9 July 2010
I've been in the coffee business for a very long time now. I started as a barista slinging drinks on Purdue's college campus and haven't looked back. I have trained our employees on coffee too many times to count and it's definitely my favorite subject. Here are the Top 10 facts that I encourage all JL Hufford employees to know:
- There are two main cultivated species of coffee: Robusta and Arabica. Robusta beans are small, bitter beans that have less flavor than Arabica coffee beans but twice the caffeine. They are used in many commercial coffee blends because they abundantly grow in less favorable environments than Arabica coffees. JL Hufford sells only the top 3% of Arabica coffee.
- Beans from different countries or regions usually have distinctive characteristics such as flavor, aroma, body, and acidity. Single-origin and varietals are generally known by the region in which they are grown, such as Colombian Supremo, Mocha Java Harrar, and Hawaiian Kona. A coffee blend such as House Blend, San Francisco Blend, Peaks of the Andes, Louisiana Blend, etc. is made of two or more varietal coffees. Coffee is blended to produce different coffee characteristics for a more balanced cup.
- The life cycle of coffee starts with a small coffee tree that takes 3+ years of highly maintained care before its first harvest. The coffee tree blooms white flowers that yield coffee cherries which start green but turn a bright red. The coffee cherries are usually hand-picked when ripe. Inside the coffee cherry is a green coffee bean (2 distinct halves) or a green peaberry (1 bean). After an extensive process to extract the green coffee bean or peaberry, it is dried and then a special machine removes the parchment from around the green coffee bean or peaberry. At this point, the green coffee beans or peaberries are graded using number or letter scales where #1 or AA are the finest beans (such as Kenya AA). The green coffee beans or peaberries are then roasted.
- The roasting process changes the coffee bean both physically and chemically, thereby influencing its taste characteristics. Coffee roasting begins when the internal temperature reaches 200°C. The bean decreases in weight as moisture is lost, causing it to become less dense. This explains why French Roast coffee fills a one pound bag more than House Blend coffee. Darker roasts are generally smoother because they have less fiber content and a more sugary flavor. Lighter roasts have more caffeine, resulting in a slight bitterness and a stronger flavor.
- Coffee does not grow decaffeinated. There are several processes that decaffeinate unroasted, green coffee beans. The international standard is that decaffeinated coffee be 97% caffeine-free. Drinking five to ten cups of decaffeinated coffee approximately equals as much caffeine as one or two cups of regular coffee.
- Regular or Flavored coffee has no nutritional value – no calories, no carbs, no fat – no matter how decadent the coffee sounds. It is flavored during roasting with flavoring oils. Flavoring oils are combinations of natural and synthetic flavor chemicals. Natural oils used in flavored coffees are extracted from a variety of sources, such as vanilla beans, cocoa beans, and various nuts and berries. Cinnamon, clove, and chicory are also used in a variety of coffee flavors. Coffee does contain antioxidants and is the #1 source of antioxidants in US diets.
- Air, moisture, heat, and light are the most notable factors responsible for coffee beans to go stale. For these reasons, coffee should be stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dry, dark place such as a kitchen cupboard or pantry. The refrigerator is not recommended because the coffee beans will absorb any odors present much like baking soda. The freezer is not recommended because the coffee beans must be thawed (approx. 3 hours) before grinding.
- Coffee beans rapidly go stale after grinding. Within minutes of grinding, the coffee loses 90% of its flavor if not brewed. Coffee shops always smell so good because they are continually grinding coffee, which shows how much flavor escapes from the bean during grinding.
- Espresso yourself. Espresso is pressure-brewed coffee in 1 oz. per shot that is more concentrated (10-15 times) than regular brewed coffee. Medium to dark roasted beans that are specifically blended are necessary to produce good espresso. Good quality Robusta beans are in fact generally used in espresso blends because they have better body and produce excellent crema. A well-prepared espresso has a tall crema on top and is considered the essence of the espresso. After brewing a shot of espresso, it has a short lifof . You can watch the shot “die” as the crema disappears.
- Hawaiian Kona coffee is expensive for several reasons:
a. It is grown in one specific region of Hawaii – in Kona on the Big Island.
b. Because the Kona growing region is on the side of a volcano, the coffee trees receive natural shade (vs. full sun cultivation by other coffees). This causes the coffee beans to take longer to ripen and the tree’s yield is considerably less, but the coffee is far superior and less bitter than most coffee beans.
c. JL Hufford sells 100% Extra Fancy Hawaiian Kona which is the top grade of Kona coffee available. Lower grade Kona coffees use smaller, inferior Kona beans and are typically even blended with other coffees. A bag of “Kona Blend” coffee may actually contain less than 10% of true Kona beans!