Caffeinated Goats – Some facts about coffee

I was considering writing a post on a technical aspect of coffee, perhaps on growing regions or something of the like. However, as I sit here drinking my own cup of coffee, I realize that most people wouldn’t necessarily want to take 10 minutes out of their day to read about technicalities. As such, I thought it best to go with a more lighthearted, easy-to-read post, particularly for those who don’t know many technical nuances of the world’s favorite pick-me-up. For those who are interested in the nuances, however, fear not – I’ll certainly work on more in-depth coffee posts for the future, but for now, I thought I’d just give a few fun facts about coffee that I find interesting, humorous, or just weird. Some of these I found while reading a book about coffee or from friends, others I already knew and thought it’d be fun to share.

  • Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia in the 9th century…by goats. When a shepherd noticed his goats seemed to have more energy after consuming cherries from a certain plant, he tried them for himself, and noticed they had the same effect on him. Those cherries were coffee cherries, and as such, Ethiopia became known as the birthplace of coffee.
  • Today, the largest producer of coffee is Brazil, as it has remained for a century and a half. Vietnam and Colombia take 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.
  • The world’s most expensive coffee is made out of wildcat crap. This particular coffee is made by feeding coffee beans to a Luwak, as its called, whose stomach is unable to digest coffee beans, and using their stomachs to ferment the bean. $600 per pound. Yeah. Let that sink in. Would you try it?
  • Coffee isn’t a bean or legume – it’s a fruit. What we know as coffee beans are actually the pit of a small, red fruit (which is why they’re known as coffee cherries). They’re simply called beans because of their appearance in similarity to actual beans.
  • Darker roast coffees have less caffeine than lighter roasts. This is because darker coffees are roasted for longer, and roasting actually burns away caffeine. On that same note, decaf coffees actually aren’t decaf – at least not entirely. On average, a decaf cup of coffee has approximately 5% the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of the same size.
  • Finally, coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages, second only to water.

 

Thanks for reading! – Ryan

A Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Tasting

For many, there’s quite a difference between enjoying a certain coffee, and appreciating the differences and intricacies from cup to cup. If you’re interested in becoming one of the latter, a good first step is to learn how to do a proper coffee tasting. When done correctly, a coffee tasting is planned to bring out every aroma, taste, and feel of said coffee. Keep in mind that tastings should be done only with black coffee – any added sugar or cream will dilute and alter the original qualities of the coffee.

Although not required, you may get better results when tasting two different coffees side-by-side. This allows comparison between the two, allowing you to make observations based on what each coffee does or doesn’t have (i.e. Coffee A has more acidity than Coffee B, or Coffee C has a mouthfeel of [blank], while the mouthfeel of Coffee D is more akin to [blank]).

If you are just beginning coffee tastings, don’t worry when you aren’t able to pick up many differences between the coffees you taste – a more refined coffee palette comes with experience. The more coffees you taste and are able to describe, the better-equipped you’ll be to point out the differences between each.

Step 1 – Defining Aroma

sniffingcoffee

The nose can determine dozens more scents than the taste buds can pick up, so figuring out what aroma the coffee gives off is a logical first step.

After pouring the coffee, take your hand and cup in around the top lip of the cup, pressing your nose under it, creating a natural funnel for the aromas to reach your nostrils. Breathe in deep with your nose, doing your best to describe what aromas you sense. Nutty, floral, chocolaty, earthy, basil?

Step 2 – Defining Taste

best-tasting-coffee-at-grocery-store

To be honest, this step always makes me chuckle, because while teaching people how to do coffee tastings, my advice for this step is basically “be as obnoxious as possible.” When doing the actual ‘tasting’ part of a coffee tasting, slurp the coffee. Yes, slurp it! If the person next to you can’t hear your slurp, you aren’t doing it right. By slurping, the coffee is spread out all over your mouth and tongue, allowing different tastes receptors to pick up different, well, tastes. Some parts of the mouth are more akin to picking up sour tastes, others better for sweet. By allowing the coffee to spread out over your palette, you can pick up more intricacies in the taste.

Step 3 – Determining mouthfeel/body

a-simple-guide-to-becoming-a-coffee-expert-13-638

As the picture above describes, body is basically how long the coffee sits in your mouth after you swallow it, and before that, where the coffee sits in your mouth. Take a sip and swallow. After the coffee goes down your throat, where is the taste (and general overall feel) lingering in your mouth? The middle of your tongue? Tip of your tongue? Sides of your mouth? Without going into too much detail, the mouthfeel of a certain coffee is often a good indicator as to how much acidity it has. Acidic drinks, such as orange juice, are felt on the sides and tip of your tongue – acidic coffees are the same way. Also, using the picture above, what is the “thickness” of the coffee? Is it smooth or almost watery, like skim milk? Or is it closer to whole milk, leaving a slight coating on your tongue?

