More than a cup of coffee
A cup, or two or three, of coffee is part of daily life for millions of people around the world; whether it’s a long black, an espresso, a café latte or a flat white. On the whole coffee drinkers seldom think about the long and complicated process involved in producing that special cup.
But it is also true that as coffee drinkers are becoming more knowledgeable and sophisticated; they aren’t satisfied to just order or brew their preferred cup anymore. Increasingly they want to know more about the whole process. Here is some basic information to help you increase you coffee knowledge – and enjoyment.
- The different tastes or aromas found in coffee is the result of several complex factors. The location of the plantation, soil and climate all play an important part in the quality of the beans.
- Green coffee beans bought in bulk by importers, who sell the green beans to roasters. Large roasters usually sell to retailers like Kraft and Nestle. But smaller, speciality coffee roasters and shops increasingly do their own roasting. They usually buy smaller quantities of green beans at a time.
- The temperature in roasting machines is maintained at between 180 and 240 degrees Celsius. Once the beans start turning brown the caffeol, or oil, locked inside the beans begin to emerge. This process is at the heart of the roasting process and results in the flavour and aroma of the coffee we drink. There is no one perfect recipe for roasting coffee beans and it is as much a science, as an art as well as a considerable amount of judgement.
- Roasted coffee beans are classified as light, medium, medium-dark and dark. But remember, there is no standardisation for roasting coffee beans between roasters and countries.
- All coffee drinks have either a coffee or an espresso base, which can be of different strength, to which milk, cream or froth is added.
- The basic coffee drinks is made by brewing hot water with ground coffee. The process can either be through slow brewing, where the brew is simply called ‘coffee’, these processes are called drip or filter coffee. You can also use the French cafetiere or a percolator.
- Coffee with an espresso base, like cappuccino, café latte, flat white, are the fastest growing types of coffee. Good espresso is expensive to make because in order to extract the greatest amount of flavour from the coffee, a high level of pressure is required for which a high specification machine is needed.
- An ordinary cup of black coffee can be called an Americano (meaning an espresso based coffee) or a long black, served with hot water.
- Espresso is served in a small cup, and is drunk black. Good espresso has a crema, that lies on top of the black coffee, neither too thin or too thick.
- Espresso is the foundation of the cappuccino; it is the coffee upon which a luxuriant structure of frothed and foamed milk is ladled and poured.
- An increasingly popular version of the cappuccino, the flat white, is stronger than the cappuccino and served with less milk of a creamy texture. No froth please!
- The popular café latte is another espresso based drink. It is often served in a heat resistant glass, showing off a pretty layered drink of coffee (usually just one shot of espresso) and steamed milk.
Practical tips: How to buy coffee beans.
The serious, dedicated coffee enthusiast or expert can probably describe coffee’s taste, aroma and complexity in a way that rivals that of the wine enthusiast. But what do you look for if you just want to make good coffee and buy the best beans available for your taste?
You need to: Know what is available, know what you like, and shop around.
- Look out for: The two main coffee bean varieties are Arabica and Robusta. Roughly 70% of the world’s coffee is Arabica. Robusta is higher in caffeine than Arabica and is mainly used in instant coffee and blends. So make sure you buy Arabica coffee beans.
- Different countries’ beans have broad characteristics, although there can be big differences within each one. Brazil’s beans are favored in many espresso blends because of their full bodied taste. Columbian coffee is a favorite as it avoids extremes and is smooth, rich and moderately sweet. Guatemalan coffee is sometimes called the pick of the bunch; coming from 4500ft or more above sea level, it is light in acidity with a fruity flavor. Kenyan coffee is usually bold and tropical. Indonesia is an important coffee producer in Asia and the beans are dark and smoky with a hint of cocoa.
- The flavours most used to describe coffee’s aroma include chocolate, caramel, cereal, nutty fruity, spicy.
- Coffee’s taste can be classified as bitter, acidic, sweet.
- The body is used to describe the physical properties of the beverage. A strong but pleasant full mouthfeel characteristic as opposed to being thin. Astringency, or a dry after-taste, is undesirable in coffee.
In the end, coffee, like other food and drinks; is a matter of individual preference. Educating yourself is interesting and can enhance your coffee drinking experience. But in the end, it comes down to what you prefer and enriches the experience and the day for you. Enjoy!
Decanting wine - necessary or snobbish?
What is decanting wine and why would you do it? What are the correct ways to decant wine?
You enjoy a glass of wine, and put some thought into choosing and buying a bottle of wine – a wine to enhance the occasion, whether a noisy celebration or a quiet evening in front of the fire side. Then you should know about decanting wine.
Why would you do it?
Decanting wine simply means pouring the contents of a bottle of wine into another container. A glass container is usually used (preferably one that is easy to clean). Through the process of pouring the wine into another container, the taste of most wines, even some whites, can be improved. Decanting wine serves two purposes: to separate a wine from any sediment that may have formed (usually an older wine) and to expose the wine to oxygen so that its aromas and flavours will be more vibrant upon serving.
Which wines should you decanter?
Virtually all wines benefit if you decanter it; even whites and Pinot Noir – especially if they’re a bit acidic. Inexpensive wines will improve with decanting; anything from 10 minutes to an hour. Robust wines will also benefit.
What is the correct way to decant the wine?
If it is a young wine you can merely pour the contents into another container and leave it for about 30 minutes, or longer, before you drink it. The taste of the wine will improve because through decanting the wine has been exposed to oxygen (people often say the wine has to breathe). Older wines need more care (see below).
How to decanter older wines.
Older wines need careful handling when you decanter it as sediment (a brownish residue) has probably formed during the aging process. You want to get rid of the sediment as it gives the wine a bitter taste. If you have the time, let the bottle stand upright to allow the sediment to settle at the bottom. Open the bottle carefully and shine a flashlight on the neck as you carefully pour the wine into the container. This will allow you to stop pouring when the sediment becomes visible. If the bottle was stored lying flat, handle it very gently and keep it as horizontal as possible when you open it. In the case of older wines you only have to wait about 15 minutes before you can drink it. By that time the wine would have had sufficient time to interact with the air.
Decanting wine for the right occasions is not a sign of being a wine snob, it is simply a way to enhance your drinking experience.