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Coffee and Espresso Facts

Weird and wonderful information about the world of coffee you may not have known before!

  • The Dynamics of Espresso - Robusta: Friend or Foe?

    Posted on January 13, 2013 by vyee

    Robusta: Friend or Foe?


    Robusta Quality: A Paradox


    Call me a coffee heretic, but I happen to think high-quality Robusta coffee beans add an important taste dimension to espresso. Virtually every Italian roaster uses some Robusta beans in their espresso blend. In North America, it’s conspicuous by its absence, and I think the North American espresso drinker is generally the poorer for it. Let me explain.


    Almost no one outside of Italy understands (or wants to understand) how to use Robusta coffee as a component in their espresso blends.


    How is it that the North American specialty coffee industry has mostly turned its back on nearly a hundred years of Italian espresso wisdom?


    Part of the answer lies in the different methods of preparing coffee between North America and Italy; Pourover, drip, and French press methods (non-pressurized) are completely different from brewing espresso (pressurized).  They are as different as using a barbecue and a pressure cooker for cooking dinner. In North America there is different history that also factors in.


    Before specialty coffee, there was supermarket coffee. Sold in cans and brick packs, this market was controlled by large industrial coffee roasters (Maxwell House, Folgers, Nabob, etc); coffee that was sold on low price and low price only. Low quality Robusta beans cost less than the equivalent lower quality Arabica coffee beans, and so they formed a large part of the blend (a few roasters even managed to add chicory). During this time (the 50’s and 60’s), the percolator was the popular brewing method and cream and sugar were routinely added to make the coffee more palatable.


    In the 70’s, the specialty coffee industry was born. Starbucks, Peet’s and Stewart Brothers coffee (now Seattle’s Best Coffee) in the US, and Timothy’s Coffees of the World and Second Cup in Canada and others, all started up. These specialty roasters and retailers were the antithesis of the price driven, mass market supermarket coffee – they featured single origin coffees from (at the time) exotic locations with exotic names –Mocha South Yemen, Ethiopian Harrar and Guatemala Huehuetenango to name only a few. All these coffees were 100 per cent Arabica and tasted great in comparison to the supermarket offerings (especially in the then new drip coffee makers) and quickly gained a loyal following.  Of course, it didn’t hurt sales that they were often advertised as 100-per-cent Arabica, no Robusta!


    In the 80’s (1987 to be exact, in Chicago and Vancouver) Starbucks started to expand outside Seattle. They offered something new and exciting – espresso drinks - and the mainstream North American espresso market was born.  Prior to this, espresso machines were mainly confined to the Italian district and farmers’ markets.


    What was not fully understood by these early coffee roasters and coffee entrepreneurs (including Starbucks), was that espresso had completely different dynamics than the traditional pourover coffee methods which required a different blending paradigm. The Italians, with a long head start, had already concluded that Robusta improved the espresso shot.


    Robusta is a species of coffee plant (Coffea canephora) quite distinct from the more widely cultivated Arabica species (Coffea arabica). It makes up from 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the overall coffee market worldwide, with India, Sumatra and Uganda supplying some of the better wet-processed varieties.


    Figure 1: Arabica vs. Robusta Bean

    Figure 1: Arabica vs. Robusta Bean


    Like any food product, Robusta can range from very high-quality (sometimes scoring higher than similar quality Arabicas) to a wretched product with tasting descriptions like bitter, acrid and tarry. One ongoing problem, which needs to be resolved, is that 10 times the number of defects (substandard beans) are allowed in Robusta coffee lots, compared with Arabica. This makes it harder to select high quality Robusta with low defect counts.


    Of the 700 or so coffee roasters in Italy, you can be sure not all are using high quality Robusta. Ten per cent of green bean imports to Italy are from India, which has some very respectable Robusta. Discouragingly though, another 10 per cent is from Vietnam – known for particularly low quality Robusta. If anything but a very high quality Robusta bean is used, it will drag down the espresso with bitterness and unpleasant flavours, another reason for its so called “bad reputation” by roasters unfamiliar with Robusta.


    High quality Robusta, on the other hand, has some important redeeming qualities as an ingredient in espresso coffee. It produces quite a bit more crema, the sensory layer on top, which is crucial to a good espresso.

    The crema is sturdier and lasts longer, which helps hold the flavour in, and allows the customer to make it to his table with the layer of crema intact.


    Having a long lasting crema for the patron to enjoy has another major benefit: crema coats the tongue (the more the better) and in doing so, it seems to insulate the taste buds from the inherent bitterness that all espressos have to a degree. This brings a more pleasing taste.


    Since Robusta is naturally low in acidity, it helps balance out the acidity (brightness) of the Arabica beans – which is accentuated in the espresso brewing process. What is a benefit in drip (brightness/acidity) is, counterintuitively, a detriment in espresso.


    High quality Robusta also adds a complexity of taste that cannot be duplicated by a straight Arabica blend. Caramel, chocolate and toast notes are more often described in espresso made with some Robusta in the blend.


    Because of the past association of Robusta and cheap supermarket coffee, “100 per cent Arabica” was an advertising slogan that worked well for the specialty coffee industry. Robusta was an easy target (and a legitimate one), for the drip coffee market.  If one scratched below the surface though, a few highly regarded artisanal roasters (coincidentally, almost all with Italian roots), were adding quality Robustas to their espresso blends.


    A few of those pioneers continue to excel and lead in their market – in Seattle, David Schomer of Vivace Espresso,  Mauro Cipollo (since retired) of Café d’Arte and  Dr. Joseph John, of Josuma coffee, based in California. When talking to industry peers, they will openly talk about the benefits of Robusta in espresso, but to the end users— the customers— the word Robusta is never heard. In fact, while designing a new label for our own coffee, I was discouraged by a few industry friends from putting the word “Robusta” on the label! We put it on.


    Kenneth Davids, a 40-year coffee veteran, author of three coffee books, and co-founder of The Coffee Review,  is a proponent of 10 to 20 per cent quality Robusta in espresso blends. He says, when given a choice of four espresso blends, three with only Arabica and one with a Robusta blend, customers invariably pick the Robusta blend.


    Today, there are Robusta beans grown in India and Sumatra that are handled and processed better than a lot of washed Arabica coffees. Lest anyone think Robusta coffee is inferior to Arabica, Indian Sethuraman Estate is a three-time winner of “Best Robusta” in the Coffee Board of India’s Flavour of India competition and it received the highest-ever rating for a Robusta coffee of 94 points from the same Kenneth Davids (most Arabica’s score in the high 80s).



    Major Arabica and Robusta Producing Countries. Source: Sara Lee

    Figure 2: Major Arabica and Robusta Producing Countries. Source: Sara Lee


    Davids described the flavour as having a “Deep aroma: sweet nut, hints of orange, toast and vanilla. Smooth, buttery mouth-feel and pungent flavors of cedar, more orange and caramel, toasted grains and a hint of flowers.


    Dr. Joseph John, another industry veteran, writes: “Perhaps the most significant effect of premium Robusta is its ability to enhance the richness and longevity of crema without detracting from the neutral character that is so critical for a superior espresso. It also adds to the unique flavor profile—typical of European espresso— that I believe cannot be obtained with Arabica alone…. crema is the single most important indicator of well-made espresso, and it is essential for capturing the intense flavors of ground coffee.


    Robusta: Valid but not Mandatory

    Tom Owen of Sweet Maria’s (a leading online supplier of specialty coffee) says this about Robusta: “There is a core use for Robusta coffees that are picked, sorted, processed and prepared with as much care as top grade Arabicas; this valid use is in the 5 to 20 per cent range in espresso blends. Robustas add body, crema, and a distinct flavor to espresso. If you are familiar with traditional Italian espresso you will recognize this taste. It also aids the espresso in distinguishing itself in milk drinks.” In fairness, he is not insistent on Robusta use, he is also passionate about the unique taste profiles of his all-Arabica espresso blends.


    One of the fathers of modern espresso in Italy, Dr. Ernesto Illy, also believes in only using 100 per cent Arabica in his espresso blends. But Illy is probably one of the finest blending and roasting companies in the world. They concentrate exclusively on espresso, have been doing so for over 75 years, buy exclusively from the source (the farm), and train those same coffee farmers on improving their coffee crops.  It is possible to make a good 100 per cent Arabica espresso blend – it just requires great sourcing skills and experience to do it properly; a skill that can take generations to fully develop.


    Espresso brewing places high demands on the beans chosen. Espresso will accentuate both the positives and negatives of a bean. So roasters in North America may not have the confidence to use it, or just don’t have access to the highest quality beans at source. Choosing and blending the right amount of Robusta for espresso might be the toughest job in the coffee food chain.


    Using a judicious amount of Robusta enhances espresso—it adds thick, long lasting crema, provides a smooth, more rounded taste usually with caramel and chocolate notes.  It lowers acidity and leaves a more pleasing aftertaste.


    You would think, with those epicurean qualities, we in North America would be enjoying it like the Italians– with great enthusiasm, frequently, and with not  more than a tablespoon of milk added, at most, an espresso macchiato (6 oz. cappuccinos are acceptable as part of the breakfast routine!). The Italians drink something like 3 million espressos per hour! Does anyone think for a moment, that they would collectively punish themselves with a drink they didn’t find enjoyable? The reality in North America is not so encouraging.


    After 25 years of exposure, almost no one consumes straight espresso in commercial establishments.

    This, in spite of the fact that baristas are often elevated to the same status as rock stars. We have local, regional and national Barista competitions, culminating in the World Barista Championship. We have numerous trade shows, dedicated magazines and multiple levels of barista training. The whole espresso industry has built an aura of “specialty gourmet” surrounding it. Some third wave coffee bars seem to have the same self-importance as upscale wine bars.


    And yet, in North America, less than 5 per cent of total espresso machine drinks are served as espresso! Why? Simple, the vast majority of customers taste an espresso once and aren’t impressed. It becomes their first and last. Some of the over the top descriptions of espresso don’t live up to the experience in the little cup either. The vast majority of espresso is only palatable when diluted with plenty of milk (or water as in an Americano).



    Figure 3: Arabica and Robusta producing countries. Source: Sara Lee

    Figure 3: Arabica and Robusta producing countries. Source: Sara Lee



    A post on the Homebarista website summed it up nicely (if not bluntly):


    “In Italy 90 per cent of the espresso is drinkable and 10 per cent is crap; outside Italy 90 per cent of the espresso is crap; 9 per cent is drinkable and 1 per cent is brilliant.”

    In other words, in North America, the unwary customer has about a 10 per cent chance of getting a passable, drinkable  espresso.


    Imagine if a new North American distillery operated the same way.  They have discovered (they think) a better method than the Scots to make great single malt whiskey. Sales seem to be good.  They conduct a marketing survey and find less than 5 per cent of their customers actually drink it neat (the way they intended). The other 95 per cent only find it palatable when mixed with generous amounts of ginger ale, soda or coca cola!


    It’s fine to interpret a product, but if it’s not an improvement in the customer’s acceptance of it, is that progress? If we can recognize that the Italians have refined a great recipe and have the customers to back it up, then let’s honour that tradition.


    If you want to provide your own twist on a standard, as an artist and an innovator, I can applaud that. But let the customer know that it’s not an Italian espresso you’re about to serve – it’s an American-style espresso. If I, as a customer, know this in advance, I can make an informed decision on whether I want it.


    The CoffeeResearch website says this about espresso: “The best espresso should be extraordinarily sweet, have a potent aroma, and flavor similar to freshly ground coffee. The crema should be dark reddish-brown and smooth, yet thick. A perfect espresso should be enjoyable straight with no additives, yet bold enough to not disappear in milk. A pleasant and aromatic aftertaste should linger on the palate for several minutes after consumption.


    So to the question: Robusta: Friend or Foe? I say friend, in espresso. And if the espresso I just finished doesn’t bring a satisfying smile to my face 90 per cent of the time, I also say, maybe it’s time to re-think the recipe!




    2. (2009)
    4. USDA GAIN report No. IT047, 2010


    About the author, Reg James of Espressotec

    I have 25 years of experience in espresso; everything from roasting to retail. On top of having my Level 3 barista license, I’ve previously operated three successful espresso coffee shops in Vancouver, Richmond, and Banff. Currently, I am the owner and operator of Espressotec Sales & Service, selling and servicing both home and commercial machines for over 15 years.

    This post was posted in Uncategorized, Coffee and Espresso Facts, Espresso Equipment

  • The Dynamics of Espresso - Changing the Taste of Espresso in North America

    Posted on January 13, 2013 by vyee


    Changing the taste of Espresso in North America


    How flat and "humped" extraction temperatures affect the taste of espresso


    Espresso was invented, mastered and perfected in Italy. It is a daily ritual—an obsession even— if one is to believe the numbers.  Almost three million shots are poured on average every hour of every day!


