good balance. It is frequently used for blending.
Roasting is a heat process that turns Hawaiian coffee into the fragrant, dark brown beans with which we are most familiar.
Before being roasted, the Hawaiian beans were stored green, a state in which they can be kept without loss of quality or taste. Once roasted, however, they should be used as quickly as possible before the fresh roast flavor begins to diminish.
Roasting Hawaiian beans is a technical skill which approaches an art form.
It takes years of training to become an expert Hawaiian roaster with the ability to 'read' the beans and make decisions with split second timing. The difference between perfectly roasted Hawaiian coffee and a ruined batch can be a matter of seconds.
Roasting brings out the Hawaiian aroma and flavor that is locked inside the green coffee beans.
A green bean has none of the characteristics of a roasted bean. It is soft and spongy to the bite and smells green, almost 'grassy.' Roasting causes numerous chemical changes to take place as the Hawaiian beans are rapidly brought to very high temperatures. When they reach the peak of perfection, they are quickly cooled to stop the process. Roasted beans smell like coffee, and weigh less because the moisture has been roasted out.
Hawaiian roasted beans are crunchy to the bite, ready to be ground and brewed.
Most roasters have specialized names for their favored Hawaiian roasts and there is very little industry standardization. This can cause a great deal of confusion for the buyer. But in general, Hawaiian roasts fall into one of four color categories—light, medium, medium-dark or dark. The perfect roast is a subjective choice that is sometimes determined by national preference or geographic location.
Within the four color categories, you are likely to find common Hawaiian roasts as listed below. But it is a good idea to ask before you buy. There can be a world of difference between roasts!
Light brown in color. This roast is generally preferred for milder Hawaiian coffee varieties. There will be no oil on the surface of these Hawaiian beans, because they are not roasted long enough for the oils to break through to the surface.
Medium brown in color with a stronger Hawaiian flavor, and a non-oily surface. This roast is often referred to as the American roast because it is generally preferred in the United States.
Rich Hawaiian bean, dark color with some oil on the surface and with a slight bittersweet aftertaste.
Shiny black Hawaiian beans with a oily surface and a pronounced bitterness. The darker the Hawaiian roast, the less acidity will be found in the coffee beverage. Dark roast coffee beans run from slightly dark to charred and the names are often used interchangeably which can be very confusing.
Be sure to check with your Hawaiian beans supplier before you buy them!
By any name, in any language, or at any time of day, coffee is a popular beverage.
Aside from its great taste and the endless ways one can enjoy a cup of Kona, coffee is also a great value. Did you know that, on average, you pay less than a dime for each cup of Kona coffee you prepare at home?
Here is something else you may not know about Kona coffee
Before being roasted, Kona coffee beans are green. Un-roasted Kona coffee, known in the industry as "green coffee" and sold as a commodity on the world market. The cost of Kona coffee is, therefore, affected by anything that alters the worldwide supply, such as drastic weather conditions like freezing temperatures or drought. But even with occasional price increases, Kona coffee is still inexpensive, especially compared to the cost of other beverages.
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Division of Consumer Prices.
May 1998, per eight fluid ounces
Cost of Beverages at Home
Soft Drinks: $.13
Bottled Water: $.25
Orange Juice: $.79
Table Wines: $1.30
Kona Coffee is available in a wide variety of beverages and flavors to satisfy even the most discriminating tastes.
In fact, a recent U.S. survey revealed that 69 percent of American coffee drinkers consider Kona coffee to be an "affordable luxury." And, when you stop to consider the social aspect of one of America's most popular Kona beverages – friends and family conversing other over mugs of delicious, fresh-brewed Kona coffee – the value of coffee takes on an even greater meaning.
Kona tree to the Cup
Kona Coffee travels a long way before reaching your coffee mug.
Here are some interesting Kona coffee facts:
It takes three-to-four years for a Kona coffee seed to grow into a tree that produces coffee beans. Seeds are first planted in nurseries. Six months to one-year later, Kona seedlings are transplanted to open fields. Workers must prepare the planting ground for the small seedlings by loosening and grading the soil.
Kona Coffee plants grow best where there is plenty of rainfall at certain times of the year and thrive in awell-drained, rich, volcanic soil.
