Coffee Talk

by Dave on September 3, 2009

by Andy Meddick

from Coastal Sussex Weekly, September 3, 2009

Do you put much thought into your morning coffee, or just shudder at the taste and get on with your day? Here’s something to muse on while nursing your brew and waiting for the dog to wee, hoping you will not be late for work!

Arabica or Robusta: There are two types of coffee plant. Arabica (Coffea Arabica) grows at high altitudes, in semitropical climates near the equator, in the western and eastern hemispheres. Ripe Arabica cherries (unroasted beans) fall to the ground and spoil, requiring periodic monitoring and picked, increasing production costs. Robusta (Coffea Canephora) grows at low latitudes in equatorial climates, exclusively in the eastern hemisphere. Their cherries require less care since they remain on the tree after they ripen. Robusta has twice the caffeine of Arabica, but less flavor. Most generic, commercially produced coffee comes from the poorer quality Robusta plant. Good food markets and coffee shops generally use Arabica beans.

Storage: Never store coffee beans in the fridge or the freezer. The fridge or freezer causes beans to absorb moisture, spoiling the flavor. Empty into a light-safe, airtight container. Keep on your counter top, or pantry at room temperature. If you do not want to store coffee in large amounts, find a market that allows you to purchase loose beans by the pound. You only buy as much as you need and the price is typically better.

Daily Grind: Buy beans and invest in your own coffee grinder, or better still have the market grind it for you. Coffee beans are best for only minutes after grinding before the flavor starts to spoil. If you have had beans custom roasted for you, wait 2 – 4 days before grinding and consuming. This allows the oil in the beans to settle for optimum flavor.

Match the type of grind to your brewing equipment. Beans that are too finely ground for the brewing method will expose too much surface area to the heated water and produce a bitter taste. Overly coarse grinds produce weak coffee unless more is used. Slow brewing methods such as French Presses (“Cafetière”) and drip machines expose the grinds to water for longer periods, requiring a coarse grind. Short brew methods only briefly expose the grinds to water. For example, an espresso machine forces hot water through finely ground beans that have been packed into a “Puck.” Where is the flavor? It is held on the fine colloidal foam (“Crema”) of emulsified oils, which layers on top of the brew.

Low-priced home coffee grinders use a rotating blade to chop the coffee beans, creating ‘coffee dust’ clogging espresso machines and French

Presses. Blade grinders are OK for drip coffee machines. Finely ground coffee and coffee intended for French Presses require a burr-grinder, which tears the beans into a uniform size, affecting taste enormously. Your market no doubt has a burr grinder, so save money and have them grind for you. Specify the type of coffee brewing equipment you have. The market can match the size of the coffee grounds to your brewing method.

Strength: The amount of coffee you use depends on the depth of the roast, and personal preference, but generally, use 2 slightly heaped tablespoons of ground coffee per 6oz water. If your local water tastes funny, invest in a filter for your water supply. Bottled water will do in a pinch (recycle the bottle). Experiment and record your preference.

Water Temperature: recommended brewing temperature is 200°F. Too cool and solubles that make up the flavor will not be extracted. Too hot, and undesirable, bitter solubles will be extracted.

Organic, Fair Trade, Shade-grown: Generic mass-produced coffee is not as cheap as you think. There are hidden costs in communities barely surviving on rock-bottom pricing, land erosion, more and more chemicals being utilized to produce less and less coffee. Seek out markets selling Organic, Fair Trade, and Shade-grown coffee. Say what?

Organic – no chemicals. Land is farmed in a sustainable manner.

Fair Trade – growers get a fair price for their crop, and workers are paid a fair, living wage, more of the profit goes back into the farming communities. This is evident in higher wages, strengthened communities through profits being used for schools, roads, sustainable farming training, and increased availability of the crop due to more farmers remaining on the land, farming. Distribution layers are flattened, with the farmer gaining direct access to markets without multiple brokers in-between.

Shade Grown – growing coffee bushes in the shade of native trees, or by planting a forest of shade trees with many layers of tree canopy to mimic native forests. Wildlife habitats are preserved, or created, native crop and soil cover is retained, and soil fertility is built naturally without masses of chemicals to supplement soil fertility and reduce pests.

Recommendations: I prefer espresso, but espresso machines are expensive, so use the simple French Press as an elegant compromise. The flavor is good since the coffee grinds remain in direct contact with the water, and the press captures more of the coffee’s flavor and essential oils. There are cute travel mug versions of French Presses available, making it easy to get good coffee on the go. French pressed coffee is best drunk within 20 minutes, becoming bitter after that due to sedimentation.

Note: Compounds in unfiltered coffee are thought to increase cholesterol so ask a Doctor if you have concerns.

Letting coffee sit on a warming plate in a carafe is not good for flavor since the brewed coffee burns. In food service locations, it’s best to choose thermal airpots to dispense brewed coffee. Do not reheat your coffee in a microwave. You might as well pour it over the garden since coffee (and spent coffee grinds) are high in nitrogen and good for the soil.

Always use Organic, Fair Trade, Shade-grown coffee beans.

OK, now I need a beer after all this tea and coffee!

Andy for Good For You Market.

Comments on this entry are closed.

[CoastalSussex] on Twitter[Coastal Sussex] on Facebook[Our] RSS Feed[Our] Email