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The History of Coffee

Coffee remains one of the world’s most popular drinks. Coffee beans are the second-most traded commodity in the global economy and coffee culture has made a mark in nearly every country on the planet. But where did this incredible beverage come from? In this post we will delve into the history of coffee, sharing the origin of coffee, explaining who invented coffee, and much more.

Who discovered coffee first?

No one knows exactly how or when coffee was discovered and to this day it remains unknown to who discovered coffee, but there are several legendary stories which suggest who was responsible.

Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili

The first story involves a Moroccan Sufi mystic named Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili. It is said that Abu was traveling through Ethiopia when he noticed that the birds in the area seems unusually chipper. He decided to try the tiny berries that the birds had been eating and discovered the power of caffeine.

Omar

Another story suggests that it was actually Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili’s disciple, Omar, who discovered the energising properties of coffee. According to this legend, Omar was exiled from Mocha to a cave near Ousab. Because he was starving, he decided to eat some of the berries on a nearby bush.

Omar found the berries to be quite bitter, so he tried roasting them to improve their flavour. He discovered that the resulting beans were very hard, so he boiled them in water so they could soften.

The brown liquid that was produced smelled fantastic, so he gave it a try and felt revitalised. Stories of this new miracle drug reached Mocha and he was allowed to return, bringing knowledge of the coffee bean with him.

Kaldi

The final legend involves an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. It is said that Kaldi discovered the effects of coffee after his goats nibbled on some coffee cherries and were greatly energised. He brought the berries to a nearby monastery and explained what had happened.

The monks, not believing Kaldi, threw the berries into the fire. Shortly afterwards, they then noticed a delicious aroma filling the room. They raked up the coffee beans, ground them up and added hot water, creating the world’s first cup of coffee.

Other Possibilities

There is also some evidence that Ethiopian tribesmen may have discovered coffee first. The ancestors of Ethiopia’s Oromo ethnic group were said to consume coffee cherries on their long hunting treks. They found that the berries would quell their hunger and provide them with energy for the hunt.

To summarise, while we sadly don’t know exactly who invented coffee, these stories indicate some possible origin tales!

Taking a closer look at the history of coffee

Middle Eastern Beginnings Heritage – 15th Century

The first written evidence of coffee being traded dates back to the late 15th Century. There is a written record showing that a trader named Sufi Imam Muhammad Ibn Said Al Dhabhani imported coffee cherries from Ethiopia to Yemen. However, there is other evidence to suggest that the coffee trade began almost a century earlier.

Historians believe that coffee was being exported from Ethiopia to Yemen by Somali merchants at the beginning of the 15th Century. Mocha, a city in Yemen, became the centre of the coffee trade around this time.

The Sufis in Yemen were known to be big coffee drinkers. They ingested coffee to improve their concentration during long prayer sessions. The Sufis also enjoyed coffee late in the evenings as it allowed them to remain alert during late-night prayer sessions.

Throughout the 15th Century, coffee began moving across the Middle East and Africa. By 1414, it had reached Mecca, Medina, Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Constantinople, and several other major cities.

Into the 16th Century

By the early 16th Century, coffee was being exported to Egypt and North Africa from Mocha. Coffee consumption was associated with Sufism as The number of coffee houses in Egypt dramatically increased during this period. There were some setbacks, with various religious figures banning coffee consumption at different points. However, it continued to grow in popularity over the years.

Coffee Arrives In Europe

The next major development in coffee history was its move to Europe in the 16th Century. Historians have records of coffee being consumed in Malta around this time. They believe coffee was introduced to Europe by Turkish slaves who shared coffee with Europeans on the island.

The busy trade route between the Republic of Venice, Northern Africa, and Egypt made coffee easily available in Venice. It became a very popular drink amongst the elite by the late 16th century.

Another important moment in coffee history was a description of the coffee plant being published by botanist-physician in 1591. This helped people in other parts of Europe to learn more about the wonderful mysterious coffee plant. His description and the availability of coffee beans in Venice led to hundreds of coffee shops springing up around Italy over the next hundred years.

Coffee comes to the UK

We know that coffee was available in England by the end of the 16th Century as it was imported by the Levant Company. By 1675, more than 3,000 coffee houses had been established in England. These locations became gathering places where citizens would talk about everything from religion and politics to sport.

Coffee reaches France

Coffee arrived in France by the mid 17th Century. It appears to have made its way into the country thanks to Arab physicians, who also brought sugar, tea, and chocolate with them. During this time, coffee became a popular drink with the aristocracy, including King Louis XIV. By 1670, coffee washing enjoyed by many Parisians.