    Strict standards apply. One must acknowledge that after 100 years of refinement, the Italians know their product well. The Italian National Espresso Institute has a 12-page rulebook for espresso! A total of 61 words is used to described the preferred shape and mass of the perfect espresso cup and every parameter is strictly controlled from a seven-gram dose, to a 67-degrees Celsius cup temperature, to a specific blend of beans.


    Because of this standardization in Italy, it’s possible to walk into virtually any location with an espresso machine and receive a professionally made espresso. The barista preparing it will likely have apprenticed for 10 years as a bar assistant prior to being entrusted with the top job of Barista. Taste variations, for the most part, will be from the roaster chosen, and the recipe is a closely guarded secret.  One divergence is that the further south you venture, the darker the roast becomes, and the smaller the drink.


    The overwhelming majority of espresso machines in Italy are heat exchanger (HX)-style machines. These, by their very design, produce a “humped profile” (temperature declining). If you believe the Italians, a temperature declining profile provides the most balanced and rounded espresso taste.  Conversely, many of the progressive baristas in North America believe that an absolute flat, stable temperature is best.


    Why this divergence of opinion? In North America more than 95 per cent of the drinks are largely milk-based drinks, which places heavy demands on the espresso machines. In turn, this causes considerable temperature fluctuations. In an effort to tame this instability, many North American baristas turned to double boiler machines, which at the time provided a more stable temperature, even though almost no one in Italy used them. In effect, we decided to change the recipe instructions.


    If the Italians have refined the equivalent of a classic recipe over the past 100 years, why were we changing it?

    No one calls into question the extremely strict recipe and rules for making Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan) cheese or tries to improve upon the taste of Campari and still call it Campari?


    Michael Teahan, a long time industry advocate, says that almost no one in Italy besides La Marzocco is interested in producing machines with perfectly flat brew temperature profiles. The Italians seem to prefer a slightly higher initial temperature at the start (the hump) followed by a slightly declining temperature profile— precisely what HX machines provide.



    Figure 1: Flat vs. Humped Profile

    Figure 1: Flat vs. Humped Profile


    A recent North American argument has been that tightening up starting temperature accuracy seemed to produce a better shot. Would not the logical extension of this theory be that a flat, constant temperature throughout the pour would be perfect? Maybe, if we were dealing with something other than a food product and cooking, but that is exactly what espresso is.


    We sauté onions to caramelize them; we also sear a steak.  Searing uses higher initial heat to caramelize the sugars that give us the flavour we want. Then we “profile” the heat down to finish the cooking to our preferred doneness.  Even the lowly slice of toast benefits from a profiled temperature. The best taste and texture comes from browning on the outside, with a warm and soft inside.


    Espresso blends, by their very nature seem to benefit from a humped temperature extraction.


    Many traditional roasters roast each bean variety separately, based on the optimum roast for that particular bean. A long-held rule for espresso extraction is: the darker the roast the less the brew temperature, and vice versa. So how can a single flat temperature profile possibly bring out the best of a bean?


    In espresso, using a temperature profile that starts off a little higher seems to boost sweetness and the caramel flavours that are otherwise more muted. This ramping down seems to particularly benefit espresso blends, where different beans may each have their own unique optimum temperature band.


    If the extraction is taking place over several degrees of temperature (for example from 204 to 199 degrees Fahrenheit) each degree of change draws out different flavours and gives a much more full and complex flavour than a flat profile. It seems to reduce the bitter and sour characteristics and allow the subtler notes to flourish and the caramel and sweetness to shine through.



    Figure 2: Customer temperature profiling available on the Rancilio Xcelsius

    Figure 2: Customer temperature profiling available on the Rancilio Xcelsius


    A humped profile also benefits another common theme these days in North America: using larger coffee doses. The larger the dose, the more the heat of the brewing water is absorbed, which favours a higher initial temperature hump.


    Recently, it has become fashionable in many of the (so-called) third wave coffee bars to experiment with single origin Arabica beans for espresso.  Aside from the higher acidity (not desirable in espresso), many of these are roasted lighter and are not well suited to the complexity of taste that espresso demands.


    In this case, a perfectly flat temperature profile may be more suited to single origin espresso, since only one bean is involved. Here, the barista may want to highlight the same flavour notes discovered in the cupping. But what makes a single origin a great drip, pourover, or French press coffee, is certainly no guarantee it will be a great espresso.


    Having a higher finishing temperature (as in a flat profile), means that the cut-off time is more critical and in fact, most all baristas using machines with flat profiles, have found that split-second timing of the shot is crucial. Having a lower temperature at the end of a pour (as in a humped profile) seems to allow a little more leeway of time. In the real world of making hundreds of drinks a day, this probably translates into less undesirable shots made.


    Now, it might seem logical to the casual observer that the simplest way to resolve this question would be to have a simple comparison test. Pick two machines, one a double boiler with a flat temperature profile, and the other a HX machine with a humped temperature profile, and have at it. Line up some judges or even let the customers decide!


    To my knowledge, this has never officially been done at any coffee trade show before (I have been attending for some 20 years!) As was pointed out to me, by a long time industry veteran, which machine manufacturer is going to agree to such a test with so much at stake?


    In September, 2012, at CoffeeFest in Seattle, the first ever, officially sanctioned espresso tasting competition (America’s Best Espresso Competition),  was held. Thirty-five roasters from 16 western states and provinces competed against a panel of judges, using their choice of any of four different commercial machines. And, unlike the World Barista Championship, chefs and non-professionals were used as judges, not industry insiders.


    The machines were: a Slayer with a PID-stabilized flat temperature profile; a Nuova Simonelli with PID and oversized grouphead for a stabilized, flat temperature profile, a Wega Green Line with dual boilers for flat brew temperature profile; and a Rancilio Class 9 Xcelsius machine with hybrid heat exchanger.


    For the first time ever, an espresso machine, the Rancilio Class 9 Xcelsius is able to produce any profile desired (up, down, flat). And with any desired starting and finish temperature, the barista has fast and predictable control to maximize the flavour potential for any blend of espresso.


    The results of the first ever espresso competition in America? Both 1st and 3rd place were made on the Rancilio Classe 9 Xcelsius.

    The profile was set to that which the Italians prefer— a down profile— almost perfectly emulating the humped profile!



    Figure 3: Basic Espresso Machine Heat Exchanger and Hydraulic circuitry (Source: Rancilio Group)

    Figure 3: Basic Espresso Machine Heat Exchanger and Hydraulic circuitry (Source: Rancilio Group)


    For some years now in North America, there has been an effort to redefine, the original Italian taste profile.  But in over 20 years of espresso experience in North America, espresso consumption has not moved upward; it has remained at about 5 per cent. There are a hundred reasons for this, but clearly, we have not been delivering a consistent, drinkable espresso.


    I think the Italian engineers and baristas have had it right all along. They still firmly believe that a humped, downward profiling extraction following strict preparation guidelines, produces the most consistent and full flavour from a professionally roasted espresso coffee blend.


    I think we can finally say, we now have the proof we need!




    1. Coffee and Cuisine May 1998, The Science of Espresso: Engineered Mediocrity Part 1
    2. Espresso Machine Design, Michael Teahan (


    About the author, Reg James of Espressotec


    I have 25 years of experience in espresso; everything from roasting to retail. On top of having my Level 3 barista license, I’ve previously operated three successful espresso coffee shops in Vancouver, Richmond, and Banff. Currently, I am the owner and operator of Espressotec Sales & Service, selling and servicing both home and commercial machines for over 15 years.

    This post was posted in Uncategorized, Coffee and Espresso Facts, Espresso Equipment

  • The Dynamics of Espresso - Espresso Machine Design

    Posted on January 13, 2013 by vyee

    Espresso Machine Design: Brew Temperature Stability versus Repeatability


    The Myth of a Precise Brew Temperature


    The temperature of the hot water that passes through a “coffee puck” while brewing an espresso has a crucial influence on the final taste. A temperature between 195 degrees Fahrenheit and 205F is the generally accepted range, with every degree (or 1/10th of a degree, some will argue) producing a different taste profile.


    It has become fashionable by many (especially in North America) in the specialty espresso industry, to subscribe to the theory that a perfectly flat, stable, brewing (pour) temperature is the magic bullet for a perfect espresso. They believe that by engineering, or re-engineering, the espresso machine with PID (proportional, integral, and derivative) devices, double boilers or even oversized groupheads to achieve this perfect temperature stability, a perfectly balanced espresso will magically result.

    If this theory were true, then everything the overwhelming majority of Italian coffee engineers believe in, and have tried to perfect in the last 100 years, is wrong. The Italians don’t want the same temperature throughout the pour.

    What they do want is temperature consistency and repeatability from shot to shot.


    These two concepts are not the same, but are crucial to this discussion.


    Achieving a perfectly flat brew temperature is another science experiment, insofar as achieving the “Holy Grail” of a “perfect” espresso. It’s one more recipe, and not necessarily the best, for most espresso blends (discussed in the article “Changing the taste of espresso").


    So, how did all this flat profile theory start, anyway? Back in 1998, in Seattle, one of the great early advocates and pioneers of espresso, David Schomer, did some experimentation with boiler temperature and grouphead temperature. He was frustrated (and justifiably so) by the wide temperature swings of the brew water of his la Marzocco double boiler machine (up to 6F between shots) and decided to stabilize it (see  Figure 1).



    Figure 1: Temperature changes beyond anticipated machine design and usage

    Figure 1: Temperature changes beyond anticipated machine design and usage


    After some tinkering and modifications, he reduced the temperature swing to within about 2 degrees, then proclaimed this temperature stabilization improvement as the path to perfect espresso. The next goal: accuracy to 1/10th of 1 degree! All this based on one machine, one set of tests and one espresso blend. But his widely read industry articles carried weight (and the majority of his articles were, and still are, well thought out and insightful).


    He was correct on the one point: boiler water temperature management certainly needed improvement (remember, this was the mid 90’s). But it was a long stretch to draw the parallel conclusion that stabilizing the water temperature throughout the shot pour (a flat profile) was also a desirable goal.


    Michael Teahan, another long-time industry advocate, is the current VP at Espresso Resource in the USA (a leading supplier in the Espresso industry), and a former technical director with an Italian espresso machine manufacturer. In a technical presentation prepared for the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) several years ago, he had this to say:


    “There is an assumption that the holy grail of espresso machine manufacture is the ability to precisely maintain a specific temperature throughout the extraction process tailored to a chosen espresso blend. Notwithstanding that a blend of beans, by its very nature may require a plurality of extraction temperatures to achieve optimal results, the Italian engineers with whom I have worked take it for granted that a flat line temperature profile is NOT what they want.”


    The important factor is how to keep the brew water temperature stable (repeatable) between shots and throughout the day. Machine design plays a key role in temperature stability – different manufacturers take different approaches. How (and where) the machine is being used also plays a huge role. Italy and North America are vastly different markets.


    The repeatability of the temperature of the brew water at the moment of the start of a brew cycle is also very important. This is the temperature of the water hitting the packed coffee bed at the start of each brew cycle. In Figure 2, this is the start temperature. Notice it is exactly repeated each shot. This graph is an actual Rancilio R & D data log from a late model heat exchanger (HX) machine with advanced boiler management (ABM).


    Notice also that the temperature overshoots slightly, just after the ramp-up (to account for heat absorption in the coffee bed), and then starts a controlled drift downward. This is the classic humped profile and it is engineered this way on purpose.


    Today, most of the top brands of commercial machines have vastly superior water temperature stability when compared with the earlier mechanical machines. The temperature repeatability of these machines (electronic models are especially stable) are accurate enough that the barista need not worry about temperature swing anymore.

    PIDs: Right problem, Wrong answer


    Schomer was one of the first to experiment with a PID controller as early as 2000 to control temperature stability. He learned that controlling the water temperature at the grouphead made a difference, but could often be compromised by fluctuating water temperature in the boiler, travelling to, and through, the grouphead when at idle and during heavy use. His work with PIDs led him to become an early advocate of this system.


    Over time, much faith was put into PIDs’ ability to stabilize temperature. Just throw a PID onto a boiler and presto—instant temperature stabilization. If the display readout says it’s stable, it must be true.


    Or perhaps not, as Teahan wrote in 2006:


    “With PIDs, it is possible to maintain boiler temperatures to within a few tenths of a degree. So long as you don’t steam any milk, draw any water or make too many shots.”


    This is because PIDs work best within a very narrow range— essentially they will keep an idle machine temperature stable.


