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But First, Coffee

Let's get back to basics.

June 29, 2018

Coffee is no longer only that drink that keeps us awake. With growing interest all around the world, specialty coffee became a common expression in our everyday discourse. More and more coffee places are being open proudly declaring the coffee varieties they are using for their brews. V60, cold brew, nitro, french press, espresso, the world of unlimited choices is what the customer is facing. I think I can consider myself a coffee lover for a while, but only recently I have got into the coffee scene, understanding more about the endless opportunities of this fantastic world.

Different brewing methods at the specialty coffee shop in Bra. @bottegadelledelizie

Coffee drinking can tell so much about you; It is though much of a cultural thing. Italians will usually prefer a Moka or an Espresso – fast, strong and precise. The British, will usually prefer Tea but still on many occasions will order a Flat White. The Turkish, and many of us Israelis will choose Turkish coffee, the Americans will prefer a Filter, and the Danish will go for the more hipster choice of V60 brew. So many options and we haven’t even started. What type of beans? What volume of a roast? Which brewing method? With milk or without?

London specialty coffee scene. @sandows @TAPcoffee

Let’s start at the beginning, coffee, which initially arrived in our lives from Ethiopia traveled along the Arabic penicillium and arrived in Europe and to the Americas in the 16th century. Nowadays, coffee is produced in many different areas within the 0-4 lines around the equator. The Beans are generally speaking belong either to the Arabica or the Robusta family. Arabica considered to be the more prestige variety, regarding taste it will bring to the cup acidity, fruity notes and a reach body. While the Robusta will be bitterer, stronger and foamier – perfect for espresso.

Coffee growing process, from tiny seeding to small trees.

Different steps in the coffee production process will affect the final profile of the coffee. First decision to be made is the type of plantation, moving on the scale from fully shaded plantation to fully sunny plantation. Shade positively affects the bean quality as well as making the plantation more sustainable. The only problem is that those plantations are less profitable as the yield decrease.

Coffee as we know it is a bean of a red berry grown on medium-size evergreen trees with jasmine-like white flowers, widespread in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

The second decision after the harvest of the barriers is the processing method. The decision to be made is between the wet, semi-washed and dry techniques. In the dry process, the whole coffee fruits are dried in the sun and then hulled mechanically, given to the influence of nature. This method is dangerous, but with careful care, it achieves coffee with good body and full and rich taste. High-quality Arabica is usually processed in the wet process, in the water the ripe berries are separated from the unripe ones. The skin and part of the pulp are removed, and the fermentation process starts. The coffee beans are then dried and hulled in the sun or by hot air. The coffee achieved has less body but a better aroma. New methods, more sustainable ones, are being introduced to the coffee market, reducing the waste and the amounts of water used.

Full shaded coffee growing fields in Costa Rica.

The coffee we receive after the processing is “green coffee” and it is usually shipped that way to the different countries where the roasting is taking place. The roasting will also give its signature on the coffee, eventually, the temperature and the time of roasting will define the final taste. Light roast contains more caffeine and less bitterness, its sweetness and citrus notes have a wonderfully delicate aroma. Medium roast is the most balanced one, having dominant chocolate notes with good body and a pleasant aftertaste. Dark roast contains less caffeine but has lovely cacao flavors with some bitterness in it.

Nordhavn Coffee Roasters Copenhagen.

The different parameters of the coffee growing conditions will strongly affect the final taste in the cup, talking about altitude, weather, and soil, or in other words Terroir, but also the growing method, the way of treatment and the roasting, all designing a desirable coffee profile.

Green-Coffee before roasting.

If in the past most of the coffee producers were working on new blends, now there is a new trend of single origins, and even the big companies as Nespresso and Lavazza are releasing single origin brand lines. One of my favorite single origin coffee is Costa Rican. The taste of the Costa Rican Arabica, as it is not allowed by law to plant in Costa Rica any other variety is fruity and a bit sour. The coffee is strong, but not too bitter – a perfect fit for me.

The Perfect conditions of Coffee Growing – Monteverde cloud forest Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a relatively warm and humid country. The temperatures decrease with elevation, and there are significant differences between the slopes. The eight regions of production, each with different altitudes, temperatures, rainfall, and soils produce fine coffee, each with its specialty. The higher areas, above 1200mm, have volcanic soil and produce a strong, acidic and aromatic coffee. While the lower altitudes produce coffee with stronger fruity and floral notes. The natural conditions are very close to the optimum, helping the Costa Rican farmers to produce one among the world’s finest cups, rich in body, with fine mild flavor and sharp acidity.

To make the perfect coffee at home start if possible with buying whole coffee beans and grind them only before drinking, as the grinding process makes the coffee to lose its freshness very quickly, together with its aroma and taste.

If you fell in love with the Italian Moka as I did here are some tips for making the perfect Moka –

  • Do not wash your Moka with soap – the soap flavor will get to your coffee.
  • First Water, then coffee powder.
  • Put water precisely until the small hole you have toward the upper part of your water container.
  • Do not press the coffee inside the Moka cup, hold it in one hand, put the coffee with the other, and tap it on the table to make it straitened and full.
  • Warm you Moka on a small fire and turn it off immediately when the steam is starting to come out, and you hear the boiling sounds, letting it linger on the fire will burn it.

Enjoy your coffee!

A penny for your thought