If you’re a coffee lover, passionate to learn about the insights of coffee or just generally curious about coffee, then you’ve come to the right place! Here at CoffeeStandards, we give you exclusive information about everything there is that you need to know about coffee. From the basics to the complexity of coffee, we got you covered right here.

Coffee can be healthy if you consume the right amount which can help to improve your lifestyle. Firstly, coffee can actually help to increase happiness. The science behind that is the increase in dopamine levels in your bloodstream, hence a sufficient amount of this hormone does really increase your happiness level.

Besides that, caffeine in coffee beverages has antioxidants which are good for our body as it helps to prevent cell damage. Moreover, coffee drinkers who drink responsibly have the needed protection in their liver, reducing most liver related health diseases. Another reason why people choose to drink coffee is because it helps to boost their memory. However, it is always best to have a balance and moderation even when it comes to drinking coffee!

History of Coffee Production

Ethiopia

The coffee revolution has pretty much traced back to Ethiopia, in the ancient forests of coffee. The first man, Kaldi who was a goat herder discovered this hidden gem. Legend says that his goats became very energetic after eating some berries from certain type of trees. After reporting this new found mystery to the local monastery, the abbot decided to make a drink from those berries. From this, he found out that it kept him awake for long hours.

This new discovery was then spread among other monks who were curious to learn about these new energizing berries.

Arabica

The news traveled fast and reached the peninsula of Arabica and coffee cultivation had already begun by the 15th century. From Yemen and all the way to Persia, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, coffee trading had become well known among the public.

Moreover, there were many coffee houses called qahveh khaneh built in the 16th century where the patrons drink coffee over conversations, listened to music, played chess and watched performers. It quickly became the center of attraction which was also given another name, “Schools of the Wise” as people exchanged a lot of useful information there.

Besides that, coffee was very well known in the Muslim community as it helped to boost their energy during long prayer sessions. By only roasting and boiling the fresh coffee beans, Arab markets were able to be filled by this strong aroma that caught everyone’s attention.

Europe

In the 17th century, coffee was the non-stop talk among the European travellers and locals which made this strange black beverage popular across the continent. This new found discovery had been called many names like “bitter invention of Satan” as some locals were fearful of the weird taste.

Once coffee had reached Venice in 1615, there was a major controversy and locals criticized the creation of coffee. Pope Clement VIII became the deciding factor in all this chaos, he tasted the drink himself and was amazed by the delightful flavor of coffee which he approved of.

Just like in Arabica, coffee houses became more common for social activities and an ideal place for communicating especially in big cities of Germany, Holland, England, Austria and France.

However, it is believed that there was no existent of coffee plants outside of Arabia or Africa until the 1600s. An Indian pilgrim by the name of Baba Budan who left Mecca had a fertile bean with him which finally resulted in a competitive new European coffee trade.

Coffee was the new day to day breakfast beverage served instead of wine and beer. With this new change, people started to see a change in their performance at work as they were more energized and alert throughout the day.

Over 300 coffee houses were establish in London which attracted various people from different backgrounds such as artists, shippers, brokers and merchants. That’s not all, specialized coffee houses like the Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House were in trend by the mid- 17th century.

Along those years, the first ever European owned coffee estate was in Sri Lanka by the Dutch. They then later opened a few more in Ceylon and Java in 1696. We could also see the growth of coffee estates by various European continents in the Caribbean, Central America and in Brazil. All now which till to date are famous for coffee productions.

When travellers, missionaries and traders carried coffee seeds to new lands, coffee trees were planted worldwide and huge plantations were established in tropical forests and mountain highlands.

New World

Over the years in the 17th century, coffee was introduced in New York (formerly known as New Amsterdam) by the Brits. However, it only became famous when the Boston Tea Party revolted in 1773 as tea was much preferred by the nation. This helped to change the Americans perception about drinking coffee. In addition to that, coffee consumption quickly boomed during the Civil War and other dispute that came along with it.

As revolution took place in the late 1800s, John and Charles Arbuckle were one of the first few to start their own coffee operation. After purchasing the Jabez Burns’ newly invented self-emptying coffee bean roaster, the Arbuckle brothers sold hundreds of their pre-roasted coffee in paper bags.