    Teahan further explains: “While the program necessary to maintain temperature is very precise, it is not the same program necessary to respond to rapid changes in boiler temperature that occur when steaming milk or when the boiler refills with fresh water. By the time that the PID controller has sensed a dramatic change in temperature enough to call for full power to the heating element, it may have already dropped below the temperature at which a pressure stat would have come in at full power, as much as 6F. The program necessary to accurately recover from such a drop is also different from that required to maintain temperature and the controller may overshoot the set point slightly, or be too cautious (depending upon the program) and stabilize too slowly.”


    Baristas think a PID display is showing the brew water temperature at the point of extraction (just above the coffee bed). This is not true. It is reading the higher temperature back in the boiler, then working backwards to give a theoretically calculated brewing temperature at the grouphead. This is called the offset temperature and is an average number determined by engineers in the lab, but has no real-world application.


    Other factors in the coffee bar environment, such as ambient air temperature which can vary considerably in a coffee shop for example, will cause the actual grouphead temperature to fluctuate from the display reading. All the while, the PID display is showing a perfect set temperature because it’s reading the protected boiler water. In Teahan’s own words, “the number is a fairy tale.”


    Exposed groupheads, seen these days on machines in some trendy coffee bars, while looking impressive, are susceptible to air temperature changes. They can be affected by everything from wind chill on an outdoor cart, to air conditioning in a mall. Some PIDs allow for offset adjustment to compensate for local conditions and variations. Is this advancement, or more compensation for the machine’s limitations? Variables that are introduced to all but the most highly trained baristas are very often counterproductive. So rather than the desired flat profile, the systems deliver a random temperature profile.


    Competition is fierce within the specialized world of espresso machine manufacturers.


    Teahan says: “Espresso machine manufacturers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, developing new products and refining old processes. Secretive offices manned by engineers with degrees spend countless hours over the course of many years working out the details of a particular group design or heat exchanger configuration.


    As an example, here is a partial list from one manufacturer, Rancilio, and their technical improvements in just the last decade (full disclosure – I sell Rancilio machines). Boiler power has been increased on all their performance 2 group and larger machines to 6,000 watts. This provides near instantaneous boiler reheat. Boiler water temperature is read by a sensitive (1-degree Celsius) pressure transducer which provides instantaneous element power when needed, which avoids the lag or overshoot of PID systems. They have developed computer technology (ABM), which reacts instantly to the big enemy of stable boiler temperature: auto-boiler fill (adding cold water to the boiler). A grouphead redesign now includes a larger pre-infusion chamber, which in turn is fed by a calibrated gigleur jet to provide dampened water flow to the coffee bed.


    All these innovations are meant to


    • 1. improve brew temperature stability and repeatability,
    • 2. provide the barista with a reliable machine that is entirely predictable,
    • 3. allow the barista to concentrate on serving a highly repeatable beverage.


    What has not changed is the signature humped temperature profile provided by the heat exchanger system. That curve provides a unique taste profile unique to each manufacturer. An espresso blend often consists of up to five different beans, all roasted to a slightly different level. A single temperature cannot possibly capture all the nuances of each bean.



    Figure 2: Data logged R&D measurements of a Rancilio heat exchanger (HX) machine with standard ABM (advanced boiler management)

    Figure 2: Data logged R&D measurements of a Rancilio heat exchanger (HX) machine with standard ABM (advanced boiler management)


    As was stated by Sergio Michael of Illy Caffe at the SCAA convention many years back, each water temperature gives you a different espresso profile.


    A plurality of extraction temperature produces more high and low notes, more sweetness (caramel), more chocolate notes (depending on the blend) and generally, a more well-rounded espresso.


    North America's Obsession with Flat Brew Temperature


    By their very nature, espresso blends, seem to benefit from a humped temperature extraction.


    Firstly, coffee bean screening allows for some size variation. Each bean roasts slightly differently and therefore will also extract slightly differently. Different varietals in the blend also extract slightly differently. For example, Robusta extracts slightly differently than Arabica. Even the processing of the coffee cherry—washed, semi-washed and dry— can affect the properties of the roasted bean. This can be seen in daily practice. Every time a new blend or even a new roast is run through the espresso grinder, the grind must be dialed-in again to achieve the proper pour characteristics through the espresso machine.


    So in the real world of day-to-day espresso shot pulling, the barista has a couple of choices: work with a machine with constantly moving temperature targets, and often missing the mark, or, work with a machine that brews with the plurality of temperature and catching a high percentage of the developed flavour notes.


    Old School, New School


    The vast majority of espresso machines sold in the world, whether lever, hydraulic, or any version of heat exchanger semi-automatic and fully automatic machines (including superautomatics), by the very nature of their design, produce a humped extraction temperature.


    A trip to Italy will find a wonderful variety of machines of every vintage and style. In Naples, arguably the centre of the espresso universe, 90 per cent of the machines in use are old school 3 and 4 group lever machines! So, what’s this obsession in North America with 1/10th of a degree flat brew temperature?


    To try to out think the Italian engineers who have spent decades perfecting their craft, by insisting on a ruler-flat temperature profile, we are distancing ourselves from the original Italian taste profile: a smooth, complex, sweet, and eminently drinkable espresso.


    In Italy, at least, the customers agree with what is being served, to the tune of almost 70 million espressos a day.


    And here in North America, we are trying, but not always getting it right.




    1. Coffee and Cuisine May 1998, The Science of Espresso: Engineered Mediocrity Part 1
    2. Espresso Machine Design, Michael Teahan (


    About the author, Reg James of Espressotec

    My coffee enlightenment began when I discovered Timothy’s Coffees of the World in the (then) new Eaton Centre in Toronto in 1977. On my travels, I would take precious bags of fresh roasted beans (Costa Rica Tarrazu, one of my favourites) back to Yellowknife, NWT, and savour the brew during many a dark and cold winter day.

    In 1987— the year Starbucks opened its very first store outside of the US— at Vancouver’s seabus terminal, I began my coffee career. I started off by rebuilding a vintage 1930 Probat coffee roaster obtained from one of the original fathers of artisan coffee, Jim Stewart, then of Stewart Brothers Coffee in Pike Place Market, Seattle (later to became Seattle’s Best Coffee).

    I then went on to operate three successful espresso coffee shops in Vancouver, Richmond, and Banff. The store was recommended in “Vancouver’s Best Spots” book in 1997 (for custom roasting, varietal coffee-to-order for our customers). I also have my Level 3 Barista certificate.

    Presently, I am the owner of Espressotec Sales & Service, selling and servicing both home and commercial machines for over 15 years.




    This post was posted in Uncategorized, Buying Guides, Coffee and Espresso Facts, Espresso Equipment

  • The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like

    Posted on December 24, 2012 by espressotec


    Originally from the Atlantic by Lindsay Abrams on Nov 30th, 2012


    "What I tell patients is, if you like coffee, go ahead and drink as much as you want and can," says Dr. Peter Martin, director of the Institute for Coffee Studies at Vanderbilt University. He's even developed a metric for monitoring your dosage: If you are having trouble sleeping, cut back on your last cup of the day. From there, he says, "If you drink that much, it's not going to do you any harm, and it might actually help you. A lot."


    Officially, the American Medical Association recommends conservatively that "moderate tea or coffee drinking likely has no negative effect on health, as long as you live an otherwise healthy lifestyle." That is a lackluster endorsement in light of so much recent glowing research. Not only have most of coffee's purported ill effects been disproven -- the most recent review fails to link it the development of hypertension -- but we have so, so much information about its benefits. We believe they extend from preventing Alzheimer's disease to protecting the liver. What we know goes beyond small-scale studies or limited observations. The past couple of years have seen findings, that, taken together, suggest that we should embrace coffee for reasons beyond the benefits of caffeine, and that we might go so far as to consider it a nutrient.




    The most recent findings that support coffee as a panacea will make their premiere this December in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Coffee, researchers found, appears to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.


    "There have been many metabolic studies that have shown that caffeine, in the short term, increases your blood glucose levels and increases insulin resistance," Shilpa Bhupathiraju, a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition and the study's lead author, told me. But "those findings really didn't translate into an increased risk for diabetes long-term." During the over 20 years of follow-up, and controlling for all major lifestyle and dietary risk factors, coffee consumption, regardless of caffeine content, was associated with an 8 percent decrease in the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. In men, the reduction was 4 percent for regular coffee and 7 percent for decaf.


    The findings were arrived at rigorously, relying on data from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, two prospective studies that followed almost 80,000 women and over 40,000 men from the 1980s through 2008. Although self-reported, the data is believed to be extremely reliable because it comes from individuals who know more about health and disease than the average American (the downside, of course, is that results won't always apply to the general population -- but in this case, Bhupathuraju explained that there's no reason to believe that the biological effects seen in health professionals wouldn't be seen in everyone else).


    That there were no major differences in risk reduction between regular and decaf coffee suggests there's something in it, aside from its caffeine content, that could be contributing to these observed benefits. It also demonstrates that caffeine was in no way mitigating coffee's therapeutic effects. Of course, what we choose to add to coffee can just as easily negate the benefits -- various sugar-sweetened beverages were all significantly associated with an increased risk of diabetes. A learned taste for cream and sugar (made all the more enticing when they're designed to smell like seasonal celebrations) is likely one of the reasons why we associate coffee more with decadence than prudence.




    "Coffee and caffeine have been inexorably intertwined in our thinking, but truth is coffee contains a whole lot of other stuff with biological benefits," said Martin. And most concerns about caffeine's negative effects on the heart have been dispelled. In June, a meta-analysis of ten years of research went so far as to find an inverse association between habitual, moderate consumption and risk of heart failure. The association peaked at four cups per day, and coffee didn't stop being beneficial until subjects had increased their daily consumption to beyond ten cups.


    Caffeine might also function as a pain reliever. A study from September suggested as much when its authors stumbled across caffeinated coffee as a possible confounding variable in its study of the back, neck, and shoulder pains plaguing office drones: Those who reported drinking coffee before the experiment experienced less intense pain.


    The data is even more intriguing -- and more convincing -- for caffeine's effects as a salve against more existential pains. While a small study this month found that concentrated amounts of caffeine can increase positivity in the moment, last September the nurses' cohort demonstrated a neat reduction in depression rates among women that became stronger with increased consumption of caffeinated coffee.


    But that caffeine is only mechanism behind coffee's health effects is supported by a small study of 554 Japanese adults from October that looked at coffee and green tea drinking habits in relation to the bundle of risk factors for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes known together as metabolic syndrome. Only coffee -- not tea -- was associated with reduced risk, mostly because of dramatic reductions observed in serum triglyceride levels.


    So aside from caffeine, just what are you getting in a cup, or two, or six? Thousands of mostly understudied chemicals that contribute to flavor and aroma, including plant phenols, chlorogenic acids, and quinides, all of which function as antioxidants. Diterpenoids in unfiltered coffee may raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. And, okay, there's also ash which, to be fair, is no more healthful than you would think -- though it certainly isn't bad for you.




    Some of the chemicals in coffee are known carcinogens, though as far as we know that's only been seen in rodents, not in the small levels we encounter in everyday consumption. Findings, on the other hand, have been supporting that coffee can protect against some cancers. When the Harvard School of Public Health visited the Health Professionals Follow-Up cohort in May 2011, it found that coffee's protective effects extend only to some types of prostate cancer (the most aggressive types, actually). In a separate study of the same population from this past July, they also found a reduced risk of basal cell carcinoma with increased caffeine intake.


    The association was strongest for those who drank six or more cups per day.


    That same high dosage is also effective in fighting against colorectal cancer, according to a prospective study from June of almost 500,000 adults conducted by the American Society for Nutrition. While the association was greatest for caffeinated varieties, decaf made a small but significant showing. A meta-analysis of 16 independent studies this past January added endometrial cancer to the group of cancers whose relative risk decreases with increased "dosage" of coffee. And in 2011, a large population of post-menopausal women in Sweden saw a "modest" reduction in breast cancer risk with immoderate consumption of 5 or more daily cups.


    Taking the benefits of coffee any further requires being patient-specific, but findings apply to a broad range of populations and conditions:


    If you have fatty liver disease, a study from last December found that unspecified amounts can reduce your risk of fibrosis.


    If you're on a road trip, you may respond like the 24 volunteers for an experiment from February who were subjected to two hours of simulated "monotonous highway driving," given a short break, then sent back out for two more hours. Those given a cup of coffee during the break weaved less, and showed reductions in driving speed, mental effort, and subjective sleepiness. If you're on a weight-training regimen, it can provide a mild (and legal) doping effect.


    If you're trying to enhance your workout, the results of one experiment from October found that drinks containing caffeine enhances performance. And then another one from Dr. Martin in 2008: He coauthored a study of people enrolled in Alcoholics Anonymous in which there appeared to be an association between upping coffee intake and staying sober.


