Coffee Article

What It Is

Brewing and Tasting

What Might Be Right for You


All about Coffee

I think one of the great pleasures in life is enjoying the aroma and taste of a freshly brewed cup of "Joe" or Java.

Living and working in Washington State doesn't automatically make me knowledgeable about this beverage, but owning a restaurant and serving it in this state almost requires it.



                                      Seattle -

                          Where Coffee Reigns


Those are “biggies” but there are hundreds of small independently owned and operated roasters in the area.

Vista Clara is one example of an independently owned and operated company located in the same small town as the restaurant. The restaurant serves this coffee to the guests. They love it.

The company is owned by Dave Stewart, a co-founder of “Seattle's Best.”

Dave started the Vista Clara Coffee business  -- wholesale and retail coffee roasting -- in 1997, where he continues to funnel his 40+ years of sourcing, roasting, and blending experience into creating the most valuable product available on the market.

The greater Seattle area is known as the Coffee Capital of the World. I don't really know if it is, but everyone I know buys espressos, lattes, cappuccinos ...you name it, every day of the week.

Some people buy their favorite drink two or three times a day. This beverage has almost become a social requirement.

People enjoy the taste and aroma of the beverage and many people seem to need their caffeine to help them make it through the day.

Only bottled water and cell phones are seen as often in someone's hand.

About Coffee

There aren't many products we buy that go through such a complex process as this one.

The beans are really the seed of a small red fruit found on a tree that grows in only certain parts of the world. Because the fruit containing the seed ripens at different times over a six-nine month period, the seeds are primarily picked by hand. This makes the process very time-consuming and labor intensive.

Once the fruit is picked, it is then shipped for processing (separating the seeds from its fruit). The seeds are dried and are then known as "beans."

Once dried, sorted and graded, the beans are bagged and sold to an exporter. The beans can then be shipped world-wide.

Roasting has a critical affect upon the beverage. The roaster can blend beans from different regions and crops. Once roasted, a retailer has the finished product. The retailer tries to make sure the product is sold fresh.

Brewing

How we choose to brew is often a choice between quality and convenience. Some people demand the absolute best quality, whereas others will sacrifice a degree of quality for convenience.

So what we buy and how we brew is as important as processing the beans and roasting them.

The most popular brewing methods are French Press, drip, and pod machines  (pre-ground, pre-measured beans in a bag).



French Press or Press Pot

For the best flavor, some experts say to use a French Press or Press Pot for brewing.


Since there are no paper filters involved, this method allows 100% of the flavor to come through. Medium to coarsely ground beans should be used.

The water we use should be between 195º and 205º F.


A little hot water is poured over the grounds first to allow the grounds to bubble up as gas is released. The wet grounds will then infuse more evenly when the rest of the water is added. Keep the grounds wet. Stir, wait a minute, stir again, and push the plunger down.

French Presses come in a variety of sizes ranging from 3 cups to 12 cups. Brewing with a "press" not only provides great flavor, you don't use filters so it is a little more economical. Once your water is hot, it takes about 4 minutes to complete the brewing process.

This may be the best way to brew. But for convenience sake, most people use ...


The Drip Method

The drip method of brewing can make very good coffee especially if you use gold or nylon permanent filters. Permanent filters allow the flavor to pass through without adding unwanted flavors. Most paper filters introduce a bit of papery taste.

If you do use paper filters, rinse them with warm water before brewing.

Use a medium to fine grind for electric or pour-over drip makers. Certain companies will grind to order. Just make certain you order small amounts at one time.

And if you use a manual drip maker, be sure to use water at the right temperature. Water temperature for brewing should be between 195° and 205° F. Bring the water almost to its boiling point and then let the kettle "rest" for about 30 seconds.

Good coffee begins with good water. Start with fresh cold water. Never use water from the hot tap or water that has already boiled. Bottled or filtered water is best when old plumbing can give an unpleasant flavor or in areas with heavily chlorinated or hard water.

Please drink your beverage while it's fresh! You can keep it warm on a burner or hot plate for only about 20 minutes before its flavor starts to become bitter. Reheating it is even worse.

Buy frequently, as you need it. It is perishable with a limited shelf life, and is at its best soon after roasting. Store your beans in an airtight container or tightly sealed bag. Refrigeration may slow this process, but won't stop it.

One positive improvement for drip brewing has been the introduction of the "Thermal Carafe Machines" or "Airpot Brewing Machines." These help preserve your beverage if you make more than you can use within 20 minutes or so.

The Pod System

A "pod" is coffee (or tea) that is pre-package inside its own filter. The benefit of the pod is that each one is perfectly measured out and they require no cleanup effort.

The disadvantage of the pod is the beans are only as fresh as when they were ground and placed into the pod. In other words, quality may be sacrificed for convenience. Remember, we should grind our beans as close to brewing as possible.

Those companies that make pod machines promote this system with the same words: fast and convenient (no measuring, no mess, no wait).

For those who want to have a good cup of coffee but don’t want to deal with the grinding and precise steps required when operating a non-fully-automatic coffee or espresso machine, a pod machine is an option. Click on the link for more information.

Espresso Machines

The grind is very important for good coffee, but it's even more critical for espresso. If you use too coarse a grind the espresso will be thin and weak. If you use too fine a grind it will be over-extracted and bitter. Use a special espresso grinder or burr grinder if you have (or want) an espresso machine.

An espresso should take 15 to 20 seconds to brew in most machines with good pumps. As the espresso flows into the cup, there should be darkish-brown foam ("crema") on top. After the good-tasting soluble solids are extracted, the liquid flowing from the filter will become whitish-brown. Stop immediately - this stuff is terrible!

A fully extracted, properly prepared espresso is 1 to 1-1/2 fluid ounces which is about the size of a shot glass or about half a small demitasse cup. Forcing more water through the grounds will give it a bitter taste.

Properly made espresso is strong, but not bitter. If you prefer it weaker, add hot water or hot milk.

People who order or purchase an espresso grind should be aware that it is extremely difficult to make proper espresso with pre-ground beans. This is because once the gasses and oils are released from the beans, the grounds will not pack together to slow the flow of water through the grounds quite as well.

Tasting

Like wine and beer, there are so many varieties of coffee that tasting them all can be overwhelming, but there are some basic criteria to keep in mind.


  • Taste for acidity. When you drink, it should produce a dry sensation in your mouth. Without acidity, the beverage will tend to taste flat.
  • Next, and perhaps the most obvious, is the aroma.
  • Third, taste the body of coffee, which is the heavy or rich feeling you have in your mouth.
  • Finally, taste for desirable flavors of coffee: fragrant, mellow, spicy, sweet, and winy. Flavors that are undesirable include: bitter, dead, flat, harsh, musty, and watery.

 

Each of the major growing regions in the world has some unique general characteristics that can be helpful when tasting.

  • Latin American ones are known for their slightly sweet acidity. In some of these the acidity sparkles clearly above the other flavors.
  • Africa & Arabia produce product that often have sweet flavors reminiscent of the aroma of a bowl of fresh fruit. This quality is balanced by a somewhat tart acidity. This region exhibits a wide range of flavors, from mellow and winy to zesty and citrus.
  • Pacific products are generally rich and full-bodied, with nutty and earthy flavors.

Read About Iced Coffee!

Drinking Coffee

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Donna

“I never drink coffee at lunch. I find it keeps me awake for the afternoon.”

Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President. (1911-2004)

Did you know? In the Ethiopian highlands, where the legend of Kaldi, the goatherder, originated, coffee trees grow today as they have for centuries.

Though we will never know with certainty, there probably is some truth to the Kaldi Legend.


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