“Ariosa” was the name of their brand and it became a big hit when the Arbuckle brothers sold their pre-roasted coffee to the cowboys of the American West. Then other big coffee producers in America like James Folger, Maxwell House and Hills Brothers came along.  

When coffee started to become a worldwide commodity, specialty coffee beverages were starting to grow which led to the first Starbucks outlet at Seattle in 1971. Since then coffee movements have continued to grow in becoming a valuable trade for its complexity of unique flavors.

Anatomy of a Coffee Bean

In biological terms, coffee is known as coffea (genus) is harvested and cultivated. Underneath the many layers of a red cherry, is the heart of the coffee bean. The general structure of each bean is similar, however if you were to compare 2 different coffee species then you’ll start to see the physical differences on the beans.

Only about 5% of the coffee population has only one bean inside each cherry, a natural mutation which is called pea berry.

Coffea canephora which is commonly known as Robusta are self-incompatible plant species that requires out-crossing (a form of plant breeding). Meanwhile, Coffea Arabica is predominantly self-pollinating plants that have seedlings of similar characteristics from their parents.

All coffee cherries have an outer skin called the exocarp followed by the mesocarp then a thin layer of pulp and a slimy layer called the parenchyma. All of these parts of the beans are all covered up like an envelope, commonly known as the parchment.

There is also a sliver skin that lies between the parchment and the bean itself. Its biological name is called the spermoderm. This layer of skin is normally removed during polishing of coffee beans.

Behind the Scenes of Coffee Making

Harvesting

Harvesting coffee beans requires patience and delicate methods for a long period of time. Picking, stripping, and mechanical harvesting are the crucial methods in order to fully maximize harvesting session. The average lifespan for a coffee tree is about 25 years that can yield over 2000 beans each year.

Each coffee tree start of as seeds, after 4 to 9 weeks of developing into seedlings they need to be handled with care to ensure the soil is consistently moist and absorbs sufficient amount of sunlight. The following 5 to 10 months, the coffee trees have supposedly grown about 12 inches tall prior to their initial height.

Coffee trees take about 3 years before bearing fruits which are known as cherries, where the seeds inside them are the actual coffee beans. Following up the next 6 years, the trees are said to be fully mature that will produce fruits. Only then are the coffee trees ready for harvesting.

Coffee Stripping

Coffee beans can either be strip picked or selectively picked. Over the many years of coffee harvesting, it has all been done manually by the local plantation workers who use their bare hands to pick the cherries from the trees directly. An efficient coffee picker could strip up to 40 to 60 pounds of coffee beans each day. The usual routine for pickers is to rotate among the trees every 8 to 10 days to pick ripe cherries. Manual harvesting requires intensive labor work and is more costly, but it is still mainly used in harvesting finer Arabica beans.

However with modern technology yet once again advancing, there are now harvesting machines that will strip ripe cherries from the trees with both the unripe and overripe beans.

The next part is sorting the cherries according to its ripeness. Only fully ripe cherries can be harvested and if coffee companies decide to invest in harvesting machines, labor work will still be needed to pick out the ripe cherries.

There are various methods when it comes to sorting all depending on what the company’s wants to sell to their customers. For an example, “Aged coffee” is beans that are still green which are kept in a ventilated warehouse for roughly 3 to 7 years. This method makes the final product less acidic in taste and full of richness.

Processing

The processing part is very important to prevent the fruit from spoiling, hence it must start as soon as possible. The 2 main ways of processing the cherries into coffee beans are the dry method and the wet method.

So for the dry processing method which is an ancient method, still used by many countries till to date involves spreading out the cherries on a huge surface and drying it under the sun.

Once, the cherries are crinkled up and dried, it’s time to remove the pulp, parchment and the skin. The hulling process which is the removal of the exocarp, mesocarp and endocarp (entire dried husk) of dried cherries is only done during the dry processing method.

It could take up to 2 weeks or more just for a single batch of coffee beans plus the freshly processed beans must be raked continuously throughout the day to avoid fungus growth. At night they are covered to avoid getting wet in the rain. The main goal of processing is to reduce the cherry moisture content all the way to 11% for great tasting coffee.