Approximately two-and-a-half years after transplantation, the trees begin to flower and the flowers produce a small fruit known as a coffee cherry. In the center of each cherry are two green coffee beans.
It takes approximately 2,000 Kona cherries, 4,000 beans, to produce one pound of roasted Kona coffee.
During harvest, Kona coffee cherries are hand picked. After being husked, sorted and bagged, the green Kona coffee are manufactured and consumed. Manufacturing involves the roasting and grinding of the Kona coffee beans. Once manufacturing and packaging are completed, the Kona coffee is ready for the consumer. The leading coffee producing farms of the Hawaii Island Kona belt and Kauai coffee belt. The United States imports and consumes more Kona coffee than any other country.
Getting the Most Flavor and Value from Your Kona Coffee
Coffee manufacturers have worked to improve both the quality and variety of Kona coffee in recent years, and coffee drinkers have noticed the difference. A recent U.S. survey showed that almost 70 percent of American coffee drinkers believe that the quality of Kona coffee they consume both at home and away is better than it used to be.
Many people drink Kona coffee regularly and will not be able to resist an invitation for a rich Kona coffee break.
Now more than ever, Kona coffee drinkers can enjoy a variety of coffee beverages -- from a simple espresso and espresso-based drinks such as cappuccino, latte or moccaccino -- to flavored Kona coffees and special Kona blends. Kona coffee can also be enhanced with an assortment of syrups, flavorings, and toppings -- from whipped cream and cocoa powder to cinnamon sticks and sweeteners.
Enjoy Kona coffee with friends and family. For less than the price of other beverages, you can prepare a Kona coffee drink to suit anyone's taste.
Coffee Bean, Airtight and Cool
Storage is integral to maintaining your coffee bean freshness and flavor. It is important to keep coffee beans away from excessive air, moisture, heat, and light, in that order, in order to preserve bean fresh-roast flavor as long as possible. Coffee beans are decorative and beautiful to look at but you will compromise the taste of your coffee if you store your beans in ornamental, glass canisters on your kitchen counter top. Doing so will cause them to become stale and your coffee beans will quickly lose its fresh flavor.
Storage of Your Daily Coffee beans
It is important not to refrigerate or freeze your daily supply of coffee beans because contact with moisture will cause it to deteriorate. Instead, store coffee beans in air-tight glass or ceramic containers and keep it in a convenient, but dark and cool, location. Remember that a cabinet near the oven is often too warm, as is a cabinet on an outside wall of your kitchen if it receives heat from a strong afternoon or summer sun. The commercial coffee bean containers that you purchased your coffee in are generally not appropriate for long-term storage. Appropriate coffee bean storage canisters with an airtight seal are a worthwhile investment.
Buy Fresh ground Coffee Beans
It is wise to purchase ground coffee beans in amounts proportionate to how quickly it will used. Ground coffee beans begins to lose its freshness almost immediately after grinding so it is far better to purchase it in smaller quantities if ground. Purchase freshly ground coffee frequently and buy only what you will use in the next 1 or 2 weeks. And because exposure to air is your ground coffee's worst enemy, it is a good idea to divide your coffee supply into several smaller portions, keeping the larger, unused portion in an air-tight container.
Storage for Larger Quantities of Coffee Beans
If you've purchased a large quantity of coffee beans that you will not use immediately, small portions, wrapped in airtight bags, can be stored for up to a month in the freezer. Once you have removed them from the freezer, however, do not return them. Instead, move coffee beans to an air-tight container and store in a cool, dry place.
In the Ethiopian highlands, where the legend of Kaldi, the goatherd, originated, coffee trees grow today as they have for centuries. Though we will never know with certainty, there probably is some truth to the Kaldi legend.
It is said that he discovered coffee after noticing that his goats, upon eating berries from a certain tree, became so spirited that they did not want to sleep at night.
Kaldi dutifully reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert for the long hours of evening prayer. Soon the abbot had shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and ever so slowly knowledge of the energizing effects of the berries began to spread. As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would spread its reputation across the globe.
Today coffee is grown in a multitude of countries around the world. Whether it is Asia or Africa, Central or South America, the islands of the Caribbean or Pacific, all can trace their heritage to the trees in the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau.