    Nothing can be all good, and there is still information working against coffee -- in October, The Atlantic reported on a study from the health professionals cohort that suggested a link between excessive coffee consumption and glaucoma. "The current recommendation is that if somebody's not drinking coffee, you don't tell them to start," said Bhupathiraju.


    But she agrees that drinking coffee, and more of it, does appear to be beneficial. The evidence remains overwhelmingly in coffee's favor. Yes, it was observational, but the study published in May in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at hundreds of thousands of men and women and found this bottom line result: people who drank coffee lived longer than those who didn't.


    And the more they drank, the longer they lived. If you're into that sort of thing.


    View the original article in full screen by clicking here

    This post was posted in Coffee and Espresso Facts

  • Espresso 101 - it's not just coffee

    Posted on November 9, 2011 by admin



    What is Espresso?

    There are two unique ways in which espresso distinguishes itself from the common cup of coffee:


    1. In espresso, hot water under high-pressure is forced through a packed layer of precisely ground coffee to extract a thick, flavourful essence in a concentrated form.
    2. Each individual serving is prepared fresh to order, with the consumer waiting o n the coffee rather than the coffee waiting for the consumer. This makes every cup taste exquisitely fresh providing that the espresso beans were freshly roasted and freshly ground.


    True espresso is one to one-half ounces of dark, heavy-bodied aromatic, bitter-sweet coffee topped with a reddish-brown layer of crema. This crema, which is made up of emulsified coffee oils, are forced out under high pressure (8-10 bar) generated by commercial and high-quality home espresso machines. These oils typically don't mix with water (drip coffee being the obvious example) and this emulsification under pressure is what distinguishes espresso from strong coffee.


    Surprisingly, in a properly made espresso, maximum flavour is extracted from the bean while much of the caffeine and excess acids are left behind. This is a result of a combination of high pressure, a small amount of water, and the speed at which it is prepared.



    Espresso Roast Styles


    Espresso connoisseurs, familiar with Italian cafe, complain that the vast majority of the espresso in North America is poorly prepared and often undrinkable as espresso. Instead of being the essence of coffee that it is supposed to be, the average espresso is weak, bitter, without aroma and generally unsatisfying. Many have little or no crema, something that we at Espressotec believe is the essence of a great espresso.


    European espresso tends to be a denser, bitter-sweet brew with a thick head of crema and intense, distinctive flavour profiles. Although there are differences in roasting styles even between Northern and Southern Italy, there is a consensus as to what the perfect espresso should be.


    European espresso blends are characterized by their lighter roast and surprisingly, to North Americans, a small (5 – 10 per cent) amount of high grade Robusta coffee beans are often included. The emphasis is on high-grade Robusta as opposed to the low- grade Robusta often used to make canned coffee and instant coffee.


    The lightest of the espresso roasts is called a Full City Roast. The definition of Full City Roast (by the Specialty Coffee Association of America) is the darkest brown that a coffee bean can be roasted without oils developing on the surface of the bean.


    Not by coincidence, this roast degree is also the most commonly recognized ideal roast for almost all coffees, whether intended for espresso or for "conventional" brewing methods. A roaster can best show off premium-grade Arabica coffee with a light roast. All of the nuances and flavours of the individual coffee variety are preserved and highlighted. A lightly roasted espresso blend offers no dark-roast "mask" to cover an inferior grade of coffee. It means that more flavour is available to extract and the barista can extract more golden crema into the cup before the coffee is exhausted. This is the style of roast favoured in Northern Italy and Northern Europe.


    In Milan, Italy the espresso ristrettos are generally one ounce using one of the area's most popular espresso blends (ristretto means ‘restricted’—the espresso is restricted to the first, most flavourful part of the pour).


    Roasting the coffee beans to a darker brown, just past a full city roast, produces visible surface oils on the coffee bean. This roast is variably called Vienna Roast or Light French. However it is typical of espresso blends found farther south in Italy around Florence.


    In the finished cup of espresso, the more subtle of the coffee flavours are lost, having been replaced by the dominance of the roast, which is beginning to take on burnt overtones. In this style the bite of the roasting flavour is more present in the espresso. Also, a little less flavour is available because the flavour oils, having been extruded on to the surface of the bean, are lost more quickly from exposure to the air.


    Roasting coffee beans nearly black (with a full coat of surface oils) is generally referred to as French or Italian Roast. These beans may look great in the coffee bin, with a heady, rich aroma and seem to promise the ultimate in espresso experience, but in truth, these beans are shiny because dark roasting has caused most of the "flavour-oils" to sweat out. Much of the subtle essence of the coffee is destroyed by the prolonged exposure to heat during the roasting process. The oily sheen on the surface of the beans means any remaining flavours are exposed to the air, where staling can develop more quickly.


    What's left is not the "coffee" flavour, but the caramelization of sugars and caffeine. It is also possible to use lower quality (and lower cost) beans, since the inferior qualities of the coffee are masked by the strong roast taste.


    This espresso features a sharp, bitter bite in the finished cup. It is commonly taken with sugar if it is to be consumed straight, and pulled very short.


    In Naples, along the Via Roma, this espresso is served ristretto (3/4 of an ounce). The tazzini (small ceramic cups) are kept in hot water baths so that they are the exact temperature of the espresso, and so that every drop of delicate crema survives.


    The Critical Crema

    At Espressotec, we strongly believe in what is known as the critical crema of espresso.  In the espresso extraction process, water-soluble substances are dissolved from the ground coffee, the same as in regular coffee brewing. Additionally, under the 8 - 10 bar of espresso machine pressure, non-soluble oils in the ground espresso are emulsified and it is this pressure that forces the oils out and into the cup as crema. It transforms the properties of the coffee in terms of its mouth feel, density, viscosity, aroma and taste.


    Since the oils in the ground coffee have to be emulsified to be an espresso, a thick, crema is the single most important indicator of espresso quality. It should be rich, velvety, and plentiful with the aroma and fragrance captured in it. Moreover, the colour of the crema is the single most important indicator of the freshness of the coffee. Reddish-brown crema indicates an excellent espresso made from high-quality coffee, recently roasted, and properly ground just prior to infusion. The older the coffee is from the roast date and/or the longer the espresso has been in ground form and in contact with the enemy oxygen, the lighter the colour of the crema and the less desirable the espresso will be. A light golden colour crema indicates a poor quality espresso. The 4 "M's" (below) can either enhance or detract from the quest for perfect espresso.


    The Perfect Espresso

    The Italians have a word for it: Machelli. It means that four distinct factors have worked in combination to provide the perfect cup of espresso. The 4 "M's" of espresso success are:


    • La Macchina (the machine)
    • La Miscela (the blend of coffee)
    • La Macinadosatore (the grind and dose)
    • La Mano (the barista or operator)


    The perfect cup is hot and always absolutely fresh and made to order. The demitasse cups it will be served in will be pre-heated. The espresso will be one to two ounces in size, unless it is ordered ristretto, where it may be less than one ounce.


    The perfect espresso will be dressed in a thick mantle of delicate, reddish-brown foam known as crema. The crema should be thick enough to crawl up the sides and cling there when the cup is tilted and the liquid swirled around.

    The flavour is balanced, somewhat sweet, never burnt, sour or bitter. This is the result of skilful blending and roasting of the beans as well as careful preparation of the brew itself. A blend is desirable because no one variety of coffee bean has the full range of taste characteristics that contribute to good espresso. A good blend for espresso should have body, acidity, flavour, and aroma. The aroma is rich but never acrid or bitter.


    The roast must be just dark enough to bring out the desired flavour characteristics but should never be allowed to carbonize or burn. Roasting darker for espresso is done to provide body but not acidity, since acidity is amplified through the espresso method.


    True espresso gives a taste sensation that is pleasing and of substance. It provides a rich and satisfying burst of flavour with a pleasing aftertaste.


    The taste of a truly excellent espresso is a special experience and when recalled, it is always with pleasure and anticipation. The perfect espresso (something that Espressotec employees frequently strive to create)  is a small but brilliant jewel of flavour . . . the quality of the flavour is more important than the quantity.


    Espresso - Italian Style

    Coffee is a serious business in Italy. For example a regular customer at a Rome espresso bar orders her espresso this way: "caffe macchiato tiepido al vetro senza schiuma" (literally "spotted, tepid coffee in a glass without foam". She makes it sound like a normal way to ask for a morning coffee. Which it is, in the country that invented espresso. Italy is famous for its espressos and cappuccinos and Italians take it very seriously.


    What espresso and cappuccino are even served in can create endless debate.
    Sergio Testa, a spokesman for the large Turin-based Lavazza S.p.A. coffee company, suggests that coffee in a glass "may stimulate the body more because one is able to see it". For Stefano Santini, a barman and glass fan, it is simply creamier and cleaner."


    Vasco Caldani, a coffee connoisseur and director of La Tazza D'Oro S.p.A. calls coffee in a glass "an aberration and a horror." At the famous La Tazza D'Oro bar near the Pantheon (reputed to serve Rome's best espresso), coffee is available only in porcelain cups.


    Espresso is an institution in Italian life. An increase in espresso prices is front page news. Over 2,000 companies roast and deliver coffee compared to a handful in most other Western European countries. Served by baristas who spend their life perfecting the art of espresso, a coffee provides the most common pretext for an animated and lively discussion of the week's soccer activity. It is usual to consume the espresso at the bar, often in a single gulp, and sometimes to the accompaniment of a "brioche" or a "cornetto" (a sweet croissant).


    An espresso can be "lungo" long—a comparative term for a coffee that may take three swallows to consume instead of two. Or "ristretto" (restricted)—a mere centimeter of concentrated liqiuid— in the bottom of the cup. Or "corretto" (corrected)— with some "grappa" (grape liquer) or other alcohol added. Or "machiatto"—marked with a small amount of milk whose temperature should be clarified to the "barista" (barman).


    These terms may be used in combination. "Un caffe ristretto machiatto" is a short espresso marked with a few drops of milk. And the phrase " al volo" may be added, as in "un caffe lungo coretto al volo". "Al volo" literally means "in flight"; if you ask for your coffee this way, you're in a hurry.


    The amount of foam is a delicate subject in Italy. "It's a tricky subject," says Mr. Caldani of La Tazza D'Oro. "Unfortunately, “he says, "foam has become fashionable." The foam question is confronted daily. Your espresso may be served "senza schiuma" (without foam) or "con molta schiuma" (very foamy).


    With cappuccino, the choices expand beyond foam. It might be "chiaro" (clear)—with a lot of milk—or "scuro" (dark)—with a little milk.



    This post was posted in Coffee and Espresso Facts and was tagged with coffee, espresso, espresso 101

  • Coffee 101 - the 411 on coffee

    Posted on November 9, 2011 by admin



    Coffee Roasting

    The never-ending quest for the perfect cup of coffee begins in the roasting. The perfect roast has yet to be discovered, but there are a myriad of different roasting techniques and degrees of roast which are the key factors in determining the flavour of the final product.


    Lighter roasts, often referred to as a cinnamon or Light City roast, produce a sharp and acidic taste. Medium roasts, such as City or Full City, generally bring out more flavour in coffee and is a popular middle-of-the-road choice of roasting styles today.


    Darker roasts, such as light French, espresso, and French have a fuller flavour often with caramel overtones and with a bittersweet tang developing.


    Very dark roasts, such as Italian, dark French and Spanish have a smoky and often burnt-like flavour. The darker the roast the less likely you are to taste the flavour nuances of the coffee and the more likely the char of the bean.


    Degrees of Roast

    • LIGHT CINNAMON- this is the lightest coffee roast. The beans tend to be a light, cinnamon brown with little to no oil coating the bean. The coffee taste is light as the flavours have barely begun to develop.


    • CINNAMON – the beans are light, orangey brown with a relatively dry surface. It tastes like toasted grain with sour acid notes.


    • NEW ENGLAND – in this roast, the beans are only slightly darker than that of a cinnamon roast and the flavours are similar minus the grainy flavour.


    • LIGHT CITY – beans are a medium light brown. Traditionally a norm for the eastern US market.


    • CITY or MEDIUM – beans are medium brown, normal for Western US and all of Canada. It is a good roast to taste the varietal character of bean.


    • FULL CITY – these beans are medium dark brown, with oil drops starting to form on surface. This roast is good for varietal character, with bittersweet notes starting. There is little to no burnt or caramelized flavour in the coffee.


    • LIGHT FRENCH (VIENNESE) – the beans tend to be darker brown with oily spots or some surface oil with more bittersweet caramel flavours and muted acidity.


    • FRENCH – the beans are nearly black in colour with shiny with oil on the surface. This roast is also popular for espresso with burned undertones and low acidity.