While for the wet processing method is reverse from the dry method. First, the cherries go through the pulping machine which only allows the seeds and some pulp to go through the holes. The rest of the remaining is removed, only leaving the beans with the parchment left on to dry.

Then, the cherries are put into in water and any one that floats is removed as faulty product. The water channels separate the beans by their weight. The heavier beans sink to bottom which means they are nicely ripe. After that, the beans go through several rotating stops that separate them by their sizes accordingly.

After separating the beans by its weight, they are transported huge fermentation tanks that are filled with water. Several factors like the climate, altitude and condition of the beans will determine how long the beans remain in the tanks. Usually it’s only up to 12 till 48 hours as the removal of mucilage (parenchyma) layers from the parchment takes place.

Once fermentation is completed, the beans are rough and are rinsed thoroughly through few water channels. Only then the beans are ready for drying. Dried beans are known as parchment coffee which is kept in warehouse in either sisal bags or jute until the green light is given for exporting them.

Polishing

Polishing of coffee beans is optional which is used to remove any sliver skin left on it. Some consider polishing essential to processing coffee as it makes it more ‘superior’ but actually there is only little difference with polished and unpolished beans.

Sorting and Packaging

The last few steps before exporting the beans are cleaning, sorting and grading the beans. The coffee beans are sorted again by their weight and sizes by passing through few series of screens and then cross checked again for any imperfections like discoloration. Any form of imperfections on the appearance of coffee beans will be removed.

Sorting usually takes place using an air jet that will distinguish heavy and light beans. The bean sizes are presented on a scale of 10 to 20. Each number on the scale represents the diameter size of round hole in terms of 1/64 of an inch. If the bean was a number 15, then it would be 15/64 of an inch.

Finally the coffee beans which are referred as green beans can be exported. A quick coffee fact, there’s approximately 7 million tons of green coffee produced worldwide annually. This is what we call a coffee-holic nation!

Tasting the Coffee through Cupping

Testing the quality and taste of coffee repeatedly at every stage is important. Cupping is referred as a process to taste various types of coffee. By evaluating each cup of coffee from its defined characteristics, the cupper can gather data for coffee specialty purposes.

An experienced cupper or professional barista can taste up to hundreds of coffee samples in a day yet taste the distinguish differences between them. Based on a professional expert in cupping, you should always smell the brew first to experience its aroma. Once you’ve made the coffee, let it rest for several minutes. Then again the coffee should be nosed before the actual tasting. A cupper would always slurp a spoonful with a quick inhalation of the rich coffee aroma.

The art of cupping is very versatile as there isn’t any right or wrong method and can be easily done at home as well. This method is best to differentiate whether coffee would be best used in blends or to identify which is considered to be specialty coffee.

Roasting the Coffee

The roasting process is what produces the aroma and flavors of the coffee you drink. This process is normally done in importing countries itself as the freshly roasted coffee should reach to the consumers as soon as possible.

The optimum temperature for roasting coffee beans is at 550 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans are consistently raked throughout the whole process to avoid them from burning. Once they’ve reached about 400 degrees and start to turn dark brown, the essential oil in the beans starts to emerge. After removing the beans, they are cooled with air or water immediately.

Grinding

Proper method of grinding depends on the quality of your coffee grinder machine if you haven’t bought the pre-packed coffee powder already. You can choose how fine you would like to grind your coffee beans and the finer it is, the quicker the coffee should be prepared. However, the texture of your coffee also depends on the brewing method.

Interesting Facts about Coffee

With coffee being one of the biggest trades around the world, it’s no surprise that there are more than 20 million people behind the scenes in coffee industries. Coffee is actually one of biggest commodity being traded right after oil. Moreover, Brazil is the largest coffee producing country which produces around one third of the total world output.

Unlike what most people believe, coffee doesn’t grow as beans but as red cherries which consist of 2 beans inside it. Furthermore, there are over 60 different types of coffee species. However, only Arabica and Robusta are mostly used for trading.