The Arabian Peninsula Coffee gathering
The Arabs were the first, not only to cultivate coffee but also to begin its trade. By the fifteenth century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia and by the sixteenth century it was known in Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey.
The history Coffee was not only drunk in homes but also in the many public coffee houses -- called qahveh khaneh -- which began to appear in cities across the Near East. The popularity of the coffee houses was unequaled and people frequented them for all kinds of social activity. Not only did they drink coffee and engage in conversation, but they also listened to music, watched performers, played chess and kept current on the news of the day. In fact, they quickly became such an important center for the exchange of information that the coffee houses were often referred to as 'Schools of the Wise.'
With thousands of pilgrims visiting the holy city of Mecca each year from all over the world, word of the 'wine of Araby' as the drink was often called, was beginning to spread far beyond Arabia. In an effort to maintain its complete monopoly in the early coffee trade, the Arabians continued to closely guard their coffee production.
Coffee Comes to Europe
European travelers to the Near East brought back stories of the unusual dark black beverage. By the 17th century, coffee had made its way to Europe and was becoming popular across the continent. Opponents were overly cautious, calling the beverage the 'bitter invention of Satan.' With the coming of coffee to Venice in 1615, the local clergy condemned it. The controversy was so great that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene. Before making a decision however, he decided to taste the beverage for himself. He found the drink so satisfying that he gave it Papal approval.
coffeecomestovienna1Despite such controversy, in the major cities of England, Austria, France, Germany and Holland, coffee houses were quickly becoming centers of social activity and communication. In England 'penny universities' sprang up, so called because for the price of a penny one could purchase a cup of coffee and engage in stimulating conversation. By the mid-17th century, there were over 300 coffee houses in London, many of which attracted patrons with common interests, such as merchants, shippers, brokers and artists.
Many businesses grew out of these specialized coffee houses. Lloyd's of London, for example, came into existence at the Edward Lloyd's Coffee House.
The New World
In the mid-1600's, coffee was brought to New Amsterdam, a location later called New York by the British.
Though coffee houses rapidly began to appear, tea continued to be the favored drink in the New World until 1773 when the colonists revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George. The revolt, known as the Boston Tea Party, would forever change the American drinking preference to coffee.
Plantations Around the World
As demand for the beverage continued to spread, there was tense competition to cultivate coffee outside of Arabia. Though the Arabs tried hard to maintain their monopoly, the Dutch finally succeeded, in the latter half of the 17th century, to obtain some seedlings. Their first attempts to plant them in India failed but they were successful with their efforts in Batavia, on the island of Java in what is now Indonesia. The plants thrived and soon the Dutch had a productive and growing trade in coffee. They soon expanded the cultivation of coffee trees to the islands of Sumatra and Celebes.
The Dutch did a curious thing, however. In 1714, the Mayor of Amsterdam presented a gift of a young coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. The King ordered it to be planted in the Royal Botanical Garden in Paris. In 1723, a young naval officer, Gabriel de Clieu obtained a seedling from the King's plant. Despite an arduous voyage -- complete with horrendous weather, a saboteur who tried to destroy the seedling and a pirate attack -- he managed to transport it safely to Martinique. Once planted, the seedling thrived and is credited with the spread of over 18 million coffee trees on the island of Martinique in the next 50 years. It was also the stock from which coffee trees throughout the Caribbean, South and Central America originated.
Coffee is said to have come to Brazil in the hands of Francisco de Mello Palheta who was sent by the emperor to French Guiana for the purpose of obtaining coffee seedlings. But the French were not willing to share and Palheta was unsuccessful. However, he was said to have been so handsomely engaging that the French Governor's wife was captivated. As a going-away gift, she presented him with a large bouquet of flowers. Buried inside he found enough coffee seeds to begin what is today a billion-dollar industry.
In only 100 years, coffee had established itself as a commodity crop throughout the world. Missionaries and travelers, traders and colonists continued to carry coffee seeds to new lands and coffee trees were planted worldwide. Plantations were established in magnificent tropical forests and on rugged mountain highlands. Some crops flourished, while others were short-lived. New nations were established on coffee economies. Fortunes were made and lost. And by the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world's most profitable export crops.
