Getting to Know Coffee – The Ultimate Guide to the Ultimate Drink
Getting to Know Coffee – The Ultimate Guide to the Ultimate Drink
Coffee culture is far more than a trend. It’s more than being presented with a de-constructed latte (imagine a glass of warm water, a small glass of Espresso and another glass of frothed milk) laid neatly in front of you, for you to somehow figure out and enjoy.
Cool concept, not entirely practical.
The South African coffee scene has more than exploded over the last five years, with more science going into the coffee roasting process than ever before. Some new-age coffee companies have even gone so far as to base their sales module off of their home-blend not requiring added sugar – a definite indication that true coffee connoisseur-ism has come to fruition in our beloved country, proudly trumping yuppie-cultures obsessed with unicorn-coloured ice cream-based, vaguely coffee drinks.
Whilst there is a time and a place for everything – coffee culture, worldwide, comes down to one main ingredient; coffee. We’re going to explain coffee – the magic elixir that it is – from every aspect possible.
What Is Coffee?
This seems like a good place to start, right? What exactly makes up that energy-giving, great-tasting and somewhat addictive magical potion we so joyfully guzzle at any given time?
Coffee beans look a bit like chocolate drops; an oval or round bean, brown in colour is what comes to mind when we think of coffee.
However, those little beans once started off inside a coffee cherry; they’re called coffee cherries because they look exactly how we imagine a regular cherry to look – round and super bright red. This outer cherry houses two internal chambers. There are about 1 or 2 layers of covering around the beans inside the cherry – there to protect it. Splitting the cherry in half reveals two green, or even yellow-looking coffee beans. Here already we can see what “type” of coffee bean it is.
Longer, oval-shaped beans are the most commonly used type of coffee bean, known for the more “relaxed” flavour profile we experience, and also considered to be the superior of the types of coffee beans.
This is known as an Arabica coffee bean; it is grown worldwide in the coffee belt (i.e. – around the equator and is used as a majority filler in coffee blends.
If the coffee bean is more round in shape, as opposed to oblong or oval, then the bean is likely the more caffeine-heavy sibling of Arabica, known as Robusta. It’s name is accurately indicative of the type of coffee it is, a robust flavoured coffee. It gives a strong taste to coffee, and is grown is regions with altitudes between sea-level and 800m above sea level. Robusta is commonly used as a booster to Arabica coffee – adding in a stronger aroma and a higher caffeine content.
The third type of coffee bean is both either and neither a Robusta and or an Arabica. This bean is simply two green green beans which have fused together inside a coffee cherry to form one small, rounded coffee bean. These types of coffee beans are very rare and as such also carry a higher price tag.
The History of Coffee
I’m sure we’ve all sat wondering exactly how it came to be that someone discovered that ripe, red cherry and decided it would be a good idea to take it’s innards out, scorch them, break them up and add them to hot water. Like, how even? Back in the 11th century, a young herdsman observed that some of hos goats would go completely off their rockers after having eaten only a few coffee cherries. These cherries obviously have no taste, so he decided to take the raw green bean and roast it over a fire. This incident, dating back nearly ten centuries, was the first step in what has come to be a global phenomenon in modern times.
Once coffee cherries have been picked, they need to undergo quite a few processes before they end up in our mug.
The fist step – for any type of coffee – is roasting. Roast levels differ greatly and have a significant impact on the flavour profile of the end product. Roast levels can generally be split into three main categories:
Blonde Roast – which is indicated by only a slight browning of the green bean from it’s original state, is the least common type of roast level. It is often reserved for coffee specialists – as it contains the most flavour and by fart the highest amount of caffeine. The absence of oil coating the outside of the bean means the oils are locked inside – which is evident when brewing the coffee (especially through an automatic coffee machine) as it will produce a Crema superior to anything you have ever seen.
The next type of coffee roast level – and hands down THE most popular – is medium roast. The bean will be medium dark in colour, with a slight oil coating which slicks the outer shell. It is most common as it assists in finding a middle ground for those who either enjoy a strong or weak cup of coffee. Medium roasts are commonly used to produce instant coffees as well.
Lastly, we have dark roast – which is often (incorrectly) perceived to be the strongest and most caffeine-heavy types of coffee. Contrary, the longer roasting time releases a lot of caffeine, as well as coffee oil. Dark roast beans will likely have a thick layer of oil coating them and smell strongly in their packaging.
Types of Coffee
So all coffee undergoes the first step of production – i.e. – roasting. Once this stage is complete, the whole beans can either be packaged for sale, or they can continue on to the next step of whichever process they need to undergo.