Again, with your first few coffee tastings, don’t expect them to go perfectly. You won’t be able to determine every intimate detail of each coffee you try, but your palette becomes more accustomed to coffee with each new one you taste. Let me know if this technique works for you, and if this is all old news to you, let me know some of the best coffees you’ve tasted! I’m always looking for new ones to try!

Happy Caffienating!

  • Ryan

Which coffee brewing method is best for your tastes?

Pour over, french press, Chemex, the science-y Syphon?

^ Here we see the coffee geek (c’est moi) in his natural habitat

Alright, all you basics. You PSL’ers and extra-caramel caramel macchiato’ers. I’ll give you fair warning right now: this post will probably bore you. This isn’t about Starbucks secret menu drinks or frappucinos; this is about coffee in the same way Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins are quality pastries.This is the bare bones stuff. This is for the people who want to savor coffee and the experience it offers for more than just the cream and sugar put in it. This is about appreciating the coffee bean at its core. For those who want to get the full taste, warmth, and complexity out of each cup they brew. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against sweetened coffees – a vanilla latte or caramel macchiato can do wonders for me when I’m both sleep-deprived AND craving something sweet. I just wanted to give fair warning to those who don’t look at the coffee they drink much beyond the taste and how many pumps of flavor go into it.

Whether you already consider yourself a coffee afficionado or just want to learn more about your daily dose of caffiene, this post will aim to differentiate between different brew methods and which would best suit you based on your situation (and tastes!). In future posts, I will go into growing regions, roasting processes, etc. But for my first coffee-centric post, I wanted to start with something that nearly all home coffee drinkers can relate to – how to make it taste good. 

I don’t claim years of expertise on this subject – in fact, I’ve only been genuinely interested in coffee culture for about two years. I do claim a passion for it though. I’ve loved coffee since the first sip I’ve had, but only recently have I truly begun to appreciate the work that goes into growing it, the care that goes into tasting it, and the love that goes into preparing quality drinks with it. My work as a barista has allowed me many chances I wouldn’t get otherwise to really delve deep into coffee culture, and I’m grateful for those opportunites. That being said, I know that many people out there love their coffee, but don’t know the heart and soul of preparing it to make it the best it can be. So, without further ado, brew methods!

….but before that! Only you know how much coffee you can handle, so I won’t be listing specific sizes for each of these brew methods. However, a commonly followed rule for coffee brewing is:

                    2 tbsp. coffee per 6 oz. water (ideal water temp. just below boiling, just above 200F)

For each brew method I’ll list the ideal brew time and coffee grind (coarse, fine, or somewhere in between), as well as the differences between each end result, which should hopefully help inform your brewing decisions. Coffee brewing is largely about preference, so feel free to skew that formula a bit as you please. But for newbie brewers, this is a good starting point. So, with that in mind, let’s actually get started.

Pour over (V60)


How it works: The pour over method is as simple as it gets. Also known as drip brewing or gravity brew, this method is completed with a cone shaped funnel being put into either a stand with a vessel below it (as shown above) or straight onto the cup. A paper filter is placed inside, folded along the seams and rinsed with hot water. After rinsing the filter, emtpy the rinse water and add the grounds directly into the filter, pour roughly 1/4-1/5 of the water over the grounds, saturating them enough so that they all get wet, allowing the coffee to “bloom.” After 30 seconds, pour more water over the coffee. Upon 90 seconds, all of your water should be poured over the grinds. Allow it to finish dripping.

Overall brew time: 2:30-3:00 mins for 15g of coffee

Grind size: Medium fine

End result: A clean, medium bodied brew

Chemex


How it works: At first glance, a Chemex appears very similar to a regular pour over method. In many ways, it is – they both brew coffee by letting gravity do the work, drawing water down through the grounds and into a chamber. The big difference between the two comes down to the filter. Both use a paper filter, but the Chemex’s is much thicker. As such, the coffee produced is much cleaner and, depending on the coffee, tangy. The Chemex method is great for entertaining groups, and even the stingiest of people can’t deny it looks pretty. Like the pour over method, add a filter to the top chamber, putting the triple-layered side facing the pour spout (this allows a proper rate of flow from the top chamber.) Rinse the filter through and empty the rinse water, and proceed to follow the same method as a common pour over. Pour just enough water to rinse the grounds completely, allow them to bloom, then add the rest of the water over a 90 second mark.