The Cultivation of Coffee Spreads

The 17th Century

Another important moment in the history of coffee was the cultivation of coffee outside of Arabia. Towards the end of the 17th Century, the Dutch had managed to obtain coffee plant seedlings, which they attempted to grow in India. Unfortunately, their attempts failed.

They then brought seedlings to the island of Java (now called Indonesia), where the plants grew successfully. The cultivation of coffee quickly spread to Sumatra and Celebes.

Coffee made its way to Brazil in 1727, thanks to a Frenchman named Francisco de Melo Palheta. According to the legend, Portuguese farmers were interested in growing coffee, but were unable to obtain seeds. Palheta was sent to French Guiana to resolve a border dispute and hopefully obtain the seeds they needed to cultivate coffee.

The border dispute was resolved, but the governor of French Guiana refused to allow him to take any coffee seeds. Palheta managed to seduce the governor’s wife, who subsequently gave him a bouquet of flowers containing coffee seeds. Those seeds were responsible for kick-starting Brazil’s multi-billion dollar coffee industry!

The 18th Century

In the early 18th Century, coffee plants were transported to the Americas by a young naval officer named Gabriel de Clieu. The seedling survived a tempestuous journey and made it safely to the island of Martinique.

After being planted, the seedling grew rapidly. Its seeds were used to plant millions of additional coffee plants on the island over the next 50 years. The environment was perfect for growing coffee and the French quickly realised they had a highly profitable export industry on their hands.

Coffee has come a long way

Its quite amazing to think that this single coffee plant was responsible for all of the plants in the Caribbean, South America, and Central America.

To this day coffee remains a precious export for many countries and a popular commodity for consumers across the globe.

So there you have it, the origin of coffee!

Thanks for reading. For more interesting articles on coffee be sure to bookmark our website and check out our blog!

You can also visit our online shop for a range of coffees, coffee subscriptions (including our ‘Roaster’s Choice’ decaf coffee subscription), coffee gifts and coffee equipment.

What is Ground Coffee?

New to coffee? There is a lot of terminology in the world of coffee. It can be quite daunting for someone who is only just starting to learn to appreciate coffee and getting into this global beverage for the first time.

One of the first terms you will no doubt come across is ‘ground coffee’, but what is ground coffee?

So, what is ground coffee?

In nutshell, ground coffee is what brewed coffee is made of. This means It is the most common form of coffee which is found in shops (apart from the beans themselves).

To understand this, we will start from the beginning:

All coffee comes from the coffee tree (genus Coffea). The tree’s cherries are picked and processed to gain access to the tiny seeds they contain, which are called green coffee beans. These green coffee beans are then roasted before being ready for consumption and are called whole coffee beans.

Before being brewed however, whole coffee beans are ground into smaller particles to extract as much flavour as possible.

This can be accomplished using a variety of tools including electric coffee grinders, blenders, mortar and pestles, or food processors. After being ground in one of these devices, whole coffee beans are referred to as ‘ground coffee’.

Coffee grind sizes

The more you process the coffee, the finer the coffee particles will get. The grades of ground coffee that are often used include:

Coarse ground coffee

Chunky particles of coffee that are about the size of kosher salt.

Medium ground coffee

Gritty particles that are about the size of coarse sand.

Fine

Smooth to the touch particles about the same size as granules of table salt or sugar.

Extra fine

Extremely find particles that are smaller than granules of table salt or sugar.

Turkish

A fine powder that resembles flour.

It’s important to keep your chosen brewing technique in mind when preparing ground coffee as some brewing techniques and coffee equipment will need coarser or finer coffee particles. In general terms:

  • Plunger pots and French-presses require Coarse Ground Coffee
  • Percolators require Coarse Ground Coffee
  • Vacuum coffee pots require Coarse Ground Coffee
  • Drip coffee makers with flat borrowed filters require a Medium Ground Coffee
  • Drip coffee makers (such as the Hario V60 Coffee Dripper) with cone borrowed filters require a Fine Ground Coffee
  • Espresso mocha pots (such as the Bialetti Stovetop) require Fine Ground Coffee
  • Espresso machines require Extra Fine Ground Coffee
  • Ibriks require Turkish Ground Coffee (extremely fine coffee)

If you don’t have a grinder, you can buy pre-packaged ground coffee. You can even browse our ground coffee options or opt for a coffee subscription (including a decaf coffee subscription, if that’s your preference).

The main advantages of buying coffee this way is that you avoid the hassle of grinding it yourself and you know that it has been ground to the specific coarseness you require.

How long does ground coffee stay fresh?

Once the coffee has been roasted it begins to oxidise fairly quickly. Oxidisation occurs when oxygen molecules come into contact with compounds in coffee, altering their structure.