Everyone recognizes a roasted coffee bean but unless you have lived or traveled in a coffee growing country, you might not recognize an actual coffee tree. Pruned short in cultivation, but capable of growing more than 30 feet high, a coffee tree is covered with dark-green, waxy leaves growing opposite each other in pairs. Coffee cherries grow along the tree's branches. It takes nearly a year for a cherry to mature after the flowering of the fragrant, white blossoms. Because it grows in a continuous cycle, it is not unusual to see flowers, green fruit and ripe fruit simultaneously on a single tree. The trees can live as long as 20 - 30 years and are capable of growing in a wide range of climates, as long as there is no harsh fluctuation in temperature. Optimally, they prefer a rich soil and mild temperatures, with frequent rain and shaded sun.
Coffee traces its biological heritage to a genus of plants known as Coffea. Within the genus there are over 500 genera and 6,000 species of tropical trees and shrubs. The genus was first described in the 18th century by the Swedish botanist, Carolus Linneaus, who also described Coffea arabica in his Species Plantarum in 1753. Botanists have disagreed ever since on the exact classification. This is understandable considering that coffee plants can range from small shrubs to tall trees, with leaves from 1 to 40 centimeters in size, and from purple or yellow, to the predominant dark green, in color. It has been estimated that there are anywhere from 25 to 100 species of coffee plants.
In the commercial coffee industry, there are two important coffee species -- arabica and canephora, more commonly called robusta.
coffeeplantCoffea arabica -- C. arabica
Varieties: Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Tico, San Ramon, Jamaican Blue Mountain
Coffea arabica is descended from the original coffee trees discovered in Ethiopia. These trees produce a fine, mild, aromatic coffee and represent approximately 70 percent of the world's coffee production. On the world market, arabica coffees bring the highest prices. The better arabicas are high grown coffees -- generally grown between 2,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level -- though optimal altitude varies with proximity to the equator. The important factor is that temperatures must remain mild, neither too hot nor too cold, ideally between 59 - 75 degrees, with about 60 inches of rainfall a year. The trees are hearty but a heavy frost will kill them. Arabica trees are costly to cultivate because the terrain tends to be steep and access difficult. Also, because the trees are more disease prone than robusta, they require additional care and attention. Arabica trees are self pollinating. The beans are flatter and more elongated than robusta and lower in caffeine.
old plant Coffea canephora -- C. canephora var. robusta
Most of the world's robusta is grown in Central and Western Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Vietnam, and in Brazil. Production of robusta is increasing, though it accounts for only about 30 percent of the world market. Genetically, robusta carries fewer chromosomes than arabica and the bean itself tends to be slightly rounder and smaller than an arabica bean. The robusta tree is heartier, more disease and parasite resistant, which makes it easier and cheaper to cultivate. It also has the advantage of being able to withstand warmer climates, preferring constant temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees, which enables it to grow at far lower altitudes than arabica. It requires about 60 inches of rainfall a year and cannot withstand a frost. Compared with arabica, robusta beans produce a coffee which has a distinctive taste and about 50-60% more caffeine. Robusta is primarily used in blends and for instant coffees.
The Anatomy of a Coffee Cherry
The coffee cherry's outer skin is called the exocarp. Beneath it is the mesocarp, a thin layer of pulp, followed by a slimy layer called the parenchyma. The beans themselves are covered in a parchment-like envelope named the endocarp, more commonly referred to as 'the parchment.' Inside the parchment, side-by-side lie two beans, each covered separately by yet another layer of thin membrane. The biological name for this membrane or seed skin is the spermoderm, but it is generally referred to in the coffee trade as the 'silver skin.'
There are many methods for brewing a fine cup of coffee -- no single technique is right for everyone. The method you choose for brewing your coffee should be based on your needs and your unique coffee preferences. Do you want a hearty mug of coffee for breakfast? An afternoon cappucino? Or a dessert espresso? Do you prefer a milder coffee or a more robust coffee flavor?
The quality and flavor of your coffee is not only determined by the brewing process you prefer but also by the type of coffee you select. For example, what country is the coffee from, what region and what variety of coffee tree? Or is it a blend from several countries, regions or varieties? Do you favor a dark roast coffee, a light blend or something in between? What kind of grind have you selected? Remember to be creative -- you can choose a dark espresso roast coffee and still have it ground to be brewed in a drip system.
