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Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries, and is second only to oil in dollar value as a world trade commodity. Worldwide, the coffee industry provides more than 20 million jobs. Approximately 25 million acres of land are devoted to cultivating coffee. Ideal growing conditions include tropical/subtropical temperatures (68-75F), abundant sunlight, rich soil and 60 to 80 inches of annual rainfall.
Coffee beans are the seeds of a cherry-like fruit, covered by different layers of skin.
From a commercial point of view there are basically two types of commonly used coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta and a third less important species, Liberica.
Arabica is a special variety, because it has four chromosome sets, while Robusta and Liberica have two. The taste of Arabica can be different, according to the location in which is grown, more than 65 percent of the world coffee cultures is Arabica, but many are not top quality.
Robusta was called canephora in the past and its tastes are not as good as Arabica. Premium quality products from this variety are used more for espresso blends. It has a much higher caffine content than Arabica. It can be sometimes comparable to Arabica but such beans are hard to find.
Coffee beans are green before roasting, through roasting the seeds expand, change their taste, aspect and smell. There are various levels of roasting from light to dark, lighter roasts are more acidic and sharper.
Do not refrigerate or freeze your daily supply of coffee, any moisture contact will cause it to deteriorate. Use an airtight glass or ceramic container kept in a cool, dark location.
Purchase only a 1 or 2 week supply, it is advisable to store it in several smaller containers so as to expose it to as little air as possible.
Portions can be stored up to a month in the freezer, they should be in airtight bags, once removed do not return them to the freezer, store in a cool dry place.
Clean your equipment after every use, make sure there is no build up of coffee oil as it will impart a bitter flavor to the brew.
Grind you beans as close to brew time as possible. A burr type grinder is preferable to a blade grinder as it will yeild a more consistent size, a blade grinder will grind some more finely than the rest.
If your coffee tastes too bitter it may be ground too fine, if it tastes flat it may be too coarse, ask your supplier what they recommend for the type of coffee maker you are using.
Do not use water that imparts a strong odor or taste such as chlorine, use filtered or bottled water instead.
A general guideline is 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to every 6 ounces of water, this can be adjusted to individual taste.
Your brewer should supply water at 195 - 205 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal taste, colder water will result in a flat taste, too hot will also cause a loss of flavor.
The water should only be in contact with the coffee for about 5 minutes in a drip coffee system.
Serve the coffee immediately after it is brewed, it should never sit more than 15 minutes on the hot plate, transfer it to a thermos and use within the next 45 minutes.
Decaffeination is the removal of caffeine from the coffee beans, typically a small amount of the caffeinated is retained. Drinking 14 -20 cups of Decaf would be the equivilent of one cup of regular coffee at most coffee bars due to the fact there is often caffine residue in the machines making the coffee. Making it at home with a good brand in a clean machine may result in 1-2% caffeine intake.
All About Coffee - Free eBook from Project Gutenberg (1922), dated but interesting information on the history of coffee.