THE ORIGINS OF COFFEE
There are over 120 different types of coffee.
Main two that are referred to are: Robusta and Arabica.
Robusta is actually a brand name chosen to highlight its attributes.
Robusta was discovered in the Belgian Congo (now referred to as Democrat Republic of Congo).
It was able to grow in lower altitudes than the Arabica species, in higher temperatures, with more rainfall and more resistant to disease. The Robusta bean is less of a pronounced oval shape as shown below.
Arabica coffee is considered superior to Robusta because of its delicate flavor and low acidity. This variety is grown at higher altitudes and can be more difficult and costly to grow. These labor-intensive, low-yield plants produce a high-demand bean that sells for a higher price.
You can also read in our BLOG one of the first legends of how coffee came to exist.
THE ARABICA VS. ROBUSTA DEBATE
ARABICA is the bean most associated with specialty coffee. It has a much higher sugar ratio and is generally sweeter, with more complex flavour, aroma and smoothness with a pleasant acidity. The two original varieties of the Arabica species are the Typica and Bourbon.
Arabica has wide ranging taste and flavours.
Arabica has about ½ caffeine – about 1.5% caffeine content.
Arabica coffee is a very useful medicine by energizing our bodies, and for our consciousness by helping us focus our attention in a positive and creative way.
Arabica has more than ½ more lipids and over twice the concentration of sweetness of Robusta.
Arabica green beans twice as expensive.
More susceptible to disease such as coffee rust and small beetle known as cherry coffee borer.
Used for speciality coffee.
ROBUSTA is use more widely for commodity coffee due to its’ cheaper pricing and it is known to present more bitterness and nuttiness than Arabica.
Taste: Often described as woody / rubbery / burnt tires, sometimes referred to as Nostalgia coffee.
More caffeine: Often 2.7% and caffeine is bitter. Also the type of caffeine is more likely to give you “nervous jitters and attention that is distracted and unfocused, the exact opposite of Arabica.”
Lipid & Sugar content: Robusta contains almost 60% less lipids and almost 1/2 the concentration of sugar than Arabica.
Price: green Robusta beans is about ½ cost of Arabica green beans.
Farming the fruit is easier, has a much higher yield, less susceptible to insects and the extra caffeine content actually acts as a toxin to many insects.
Mostly found in instant coffee.
Coffee beans are not beans, but cherries.
Coffee beans are fruits, and this fruit is a berry. We extract juice from berries in the same way we extract juice from our coffee beans.
The seed, or coffee bean, is made up of several layers, most of which will be removed during processing, leaving behind the bean we grind and brew. The seed has a protective outer layer, called the parchment, then a thinner layer wrapped around it, called the silverskin.
Most coffee cherries contain two seeds, which face each other inside the berry, becoming flattened along one side as they develop.
Occasionally, only one seed inside a berry will germinate and grow and these are known as peaberries. Instead of having a flattened surface on one side, these seeds are rounded and make up around five per cent of the crop. These peaberries are usually separated from the rest of the crop and some people believe that they have particularly desirable qualities or that they roast in a different way to the flattened beans.
The Coffee Family Tree
Coffee or Coffea is a shrub from which coffee cherries grow.
The cherries are dried and de-pulped though various processing methods and it is through these roasted beans that the coffee drink is extracted.
The two main commercially viable beans are the Arabica or Robusta varieties.
The first coffee trees to be cultivated originated in Ethiopia, and this same variety, Typica, is still widely grown today. Many other varieties now exist, some natural mutations and others the result of cross-breeding. Some varieties have explicit taste characteristics of their own, while others take on their characteristics from the terroir in which they are grown, the way they are cultivated and the way they are processed after harvest.
Almost all arabica coffee varieties we know and love stem from two original varieties: Typica and Bourbon. These two are at the top of the family tree.
Typica coffee plants tend to produce excellent tasting coffee, but the yield is on the low side. Bourbon (burr-bone) plants generally produce 20-30% more coffee than Typica, but the cherries are at greater risk of falling off the trees in harsh weather.