Coffee 101: Type of Coffee Beans

As coffee lies in the vegetable kingdom and the coffea genus, there are only primarily 2 species, one the C. Arabica and C. Canephora. However there are actually over 500 genera within the coffea genus itself. Each country has many different kinds of tropical trees and shrubs species that produce coffee but they all are classified either as C. Arabica or C. Canephora.

Even in commercial coffee industries, Arabica and Robusta (Canephora) is the main coffee species being sold around the world. A quick fun fact, Brazil is actually the primary Arabica producer while Vietnam produces most of the Robusta coffee.

Arabica

Arabica coffee was originated from Ethiopia where the original coffee trees were discovered. The unique feature about this coffee species is the mild, fine and aromatic scent that the trees produced. Surprisingly the caffeine content in Arabica beans is much lower compared to Robusta coffee.

Under the Arabica coffee species, there are many varieties like Bourbon, Typica, Caturra, Mundo Novo, Jamaican Blue Mountain, SL28 and the list goes on. All these variations that are classified under Arabica are produced in different parts of the world, hence comes the unique names given to each specific one.

The beans are larger in size and have a more elongated flat shape. They are also green in color before the roasting process which is why most people call them green coffee. In addition to that, Arabica beans have a fruity sugary scent before and after roasting. This makes the final end product that you drink to possess a sweet sharp tangy flavor.

 Besides that, Arabica coffee has a higher selling value in the commodity market due to its pre-harvesting processes that are involved. It is said that Arabica coffee is best grown on higher grounds approximately 2000 to 6000 feet above sea levels. Another factor is the ideal temperature of the surroundings, best grown in temperatures between 59 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit with optimum water content each year.

Generally they are sensitive to climate changes and even a heavy frost could potentially kill them. Also making them more disease prone species compared to Robusta which requires more care and attention and again costly to cultivate.

Robusta (Canephora)

Robusta coffee is mostly grown in Western and Central Africa, Brazil, Southeast Asia like Vietnam and Indonesia.  Only about 30% of the coffee commodity market is Robusta. However production of this coffee species is still increasing every year.

Coffee cherries that produce Robusta coffee grow on shrubs rather than on trees but the plant size in general is bigger. A unique DNA feature about Robusta coffea is that it only has 22 chromosomes, half of how many Arabica has.

Furthermore, the shape of the bean is more rounded and smaller in size which is why they are used widely in blends and instant coffee.

Robusta coffee can grow on lowlands and rainforests, altitudes that reach up to 600 meters. They are suitable in tropic weather with an optimum temperature of 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Moreover, their flowering sessions are irregular which takes about 10-11 months cycle.

These hardy plants have a strong immune system. Unlike the Arabica coffea species, Robusta shrubs have a higher resistant towards disease and parasites. Because of this, cultivation process is much cheaper and easier to handle.

Before roasting, the beans are lighter in color between yellow and brown. Not many people are fond of the post roasting smell of Robusta beans as it tends to have a distinguish smell of burnt rubber. Adding to that, the caffeine content is normally 50-60% more caffeine than in Arabica coffee. Great for keeping awake during exam months or long work hours!

If you’re looking for cheaper coffee options, then you should definitely opt for Robusta. One of main reason why it has a lower retail price is because of lesser maintenance and labor work put into producing Robusta coffee.

Variations in Coffee Beverages

Espresso

The only type of coffee that is served in the tiniest cup possible that consists of only one espresso shot. The espresso also known as short black, sets the base foundation that is essential to all espresso based drinks like cafe latte, cappuccino, macchiato, mocha, flat white and others. It’s the purest form of any coffee experience, although some people may not be fond of the overpowering natural bitter taste.

Espresso is all about brewing in produce small amount of coffee close to boiling water under high pressure through fresh ground coffee beans. The texture of espresso is generally thicker and very dense compared to other coffee types. Unlike cappuccinos or lattes, espresso doesn’t have high concentration of suspended and dissolved solids nor has crema on the coffee surface.

Its flavors and coffee chemicals are all jammed up in just one shot of espresso. In addition to that, caffeine content is much more per unit volume, hence answers why the serving portion is so small. There’s a significant different between the amount of caffeine in your typical servings or espresso and drip coffee.