    • DARK FRENCH or ITALIAN – the beans are very shiny with oil and charcoal tones are evident. This roast contains very low acid.


    • SPANISH – this roast produces nearly black beans with dominating charcoal tones and a flat taste.


    Coffee Tasting

    Acidity is generally desirable in coffee. It has nothing to do with heartburn! Acidity is the tartness, the tang, and the snap which one feels in the back of the mouth. It provides a clear and vibrant quality. Low acid coffees such as Sumatra tend to have a flat taste. High acidity, as in Ethiopian coffee, possesses a winey taste. Aged coffee from India or Bali may be sweet or mellow. Brazilian coffees are prized for their "right" amount of acid called richness. The darker the roast, the less the acidity, which is why dark roasts often taste flat. 'High' and 'low' acidity are relative terms: all coffee is low on the acidity scale— an apple is more acidic than a cup of coffee!


    No coffee is “heavier” than another, but many somehow feel heavier in the mouth. This is known as the body. It is the heaviness, thickness and richness that the tongue perceives. Coffee from Indonesia, especially Sumatran, is heavier and has good body. Central American coffees tend toward a lighter body. The best Brazilians are in the middle. With light-bodied coffees the flavour is delicate— one should never add milk. Brewing with too little coffee or too coarse a grind will also result in too light a body.


    This is a combination of acidity and flavour. Aroma comes from the perception of the gases released during the brewing cycle. Aroma is greatest in the middle roasts but is quickly overpowered by carbon-like smells in dark roasts. Low acid coffees smell 'flat' while richly flavoured coffees smell richly flavoured. Some coffees are more fragrant than others. For the most aromatic coffees, Sumatran and Colombian are ideal.


    Flavour can be endlessly described. It is the overall perception in the mouth, the mind and above all else, is what coffee is all about. Some drinkers enjoy highly distinctive flavours such as an earthy Ethiopian or chocolaty Yemen coffee, or a rich Sumatran flavour. Brazilian coffee is sometimes preferred because it has no real distinctive flavour but blends well. Some wild or mellow coffees have little acidity or tang but do have good body.


    On the other end of the scale are harsh coffees (often found canned in supermarket coffees containing some Robusta). These may be sharp and unpleasant but sometimes a bit of harsh coffee in an otherwise bland blend brings out certain flavour characteristics.


    Professional coffee tasters use terms that are in a class of their own— hidey, sour, muddy, grassy, musty, muddy and fermented. These terms are often used for the lowest grades of coffee.


    Caffeine & Decaffeination

    Possibly the most important thing to know about coffee and caffeine is that the strength of a coffee's taste has little to do with how much caffeine it contains. While caffeine has a slightly bitter taste, our perception of strength comes strictly from the degree of roast (the darker the "stronger") and the ratio of coffee to water used during the brewing process that creates the actual strength of the coffee.


    Caffeine content for an eight ounce cup of coffee can range from 90 to 250 mg depending on the types of coffee used in the blend and strength of the coffee. Caffeine varies between the two main species of coffee. Arabica coffees (most gourmet coffees) contain about 1 per cent caffeine by weight in green form, Robusta coffee, often found in canned, supermarket blends can have double the caffeine content of the Arabica coffee beans in the display bins next to it!


    Caffeine content of a one half ounce cup of espresso will range from 90 to 120 mg, but also is dependent on the type of coffee used in the blends and strength of the brew. The roasting process alters caffeine very little. It is readily water-soluble at temperatures above 170 F and consequently is fully released into the finished beverage during brewing.

    The average cup of coffee contains around 100 mg of caffeine versus just 70 mg in a cup of tea, 80 mg in a chocolate bar, and 100 mg in a 12 oz bottle of soda.


    There are three basic methods of extracting caffeine and three "agents of decaffeination."
    A great deal of confusion and rumour surrounds the various methods used, and their safety and effectiveness are worth examining in detail. All methods currently employed by the coffee industry carry no known or documented health hazards. Decaffeinated beans retain about 3 per cent of the original caffeine, and tastes so similar to regular coffee it’s often difficult to taste the difference.


    Direct Contact Process
    This is the original decaffeinating process and still widely employed. The green beans are first softened by steam for about 30 minutes. Then they are repeatedly rinsed for about 10 hours with methylene chloride solvent that soaks through the beans (coming in direct contact with the bean). Caffeine in the beans is drawn out, and bonds with the solvent, leaving the coffee 97 – 99 per cent caffeine free. The solvent is drained off, the beans are steamed a second time, for 8 to 12 hours, then heated and blown dry, evaporating all traces of the methylene chloride. Numerous tests of methylene chloride have not linked it to any known disorder.


    Although methylene chloride can be used for this process, it is becoming increasingly popular to use another solvent—ethyl acetate. The use of this organic solvent, which is a natural derivative found in many fruits, including apples, peaches and pears, is often referred to as "natural-process" decaffeination.


    It seems highly unlikely that even if some minute traces of solvent remained after decaffeination, that any trace of solvent could remain after roasting and brewing since it vaporizes at 104 F. Coffee is roasted at over 400 F for 15 minutes, then brewed at 200 F.
    The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) sets a limit of 10 parts per million of solvent traces in ground coffee and the primary direct contact decaffeination plant in the world, K.V.W. in Hamburg, Germany routinely delivers coffee with less than 0.1 p.p.m. of solvent. Independent labs testing K.V.W's coffee verify that often the coffee tests out at 5 parts per billion (2000 times less than the F.D.A. limit). This is before roasting and brewing.


    Indirect Contact Process
    This indirect method of decaffeination is known as “water-process” or “French water-process” due to its use of water in decaffeination. Unroasted coffee beans are steeped in hot water for a long period of time. Gradually, the water dissolves and draws out the caffeine, along with important flavour elements and oils in the coffee. The water is separated from the beans and treated with either methlylene chloride or ethyl acetate. The solvent absorbs the caffeine, which is then removed by the process of heat and evaporation. The water, containing only the flavour components found in coffee, is reunited with the coffee beans which absorb their original oils.


    Swiss Water Process
    Green beans are soaked in hot water for several hours until at least 97 per cent of the caffeine is removed. The resulting solution, which contains caffeine as well as other essential coffee elements, is passed through activated charcoal or carbon filters to remove the caffeine. Then, as in other methods, the water is added back to the beans which are then dried. Unfortunately, charcoal is less selective than other decaffeination agents, and as a result, removes more of the essential coffee oils. It is also the most expensive method since the caffeine, unlike the other methods, cannot be recovered and sold separately as a component of soft drinks and medicinal products. Lastly the activated charcoal cannot be reused.


    Coffee Preparation

    There is no "best" way to prepare coffee; each of us prefers one method to the others (for the record we live for espresso!). Making coffee is both a ritual and a practical part of life. Unlike tea or cocoa, coffee lends itself readily to many different ways of preparation. All of these methods share the same basic principle, which is to use very hot water to extract from the ground beans the natural oils that give coffee its wonderful aroma and flavour. The only difference between the brewing methods are essentially the speed and ease of the brewing process. The resulting brews described below are all technically a coffee infusion.


    The Filter Method
    The drip or filter method is possibly the most widely used method today. Fine ground coffee is placed in a paper or reusable basket unit and nearly boiling water is poured on top. For best results, a small quantity of water should be poured on first to wet (infuse) the grounds. The resulting brew filters through the unit into a pot or mug and is ready to drink. The coffee grounds remain in the filter basket. There are electric versions, which automate this process, including heating the water, and in general make a better or more consistent cup of coffee than the manual version. The filter method is used especially in Germany, Canada, and the United States.


    Neapolitan flip-drip

    This Italian method is similar to the filter method with the exception of the two metal compartments being held together with a strainer in between. Water is heated on one side the compartment then flipped over to filter through the strainer and into the second compartment. There are minor drawbacks to this method which include excessive cooling during brewing, clogged strainers, and sediment that tends to get left behind.


    One-cup drip

    Although a quick and convenient way to make a cup of coffee, there is the problem of excessive cooling during this process. The cup you use must be preheated and a cover should be placed on top of the strainer while the coffee brews.


    Vacuum method

    This process uses two glass globes with one atop another and a glass tube going through the two gloves. Water is poured into the lower globe and coffee is placed into the top globe. Once the water is boiled, steam pressure will force the water through the tube into the upper globe where it combines with the coffee grounds. The mixture will bubble for about two minutes and then it is removed from the heat and the coffee ill filter into the lower globe leaving the grinds in the top globe. It may be a bit slower and more difficult to clean than most coffee makers but it produces a great extraction and the brew is superb.


    The Plunger Pot (also known as French Press or Cafetiere)
    The plunger method (said to have been invented in the 30s) is known to extract maximum flavour from ground beans. The process begins with coarsely ground coffee placed in the bottom of the pot, then hot water is added to the grounds and stirred. The mixture is then allowed to steep for three to five minutes before the plunger is slowly pushed down to separate the coffee grounds from the coffee infusion. This method is only slightly less convenient than the filter method and is today one of the two fastest growing ways to make fresh ground coffee. Cheaper pot models have nylon rather than stainless steel mesh to separate the grounds from the infusion, but they do not last as long. Very fresh-roasted coffee (two days or less) will produce a foaming action when made in the plunger pot (carbon dioxide is being released) and is one sure way to tell if the "coffee right out of the roaster" actually is.


    Cold Water method

    In this method, ground coffee is soaked in cold water (either a glass or porcelain) container for 6 – 8 hours (500 grams per litre of water is recommended). From this, a coffee concentrate is created and hot water is then added to the concentrate at about a ratio of 30 ml to a cup. The concentrate can be kept for weeks if refrigerated.


    Espresso and Cappuccino
    Espresso and its derivative, cappuccino, were invented in Italy and are the fastest growing methods of making coffee. All the other methods involve a 'natural' form of infusion, and for a small cost, you can have a system that will make acceptable coffee. Espresso machines on the other hand, force the hot water through very fine, compacted coffee into the cups below. Good espresso is more expensive to make because in order to extract the greatest amount of flavour from the coffee, a high level of pressure is required (8-10 bar) and thus a high quality machine. When making espresso, it is important not to over-extract the coffee, which means that the entire process should take around 18 - 30 seconds. The 'crema' lies on top of the black coffee underneath and will tell you everything about the quality of the espresso. Too light, or too thick or too thin: all mean that the espresso is sub standard. A reddish-brown colour is perfect.


    Espresso can become like a religion to some people. And there certainly is a big difference between a good espresso and a not so good one. How much we spend in terms of money or energy in seeking out the best is one of those lifestyle choices we all make for ourselves. Espresso is the foundation of cappuccino and cafe latte. A good espresso is less obvious under a head of frothed milk, but the quality of the coffee underneath is still an important factor. The aim in steaming the milk is to aerate it and give it the consistency of whipped cream without burning it. The combination of frothed and steamed milk is then poured and ladled onto the coffee in the cup, gently as though folding it in. The small amount of remaining milk is also added. And there we have the perfect cappuccino.


    The Moka-Napolatana
    No Italian home is without one or more mocha jugs of varying sizes, and no matter what you may think of the coffee, their visual appeal is undeniable. They are wonderfully designed stovetop pots which combine the characteristics of espresso and percolator coffee. They force boiling water up through a tube and then down through the finely ground coffee. Handled expertly they can satisfy coffee cravings and produce an adequate 'espresso type' coffee in under a minute. This is the same premise that many so-called electric "steam-driven" espresso machines use. It is not true espresso because of the lower pressure developed. These machines can be identified by the screw top through which the water is placed.


    Arab or Turkish Coffee

    Although the coffee bean spread from Arabia to the rest of the world, the Arab method of making coffee did not. There is a fundamental difference between the Arab and other methods: the Arabs boil their coffee, traditionally, three times. Boiling coffee boils away the most delicate flavours, but it is a romantic way to make strong-tasting coffee. Arab coffee is made in an ibriq, a small copper pot with a long handle. Two teaspoons of very fine (powder-like) ground coffee plus one of sugar are added to a cup of water and the mixture is brought to the boil. The ibriq is taken off the heat as it comes to the boil, usually three times, and then it is poured out and served. A cardamom seed may be added for flavour. Only the very best coffee grinders can grind coffee into the powder required for this method.


    The Percolator
    The coffee percolator was widely used throughout the western world for over 150 years, where, until the recent coffee 'revolution', it was a standard piece of equipment in most homes. The percolator heats the coarsely ground coffee and cold water so that it boils and bubbles up into the top of the unit. It is an excellent way to have the relaxing sound of the coffee liquid burbling and gurgling, and to waft the aroma of coffee through the home, as all the volatile wonderful flavours go out of the coffee and into the air! There is possibly no worse way to make fresh coffee than this.


