An Assortment of Random Coffee Facts
I recently read a couple books about coffee because I like drinking it so why not read about it as well. I read God in a Cup by Michaele Weissman and The World Atlas of Coffee by James Hoffman. Both books are very informative and taught me quite a bit about what I consume every day.
God in a Cup is written by a journalist who travels around the world to learn extremely in-depth about the specialty coffee industry and the cultures surrounding the origins of the beans. She delves into the backgrounds, personalities, and differing business models of Counter Culture, Intelligentsia, and Stumptown founders, directors, and bean buyers. It is a deep-dive into third wave coffee and how dedicated people are to this drink.
The World Atlas of Coffee is more of an informational manual with a bit of opinion tossed in (read the section about moka pots). This book goes over everything coffee, starting from the beans being grown to different methods of brewing coffee to how beans from different regions are expected to taste.
With those brief summaries done, here are some random bits of information I felt useful to write down.
Coffee Bean Information
There are two major types of coffee beans: Robusta and Arabica. Stemming from these two main types of beans are countless varieties and varietals to be discussed in a minute.
Robusta beans are typically grown at lower altitudes and used in instant coffees. This type of bean is much cheaper than Arabica and has a woody quality to it that is often not as pleasing to taste.
Arabica beans are grown at higher altitude and cost more, but usually have a more tantalizing flavor. The Geisha is a variety of Arabica bean that has recently won the Cup of Excellence coffee competition in 2021. This type of bean is discussed at length in God in a Cup.
Variety vs. Varietal: a variety is a genetically distinct variation of a single species (arabica or robusta), whereas a varietal is a specific instance of a variety (like saying “this farm is 100% bourbon varietal)
A fact I had heard and neglected until recently: your water type matters when brewing coffee! Coffee is mostly just water, so the type you use makes a difference. It is best to use a soft mineral water with a neutral pH around 7, no chlorine, and limited limescale (calcium carbonate). The World Atlas of Coffee recommends using a 60g coffee beans : 1L of coffee ratio for brewing, and then adjust from there.
When making French Press coffee, let your boiling water cool to 196-204 degrees before pouring over the beans. To be honest, I forget the exact reasoning. Probably something to do with extracting too quickly or scalding the grounds.
Weighing Your Grounds
An aside, and something I have been doing for a year now, is weighing your coffee grounds. When I use a French press, I will weight out a specific amount of grounds versus just dumping the beans into the beaker. Food scales come pretty affordable on Amazon these days and we use ours frequently. I have played with the 60g coffee : 1L water ratio to find the amount I like. I typically to 45g to 500mLs of water.
I am not very experienced when it comes to espresso. I have a hand-held nanopresso and that works fine, but I honestly prefer regular black coffee. I digress.
Crema: the reddish brownish foam on top of an espresso shot, crema is formed with high pressure water dissolves the carbon dioxide in the grounds. When the liquid is returned to a normal pressure, the gas can’t be contained and it escapes in the form of minuscule bubbles trapped in coffee liquid. Thus, the foamy crema is formed. If there has been a longer time since roasting the beans, there will be less crema due to less CO2 in the beans. The darker the crema, the darker the roast. A slower, darker roast is typically easier to extract. 130psi is standard pressure applied for espresso shots.
There are many variables in pulling the perfect espresso shot, which again, I am not experienced in at all. I find it fascinating to learn how people dedicate their time to perfecting this art. The grind size, brew ratio, temperature, and pressure applied all affect the shot.
Storing Coffee Beans
It’s best to store beans in a cool, dry, dark, airtight container. Do not store in the fridge. If freezing beans is necessary, place beans in an airtight container to prevent other odors from seeping into the beans.
I think that’s it for now! If you’re into coffee, I recommend checking out YouTube or the aforementioned books for more information.