10 Things You May Not Know About Coffee
1. Why is some coffee lighter or darker than other coffee?
Coffee starts off as a green bean, and its lightness or darkness depends on how long it has been roasted, and what final temperature it’s roasted to. The level of roasting also affects body, acidity and flavor.
2. Are darker coffees better tasting than lighter coffees?
A common misconception about dark coffees is that it is more sophisticated/complex than lighter coffee. While you can get great-tasting dark roasts, you also roast away flavors that are only found in lighter coffee. Natural sweetness, floral/fruit flavors, and acidity give way to smokier, charcoal-type flavors the darker you roast. A good roaster figures out what roast best complements the natural qualities of the bean.
3. What does the term “Arabica” mean?
Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) is one of the two major commercially-grown coffee species. The other one is Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora). Arabica is favoured for its smoother flavour, while Robusta is generally used in lower quality blends due to its bitterness. However, Arabica grows only well at high altitude and is the less hardy of the two types. Robusta has higher caffeine content, is easier to grow, and has strong flavours that are prized in traditional Italian espresso blends.
4. How should I store my coffee?
Myth: Put your coffee in the fridge and it’ll last longer. Reality: The fridge is a bad place for your coffee. It has too much moisture, which will ruin your coffee faster. The best way to store coffee is in an airtight container, such as an Airscape, in a dark, dry place. As well, ground coffee goes stale much more quickly than whole beans, so it’s better to buy whole beans and grind them as you use them.
5. What’s with all the weird/fancy names for different coffee?
I once had a customer look at our different coffees and loudly proclaim, “What happened to good ol’ American coffee?” The answer is that it doesn’t exist (except for in Hawaii). All the coffee we drink comes from different parts of the world capable of growing coffee, and are named after their native regions. Chiapas coffee is grown in the Mexican state of Chiapas, Yirgacheffe is grown in the Yirgacheffe district of Ethiopia, and so on. You’ve probably drank many of these varieties before and never even realised!
6. What’s so good about fabled Colombian roast?
Many people come in asking for “the best Columbian roast” we have. The term “Colombian” refers to the place of origin, not a roast style. There is no such thing as a Colombian roast. I think the reason people get confused is due to commercial giants such as Folgers advertising Colombian coffee without really specifying what it means. Don’t get me wrong – some great coffee comes out of Colombia – but great coffee comes from a lot of different places, and Colombian is not objectively better or worse than any of them.
7. Why are some beans shiny/waxy?
We sometimes get asked if we wax our coffee beans to make them look pretty. The reason some coffee beans have a shiny appearance is due to the presence of natural oils within the bean. As coffee is roasted, the cell walls of the coffee break down and release the oils, which come to the surface and coat the bean. For this reason, darker coffees tend to have a more oily coating.
8. What’s the difference between beans used for espresso and regular coffee?
Short answer: There’s no real difference! Long answer: There’s no specific type of bean that is used for espresso. However, espresso is usually made up of a blend of different beans whose flavours complement each other, specifically for brewing through an espresso machine. Because it’s such a small volume of concentrated flavour, beans intended for espresso are blended in such a way that all the flavours balance each other – and a the same time highlight different flavours from all the different beans!
9. What’s the best way to brew coffee?
I get asked this a lot, and it really depends on your personal preference. For example, my boyfriend (also a roaster) loves French press for its full-bodiedness, while I find that it retains too much oil for my taste. I prefer pour-over coffee due to the extra control I have over the brew process. Also, depending how you use a brew method, you can make great or terrible coffee depending on many different factors (i.e. water quality, grind size, amount of ground coffee, etc.). I can do a post describing specific brew methods if this piques your interest.
10. Is that cat/monkey/dog poop coffee any good?
At a whopping $300 a pound, people sometimes ask if “Kopi Luwak,” a coffee that comes from the ingestion and subsequent excretion of coffee beans by the Asian palm civet, is any good. Though I haven’t tried it personally, the answer seems to be a resounding “NO.” The Specialty Coffee Association of America reviewed its quality of taste as being sub-par. As well, many animal welfare issues have been raised, as the popularity of this rare coffee has caused some unscrupulous folk to capture and force-feed wild palm civets.