Careful harvesting of coffee cherries is fundamentally important to the quality of the resulting cup of coffee. Unsurprisingly, coffee beans harvested from fruit at peak ripeness generally taste the best. Many experts see the harvest as the point at which the quality of the coffee peaks, and every stage thereafter is about preserving quality rather than improving it.
Traditionally coffee is harvested by hand by one of two ways: strip picking or selective picking. Strip picking is exactly how it sounds, trees are harvested entirely at one time "stripping" all the beans off the branches, ripe as well as unripe cherries. Typically, only Robusta coffee is strip picked.
Arabica coffee beans are susceptible to defects due to insects, temperature, and climatic changes (drouts, floods etc).
The way coffee is graded is based on the number of defects in a 300g sample. Within that sample defective beans can be present. For instance, beans that have blotchiness, and are paler than the rest or quakers can be present amongst the sample.
Coffee grading explained
Coffee is graded based on number of defects.
Less than 3 = grade 1
More than 3 less than 7 = grade 2
More than 6 less than 13 = grade 3
SPECIALTY & PREMIUM GRADE COFFEE
By definition, premium coffee beans are those which receive a Grade Two in green grading. They have the same standards as specialty coffee beans except have a maximum of 3 quakers and 0-8 full defects.
scoring 80 points or above on the 100-point Review scale
scoring from 90-100 is graded Outstanding
scoring from 85 - 89.99 is graded Excellent
scoring from 80 - 84.99 is graded Very Good
specialty coffee is a term for the highest grade of coffee available
Premium coffee is coffee made from uniquely flavoured beans that are processed with special care.
This type of coffee is usually relatively expensive but is preferred by some people for its taste.
These are very expensive coffees that are rated extremely highly for quality and taste.
Starbucks coffee drinks are strong but with a very bitter and burnt taste. The most likely reason for the bitter/burnt taste is that Starbucks roasts their beans at a higher temperature then most roasters in order to produce large quantities of beans in a short time.
Golden Rules for Fresh Coffee
Buy coffee that has a clear roast date on the packaging
Try to buy within two weeks of roasting
Buy only enough coffee for a month
at a time
Buy whole beans and grind them yourself at home
roasted coffee from
Art & Coffee and contemplate as artists do
Roasting is one of the most fascinating aspects of the coffee industry. It takes the green coffee seed, which has almost no flavour beyond a quite unpleasant vegetal taste, and transforms it into an incredibly aromatic, astonishingly complex coffee bean. The smell of freshly roasted coffee is evocative, intoxicating and all-round delicious.
The roasting process affects acidity, sweetness and bitterness of bean flavours. Roasters seek to balance these three aspects through carefully controlled use of heat and timing.
The best cup of coffee begins with a well-chosen bean.
To prepare the green coffee bean for brewing, it must first be roasted. Coffee beans are roasted with dry heat and with constant agitation to ensure even heating. The range of roasts varies from light golden brown all the way to a dark, almost black appearance. Varying the roasting time has a significant effect on the flavour, aroma, and colour of the brewed coffee. Although there are several levels of roasting, they can be grouped into three main categories: light, medium, and dark.
Light roasts provide the lightest, most delicate flavors and can often be more acidic. Because there is less of a roasted flavor, the original flavor of the bean is allowed to shine through. High-quality beans or varietals with very distinct flavors are often roasted light to allow the original flavor to remain prominent. These beans will appear dry, as the bean has not been heated to the point where the oil is extracted. Light roasts include: Cinnamon, American, Half-City, and New England Roasts.
Medium-roasted beans will have a chocolate brown color, dry surface, and a full flavor. These beans will have less acidity than lightly roasted beans and a slightly sweet, toasty flavor. Due to the balanced flavor and acidity, this is the most popular roast within the major commercial coffee market. Medium roasts are also known as Full City, Breakfast, or Regular Roast.
