ANSWERS TO COMMONLY ASKED COFFEE QUESTIONS
1. What are the differences between specialty coffees?
The differences in specialty coffees lie primarily in their country or region of origin and their quality of grade. Coffees from different regions have distinct and delicate flavors and characteristics, which are influenced further by the time of harvesting, method of processing, and ultimately the degree of roast.
2. What is Arabica coffee?
Arabica coffee is the seed from the fruit of the Arabica species of coffee tree. Arabica trees produce a fine quality coffee and require special soil conditions, high altitudes (4,000 - 6,000 feet above) and just the right balance of warmth and moisture. Because Arabica trees are susceptible to disease, frost, and drought, they require careful labor-intensive cultivation and produce only 1 to 1.5 pounds of beans per year. Arabica coffee beans are selected as specialty coffee because of their unique, delicate flavor and aroma.
1. Why doesn't my coffee at home taste as good as the coffee in your store?
That would depend on a number of factors. Here are some tips to help you achieve a better cup of coffee:
- Start with fresh coffee.
- Always use fresh, cold water.
- Use the correct grind for your coffee maker.
- Use the proper amount of coffee to water for your brewer.
- Use a clean coffee maker.
- Be sure your coffee maker heats to the proper temperature (200 F 5) for brewing.
- Use your coffee soon after it is brewed, or store it in an airpot to keep it off the burner.
- Never reheat coffee once it has cooled.
2. Does each coffee type taste distinctively different?
Coffees grown in different geographic areas bear distinctively different taste profiles (for example, Colombian vs. Sumatra vs. Ethiopian). The differences between Arabica coffees from the same country of export tend to have more subtle differences in characteristics that appeal to various taste preferences (for example, Colombian Excelso vs. Colombian Supremo).
3. How does the roast affect a coffee's taste?
Generally, the darker any variety is roasted, the heavier and stronger tasting it will be in the cup. The purpose of roasting is to extract the flavor out of the coffee. When roasted to extremes, coffee will taste burnt.
4. Which coffee tastes best?
Coffee tastes are a matter of individual preference. You should experiment with various types to determine what best pleases your palate. Just as with rare and exquisite wines, each coffee is superb in its own right, but appeals differently to each person.
5. Why do some coffees taste strong and bitter?
Coffees' strength can be determined by the amount used to brew and the roast shade, as well as how long it has remained on the warmer. Bitterness is usually affiliated with coffee that has been left on the warmer too long or with lower grades of harvest.
PREPARATION AND STORAGE
1. How much coffee should I use if I don't want to make a full pot?
Most coffee brewing systems have an optimum brewing capacity. It is almost always necessary to use a bit more coffee in relationship to water when brewing smaller amounts. The basic recipe is 2 level tbsp. of coffee for each 6 ounces of brewing water. The ratio may seem strong, but that amount develops the proper taste and a balanced brew. If overpowering to the individual taster, the brew can easily be diluted with hot water in the cup.
2. How can I tell if coffee is fresh?
Whole bean coffee has a shelf life of two to three weeks after roasting. As beans age, they become tough and rubbery. If fresh, you can easily crack them between two fingernails. The fresh, vibrant aroma of whole bean coffee is unmistakable. Old coffee will exude a flat smell and in some dark roasts will even give off a distinctly rancid odor. Ground coffee begins losing its valued properties the moment it's ground and therefore should be consumed within one week to 10 days after grinding.
3. How can I keep coffee fresh longer?
Store ground coffee in an airtight, sealed container (preferably glass) in the refrigerator. Store whole beans the same way. If you use them up in less than a week after purchase, the refrigerator is not necessary. Remember: Refrigeration only slows down spoilage; it does not prevent spoilage. The freezer can prolong storage, but rewrap the coffee in smaller units so you don't contaminate the whole portion when extracting what you need. Coffee is a food - much like a side of beef - and needs to be cut and wrapped for freezer storage.
4. Is it a good idea to roast and grind coffee at home?
Always grind coffee fresh just before you use it. Whole beans' natural protection against staling is destroyed when they're ground. Roasting coffee at home can be fun - but messy. Several home roasting devices are marketed, but a professional roaster can produce better results, without contest.
1. Why do the prices of decaffeinated and regular coffees differ?
The price differences between decaffeinated and regular coffees are a result of the costs incurred in the decaffeination process, which is quite expensive, and in the weight loss that occurs as a result of this process.
2. Why is Jamaican Blue Mountain so expensive?
Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is more expensive because of its elevation and soil conditions. Historically, it has always been a benchmark in the industry, like fine vintage wine. Grown in unique conditions, its rare supply cannot meet the high demand.
3. Why does specialty coffee cost more than "regular" (canned) coffee?
Specialty coffee costs more than regular coffee because of the careful selection and use of only the finest grades of Arabica coffees. High-quality grades need prime growing and harvesting conditions and have limited availability. (However, these exquisite specialty coffees cost only pennies per cup more than regular coffee.)
