A lot of people enjoy drinking coffee, but how many people can concisely answer the question, what is coffee? Of course, you might say, “Oh yeah, coffee is a drink made from the coffee berry which houses the bean, what else do I need to know?” Well, there’s a lot you need to know.
Knowledge is the best friend of the good communicator, so why don’t you stick around for a while to find out more about what coffee is. You never can tell what you’ll learn.
While some dictionaries chose to give just three meanings about coffee, there are others which have up to five or six. Merriam Webster dictionary first calls it a beverage and then other things; Cambridge Dictionary calls it a hot drink made from a dark brown powder with a strong flavor and smell. Oxford dictionary calls it a hot drink made from the roasted and ground seeds (beans). Wikipedia calls it a brewed drink. What do you call it?
We can all agree that coffee is a drink, but beyond that, some of these dictionaries such as the Merriam Webster and some others define coffee as a berry, a bean, and then a plant. So which means coffee isn’t just a drink, it’s also the berry, the bean and the coffee plant.
This is also called coffee fruit or cherry. It is derived from the plant. While some might very well know about coffee bean, many might not know about the coffee fruit because it is discarded during coffee production.
Coffee fruit is a kind of stone fruit that is produced by the plant. The fruit is usually small and green, turning to deep reddish or purple shade as it gets ripened. The coffee bean is encapsulated in the fruit and technically classified as the seed. Although it was once neglected during coffee production, it‘s now used in supplements and drinks.
The coffee bean is housed in the fruit, which is found on the coffee plant. The bean is termed that way because of its resemblance to a real bean. Usually, the beans are grinded, roasted and brewed to get the drink.
This is where it all begins. The coffee plant is the starting point of what is coffee. It is a plant with a main stem that can grow up to 10 meters tall in the wild. Its leaves are evergreen.
There are two most economically important varieties of plant, they are the Arabica and the Robusta. It is essential to note that 60% of the coffee produced in the world is Arabica, while 40% is Robusta. Arabica beans are made up of 0.8–1.4% caffeine and Robusta beans has 1.7–4.0 % of caffeine content.
- The Arabica: Coffea Arabica is the earliest species of coffee tree cultivated and is currently the most widely grown. It is dramatically the best in cup quality when compared to other principal commercial species
- The Robusta: Majority of the Robusta in the world are grown in Western and Central Africa, parts of Southeast Asia, including countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, and in Brazil. Production of Robusta is constantly increasing, though it accounts for only about 30% of the world market.
Robusta is normally used in blends and for immediate coffees. The Robusta bean itself tends to be a little rounder and smaller than the Arabica bean.
As you can see, coffee is more than just a drink. It’s also the bean, the berry and the plant. Of course, there are other meanings of coffee, but they do not fit in this context.
BLENDS VS. SINGLES
Both commercial and specialty companies often
describe their coffee as either a “blend” or a
“single origin.” This description helps to explain
the coffee’s provenance—a blend is a mix of
different beans that creates a particular
flavor profile, while a single-origin coffee is
sourced from a single country or a single farm.
There are reasons why blends are popular, as
they can create stable flavor profiles that remain
consistent year-round. In the commercial sector,
the ingredients and proportions in blends are
closely guarded secrets, and the labels offer no
indication of what the beans are or where they
come from. Specialty roasters, however, clearly
label and celebrate each component of a blend
a safer bet—but there is a lot of poor Arabica
out there, too. So what should discerning
consumers expect to see on the labels?
The best-quality coffee beans are usually
described with a high level of detail, such
as by region, variety, processing method, and
flavor (see p33). Consumers grow in their
understanding of good-quality coffee, and, as a
result, roasters realize that the key to ensuring
customer satisfaction is honesty and traceability.
on the packaging—explaining the individual
attributes of each bean and how the flavors
complement and balance each other (see
Sample Blend, opposite).
The term “single origin” is typically used to
describe a coffee from a single country. However,
identifying solely by country of origin
is too broad—as it could still mean a blend of
regions and farms within that country, and a
mix of varieties and processes. It could also be
of any level of quality—100 percent Brazilian,
or any other country, does not mean that
it will be 100 percent great. Equally, it gives
you little indication of flavor as coffees from
one region can taste very different to another
THE RIGHT GRINDER
There is a difference between grinders for
espresso and grinders for filter-style brews,
so make sure you buy one designed for your
preferred method, as shown opposite and on
pages 38–39. However, there are some key
choices that affect both types of grinders.
Grinders with blades are most commonly
available, and usually run for as long as you
hold down the “on” button. Even if you are
using a timer to measure how long to grind
for and how fine to go, you will find it hard to
replicate accurately the size of ground particles
from one cup to another, especially
if you vary the amount each time.
Blade grinders also lead to a lot of grit at the
bottom of your cup, particularly if you brew
with a French press. An advantage is that
they are generally quite affordable. If you
would like to step it up a notch, invest a little
more money in a grinder with “burrs,” conical or
flat (see below), that will crush the beans into
particles of a more uniform size and allow for
more even extractions. Some grinders have
“stepped” adjustments that lock into set grind
sizes; others are “stepless” and allow you to
adjust in tiny increments. Burr grinders do not
have to be expensive, especially if they are the
manual, hand-cranked variety. However, if you
want to spend a bit more or plan to grind large
quantities each day, choose an electric
one. They often have a timer function that you
can use as a way of dosing how much you
grind. Keep in mind that the coarser a grinder is
set, the less time it takes to grind through a 1oz
(30g) dose of beans, and the finer it is set, the
longer it takes to grind the same amount.
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