Coffee - your favourite beverage

Coffee basics

Coffee is the world's most popular beverage with over 400 billion cups being consumed annually.

It is often debated as to which part of the world it originated from and who discovered it.

One of the most plausible areas is the Kaffa region of Ethiopia.

As is customary, the drink was named after the region and the use of this, as its name seems to be wide spread ... 'qahwa' in Arabic, 'kahve' in Turkish, 'caffe' in Italian and of course 'coffee' in English.

This fits in well with the popular tale about Khaldi the young goat keeper who is reputed to have discovered the secrets of the miraculous coffee cherries.

There are two types of coffee:

  1. Coffea Arabica - This is the daddy of all species of modern coffees.

    First cultivated in Yemen, it has spread throughout the world. Almost without exception, all speciality coffees are developed from this root bean stock.

  2. Canephora Robusta - This type has over the years grown in popularity, mainly due to its disease resistance; also because it can be grown successfully at lower altitudes.

    However, because of the lower altitude and therefore less desirable growing conditions, it does lack the flavour and aroma of fine Arabica beans.

    As a result, Robusta coffees are generally used when price has more importance than quality.

Arabica beans Robusta beans

via our on-line shop.

Naturally, it all starts with the coffee cherry.

As picked there are inevitably ripe and unripe cherries mixed together, they therefore undergo a washing process where the heavier ripe cherries sink and the unripe ones float and can easily be skimmed off.

The outer skin, the pulp, of the ripe cherries having been softened by the water, is removed.

The remaining green cherry core is what we love so much, the coffee bean.

It is dried after about 1-2 days fermentation, with the drying taking place either on traditional sun patios for small scale processing or in large drying machines on large commercial scale manufacturing.

It is then either sold as such or goes on to the next stage.

Ripe cherries Coffee cherry washing Sun patio

In order for us to enjoy our favourite drink, the green bean must be roasted.

Although normally done commercially in large roasters, some folk prefer to roast their own at home.

Either way the roast plays a significant part in the flavour of the resulting drink.

Let me explain...

Broadly speaking, if the bean is roasted to a medium brown colour, it will only release part of the natural oils within it and so will have a milder flavour.

However if the bean is roasted darker, then more of the green bean's natural oils are released and so a deeper flavour is achieved.

On the other hand, if roasted too dark then the natural oils are burnt giving a bitter flavour, which sometimes is a desired feature in the roasted coffee.

Therefore, the roasting process is very important and that is why, in the interest of consistency of finished product, most commercial roasters are temperature controlled by sophisticated computer technology.

Coffee roaster large Roaster medium Roaster small

The only reasons for blending coffees are:

  1. To obtain a consistently uniform flavour throughout the year(s).
  2. To alter the flavour of the liquor.
  3. To gain a price advantage with a more expensive and better tasting coffee masking the inferior taste of a cheaper one.

Blends may consist of coffees from one particular region or alternatively from many areas.

The ultimate aim is to achieve the desired flavour / cost.

Commercial blender

In order to enjoy our coffee it must be brewed by immersing it in boiled water.

For the brewing process to be effective, the roasted coffee bean is ground; thereby allowing the water to penetrate the smaller coffee particles more effectively.

The coarseness of grind depends on the method of brewing to be employed.

All adjustable coffee grinders have their own calibration system so it is impossible to make definitive setting recommendations.

That said, the following is a rough guide for various methods of brewing, with particle size ranging from fine pulverised (flour like consistency) to gritty coarse (sharp sand like consistency).

Grouped methods indicate that a similar grind is required:

  1. Turkish (Armenian, Greek)
  2. Filter machines and cones (drip) + espresso stovetop pot
  3. Plunger (French press, cafettiere) + espresso machine + vacuum (Cona)
  4. Percolator + jug

Coffee grinder commrecial Coffee grinder Bosch

Always purchase the freshest pure Arabica bean stock that pleases your palate.

When ground ensure that it is done correctly for your method of brewing.

Store according to guide below:

  1. Ground coffee: one week, providing it is kept sealed and in a cool spot, never in a refrigerator, due to it being a damp atmosphere.

    Four weeks if frozen, removing only the amount to be used. Use straight from frozen, I stress do not defrost.

  2. Beans: About two weeks if kept in a sealed storage container. Six weeks if frozen, removing only the amount to be used.

    Use straight from frozen, once again, I stress do not defrost.

  3. Treat fresh coffee with the same care as you would any other fresh produce.
  4. Remember by following our guide and using approximately 7g of coffee per cup, irrespective of the coffee and brewing method used, will give you the best result.
  5. Warm the pot prior to use, irrespective of the method of brewing.
  6. Only pour on water just off the boil, i.e. boil and allow to settle for 30 seconds so as not to scald the coffee's natural oils.
  7. Consume within 30 minutes of brewing; discard any left over and never reheat.
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