Let’s take a look in to the history of the coffee bean and the process before it hits our shelves, there are thousands of coffee drinkers in the world all with different taste pallets but what give the coffee its independent taste? Who discovered coffee? Where and how is coffee made? By the end of this blog you will hopefully understand a bit more about the coffee you drink and where is comes from? How best it is brewed and so on.
What is Coffee?
We all know what a coffee bean looks like but would you even know a coffee plant if you was to see one?
The plant itself grows small white flowers and after it has first flowering it will take one year for a cherry to mature, then a further 5 years before it reaches full fruit production.
Plants can actually live up to 100 years but are most productive between the ages of 7-20.
The History of Coffee
Gone are the days of boiling water in a pan, or even using the conventional kettle, okay well some people may still use a kettle at home but its seems over the years the world has gone mad for coffee. There is a vast list of available coffees both hot and cold in various flavours. So let’s have a brief look into the history of Coffee.
No one can actually pin point when coffee was discovered exactly but as you can imagine there are many legends about its origin. It is believed the history of coffee goes back as far as the 10th century in Ethiopia, where a goat herder called Kaldi discovered coffee. He noticed that after eating berries from a particular tree his goats were so energetic they did not sleep at night.
|15th Century||The Arabian Peninsula-coffee was known in the Yemeni District|
|16th Century||The Arabian Peninsula-Persia, Egypt, Siria and Turkey.
The mid 1600s coffee was brought to new Amsterdam later called New York by the British.
|17th Century||Europe-Local Clergy condemned coffee when it came to Venice 1615. Pope Clement VII tasted the coffee and was pleasantly surprised.
1714-Mayor of Amsterdam gives young coffee plant to King Louis XIV.
By mid 17th century there were already 300 coffee houses in London
By late 17th Century the Dutch get their first seedlings.
What happened after that lead coffee to Europe in the 17th century and by the mid 17th century there was over 300 coffee houses in London.
From bean to Liquid
- Seed Planting-Like any other plant a coffee bean seed is watered and nurtured frequently but kept shaded from bright sunlight until they are full enough to be planted permanently. Coffee seeds are usually planted in the wet season when the ground is continuously moist.
- Cherry Harvest– When the coffee cherries are ready to be harvested they are a bright deep red in colour, the way they are picked and how often really depends on the country. For example most countries have one main harvest per year, however because Columbia have two flowerings annually there is a main secondary crop
- Strip Picked-The branch of the trees are stripped of the berries at the same time by hand or machine
- Selectively Picked– With Arabica beans only the ripest cherries are chosen on a rota of 8-10 days and picked by hand.
- Processing & Drying The beans-There are 2 ways of cherry processing these are wet and dry. Again this depends where in the world you are as to which method is used.
- Wet –The fresh cherries are passed through a pulping machine to separate both the skin and the pulp from the bean. A clever method is used to separate the beans by weight with water, the lighter beans that lack density and float whilst the heavier beans sink to the bottom. Once this process is complete the are then divided into size using a collection of rotating drums. They are then sent to the fermentation tanks
- Dry Method – This historical method is favoured by countries whose water sources are limited. In order to drop the moisture content of the cherries to less than 11% they wil be spread out in order to dry in the sun. The cherries are then raked and turned daily until the cherries are ready. For protection from spoiling harvesters will cover them in the event of rain and also during the night. Once the beans are dried they are stored in jute or sisal bags. They are no longer referred to as cherries but parchment coffee and waits to be processed further.
Three steps of Parchment Coffee Process
- Hulling-This process is the removal of the endocarp (parchement layer) of a wet processed cherries. With dry processed cherries hulling means to remove the entire dried husk.
- Polishing –Is where any silver looking skin remains on the beans.
- Grading & Sorting-Sorted taking into account their size and weight
- Exporting the beans-The beans are now known as green coffee, and are transmitted worldwide
Coffee Tasting With The Professionals
Before our favourite coffees hit our shelves they need to be tried and tested for their quality and taste. Now what I tell you next may give you a little giggle but the jargon used for all those that quality test the coffee is called cupping. The cuppa will give the bean a once over before roasting, before grinding the bean and infusing with water at a controlled temperature.
Aroma is very important in testing the quality of the coffee bean processing for the cuppa and this is what he smells for first. It seems like quite an intense process as he then sets the coffee down and lets it sit for several moments letting a crust form before, he again picks up the coffee. At this point he breaks the seal and smells the aroma again.
The cuppa quite literally slurps the cover because this gives an even coverage of the taste buds, before being spat back out.
- Next to Roast the Coffee- The green beans are then ready for roasting once they have passed the quality taste test. The beans are continuously moved through the roasting machine so they do not burn once they have reached a temperature of around 200 degrees Celsius the beans change from green to brown. It is also at this point special oil is released called caffeol, this process is called pyrolysis and is what gives us the aroma and smell of the coffee. Once the previous process is complete the beans are cooled with either water or air.
- Coffee Grinding –Depending on the density of the powder determines how quickly a coffee should be prepared for example you will see that coffee prepared in a drip system coffee maker is a lot thicker than that of coffee granules that are used in an espresso machine are a lot finer which means the coffee should be prepared within a quicker time.
The answer to this really does depend on the drinkers acquired taste, here are a few tips given by the National Coffee Association;
Coffee Making Equipment
Keep it clean at all times be sure not to leave any granules of coffee in any crevices after making your coffee as this could spoil your next brew
The Beans – As we have seen from the sorting process of cherries, the taste of your coffee is dependent on not only the brewing process but also the coffee you chose and from which region, The variety of beans whether it be Arabica, Robusta or a blend, how the beans are roasted and of course the texture of the coffee grind.
Freshness – It is not advisable to ever re-use coffee grinds. The fresher the coffee is from roasting the better the taste.
The Grind – Burr or Mill grinders are a very good way to maintain consistency with the grinds, where as blade grinders do not. You can tell the extraction of the bean by the taste of your coffee, a flat coffee means it is under extracted and the grind is to course, if it taster bitter then the grinds is to fine and means it has been over extracted.
Water – It is advised to used filtered bottled water this is purely because tap water can contain chlorine which can have a strong taste. Always let the tap run for a few moments before using normal tap water.
Water Ratio – Dependent on the coffee drinker, however the Golden Ratio is one to two tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water.
Water Temperature – 23.3 degree Celsius. If the water is too hot this will result in losing quality of the taste in the coffee, colder water however results in flat under-extracted coffee. Its best to let the hot water settle before using after bringing to the boil.
Brewing Time – This varies based on which brewing system you may use. For example, in a French Press the contact time with coffee should be only 2-4 minutes, where as in a drip system the contact should be approximately 5 minutes. However with the much loved espresso the brewing time is a matter of 20-30 seconds, but a cold brew lasts 12 hours and is usually done overnight.
Sit back and Relax with your Coffee – Don’t leave your coffee sitting too long after the brew as it begins to lose taste quality.