These processes can be:
a) Filter Coffee
The whole beans are simply ground up and then packaged.
b) Capsule Coffee
Whole beans are ground up and immediately packaged into airtight coffee capsules.
c) Instant Coffee
The beans are ground up and brewed (with hot water) to form a thick, pasty substance. This paste can then undergo one of two further processes:
– Spray Dried
The cheaper of the two methods of producing instant coffee – spray drying – involves exactly that. The coffee-paste is sprayed with a formula which allows the paste to dry out and form coffee granules. An easy way to tell if your coffee is spray-dried is to roll a granule between your thumb and forefinger; if the granule breaks up easily, it is likely spray dried.
– Freeze Dried
This is the process employed by higher-end instant coffee manufacturers. It involves the rapid cooling of the same coffee-paste we previously mentioned – and produces a far denser and more solid coffee granule. And indication of freeze-dried coffee is evident in it’s consistency, whereas spray dried granules disintegrate easily – freeze dried granules are almost solid. When rolled between two fingers, the granule may very well snap, but it will not crumble the same way a spray dried coffee would.
The History of Coffee Machines
Think back to your grandmothers kitchen and try imagine that old, probably cream or orange colour device that was bulky and you almost certainly had no idea how to use. The very first coffee machines were the predecessors to what we have come to know as a filter coffee machine. However, these archaic machines lacked many features – such as self-regulating hot plates – things which would help enhance the taste of your coffee. Also, back then, filter coffee was pretty much where anything other than instant coffee started – and stopped. The coffee scene was not nearly as big back then as it is today, and we have come leaps and bounds.
A while after the invention of the Filter Coffee Machine, an Italian inventor by the name of Angelo Moriondo patented the first concept of a steam-powered machine that reduced the brewing time of coffee drastically. This invention would lead to the invention of an actual Espresso machine – made by Gaggia – and espresso’s would be born. This new method of brewing coffee produced a far superior quality cup of coffee, with incredibly reduced brewing time. The word Espresso came from the brewing method – as it directly translates into a coffee which is prepared “expressly” – as water is forced through various compartments to make a quick cup of superior coffee.
Since the invention of Espresso machines, we have seen leaps and bounds in various types of coffee machines, like capsule machines and automatic or bean to cup coffee machines. However, the pioneered style of Espresso machine stands true to this day, and while advancements have certainly been made, the machine in it’s simplest form is simply an enhanced replica.
Modern Day Coffee
Now that we’ve gone through all types of coffee, the history of how it was discovered and how coffee machines came about – we can get to the juicy stuff. Our opening statement indicated that the modern coffee culture has grown tremendously over the last decade – let’s see just how much.
Modern Day Coffee Machines
There is literally a coffee machine to suit 99% of the worlds population. The other 1% don’t drink coffee.
Whether you’re a millennial who enjoys their single serve or capsule coffee machine, a coffee purist who has their coffee as strong as an Ox and as dark as ventablack, or a lover of latte’s who lives for the frothy, creamy dreamy consistency of Flat Whites and the like, I bet my bottom dollar you’ll find a coffee machine.
There have even been advancements to the point where things like the Franke Foam master has been invented. This beast will set you back half a bar, and it’s going to be as hard to find as chicken’s teeth – but let me tell you a thing or two about it. The Franke Foam master is one of the handful; of machines globally that can make flavoured coffee with cold foam. You can literally have a hazelnut flavoured Moccha Java one minutes, and a chilled raspberry latte the next, and still satisfy the guy who needs his Ristretto straight up.
On the opposite end of the scale we have single serve and capsule coffee makers, for the home user who enjoys their coffee with simplicity.
There’s also the brands that have stood the test of time, like Jura, Bravilor and Saeco – which can all make an exceptional quality cup of coffee, latte or Flat white at the touch of a button.
As you can see, the right coffee machine for you is definitely out there – you just need to find it.
The Coffee Culture
The Coffee Scene is far more than just what we’ve touched on.
Imagine a would where a coffee exists; a coffee so strong that you’re really only recommended to have two cups of it at most per day. Yes. Black Insomnia.
That same world houses coffee, coupled with your childhood favourite – an ice cream cone lined with chocolate. Yep – Coffee In A Cone.
Add to the mix a coffee that has been so well developed that the manufacturers themselves promote drinking the coffee with NO SUGAR? Truth.
It’s safe to say that coffee culture has literally exploded and become a worldwide phenomenon, one that we do not want to stop. Where do you see coffee developing in the next decade? What’s next?
Cover Image Credit – Phys.com
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