Double Espresso

Just as the name itself, the ingredients are 2 shots of espresso in one cup. Doppio is the term given as it means double in Italian.

Some cafes or coffee shops already consider regular espresso as double shots while others still practice to serve just one shot. However, you could always request to change to up and reduce one shot in your espresso.

Short Macchiato

Macchiato, an Italian word defined as stain or mark. Cousins to an espresso drink as they have the similar ingredients with a few new twists. The traditional style of a short macchiato is a single shot of espresso topped with warm steam milk and froth. The froth is made perfectly to blend well with the strong taste of espresso.

A Short Macchiato can be served in either a short glass or even in an espresso cup itself. However, different baristas in different countries have their own unique way of making short macchiato.

Here’s a barista’s secret to create the ideal short macchiato, in the end product, you should always see the 3 different coloured layers. Starting from the bottom, the dark layer which is the espresso followed by the mixture of espresso and milk in the middle and finally the steaming milk as the top layer. It’s called the rule of thirds.

Long Macchiato

Same like the short macchiato but only this time with a double shot of espresso. Basically, the same rules are applied here, 2 shots of an espresso in a long glass topped and warm steam milk with froth.

Practising the rule of thirds can be tricky, so a quick tip is to gently turn the glass clockwise several times for the milk and espresso to mix well together.

Another way of making long macchiato is by pouring in the steam milk first followed by the espresso shot and milk froth. This method is totally optional and it really depends on which technique your barista’s uses to use. Moreover, this also creates a cool layer effect when you’re using a transparent glass and you can even try it out for short macchiato as well.

In terms of taste, it lies between a cappuccino that has lesser milk and a latte that has more milk content.

Ristretto

A coffee beverage similar to an espresso, a standard espresso shot with lesser amount of water. The water ratio of a regular espresso and a ristretto is 1:2 and 1:1 respectively. This produces a darker and concentrated espresso extraction. However, they aren’t typically served at cafes as ristretto aren’t exactly people’s favorite.

You could always experiment at home first if you’re nervous to ask your barista for a Ristretto. A few general steps to get you going, first grind some fresh coffee beans using the exact same grind setting as if you were making an espresso shot, usually moderately fine grind.

Next adjust the portafilter to suit your espresso machine and it’s best to fill it up till the ‘max line’. Tamp it with heavy pressure evenly. You will be able extract about 15 ml of coffee within 15 seconds.

If you are a fan of powerful intense coffee beverages, then you should probably give Ristretto a try. You could even mix a little with it and let your taste buds enjoy each bitter sweet sensation.

Long Black

Aka Americano, another term used in many coffee houses. 2 basic ingredients which are hot water with a shot of espresso. Unlike other coffee beverages that use milk, Americano uses hot water instead to keep the fundamental flavors of the espresso intact while you sip on it.

Normally, baristas would choose to fill the 2/3rd of the cup with hot water first and then only adding the shot of espresso as it will form a thin layer of crema and prevent the espresso layer from breaking.

Often time’s people think Americano and drip coffee is the same type of coffee. However, it is entirely 2 different drinks on its own. Americano reveals deep earthy coffee notes as the lighter floral flavours are destroyed at high temperature. Where else, drip coffee is subtle and lighter in flavour. Moreover, drip coffee doesn’t produce crema like Americano does. As for the grind type, Americano uses fine grind while drip coffee uses medium coarse.

Café latte 

Another espresso based drink that uses steamed milk which creates a beautiful micro-foam layer on your beverage. A latte is generally much sweeter than an espresso as milk is added. Just a shot of an espresso and steam milk that has been froth lightly. In a latte, frothing the milk is important because you don’t want too much froth like in your cappuccino drinks.

You will also tend to notice that after swirling the steamed milk in the jug, there will be a thin layer of milk sticking onto the surface which is perfectly normal. The micro foam produced like slightly airy and has a shiny surface.

Most baristas use tumbler glasses for latte but in the US, it’s common to use regular cappuccino cups. The regular size of a latte is normally 8 ounces to 12 ounces, it should always be in between those amounts. However, some coffee houses do up the sizes but generally it could never go less than 8 ounces.

