Coffee Information and Terminology
Coffee has been around for hundreds of years. It’s origins began in Ethiopia, where - according to legend - a goat herder named Kaldi found his goats consuming the fruit and recorded that they were dancing from the effects of the fruit. He tried it, and found it to be quite good and he himself danced from its effects!
Coffee is grown in a large bush between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, generally at altitudes between 750 and 1500 meters above seal level . It yields a cherry-like fruit which contains seeds (what we call beans) that are collected once they reach peak ripeness. They are then processed, dried, collected, exported/imported, roasted, and finally enjoyed by consumers around the world.
Lineage and Varietals
Coffee began in Ethiopia. Through trade/smuggling it was uprooted from Ethiopia to Yemen, Yemen to the island of Java, and from Java to France. From France, it spread all across the Americas and then back to Africa. Through coffees’ spread across the world, it has developed a number of different species and varietals, some through natural mutation and others’ genetic. Some changes take place genetically for purposes of changing flavor characteristics or to fight natural plant killers (look up coffee rust). Others take place naturally and yield new flavor profiles and growing characteristics. With a long history of lineage (over 70 different varietals according to Cafe Imports) we can look back and understand that location, type of varietal, point of when it’s harvested, processed, how it’s roasted, along with many more details will have a determined effect on flavor when it’s brewed.
Processing takes place in several different ways. We will focus on three of the most well known.
In this method coffee cherries are harvested, and thrown into a depulper where coffee cherries are broken, the fruit and seeds are squeezed out, and water is used to wash the seeds (beans are seeds!). After washing, they are laid out on drying beds where they are continually rotated until they reach the desired point of dryness.
In this process, coffee cherries are laid out on drying beds in the sun. The sun dries them out where the outer skin cracks open and reveals the seeds, where they dry out. From there, the seeds are collected and packaged.
With honey process, cherries are collected and the skins removed (leaving the fruit on the cherry still) before they dry in the sun.
Roasting is the process by which coffee beans are cooked evenly (for us specifically - in a circulating drum). As heat is applied, the color changes. The various applications of heat, air flow, and length of time help guide the beans to a point where the best flavor will be extracted.
Suggested brew ratio for brewing a standard cup or batch of coffee is 1 gram of coffee grounds to 16 grams of water at 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. This typically yields a balanced cup of coffee and is a great starting point when dialing in a coffee. The goal is to have a balanced cup of coffee based on sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and body. Adjusting your brew ratio slightly can help you reach your best flavor output based on that information.
Espresso is a brewing method for making a concentrated dose of coffee by using pressure to force water through a tightly packed puck of coffee grounds. Any coffee can be brewed as an espresso. Definitive espresso blends have specific purposes. Some are used specifically to accentuate flavors that will blend well with milk. Others are made because the espresso tastes interesting/exciting on its own and is designed to give a customer a unique experience.
Other names for this “filtered coffee” or “batch brew” refer to a traditional electrical brewer that coffee grounds are placed in a basket and specified amount of water is poured on top of the grounds, extracting coffee particles, as gravity pulls it through the filter into the vessel in which it’s kept warm.
Similar to an iced pour over but in a batch brewed form. Adjusting your brew ratio to 1:15-16 and adjusting your water level to 50-70% and replacing the remaining % with ice. First, filling your brew vessel with ice and then brewing on top of it causing the ice to melt while the coffee is brewing with hot water. Keeping the total water amount between hot water and ice helps maintain balance in flavor.
Batch of iced coffee concentrate that is brewed in a bucket for 24 hours using cold/room temperature water. Standard recipe would be approximately five pounds of coursely ground coffee with 14 quarts of cool water poured on top (some recipes call for 7 quarts of hot water and 7 quarts of cold water). The filter that holds the coffee would be pushed below the surface of water it sits in, ensuring a fuller extraction. After steeping for 24 hours, you’re left with a cold brew concentrate that can be diluted with 50% water or added to milk for a cold brew iced latte. A darker roasted coffee is typically used for this brew method.
Not all coffees are the same just like how not all wines are the same. Different varietals of plant, location, altitude, type of soil, moisture content, fermentation, processing, and especially roasting can influence the flavor outcome. For us to even choose which coffees to use we need to first recognize the flavors each coffee has. The only way to do this is to sample roast it and taste it.
Cupping is simply a way to sample coffee in a way that is unfiltered. Coffees can be assessed in several stages throughout the process. A stage when the coffee is dry, when hot water is added, where the “crust” is broken, and as the coffee cools (the stage where tasting begins). Fragrance can be noted in all the stages while tasting is done once the grounds are removed from the surface of the cup.
While tasting, spoons are dipped in the cup and the contents is slurped from the spoon. Immediately after, spoons are rinsed and another spoonful is collected from the next cup over.Notes are taken regarding acidity, sweetness, bitterness, body. Flavor descriptors are noted. Once the coffee is graded, the use of the coffee is determined (if not purchased yet). If already purchased and in production, determining the consistency from roast to roast is being assessed.