Dark-roasted coffee is roasted until the sugars begin to caramelize and the oils begin to rise to the surface of the bean. Depending on the darkness of the roast, the bean may have a slight sheen or an oily appearance. The flavor of dark-roasted beans is strong, smoky, and sometimes spicy. The original flavor of the bean is overpowered by the roasted flavor and therefore lower quality beans are often used for darker roasts. Although these roasts have low acidity, they are often described as bitter. Roasts that fall within the dark category include French, Viennese, Italian, and Espresso.
To achieve unique flavor profiles, roasters will create custom blends of beans with two or more roasting levels. This provides a depth of flavor and complexity that cannot be achieved with a single roast.
COFFEE FLAVOUR ATTRIBUTES
Coffee is chemically complex and contains more aroma molecules than wine.
It takes years of cupping and learning about different varieties and origins to accurately perceive flavour notes. A Q-Grader is a person who has a qualification to determine flavour notes and grade a coffee in terms of quality.
While you needn’t aim this high, you can discover more by attending ‘cupping’ events with a roaster such as us and even experiment with your coffees at home.
Aroma and taste are the overriding factors determining coffee preference.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) created the first mapping of coffee’s flavour profiles was performed around 20 years ago.
This resulted in what we know today as the Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel. It’s not only super informative, it looks pretty cool too and makes for good wall art for the coffee enthusiast!
On the flavour wheel you can find a several subtle flavours in different coffees, which like wine, are often associated with their aroma.
Some of the most common flavour descriptors include:
* Chocolate * Nutty * Vegetal * Spicy * Fruity.
Coffee tasting goes even deeper than aroma and flavour however, if you aren’t overwhelmed enough.
We can also discuss * acidity * body * aftertaste and * balance.
While initially the word acidity doesn’t sound too appealing, acidity in the coffee world suggests a sharpness, tangy, fruit, sparkling, brightness with a dryness at the back of the mouth.
Think crisp apple rather than sour lemon.
Acidity denotes a high quality, high grown coffee that is set apart from the lesser, commodity grade which will taste “flat” in comparison.
Refers to the thickness or weight of the liquid against your tongue.
Imagine the difference between honey on the mouth versus water.
A bad coffee might feel oily, grainy, watery compared to a beautifully silky, buttery body. Body also helps the coffee to cut through milk, so a heavier body is ideal for milk based espresso.
This one is easier for the novice!
The sweet, pleasant flavour that is enjoyed without any sense harshness.
Sometimes a fruity taste that is evident at the tip of the tongue.
Balance refers to the notion that no one quality overwhelms all others, and that there enough complexity in the coffee to be interesting and not flat.
Also known as the finish, is the flavour that sits on your tongue after you have sipped your coffee.
Hopefully you will experience a pleasing aftertaste like “chocolate”, “spice”, “fruitiness”, “nuts” or “caramel” and not burnt, smokiness.
Aftertaste is created by vapours released from the residue that remains in the mouth after swallowing the coffee.
Coffees from different regions have specific baseline tastes
Coffees from South America are fruity, balanced (not too much acid) spicy and nutty with a nice level of sweetness.
Coffees from Africa are bright (more acidic), fruity and have better body.
Coffees from Asia are more earthy, more body, sweet.
DETAILS ON ART & COFFEE PACKAGING
Origin: Either a blend or single origin.
Altitude: Meters Above Sea Level (MASL)
Coffee grown at lower altitude will taste more mild or bland.
When grown at higher altitudes, you will get a fruitier, sweeter taste.
For a fruitier taste look for 1200+ MASL.
Cupping notes, based on a regulated tasting session is really a QC.
At Art and Coffee, we offer 3 different grind types.
There is as pictorial descriptor of suggested grind size for chosen way of enjoying coffee.
Last two details are weight and more specifically the date the beans were roasted.