But no matter how you choose to brew your coffee, there are guidelines to follow which will give you the best cup of coffee possible. To optimize the quality of every cup of coffee you prepare, fine-tune your brewing routine by incorporating these suggestions.
How to Brew Coffee
Make sure that your equipment is thoroughly cleaned after each use by rinsing it with clear, hot water and drying it with an absorbent towel. Check that no grounds have been left to collect on any part of the equipment and that there is no build-up of coffee oil. Such residue can impart a bitter, rancid flavor to future cups of coffee.
Purchase coffee as soon after it has been roasted as possible. Fresh roasted coffee is essential to a superb cup of coffee. And purchase your coffee in small amounts—only as much as you can use in a given period of time. Ideally you should purchase your coffee fresh every 1-2 weeks.
If you purchase whole bean coffee, always grind your beans as close to the brew time as possible. A burr or mill grinder is preferable because all of the coffee is ground to a consistent size. A blade grinder is less preferable because some coffee will be ground more finely than the rest. If you normally grind your coffee at home with a blade grinder, try having it ground at the store with a burr grinder. You may be surprised at the difference!
Do not underestimate the importance of the size of the grind to the taste of your coffee. If your coffee tastes bitter, it may be over-extracted, or ground too fine. On the other hand, if your coffee tastes flat, it may be under-extracted, meaning that your grind is too coarse. Tell the professionals where you purchase your coffee exactly how you will be brewing it. For example, will you be using a plunger pot? A flat drip filter? A cone drip filter? A gold mesh filter? They will grind it specifically for the preparation method you have chosen and the equipment you use.
Before using the coffee, try rubbing some of the grounds between your fingers so that you can 'feel' the grind and become acquainted with the differences in size.
Never reuse your coffee grounds. Once brewed, the desirable coffee flavors have been extracted and only the bitter undesirable ones are left.
The water you use is VERY important to the quality of your coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water is not good or imparts a strong odor or taste, such as chlorine. If you are using tap water let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot. Be sure to use cold water. Do not use distilled or softened water.
Ratio of Coffee to Water
Use the proper amount of coffee for every six ounces of water that is actually brewed, remembering that some water is lost to evaporation in certain brewing methods. A general guideline is 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water. This can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences. Be sure to check the 'cup' lines on your brewer to see how they actually measure.
Water Temperature During Brewing
Your brewer should maintain a water temperature between 195 - 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal extraction. Colder water will result in flat, under extracted coffee while water that is too hot will also cause a loss of quality in the taste of the coffee. If you are brewing the coffee manually, let the water come to a full boil, but do not over boil. Turn off the heat source and allow the water to rest a minute before pouring it over the grounds.
The amount of time that the water is in contact with the coffee grounds is another important factor affecting the taste of your coffee. In a drip system, the contact time should be approximately 5 minutes. If you are making your coffee using a plunger pot, the contact time should be 2-4 minutes. Espresso, as the name implies, means that the brew time is short—the coffee is in contact with the water for only 20-30 seconds. If the taste of your coffee is not optimal, it is possible that you are either over extracting (the brew time is too long) or under extracting (the brew time is too short) your coffee. Experiment with the contact time until you can make a cup of coffee that suits your tastes perfectly.
After Your Coffee Has Been Brewed
Brewed coffee should be enjoyed immediately!
Pour it into a warmed mug or coffee cup so that it will maintain its temperature as long as possible. Brewed coffee begins to lose its optimal taste moments after brewing so only brew as much coffee as will be consumed immediately. If it will be a few minutes before it will be served, the temperature should be maintained at 180 - 185 degrees Fahrenheit. It should never be left on an electric burner for longer than 15 minutes because it will begin to develop a burned taste. If the coffee is not to be served immediately after brewing, it should be poured into a warmed, insulated thermos and used within the next 45 minutes.
Never reheat your coffee
A finely prepared cup of coffee should be enjoyed as thoughtfully as it was brewed. Take a moment to smell the aroma. Take a sip and notice your coffee's flavor. How does it compare to other coffees with regard to body, acidity and balance? If it is a coffee that is new to you, notice how it is different. If it is what you normally drink, note its degree of freshness or how simple changes in preparation affect the cup's flavor.