    Campfire Coffee
    This method of making coffee is the simplest of all. The coffee should be coarsely ground and added to nearly boiling water. It is somewhat like the plunger method, but without the convenience of the plunger to separate the coffee grounds from the infusion. A splash of cold water can be tossed in to help settle the grounds before serving.


    Instant Coffee
    The first soluble "instant" coffee was invented in 1901 by Japanese-American chemist Satori Kato of Chicago, but it was not marketed commercially until the launch of Nescafe in 1938. The quality and diversity of instant coffee has grown dramatically over the years and it is possible to make an acceptable (to some) cup of coffee from today's products. Instant coffee actually has a few advantages over fresh brewed coffee besides ease and convenience. It stays fresher longer, it is hard to damage the flavour, however hard you try, and most of all it is fast, cheap, and clean. Instant coffee is manufactured, just like any other coffee, from ground beans (but often the cheaper and bitterer Robusta). The first stage involves the preparation of a coffee concentrate from which the water is removed, either by heat (spray-dried) or by freezing (freeze-dried), to produce a soluble powder or granules. During the process of dehydration, the coffee essences may be lost, but these are recaptured and returned to the processed coffee.


    Flavoured Coffees
    While coffee connoisseurs may turn up their noses at the idea of spoiling the flavour of their sacred brew, flavoured coffees (and lattes) are often the first step for many new coffee drinkers and should be appreciated as such. There are also definitely moments when a chocolate or cinnamon flavoured coffee may be just right. Coffee is a wonderful taste itself, but also acts very well as the platform for many other flavours. Flavouring coffee is actually an old trick. In the Middle East, it is traditional to add cardamom to coffee, while the practice of adding cinnamon has been widespread in Mexico for many years. Flavours are usually added directly to the coffee beans just after roasting them, often by tumbling in drums to coat them with flavour. Another way to make a cup of flavoured coffee is to add syrup to brewed coffee. This makes an ideal summer coffee drink, which can be served cold, as an iced coffee which has been chilled with either, ice cubes or crushed ice. Although not always considered as a "flavour" the most important flavouring added to coffee the world over is milk. Although milk is not added to Arabian coffee, and coffee purists tend not to add milk, many people find coffee more palatable with its addition.


    Finding the Perfect Coffee

    Now comes the unanswerable question: which is the perfect blend of coffee? This is like asking for the perfect performance of Othello, or the perfect sunset. It has no answer. Personal taste counts for everything. Taste and the occasion should be the primary factors. Dark roast for heavy meals with red wine and lighter coffees for fish and white wine.


    Some like their black morning coffee heavily acidic, light-bodied and mellow tasting. Others like brisk, light coffee with good body. Many prefer a darker roasted coffee these days with a caramel flavour. Others want an all-round coffee, best provided by a blend.


    To achieve the perfect coffee, here are a few basic brewing rules which should always be followed:


    1.      Always use fresh roast coffee

    2.      Grind the roast as close to brewing as possible

    3.      If you must store coffee, store it in an airtight container and store in a cool place such as the refrigerator.

    4.      Use a sufficient amount of grounds. Two level tablespoons per 5-6 oz cup is optimal.

    5.      Make sure the coffeemaker is clean. Rinse it with cold water before brewing.

    6.      Use fresh, good tasting water. Letting the water run for a few seconds before filling the coffee maker is a good idea. Remember, poor water equals poor coffee.

    7.      If brewing with hard water, use a little more ground coffee. Hard water tends to mute some of the natural acids and produces a blander cup.

    8.      Use hot, but not boiling water. Never boil the coffee as that will spoil the delicate flavours.

    9.      Never reheat your coffee, this will ruin the taste.

    10.  Try to consume the coffee as soon as possible. Leaving the coffee on a heating element for too long will alter the taste.

    11.  Resist the urge to use a finer grind than your coffeemaker suggests. Doing so will produce a poorer tasting cup of coffee.


    Next, here are a few hints on coffee combinations:


    A good middle-of-the-road combination of flavour, strength and aroma could be made almost entirely of South & Central American beans, which generally have a smooth body and an aromatic flavour. A stronger coffee with a rich bouquet might be a blend of high grade Brazilian and Ethiopian Harrar beans and darker roasted. By combining any of the lighter roasts with either a light or dark French roast, one creates a Viennese blend. This combines all the taste superiority of the lighter roast with the hearty tang of the darker roast. Similarly, by adding a French Roast to Mocha Java, you might have the ultimate coffee, which is rich, strong and has an outstanding flavour.


    Central American coffees generally have a lot of snap and acidity, while Tanzanian and Sumatran add body and richness. Mexican and Guatemalan coffees add sweetness and for those who want more sweetness and a unique flavour, search out an aged coffee such as Indian Monsooned Malabar or Bali Negara. For a distinctive flavour and aroma, try African, Indonesian, and Colombian coffees. The rich, winey, almost chocolatey flavour comes from Ethiopian Mocha, Kenya, or, if you wish to splurge, Arabian Mocha which is made with prized (and hard to find) North or South Yemen coffee.


    When it comes down to it though, that great philosopher—and great coffee drinker—Fredrich Nietzsche has the last word:"all of Life", he wrote, "is a dispute over taste and of tasting."


    This post was posted in Coffee and Espresso Facts and was tagged with coffee, espresso, roasting

  • Coffee 215 - coffee of the world

    Posted on November 9, 2011 by admin




    Next to oil, coffee is the world’s second largest traded commodity. This rich, flavourful bean (sometimes referred to as a ‘coffee cherry’ due to its aesthetic similarities) is cultivated between a 'belt' roughly bounded by the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn (coffee regions are coloured red in the map). Coffee trees produce optimal beans along the Equatorial zone when grown at high altitudes in a tropical climate with rich soil. Around two-thirds of it comes from the Americas but there are many large and small producers in countries such as Arabia, India, Africa, the West Indies, Java and Sumatra. The coffee from each different area of the world has its own unique taste.


    Besides location, many other factors affect the quality and flavour of coffee. These include the variety of the plant, the chemistry of the soil in which it is grown, the weather (particularly the amount of rainfall and sunshine) and the precise altitude at which the coffee is grown. Such variables combined with the way the cherries are processed after being picked contribute to the distinctions between coffees from countries, growing regions and plantations worldwide. The combination of factors is so complex, that even from a single plantation one finds variation in quality and taste.


    For a long time, the best varieties of coffee had been those which came from Arabia, known as moka or Yemen coffee, as well as coffee from the Bourbon (or Réunion) Island and Martinique. The names have been preserved in the trade to distinguish three types of coffee although the designation in no way implies origin.


    The three types are:


    MOKA - small, irregular grains, yellow in colour and convex on both sides.
    BOURBON - medium sized grains, yellow and oblong.
    MARTINIQUE  - the biggest grains, rounded at the ends, greenish in colour.


    Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries around the world and is therefore a truly international trade. Below are a few of the most well-known producers.


    Latin America & The Caribbean

    The coffees produced in this growing region are distinguished by their light body, simplicity and sharp acidity. They are typically thought of as having bright flavours with a clean, crisp finish.


    Brazil Columbia Costa Rica
    Dominican Republic Ecuador El Salvador
    Guatemala Honduras Jamaica
    Mexico Nicaragua Panama
    Peru Puerto Rico Venezuela



    The coffee industry in Brazil was started in the early 1720s with coffee seedlings obtained from French Guiana. The coffee industry thrived because one-third of its landscape is suitable for coffee cultivation. By 1845, Brazilian coffee already accounted for the largest portion of world production. With seemingly endless expanses available for its production, coffee plantations in Brazil often cover immense areas of land, need hundreds of people to manage and operate them, and produce huge quantities of coffee.


    Nowadays, Brazil grows approximately 35 per cent of the world's coffee, but only Santos is considered important by the specialty coffee industry. Another coffee region, Rio, is also well known for its medicinal taste, and often used in New Orleans coffee with the addition of chicory. Bourbon Santos is Brazil's finest grade of coffee, and the beans from the Arabica trees that produce this coffee are small and curly for the first three or four years of production. During this time, the coffee is called Bourbon Santos. As the trees age, the beans become larger and lose quality and are then referred to as flat bean Santos. Bandeirante is a popular estate-grown Brazilian coffee that is often found in the United States. Brazilian coffee is generally produced using the dry-process.


    Brazil is the only high-volume producer subject to frost, particularly between June 1st until August 15th. The devastating frost in 1975 was a boon to other coffee-growing countries. Two 1994 frosts caused coffee prices to rise worldwide.


    A Brazilian coffee is a 'mild' and the two terms are often used interchangeably. Both Arabica and Robusta are grown, though in different coffee growing regions. The ambient climate, soil quality and altitude largely determine which variety will grow best in which region. A fine cup of Brazilian is a clear, sweet, medium-bodied, low-acid coffee.



    The first coffee seedlings were brought to Colombia in 1808 via the French Antilles by Jesuit Missionaries. A popular legend claims that one of the missionaries, father Romero, encouraged his congregation to plant coffee beans as a form of penance. Colombia now produces approximately 12 per cent of the world's coffee supply, and is second only to Brazil in world coffee production. The crop's economic importance is such that all cars entering Colombia are sprayed for harmful bacteria.


    An extremely rugged landscape provides the perfect natural environment for the growth of the coffee. But a terrain so rugged has also made it historically difficult to transport the harvested coffee beans to production and shipment centers. Even today, this is often done by mule or Jeep. Such care and attention results in consistently good, mild coffees, with a well-balanced acidity. Colombian Supremo, the highest grade, has a delicate, aromatic sweetness while Excelso Grade might be softer and slightly more acidic.


    The bulk of Colombian coffee is of high quality but unfortunately, they've increasingly gone the route of higher-yield varieties so the overall quality is not nearly as high as it once was. Peasants grow coffee at high altitudes, and it is processed using the wet method.


    Three mountain ranges, called cordilleras, trisect Colombia from North to South. The central and eastern cordilleras produce the best coffee. The most famous coffees in the central cordillera are: Medellin, Armenia, and Manizales, named after cities where they are marketed. Medellin is the most famous and has heavy body, rich flavour and balanced acidity. Armenia and Manizales have less body and acidity. The three are often exported together under the acronym "MAM". In the Eastern cordillera, Bogota and Bucaramanga are the most famous coffees. Bogota is considered one of Colombia's finest coffees, and contains less acid than Medellin, but is equally rich and flavourful. Bucaramanga has a low level of acid, but is rich in body and flavour.


    Costa Rica

    The ninth largest coffee producer in the world, the tiny republic of Costa Rica received its first seedlings from Cuba in 1779. Only Arabica is grown there on account of a law banning the cultivation of Robusta. The cultivators are mainly small farmers organised into co-operatives which form a federation which is responsible for exports. Due to use of very up-to-date technology the yield obtained is extremely high.


    Costa Rican coffee is grown primarily around the capital of San Jose. The altitude and temperate climate are similar to Guatemala's, although the landscape is not quite as spectacular. The most famous of these coffees are San Marcos di Tarrazu, Tres Rios, Heredia, and Alajuela. After being harvested, the cherries are immediately taken to state-of-the-art processing facilities known as beneficios where wet method processing begins.


    In Costa Rica, coffee grown above 3,900 feet is called 'hard bean,' while coffee grown below an altitude of between 3,300 and 3,900 feet is called 'good hard bean.' Costa Rican coffees are usually identified by the estate, cooperative, or facility where they are processed. One of the most famous of these estate coffees is La Minita. These coffees are full-bodied and sweet, with a hearty richness and lively acidity.


    Dominican Republic

    Coffees from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba and Puerto Rico are grown at moderate altitudes and are full-bodied with moderate acidity and uncomplicated flavours. These wet-processed coffees are best suited for dark-roasted espresso blends. Cibao, Bani, Ocoa, and Barahona are the four main market names for coffees from the Dominican Republic.



    Ecuador produces a large amount of coffee and is currently being ranked twelfth in the world. Ecuador produces as much Robusta as Arabic but other than that the coffees are undistinguished, with light to medium body and mild acidity.


    El Salvador

    Volcanic peaks account for much of this Central American country's landscape creating a good environment for growing coffee. Almost 60 per cent of Salvador's exports come from coffee and 25 per cent of the workforce is employed in the coffee industry, a figure which can rise up to 80 per cent during harvesting.


    Coffee was introduced here in the mid-1800s from British Honduras and Cuba. The flavour of Salvadorian coffee is mild, with good balance, medium body, sharp acidity and a hint of sweetness. The best grade of Salvadorian coffee is called strictly high grown. All coffees are produced using the wet-process.