STORING COFFEE AT HOME
As long as you are buying fresh coffee and using it relatively quickly the impact on your cup of coffee should be minor. However, there are ways to store coffee at home that will keep it in the best possible condition.
Keep the coffee airtight - If the bag can be resealed, then make sure it is kept that way. If the bag can’t be completely resealed, transfer the coffee to an airtight container, such as a plastic tub with a lid or one designed specifically for storing coffee.
Keep the coffee in a dark place - Light rapidly accelerates the staling of coffee, especially sunlight. If you keep your coffee in a clear container, place it inside a cardboard box.
Don’t put it in the refrigerator - This is a common practice, but it does not extend the life of coffee, and you can get cross-contamination of aromas if you have something particularly fragrant in the refrigerator with the coffee.
Keep it dry - If you can’t keep it in an airtight container, then at least avoid placing it in a humid environment.
If you need to store some coffee for a long period of time, place it in the freezer to slow down the staling process. It is important to package it in an airtight container first. When you want to use the coffee, defrost it thoroughly first, but be sure only to defrost the amount you are planning to use straight away.
The smell of freshly ground coffee is evocative, heady and indescribable, and in some ways it is worth paying for a coffee grinder for this alone. However, grinding your own beans at home will also make an enormous difference to the quality of your cup, compared to buying pre-ground coffee.
The aim of grinding the beans before brewing is to expose enough surface area to extract enough of the flavour locked inside the beans to make a good cup of coffee. If you brewed whole beans you’d end up with a very weak brew. The finer the beans are ground, the more surface area is exposed and, in theory, the faster the coffee could be brewed because the water has more access to it. This is important when considering how finely the coffee should be ground for different brew methods. The fact that the size of the coffee grounds changes the speed at which the coffee brews also makes it very important that we try to make all the pieces the same size when grinding coffee. Finally, grinding the coffee exposes more of it to the air, which means that the coffee will go stale more quickly, so it should ideally only be ground just before brewing.
Communicating grind size is not easy. Terms such as ‘coarse’, ‘medium’ and ‘fine’ aren’t particularly helpful because they are relative. There is no common setting among grinder manufacturers either, so setting one grinder to a numerical setting of ‘5’, for example, won’t replicate the grind of another grinder set to the same setting, even if it is the same model. Here you can see some different expressions of grind size, with a little experimentation each morning you should be able to achieve a much more delicious cup of coffee very quickly.
All the potential and deliciousness locked within the coffee can be lost by bad brewing, but understanding the basic principles can lead to better results and make the process more enjoyable.
A coffee bean is composed mostly of cellulose – it is very similar to wood. Cellulose cannot be dissolved in water, so this is what makes up most of the spent grounds we throw away after brewing a cup of coffee. Everything else that makes up the coffee bean can be dissolved in water and can end up in the cup, but not everything that we can get from the coffee tastes good.
If you don’t take enough from the grounds then the cup of coffee will not only be weak, but it will often also be sour and astringent. This is called ‘underextraction’. And if we take too much from the grounds then the cup of coffee will taste bitter, harsh and ashy. This is what we call ‘overextraction’.
It is possible to calculate whether we have extracted as much as we want from the coffee.
Generally, it is agreed that a good cup of coffee contains 18–22 per cent by weight of the ground coffee used to brew it. The exact numbers are not important to most people at home but understanding how to adjust different parameters to improve the cup is useful.
Excellent coffee should have its own sweetness, and while everyone has personal preferences when it comes to milk and sugar, it is good to try a coffee first before adding anything to it.
The role of water in the brewing process is absolutely crucial in creating a great cup of coffee. If you live in a soft to moderately hard water area, use tap water but filter it first to improve the taste. If you live in a moderate to very hard water area, bottled water is the current best option for brewing coffee.
COFFEE BREWING METHODS
This guide will walk you through each method for brewing coffee, from normal to new-age, and (hopefully) get you excited to brew coffee in every way imaginable. So, get ready – we’ll help you in your pursuit of the perfect cup.