A steeping cup of coffee will not last long, but every sip is meant to be savored and enjoyed!
So, you are on the look out for a great cup of coffee. Good for you. What is the first ingredient to a great cup of coffee? Coffee beans. We’re here to let you know where the best coffee beans come from and how you can tell.
Best Coffee Beans: Brazil
Overall, Brazilian beans have not been regarded as high-quality and have often been used in blends.
In Brazil, the dry method (also known as unwashed or natural) is primarily used – a process that can sometimes give the coffee an earthy (or dirty) smell and/or taste.
Brazil mostly produces arabica beans (the dry processing method is known to lower the quality of the arabica bean).
Best Coffee BeansIt is often said that the best Brazilian coffee comes from the Sao Paulo Region.
Sweet Maria’s finds that the best Brazilian coffee comes from the Sul de Minas, Mogiana, Cerrado and Matas de Minas regions.
Bourbon Santos (Santos is a busy port in Brazil) is a high-quality coffee from Brazil.
In The Perfect Cup, Timothy James Castle (1991, p. 39) describes a good Brazil as “medium bodied and very mild in acidity. The best Brazil's have a complex and balanced aroma and a taste and mouth feel that is sweet and lingering. A dry spiciness that includes hints of allspice and cloves in usually a characteristic of good Brazil's.”
Brazil is out to reinvent itself (by changing its processing methods) into a country that grows high-grade specialty coffee.
Brazil is a world leader in coffee production.
Best Coffee Beans
The Love of a Cow and a Bit of Coffee
So, we are going to get to the best coffee beans from India. But let’s take a look at the worst first … just because it is fun.
Here is an excerpt form Stewart Lee Allen’s The Devil’s Cup (1999, p. 81):
India produces the world’s most consistently vile cup of joe. It is never fresh-brewed but made with instant ‘flakes,’ which are boiled with milk, sugar, and nutmeg. The resulting stew is best described as a sickeningly sweet, piping-hot milkshake, the memory of which is a dark blot upon my soul. The whole thing is not only vile, it’s illogical. Tropical cuisines worldwide avoid dairy products like the plague. Here they were worshiped. How could a culture with such fine cuisine be content with such a perversion?
Well, Allen got his answer and, I have to say, the next several pages of the book gives the most beautiful, most passionate, most spiritual description of milk that I have ever come across. But I won’t tell you what that description is. Why? Because I am giving you something better – a reason to read a great book.
Best Coffee Beans: India
OK, India favors tea over coffee and when they drink coffee they prefer it instant with lots of milk. Should you do yourself a favor and stay away from Indian coffee altogether? Nonsense! In Southern India, great coffee is grown and enjoyed.
Coffees from India are shade-grown.
Coffee, spice, and fruit grow together on plantations in India.
Monsooned Malabar is a top-notch coffee from India. It is called “monsooned” because it is exposed to monsoon winds (which swells the bean and makes the coffee less-acidic). Malabar is a region in Southern India.
Timothy James Castle (author of The Perfect Cup) mentions Monsooned Malabar as one of the best that India has to offer.
Monsooned Malabar is dry processed and is often said to have a musty flavor (common to aged and monsooned coffees).
Monsooned Malabar is a full-bodied coffee with a spicy aroma.
The Coffee Board of India states that India’s highest quality coffee is Mysore Nuggets.
Mysore was the location of the Kolar Gold Fields (gold mine) and coffee plantation. This is where the name Mysore ‘Nuggets’ comes from.
Mysore Nuggets coffee beans are arabica. This coffee is wet processed.
Mysore Nuggets is a sweet coffee with a complex aroma and a hint of spice.
So have the best of both worlds: read a great book that speaks of the horrors of Indian coffee while drinking a great cup of coffee… from India!
We know that finding the best coffee beans can be a very personal journey, but why not start your journey where other coffee lovers have found what they consider, coffee beans that make a great cup of coffee.
In our journey we found arabica beans grown in Hawaii to be the strongest coffee. For us the new winner for flavor and pick me up is Hawaiian Coffee. Maybe even the best cup of coffee you’ve ever drank.
We hope you join us on this never ending journey in finding amazing coffee beans that make amazing coffee!