Cappuccino

One of the most hyped coffee beverages of all time, the cappuccino. The classic thick froth made for latte art over the steamed milk is usually the highlight of this drink. Just like the latte, cappuccinos only need one shot of an espresso and milk. It’s crucial to nail the frothing process in order the get the right texture for the micro foam, shiny, light and dense.

An additional bonus for cappuccino drinks is that you can sprinkle various toppings like chocolate shavings or cinnamon powder. It’s really just the best combination with your toasted bread and jam at the breakfast table.

Some barista’s tend to make a very dense thick froth to do their latte art while others work best with a medium froth volume. Basic latte art involves making a heart or a feather like figure but there are many more designs like 3-D shapes you can learn to make. Here’s a video to give you a good idea of what latte art is all about:

Flat White

A common coffee beverage which you’ll find in Australia or New Zealand as it is safe to say that it was originated from there. The milk that has been steamed is usually not very frothy but still creamy. It is then poured over the extracted shot of espresso into the cup. A rather popular drink among parents and working adults in Australia and New Zealand.

Piccolo Latte

Here’s another miniature espresso based beverage. Just like the ristretto or espresso drink, it uses a small cup which means strong yet mild espresso taste thanks to the added steamed milk and froth.

You can choose to make a piccolo latte with either an espresso shot or just 1 ristretto shot. Then add the warm steamed milk and you’re done!

Mocha

A combination of a cappuccino and a hot chocolate, this is what a mocha is. If you love chocolate and coffee, then mocha is the best of both worlds.

Inside your cup of coffee is a single espresso shot, a spoonful of chocolate powder added in and mixed well. Then here comes the steamed milk with the 2-3 cm of micro foam on top. You can even add a little chocolate powder as toppings if you like.

Irish coffee

Coffee with alcohol? No problem, Irish coffee is all about that. The first ingredient that you’ll need is whiskey, just half a cap. Then, fill three quarter of the glass with some freshly brewed coffee and a spoonful of brown sugar. Mix all the ingredients well.

Next, pour some double whipped cream into another mug and give it a good stir. Using the same spoon earlier which is still slightly warm, turn it over backwards and gently pour the whipped cream at the edge of the spoon that is touching the glass. This will allow the whipped cream to rest on top of the coffee.

Vienna

A beverage that you don’t regularly hear in your everyday coffee shop. This drink has various methods of preparing it, mostly depending on your barista.

Some baristas use only 2 shots of espresso while others prefer to use 3 shots, measuring up to 90 ml. Then to substitute milk and sugar, whipped cream is added instead. This is one power house drink that knocks out strong espresso flavors. You can also add a little hot water to dilute the espresso if the taste is too strong but that’s what the whipped cream is for.

Turkish coffee

It’s not just a type of speciality coffee or another drink on the menu but also a key part of the Turkish culture. A coffee beverage that is highly known for its luscious thick froth and intricate preparation involved in making a delicious cup of Turkish coffee.

A unique feature about Turkish coffee is that a brass grinder called, cezve is used to make the coffee.  This long handled pot-liked cup could make powder as fine as caster sugar. After the powder has settled at the bottom of the pot, the coffee is drunk from smaller sized cups.

First, add around 50 ml of water into the cezve (ibrik), add sugar and the Turkish coffee blends. Stir them well together on the stove until the first boil. Then remove it from the heat, discharge the access foam built on the surface and continue to mix well. The coffee has to boil twice allowing the powder to sink to the bottom. Turkish coffees also have additional flavours such as cinnamon and cardamom that can be added during the boiling process.

Iced coffee

The only difference for iced coffee and the other coffee beverages stated above is adding ice. Also note that, cappuccino is actually the only coffee drink that doesn’t have the option to be switched into a cold drink.

 Affogato 

A simple coffee dessert yet full of flavors. It’s a real treat during the summer or even for supper! The key ingredients are basically only one big scoop of vanilla ice cream with either a single or double shot of espresso.

Here’s a tip to step up your affogato, add a shot of Frangelico (Irish liqueur) into the dessert in the end. It will definitely kick up a notch on your taste buds.