Overall brew time: 4 mins. for 25g of coffee

Grind size: Medium

End result: A clean, fairly light brew

Coffee (French) Press


How it works: One of the most reliable, hardy brew methods, the French Press (or cafetière, as it’s officially called) has loyal followers all around the globe. Often recommended as a beginner’s brew method, the French Press makes a great cup of coffee simply by taking water, coffee grounds, and time. Take your 55-60g of coffee and insert in into the press. For an 8-cup press (the most common kind), pour 850g of just below boiling water over the grounds, make sure to evenly distribute the water as much as possible. Place the plunger cap on, but do not press down yet. Set a timer for four minutes, and then stir the grounds/water three times with a spoon. Place the plunger cap back on, and push down. The metal mesh filter will push the coffee grinds down to the bottom of the press, while leaving the brewed coffee ready to be poured from the spout. (Note: Cups of coffee brewed on a French Press will very often have a small amount of grinds in the bottom of each cup. This is normal and very rarely affects the taste – it is simply a side effect of the metal mesh filter on the plunger.)

Overall brew time: 4 mins. for 55-60g of coffee

Grind size: Coarse 

End result: Heavy-bodied, fuller tasting coffee and complex, roasty flavors

AeroPress


How it works:  The AeroPress is a newcomer in the game of coffee. Light, portable, and quite cheap, it stands as the preferred brew method for travellers. It comes in two seperate pieces, a bottom chamber, and a plunger-like top chamber used to extract the coffee. They are pictured above together. To start, place a paper filter into the AeroPress cap and secure it to the cap. Place it over your cup directly, with the cap facing down. Run hot water through the AeroPress, which serves both to rinse the vessel and preheat it. Discard the rinse water, then insert your ground coffee into the contraption. Pour in 250g of water, ensuring that all ground are wet. Using a spoon, gently stir the coffee inside for 20-30 seconds. At an angle, insert the plunger, then pull it up slightly to create a vacuum. Let it steep for another 30-60 seconds, then plunge. Be careful – make sure to push down evenly and not to one side, unless you want to end up with coffee all over the counter. Put your back into it! Extracting all of the coffee should take roughly 30 seconds.

Overall brew time: 2 mins.

Grind size: Medium-fine

End result: A medium-bodied cup, with a fairly intricate flavor profile

Syphon


How it works: One of the most unique brewing methods out there, the Syphon (or Siphon, depending on where you’re from) has been around for nearly two centuries, mixing coffee with science and beaker-like containers. Keep in mind that for this method, not only will you need an actual Syphon, but also a heat source to fit under it, such as a burner or a halogen bulb (as pictured above). To begin, add 385g of water to the bottom, bulb-like chamber. Activate your heat source, allowing the water to reach a gentle simmer. Whilst waiting for the water to reach that simmer, take the two metal discs (filter assembly) and add the pre-cut circular paper filter in between them, screwing the discs together to hold it in place. Using the chain hanging from the filter assembly, fit the hook through the tube of the top chamber, hooking it to the bottom rim of said tube. Once your water has reached a simmer, gently put the top chamber into the bottom, making sure the seal is airtight. This will create a vacuum, and between it and the now boiling water, the water will rise to the top chamber. A small amount of water will remain in the bottom chamber – this is normal. This keeps the bottom chamber from overheating while the water is in the top chamber. Once most of the water has risen, add 25g of coffee directly in, stirring gently to ensure all grounds are wet. Reduce the heat to a medium-low, allowing the coffee to brew in the top chamber for 90 seconds, evenly stirring 2-3 times during the process. After 90 seconds, remove the heat and the coffee will flow down to the bottom chamber, with the paper filter keeping the grounds in the top.

Overall brew time: Depends on the strength of the heat source, but the coffee grounds and water should be in contact for about 1:30-2:00 mins.

Grind size: Medium-fine

End result: A unique, very aromatic cup of coffee, clean with a complex flavor range

So there’s my spiel. Again, I’m no expert on all things coffee, but I like a good cup of coffee just as much as the next guy. If you’re out shopping and see one of these brew methods, check to see if it results in a cup of coffee catering to your preference. You could end up finding a new favorite!

– Ryan