    Coffee was introduced into Guatemala in 1750 by Jesuit missionaries. The industry was further developed after 1860 when the Germans immigrated here. A quarter of the population of Guatemala make a living from coffee. Not so long ago, coffee represented 70 per cent of the country's exports, but this has fallen to 32 per cent today.


    Guatemala is still in sixth position in the ranking of coffee producers in the world however, and some of the world's greatest coffee is produced in the central highlands of Guatemala. The high altitude and the rich, volcanic soil from the area's many volcanoes create conditions which are ideal for the production of top-quality coffee. The temperate climate, with sunny days and cool nights, allows the coffee to mature slowly, which seems to concentrate the flavours. The most famous regional marketing names are: Antigua, Coban and Huehuetenango. High quality Guatemalan coffees are produced using the wet-process and are of high acidity and medium body, with smoky, spicy, and chocolate flavours. Guatemalan coffee is often marketed by grade, with the highest grade being strictly hard bean, which indicates coffees grown at 4,500 feet or above. A secondary grade is hard bean, designating coffees grown between 4,000 and 4,500 feet.



    Honduran coffee is wet-processed and mainly used as a cheap blending coffee. It is ranked eighth in world production and aims to increase that ranking and become the most important coffee producer in Central America. Honduras received its Arabica coffee trees from neighbouring El Salvador as well as other countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica and Ethiopia. Some excellent coffees are grown here, but they are often blended with inferior beans before they are exported and are difficult to find.



    The coffee industry on this Caribbean island began in 1725 when its governor brought seedlings from Martinique and planted them on his estate. About 60,000 Jamaican farmers now grow coffee, some producing as little as five pounds of green beans each year.


    Mountains cover four-fifths of the country, with the Blue Mountains in the east, reaching a height of 7,400 feet. The coffee is planted on terraces between 1,500 to 5,000 feet above sea level and is often shaded by avocado and banana trees. It is the home of Jamaican Blue Mountain one of the world's most controversial coffees, once a superb coffee characterised by a nutty aroma, bright acidity and a unique beef-bouillon like flavour. Recent overproduction, lack of attention to quality and profiteering have led to a mediocre, over-priced product. Various surveys have shown that 10 times more Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is sold than is produced. Some confusion exists about where the boundaries for growing this product actually lie and often coffees of lesser quality are packaged under its name. Jamaican High Mountain is a term that applies to coffees of lesser quality that are grown at a lower altitude than Jamaican Blue Mountain. Both coffees are produced using the wet-process.


    Not all coffee produced on the island is exported. Jamaicans drink a fair amount of coffee and also use part of their production to make their local specialty, a liqueur called Tia Maria.



    Coffee trees from the Caribbean were introduced into Mexico at the end of the 18th century. Today, coffee represents one-third of the country's agricultural exports, and it is ranked fourth in the world for coffee production.


    Mexico produces large quantities of unremarkable coffee that is often used for dark roasts and blending. The state of Vera Cruz produces many of these average coffees in its low lying regions, but in its mountains near the city of Coatepec an excellent coffee called Altura Coatepec is produced. These high grown, or altura, coffees are light bodied, nutty, with a chocolate tang and acidic snap. Altura Orizaba and Altura Huatusco are other fine coffees produced in Vera Cruz. The state of Oaxaca in the central mountains also produces some good coffees, referred to as either Oaxaca or Oaxaca Pluma. Chiapas, near the Guatemalan border, produces coffee under the market name Tapachula and is also gaining a reputation for its above average organic coffees. Coffees are produced using the wet-process.


    A cup of Mexican coffee can offer a wonderful aroma and a depth of flavour, often with a pronounced sharpness. It is an excellent bean for dark roasts and is often used in blends.



    The best known Nicaraguan coffees are produced by the wet-process in the Jinotega and Matagalpa regions and are light to medium bodied and fairly acidic. Nicaraguan coffee trees produce large beans that contain salty acidity and heavy body when brewed.



    Panama is a relatively small coffee-producing country but it has two very different growing regions which produce distinct coffees. Coffee produced in Panama is sweet, bright and balanced, and similar to coffee from the Tres Rios region of Costa Rica. This wet-processed coffee is often used for blending, but is excellent served as a breakfast brew.



    Because of its mild character, Peruvian coffee is used for blending, French roasts, and as a flavoured-coffee base. Some good coffee can be found high in the Andes in the Chanchamayo and Urubamba Valleys. Northern Peru is developing a reputation as a producer of good quality, certified organic coffees.



    Puerto Rico

    Coffee was brought to Puerto Rico from Martinique in 1736 and by the late 19th century, Puerto Rico was the sixth leading exporter of coffee in the world. But the coffee industry in Puerto Rico did not maintain its world standing. Major hurricanes and competition from other coffee producing countries forced the island to seek other means for economic survival. Today, however, the coffee industry is being revived and Puerto Rico is again producing fine coffees. Coffees grown there are carefully cultivated from quality Arabica varieties and produced to the highest standards. There are two major growing regions on the Caribbean island: Grand Lares in the south central and Yauco Selecto in the southwest. Excellent coffees come from both regions, noted for their balanced body, acidity, and fruity aroma.



    The majority of Venezuela’s coffee grows between 1,000 and 5,000 feet in the areas bordering Colombia. It produces approximately 1 million bags per year but exports much less because of high internal consumption.


    The highest quality Venezuelan coffee is grown in the western part of the country near the Colombian border. Maraciabos, as this coffee is known as, refers to the port from which the coffee is shipped. The most famous Maraciabos are Cucuta, Merida, Trujillo, and Tachira. Coffee grown in the eastern mountains is called Caracas, after the capital city. Venezuelan coffees differ from other coffees grown in the region in that they are much lower acidity.


    Africa & the Arabian Peninsular

    Coffees from this growing region are the most distinctive in the world, characterised by dry, wine-like acidity, chocolate and fruit undertones, rustic flavours and intense aromas. Ethiopia is the native land of coffee, and it was in Yemen that coffee was first cultivated and prepared.


    Cameroon Congo Ethiopia
    Ivory Coast Kenya Madagascar
    Tanzania Uganda Yemen



    Cameroon produces the Java and Inéac varieties of Robusta as well as Blue Mountain Arabica, which comes from Java and Jamaica. The production from the plantations, however, is not always as high as expected because of the subsistence crops, grown in between the coffee trees, which absorb much of the fertiliser used. Cameroon is placed fifteenth in the world for production and fifth on the African continent.



    The twelfth biggest coffee producer in the world, Congo sells its Canephora and Kwilu varieties to most of the large Western European countries. Around 80 per cent of its production is carried out on small farms of no more than six hectares.

    850,000 families make a living exclusively from coffee. Unfortunately, in the last few years, the plantations have produced a poorer quality coffee than they should.


    Ethiopia is the birthplace of the Arabica tree, and wild berries are still harvested by tribes-people in its mountains It is Africa's top Arabica exporter and leads the continent in domestic consumption. About 12 million Ethiopians make their living from coffee, whose name is said to be a derivation of "Kaffa", the name of an Ethiopian province.


    In Eastern Ethiopia, coffee trees are grown between 5,000 and 6,000 feet on small peasant plots and farms. These coffees may be called longberry Harrar (large bean), shortberry Harrar (smaller bean) or Mocha Harrar (peaberry or single bean). They are all cultivated simply, processed by the traditional dry method, and are no doubt organic. Ethiopian Harrar is characterised by winy and blueberry undertones, with good body and high acid.


    Eastern Ethiopia produces a washed coffee called Ghimbi, that has the winy undertones of Harrar but can be richer, more balanced, and have a heavier body and longer finish.


    Southern Ethiopia produces washed coffees with fruity acidity and intense aromas. These coffees are known by the names of the districts in which they are produced, such as Sidamo, or by terms like Ethiopian Fancies or Ethiopian Estate Grown. The most famous of these coffees is Yirgacheffe, which has an unparalleled fruity aroma, light and elegant body, and an almost menthol taste.


    Ethiopia is still recovering from years of internal strife, which had a profound, negative effect on its ability to produce quality coffee. However, in recent years there have been improvements in quality, and there is hope for a full return to the time when Ethiopia produced some of the finest coffee in the world.


    Ivory Coast

    On the west coast of Africa, the Ivory Coast is one of the world's largest producers of Robusta coffee. In the mid 1990s it was the largest African coffee producer, fifth in the world overall and second for the production of Robusta. Since then it has dropped to ninth place in the world. Some speculate that this is due to an emphasis on volume and lack of investment and planning which has lowered quality and per-acre productivity. 45 per cent of the working population make a living from coffee. However, this vital source of revenue is at the mercy of droughts. Moreover, farmers sometimes prefer to grow cocoa as it requires less work and is often more profitable.


    Today, most exports end up as mass-market coffee in Europe, especially France and Italy. Coffees from the Ivory Coast are strongly aromatic with a light body and acidity. They are also ideally suited for a darker roast and are therefore, often used in espresso blends.



    Kenya works diligently to assure quality in all beans that are exported and, as a result, its reputation as East Africa's top quality coffee producer is unsurpassed. The coffee is cultivated on small farms, and the growers are rewarded with high prices for quality beans. They have a government-run system which rewards growers for better quality and which over the years has resulted in steady improvements.


    The main growing region in Kenya extends south of 17,000 foot Mt. Kenya to near the capital of Nairobi. Kenyan coffee is wet-processed and sold by the size of the bean, with AA signifying the largest beans, followed by A and B. The best Kenyan coffee, called Estate Kenya, can cost twice as much as regular AA's but it is worth the price. The tremendous body, astounding winy acidity and blackcurrant flavour and aroma make Estate Kenya one of the finest coffees in the world.



    The island of Madagascar, which is in twenty-second position in the world, produces Robusta, Arabica and Excelse. But the history of Madagascan coffee is strewn with setbacks. In 1878, the Arabica plantations were decimated by orange rust, and were replaced by Liberia and Robusta coffee trees.


    The former proved to be of inferior quality and the latter gave too low a yield. Since 1900, Kwilu from the Ivory Coast and Robusta from the Congo have been introduced. Unfortunately, they suffer from the danger of cyclones as well as the inadequacies of the island's road network.



    The coffee industry of Tanzania initially was closely tied with that of Kenya, since early in their national histories they were run by the same countries: first the Germans, then the British. Over the last decade, however, the Tanzanian coffee industry has languished, while the Kenyan continues to improve and prosper.


    Most Tanzanian coffees are grown near the border of Kenya on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and are sometimes referred to as Kilimanjaro, Moshi or Arusha. Other coffees are grown further south between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa, and are usually called Mbeya, after one of the region's cities or Pare, the market name. All coffees are wet-processed and graded by bean size, with the highest grade being AA, then A and B.


    Tanzanian coffees are characterised by a winy acidity, medium to full body and deep richness. Peaberries are often separated from flat beans and sold at a premium for the enhanced flavour characteristics they possess.



    Most of the coffee produced in Uganda is Robusta, and is used for instant coffee and inexpensive blends. Uganda does however produce one fine Arabica called Bugishu, and it is grown on the western slopes of Mt. Elgon on the Kenyan border. This coffee is winy in its acidity, and is similar to Kenyan coffee in flavour, though lighter in body.



    In ancient times, when coffee was shipped from the famous Yemeni port of Mocha to destinations all over the world, the word 'Mocha' became synonymous with Arabian coffee. Mocha is one of the more confusing terms in the coffee vocabulary. The coffee we call Mocha today is grown, as it has been for hundreds of years in the mountains of Yemen, at the south western tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It was originally shipped through the ancient port of Mocha, which has since seen its harbour blocked by a sandbar. The name Mocha has become so permanently a part of the world's coffee vocabulary that it sticks to a coffee that should really be described today as Yemen or even Arabian.


    The other ambiguity is derived from the famed chocolate aftertaste of Arabian Mocha which caused an enthusiast to use the same name for the traditional mixture of hot chocolate and coffee. The Dutch combined Arabian coffee with coffee grown on the island of Java, thus making popular the first coffee blend, one that is still well-known today, Mocha Java.


    Arabian Mocha, grown in the northern mountains of Yemen, is not only one of the oldest and most traditional of the world's coffees, it is also one of the finest. This coffee has been cultivated and processed in the same way for centuries, grown on mountain terraces and naturally dried. No chemicals are used in its production, and it is no doubt organic. Mocha is a balanced coffee with medium to full body, good acidity and chocolate undertones. Two famous market names for this coffee are Mattari and Sanani. Sanani mochas have a wild, fruity acidity, while Mattari mochas are known for their full body and chocolate undertones.


    In the country where coffee was first commercially cultivated, one still finds coffee growing in the age-old, century-proven manner: within the small, terraced gardens of family farms. Water is scarce in this arid land and coffee beans grown here tend to be smaller and more irregular in size and shape. Lack of water also means that the coffee cherries will be dry-processed after harvest.