1. Why are some beans shiny?
Shiny beans are normally the result of flavor oils and lipids that have risen to the surface from inside the beans' cellular structure during the roasting process. Normally, in darker roast coffees, more oil develops and rises to the surface shortly after roasting. In an oxygen environment, these oils will evaporate on lighter roasted beans, which rarely look oily. Very dark-roasted beans will produce more oil on the surface that can evaporate quickly, so they appear shiny. Note: An airtight package will not allow the oil to evaporate when it comes to the surface. Also, a very dark-roasted bean may appear dull or dry, not shiny, for one of three reasons:
- The bean has just come out of the roaster and has not yet begun to form oils on the surface.
- The bean is old, and all the oils have evaporated.
- The bean was "baked" slowly for such a long period that all the oils left the bean during the roasting process.
2. What's a good coffee to drink in the morning?
It is a matter of individual taste. Some people prefer heavier-bodied coffees and lighter-roasted coffees because of their distinctive flavors and higher caffeine content. Note: While espresso is not yet widely preferred for morning consumption by the U.S. consumer, it offers a robust, flavorful, and uplifting experience to start the day.
3. What is espresso? Can I make it at home?
Espresso is any coffee that is brewed quickly under pressure to create a concentrated, flavorful, and heavy-bodied cup. Although dark-roasted coffees are often used, lighter roasted coffees or blends may also yield an excellent cup of espresso.
Yes, espresso can be brewed at home; however, good espresso requires:
- Fresh, uniformly fine-ground coffee.
- An espresso brewer having a very fine filter, which subjects the coffee to high-pressure extraction.
Unfortunately, many machines on the consumer market carrying the name "espresso maker" produce low pressure, and the final product often lacks the characteristic creme (creamy foam) on top. Such machines will produce a poor example of the flavor that made espresso famous in Europe.
4. How are flavored coffees made?
Every coffee roaster's technique for flavoring whole bean coffee will vary. In general, liquid or solid flavoring is added to the beans immediately after the roasting process.
5. Why are coffees blended?
The better quality high-grown coffees from each producing country have distinctive flavor, body, and aroma characteristics that many people prefer to enjoy straight. Blending coffee, however, is the practice of mixing these characteristics to create a "well-rounded" cup that offers the best of several coffees. Blending increases your options, allowing you to create a personalized, well-balanced coffee that pleases a wide variety of consumers.
6. What do "light", "medium", and "full-bodied" mean?
"Body" describes the tactile sensation of thickness or texture on the tongue and other inner surfaces of the mouth. "Light", "medium", and "full-bodied" refer to the intensity of this sensation.
1. How is coffee decaffeinated?
Coffee is decaffeinated by removing 97% or more of the naturally existing caffeine from the green beans before roasting. Some common methods of extracting caffeine are:
- Direct Contact Method. After softening by steam, the green beans are flushed with methalyne chloride, which draws off the caffeine. The beans are steamed a second time, heated, and blown dry. This removes almost all traces of the solvent.
- Indirect Contact Method. The green beans soak in hot water, which draws out the caffeine. The water is separated from the beans and treated with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate- the solvents absorb the caffeine through a steaming process and evaporation. The water, now caffeine-free, is reunited with the beans because it still carries natural oils and flavor components.
- Water Process. After the beans soak for several hours, the water is drawn off and passed through activated charcoal or carbon filters to remove the caffeine. The water, still containing other flavor elements, is added back to the beans. This is often called the "Swiss Water Process".
2. How much caffeine does coffee contain?
The species of the plant and the geographic region and altitude of growth determine a coffee's caffeine content. Robusta coffees, for example, normally have twice the caffeine content of Arabica coffees. A five-ounce cup of coffee will contain 75 to 155 milligrams of caffeine. Informational Note: Normally the denser beans grown at high altitudes have a lower caffeine content, as do darker roasted coffees. It is important to note that all Arabica coffees are naturally about 98.5% caffeine-free because they contain 1-1.5% caffeine by weight. To qualify as decaffeinated, however, they must have 97% of this 1-1.5% removed.
1. How many calories does a cup of regular coffee have?
Less than one calorie per 8-ounce serving, without cream or sugar.
2. Are coffee trees sprayed with chemicals to protect against insect infestations?
In some areas, chemicals are needed to control certain diseases. Generally speaking, however, the higher the altitude, the less need for insect control. Higher grown Arabicas, therefore, have less potential for chemical treatment. After the coffee is picked, it grows through multiple procedures that would wash off or disinigrate any chemicals.
3. Is organically grown coffee available?
Yes, organically frown coffees are available in limited supply. By federal and state laws, an organically grown coffee cannot have been exposed to herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, or commercially produced fertilizers.