Americans are in a torrid and eternal love affair-with coffee. For well over a hundred years we have savored the rich taste and aroma of coffee varieties from all over the world. Gourmet coffee sells for $5 a cup in bistros all across America. Now you can make Gourmet coffee at home just by following a few simple steps.
The best coffee comes from beans grown at altitudes over 3000 feet because the air at high altitude produce more complex flavor in the coffee fruit or cherries which contain the beans. The picking process as well as the drying process also have an effect on the flavor.
Most coffee sold in the U.S. comes from South America, mainly in Brazil and Columbia and some comes from Africa while one of the best coffees in the world, Kona coffee comes from Hawaii.
There are only two kinds of coffee beans: arabica and robusta. The different varieties of coffee come from how the beans are roasted and blended.
Different roasting mixtures:
• American (regular) roast: beans are medium-roasted, resulting in a moderate brew, not too light or too heavy in flavor.
• French roast and dark French roast: heavily-roasted beans, a deep chocolate brown which produce a stronger coffee.
• Italian roast: glossy, brown-black, strongly flavored, used for espresso.
• European roast: two-thirds heavy-roast beans blended with one-third regular-roast.
• Viennese roast: one-third heavy-roast beans blended with two-thirds regular-roast.
• Instant coffee: a powder made of heat-dried freshly brewed coffee.
• Freeze-dried coffee: brewed coffee that has been frozen into a slush before the water is evaporated, normally more expensive that instants but with a superior flavor.
• Decaffeinated coffee: caffeine is removed from the beans before roasting via the use of a chemical solvent (which disappears completely when the beans are roasted) or the Swiss water process which steams the beans and then scrapes off the caffeine-laden outer layers.
A little history of coffee
The most common coffee, coffee arabica was first grown in Ethiopia and later was carried to the rich coffee growing areas in Brazil, Columbia and Africa. The name for coffee may have derived from the Ethiopian port of Kaffa.
James Sanborn and Caleb Chase produced the first commercially available ground coffee in sealed cans in 1878.
Standard American coffee blends came to us from the Maxwell House hotel in Nashville, TN, where it became extremely popular in the 1880’s. The Maxwell House slogan “good to the last drop” came from President Theodore Roosevelt’s declaration in 1907.
Robusta (Coffea canephora) is the bean that’s found in the majority of grocery store coffee blends. It’s generally grown at low altitudes on massive coffee plantations, mainly in Vietnam, Brazil, and Indonesia. As it’s grown in such large quantities, and the plant matures to harvesting age more quickly than arabica, robusta beans are much cheaper. They’ve got twice the caffeine of arabica, but produce a less flavorful brew.
Arabica (Coffea Arabica) tends be shade grown on mountainsides, and hand-harvested by families of farmers. These beans have been cultivated in Ethiopia for over a thousand years, and now thrive in Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Kenya, and other nations around the globe. Coffee connoisseurs often favor the less bitter flavor of these beans.
The “beans” of both arabica and robusta are actually the seeds of the coffee fruit, or “cherry”. Once they’re harvested from the bush, the cherries are either air processed in the sun, or pulped with a water technique to separate the green beans from the outer fruit. Once they’re dried, they’re ready to be shipped and roasted.
For the very best flavor coffee should be store in an air tight container and ground as you use it. The whole roasted beans can be stored in a cool dry place for up to two weeks. For longer storage keep them in the freezer.
Ways to Make coffee
There are several methods for brewing coffee. Some people use drip coffee makers, others use a percolator or a french press. Whichever method you prefer just make sure the coffee is fresh ground and you will have a delicious coffee experience. To make sure each cup is the very best coffee possible a coffee maker with a built in grinder is a good idea.
To get the best cup of coffee The National Coffee Association recommends:
- Always buy coffee that is freshly roasted. The fresher the beans are the better your coffee will taste.
- Always wash the brewing equipment thoroughly with clear hot water between uses.
- Use a burr or mill grinder instead of a blade grinder. This will give an even grind that brews more easily and has a better flavor.
- Use distilled water if your tap water if heavily chlorinated or has a lot of minerals in it. The quality of the water will determine the quality of the brew in many cases.
- Use the proper amount of ground coffee-a ratio of 1-2 Tablespoons of ground coffee to each 6 ounces of water works best.