    The result is a Yemeni coffee with a distinctive taste that is deep, rich and like no other.



    Coffee is grown on medium-sized farms and is a less potent version of Kenyan coffee, containing less acid and less body. The best come from the Chipinga region.



    A popular legend attributes India's coffee industry to a Muslim pilgrim named Baba Budan, who smuggled seven coffee seeds out of Mecca in 1670.


    British colonial rulers developed coffee into a commercial crop that remained valuable until 1870 when Coffee Leaf Rust devastated virtually all the country's plantings. In 1920, Arabica was reintroduced and now accounts for about 50 per cent of India's total crop. India is the second biggest producer in Asia and is responsible for 25 per cent of Asian coffee production.


    India's coffee grows between 2,900 and 5,900 feet above sea level, usually on terraces in the mountainous regions. Coffees produced in India have more in common with Indonesian coffees than with coffees from Africa or the Arabian Peninsula. Good Indian coffees are grown in the states of Karnatka (formerly Mysore - approximately 80 per cent of Indian coffee is grown here), Kerala, and Tamilnadu (formerly Madras). In good years, these coffees can contain acidity typical of Guatemalan coffee, and the full body of a good Javanese coffee. In addition, these coffees incorporate the unique spicy flavours of nutmeg, clove, cardamom, and pepper.


    India also produces monsoon coffees, in which green beans have been exposed to the monsoon winds, blowing through open warehouses in India's rainy season. This process reduces acidity and enhances sweetness, making them similar to Indonesian aged coffees. Originally, monsoon coffees were the result of the coffee's journey to England in warm, damp clipper ships’ holds during the monsoon season. The ‘green’ beans are easily recognizable by their distinctive straw-yellow colour.


    Indonesia & New Guinea

    Indonesia comprises 13,000 pacific islands, of which 6,000 are inhabited. It is the world's third largest producer of coffee. However, only 10 per cent of the crop is Arabica, and the number of quality beans available for the specialty coffee industry is limited. Even though they are a small percentage of total production, Arabica coffees from this region are considered to be some of the best in the world. They are prized for their richness, full body, long finish, earthiness and gentle acidity.


    The Dutch first brought Arabica to their colony in Java, in what was then known as the Netherland Indies, in the mid 18th century. Cultivation proved so successful that "Java" became a synonym for all coffee.


    Hawaii Java New Guinea
    Sulawesi Sumatra Vietnam



    Coffee was introduced to Hawaii over 170 years ago in 1825 when Chief Boki, Governor of Oahu brought coffee to Hawaii aboard the British warship HMS Blonde. The ship was returning to Hawaii with the bodies of King Kamahameha II and Queen Kamamalu who had died in London during their trip there. Chief Boki had acquired the coffee plants in Rio de Janeiro during the return voyage.


    Hawaii boasts a thriving coffee industry that's mostly geared towards visitors and gourmets. Coffee is grown commercially on four of the six major islands: Maui, Hawaii, Molokai and Kauai. It grows wild on Oahu where it was first planted. It primarily grows however, on the islands of Hawaii and Kauai, with the coffees of the Kona region of the island of Hawaii being the most highly prized. Kona possesses the perfect environment for growing Arabicas. The best estates grow beautiful, large, flat beans, which produce a medium-bodied brew, with buttery, spicy characteristics. The brew is rich, somewhat acidic and intensely flavourful.


    The Kona area of Hawaii has 525 farms yielding 1,800 acres of coffee. Kona coffee, marketed as a gourmet item, produces an estimated $10 million a year for farmers. Consumers should be aware that many coffees being sold as Kona blends may contain only 10 per cent Hawaiian coffee, typically blended with Latin American coffees. Kona coffees demand a premium price, and the flavour characteristics of many lower priced Latin American coffees are considered superior.


    The best grade of coffee is extra fancy, followed by fancy and number one grades. There are many excellent small estates in the Kona district; generally the coffee they produce is both better and more interesting than the Kona coffees that are pooled and sold generically.


    New Guinea

    Earth's second largest island, New Guinea lies just north of Australia and is divided down its centre between the country of Papua New Guinea on the east and Indonesia's Irian Jaya province to the west.


    Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, is usually where coffee labelled ‘New Guinea’ is grown. Cultivation started in 1937 with seeds imported from Jamaica's Blue Mountain region. Coffee is cultivated by peasants on small plantations in the mountain highlands around Mt. Hagen and processed using the wet method. Two of New Guinea's most famous coffees are Sigri and Arona. These coffees are less acidic and aromatic than the best coffees of Sulawesi and less full-bodied than the best Sumatrans, but nonetheless they are well-balanced with a fruity aroma and earthy body.


    Sulawesi (or Celebes)

    Once known as Celebes, the island of Sulawesi in the Malay peninsula produces some of the world's finest coffee. Celebes Toraja, grown in the mountainous area near the centre of the island, is one of the most famous. Coffees from Sulawesi are processed using the dry method and possess an intriguing combination of sweetness and earthiness. They are low in acidity with a deep body resembling maple syrup. These coffees are more expensive than Sumatran coffees because of small yields and the fierce demand for this coffee in Japan.



    Two of the world's best and most famous coffees come from Sumatra: Mandheling and Ankola. Both are dry-processed coffees grown in west central Sumatra, near the port of Pandang, at altitudes of between 2,500 and 5,000 feet. Mandheling is known for its herbal aroma, full body, low acidity, and rich and smooth flavour. Though these coffees are difficult to find, they remain moderate in price.



    Another Asian country with a large coffee production is Vietnam. Coffee originally came to this country in the mid-nineteenth century when French missionaries brought Arabica trees from the island of Bourbon and planted them around Tonkin where they flourished. More recently, coffee has been reintroduced and the coffee industry is growing so rapidly that Vietnam is rapidly becoming one of the world's largest producers. Today, small plantations, located in the southern half of the country, produce mostly Robusta coffee. In the cup, Vietnamese coffee has a light acidity and mild body with a good balance. It is frequently used for blending.

    This post was posted in Coffee and Espresso Facts and was tagged with coffee, espresso

  • Coffee Freshness & Storage

    Posted on November 9, 2011 by admin


    Know Your Beans

    Roasted coffee is 100 per cent fresh by definition from the time it is finished roasting and stays that way for a week, possibly two. After that, it’s a downhill journey to being completely stale and bland in less than a month. To repeat, coffee is fresh for a week or two; this is from the time it leaves the roasting machine, not from the time you bought it or had it delivered. Dealing with a conscientious roaster is a good way to ensure your coffee and especially espresso, is always at peak freshness.


    According to a study published in 1999 in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry Sensory on the aroma compounds of roasted Arabica coffee, over 20 per cent of all aromatic compounds in existence were found in the aroma of roasted coffee. The make-up of coffee aroma is very complex, consisting of several hundred or more compounds. For the restauranteur, coffee-bar and the consumer, it is enough to know that coffee aroma is a very fragile thing and deteriorates quickly, if nothing is done to help preserve the freshly-roasted beans.


    From the restaurant or coffee bar’s perspective, coffee should be considered in the same way as perishable food is. It is a simple concept, but one that is too often ignored. Treating your coffee beans like a bread product is a good guideline to follow. Coffee beans packed in a valve-lock foil bag helps to some degree, but staling still occurs each and every day. Therefore, all coffee beans, and especially espresso, should be ground, brewed and served within ten days of being roasted. Your paying customer deserves no less.


    The Coffee Roaster’s Role in Freshness

    The coffee roaster’s role in the freshness of the coffee that your customer ultimately drinks is critical. There is much more to this than the obvious role of selecting high quality beans and then roasting them to “perfection." This, of course, is a task in itself, which brings all the artistry and skill of the roaster into play. During roasting, green coffee beans undergo many transformations and chemical changes, and that process produces a number of organic gases which are trapped within the bean. These gases—(mostly carbon dioxide) are trapped within the roasted coffee beans cells. During the first 12 to 36 hours of being removed from the roaster (depending on the darkness of roast), the roasted beans de-gas by giving off carbon dioxide, which can act as a protective barrier against oxidization. As soon as the de-gassing period has ended, the freshness of the beans will start to deteriorate.


    After the trapped carbon dioxide gas is released from the bean, the bean is now able to absorb damaging oxygen in its place. Thus the staling process begins. It is because of these escaping gases that the modern one-way valve thermal foil bag was developed. It is the valve that allows the build-up of gases to escape without allowing oxygen (air) to re-enter the bag. A one-way valve bag allows the roaster to pack the beans almost immediately after roasting, thus keeping a large portion of oxygenated air out of the bag. Properly done, an oxygen volume of less than 2 per cent in the bag is possible.


    Storage Tips

    Beans that are sold in paper, poly-lined burlap, glassine-lined paper, or a high-barrier foil bag without a one-way valve are almost guaranteed to be stale when you get them. The exception to this will be if you are buying them from a roaster who has roasted them literally yesterday, and you plan on consuming them within the week.


    Your Role in Preserving Freshness

    From the restaurant or coffee bar’s perspective, coffee should be considered in the same way as perishable food is. It is a simple concept, but one that is too often ignored. This bears repeating, coffee is a perishable food product, no different than bread or many of the other foods in your restaurant or coffee bar — treat it as such.

    This post was posted in Coffee and Espresso Facts and was tagged with coffee, espresso, storage

  • Getting Green for your Green

    Posted on November 9, 2011 by vyee


    Green Bean Pricing

    Adapted from Arva O. Lumpkin, Coffeetalk Magazine.

    Green coffee pricing is generally based on every climatic, social, political, and economic change that occurs in coffee growing countries. For example, coffee prices rocketed worldwide during 1975 when particularly cold frost devastated the coffee bean plants in Brazil.  Other factors that affect pricing include acid rain and insect populations.


    The coffee market is considered a “futures” market based on speculations about future conditions by the buyers and sellers of green coffee beans. The beans are traded on the “C” contract market at the Coffee, Sugar, and Cocoa Exchange in New York. The “C” contract prices are based on the container loads and large quantities which retailers rarely purchase.  Coffee purchasers are generally paying the price of the coffee that was affected by the past market, therefore, the smaller the quantity of coffee bought, the less insult against long term price fluctuation.


    Coffee bean pricing is also affected by the International Coffee Agreement. Members of the International Coffee Organization collaborate annually to help maintain price stability.


    In general, green coffee pricing is difficult to determine. A number of different factors combined affect the pricing and the price you pay is rarely reflective of the current green bean market. If you really want to keep up with coffee pricing, keeping an eye out on the current climatic and economic statuses of the major coffee producing countries is one way  to gauge what future prices may be.

    This post was posted in Coffee and Espresso Facts and was tagged with green coffee, coffee beans, green beans

  • The Scientific Side of Roasting

    Posted on November 9, 2011 by vyee


    The Roasting Process: In Depth


    Adapted from Roger Scheumann and Rick Peyser, CoffeeTalk Magazine


    It’s not enough to simply appreciate the taste of the coffee. As a coffee connoisseur, understanding the various roasting stages will not only help you to appreciate the final product, but it will help you to create the perfect cup of coffee.


    During the roasting process, there are two main phases. In phase one of coffee roasting, the green beans undergo an endothermic reaction where external heat from the roaster evaporates the moisture inside the bean, creating internal pressure. The evaporation process causes the beans to almost double in size and decrease in weight. If you roast too quickly, you may tip or scorch the coffee, and if you roast too slowly, you risk baking or stewing the beans. During this stage, you will soon hear the “first pop.” The beans will begin to pop and crack emitting a sound similar to popcorn kernels popping.


    In phase two, the polysaccharides transform into starch and sugars. When the sugars begin to caramelize, the proteins and organic acids begin to breakdown. At this time, the beans will begin their second round of popping which is when the coffee flavours begin to form. This exothermic reaction known as polymerization, causes the fats and oils from the beans to increase as volatile gases are released.  Here, the beans will begin to darken and secrete natural oil which coats the beans.


    This is the stage where you decide exactly what kind of roast you would like to achieve.  Keep a close eye on the beans during this phase; too little heat and the beans will not undergo the proper change. Too much heat and the coffee will begin to “race” and overpower the chemical changes which should be taking place. Throughout the roasting process, the beans are able to maintain their caffeine content with the exception of dark roasts whose caffeine levels slightly decrease.


    Once you reach your ideal roast colour, release the coffee beans. Trial and error is the secret to creating the perfect roast. If it is too light, simply roast the beans longer next time, and if too dark, remember to release the beans earlier.

    This post was posted in Beverage Preparation and Techniques, Coffee and Espresso Facts and was tagged with roasting, coffee roasting, science of roasting

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