A Quick Summary
Moka Pot / Stovetop
French Press / Cafetiere
Click here to continue your jurney to the perfect cup of coffee.
5 Reasons To Skip The Supermarket Coffee
It is Not Fresh or Flavourful
Supermarket coffee is rarely fresh and almost always over-roasted.
When green coffee beans are roasted, thousands of chemical reactions take place and the very structure of the beans change and begin to break down slowly. Carbon dioxide seeps out of the coffee cells, followed by the evaporation of aromatic oils.
After two to three weeks out of the roaster, coffee beans will begin to decline very rapidly in quality. Each brew will be less satisfying than the last one, and the flavours will break down until there’s nothing left to taste but old, stale coffee. Sadly, most supermarket coffee bags are well past the two week fresh period and have a very small fraction of the flavour they once did.
To avoid the obvious decline in quality, many coffee companies roast the flavour right out of the coffee beans using a very dark roast, assuming the beans were high-quality enough to have any real flavour. This makes it seem like the flavours are still there for longer, but the reality is terribly disappointing: most of the flavours have already been roasted out, and bitterness is the primary flavour that remains.
Buying fresh out of the roaster is always the best way to go if you want crisp, full flavours from your coffee, without any bitterness.
Most of It Is Pre-Ground
To make matters even worse, most supermarket coffees are pre-ground, which only reduces the amount of time it takes to become stale.
While it takes two to three weeks for whole bean coffee to begin its rapid decline, it only takes about twenty minutes for ground coffee.
Pre-ground coffee is a convenience that sacrifices a stunning amount of flavour, but most don’t realize what they’re missing out on.
Supermarket Brands Can Be Deceptive
Many supermarket coffee brands have some tricks to selling that are less-than-honest.
Lack of origin transparency, misleading freshness labels, and empty language are among the ways you can tell that a supermarket brand is trying to artificially pump up their perceived quality without actually having a quality product.
Take coffee freshness for example. Many coffee bags have a “use by” or “best before” date printed somewhere, giving shoppers the impression that coffee has a very long shelf-life. This practice is extremely common and misleading.
Instead, look for coffee bags that announce the exact date that the coffee was roasted. This enables you to know whether coffee is fresh or not. Most quality-centric roasters will roast to order.
That is why we roast to order and despatch within 2 days of roasting.
It’s Not Specialty-Grade
Coffee beans are delicate seeds of cherries that grow on coffee shrubs.
Some coffee cherries are picked too early, and the beans don’t fully develop. Others are picked too late, grow with some sort of deformity, or simply don’t have healthy soil to begin with.
The quality of the coffee beans can be measured pre-roast with very little subjectivity by licensed Quality Graders. (Q Graders)
The best coffees in the world labelled “specialty grade” for having very few defects and rounded flavours.
The coffees you’ll find in supermarkets are likely to be “exchange” grade, meaning there were quite a few defects and the plants weren’t well cared for.
Roasters don’t usually publish the grades of the coffee beans they source, but the truth around the globe is that supermarkets buy mostly lower-grade coffee to avoid high coffee prices.
You get what you pay for!
It’s Not Worth The Sacrifice
There’s no doubt that buying coffee while you pick up your eggs and milk can be convenient, but is it really worth the sacrifice?
Are we so out of time that we’re willing to sacrifice the quality of our daily brew?
This is something we have every day.
For most of us it’s twice a day. A family of two consumes over 1 kilo of coffee a month and although supermarket coffee will cost approximately 12p per cup and premium coffee will cost between 15p and 25p do you really want it to be of low quality and unsatisfying to save 200p a day and start your day with bitterness in your mouth instead of pleasant morning experience?
The convenience factor can be eliminated when you consider the integration of online coffee services into daily life.
For example, at Art & Coffee, we will post freshly roasted coffee directly to your door once a month or whenever you need it.
It doesn’t get any more convenient than that.