This will affect the acids, aromatics and oils in the coffee — dramatically changing how the coffee tastes and smells.

When coffee has been ground it will oxidise even faster because there is more surface area exposed to oxygen. Additionally, the finer the grind of coffee, the faster it will oxidise.

In other words, a super-fine grind made for your espresso machine will oxidise many times faster than a coarse grind you made for your French press.

Medium or coarse-ground coffee length of time

Medium or coarse-ground coffee remains at peak freshness for a day or two. If kept in a vacuum-sealed container to protect it from oxygen, it might be up to 7-10 days before the coffee’s flavours and aromas begin to significantly decline. The good news is that this type of coffee will still be enjoyable in the weeks that follow, but it may not taste as fresh.

Finely ground coffee length of time

Finely ground coffee only remains fresh for a few hours and because of this many coffee aficionados believe that finely ground coffee that is going to be used for espresso must be brewed within a couple of minutes because due to its rapid oxidation.

If you are brewing espresso at home, it is usually best to grind whole beans and use your ground coffee immediately.

Whole coffee beans length of time

Whole coffee beans can remain at peak freshness for a week in a paper bag or for 3 to 4 weeks if kept in a vacuum-sealed container. That’s the reason why dedicated coffee drinkers will keep their coffee in bean form and grind it as they need it.

How Long Does Ground Coffee Last?

Although the flavour of ground coffee begins to decline very quickly, it can remain drinkable for several years. Ground coffee doesn’t really go bad unless it has been contaminated with water or another liquid!

Coffee that is a few months old may taste quite bland, but it won’t endanger your health.

How To Store Ground Coffee: Storing Ground Coffee Tips

Storing ground coffee properly will help you extend its freshness and get more enjoyment from your brew. Quite simply, the best way to store ground coffee ground properly is to do your best to keep it away from air, moisture, heat, and light.

Keep it shelved

The best place to store your coffee would be in an air tight container inside a cool, dark cupboard. You should also store your ground coffee in as small a container as possible, so the amount of air in contact with the coffee is limited, slowing the oxidisation process.

If you have a vacuum-sealed storage container, that is even better!

Freezing Coffee Beans

Never store your ground coffee in the refrigerator and don’t freeze it, as this may introduce moisture into your coffee, ruining it. If you have purchased ground coffee, don’t store it in the packet it came in, as it will not be airtight.

Thanks for reading our article. Hopefully, these tips on storing ground coffee will help you maximise the lifespan of your coffee beverages. For more articles, stay tuned!

How is Coffee Decaffeinated?

One of the reasons why people enjoy drinking coffee is the stimulatory effect of the caffeine it contains. Consuming caffeine is a great way to boost your mental alertness and bolster your energy levels. However, some people prefer to avoid caffeine, usually for health reasons or because they find its effects unpleasant.

If you enjoy the taste of coffee but don’t like caffeine, you can always try decaffeinated coffee.

In this post, we will share everything you need to know about decaffeinated coffee, including the answers to common questions such as “what is decaffeinated coffee?” and “how is decaf coffee made?”.

Let’s dive in!

Firstly, what is decaffeinated coffee?

Decaffeinated coffee, also referred to as ‘Decaf’, is simply coffee that has had most of its caffeine removed. This can be accomplished using a variety of processes (more on that below). Each process aims to eliminate most of the caffeine within the green coffee bean while retaining the important molecules that give coffee its great flavour and aroma.

Interestingly, the amount of caffeine that needs to be removed for a coffee bean to be called ‘decaffeinated’ varies between countries. In the United States, the USDA stipulates that decaf coffee should have at least 97% of it’s caffeine removed.

In the European Union, a coffee product can only be considered decaffeinated if at least 99.9% of its caffeine content is removed. That would be about 0.1 mg of caffeine in your average cup of decaffeinated coffee.

Does decaf coffee have caffeine?

Yes, it does. It is important to understand that decaffeination never removes all of the caffeine in the coffee bean. This is because stripping all of the caffeine from the bean would also remove most of the valuable compounds that give the bean it’s wonderful flavour and aroma.

In other words, if this was done, you’d end up with a bean that tastes extremely bland!

How much caffeine is in decaffeinated coffee?

Your typical cup of coffee is about 236 ml and will contain about 120mg of caffeine. If you are drinking decaf in the EU, you can expect there to be less than 0.1 mg of caffeine in your cup. If you were to drink decaf in the United States, at least 97% of the caffeine has been removed, so it will contain 3.6 grams of caffeine or less. If you are trying to avoid caffeine for a medical reason, it’s important to remember that decaf will still contain some caffeine.

So, how is coffee decaffeinated?

Coffee can be decaffeinated using several methods. However, all of these methods will alter the chemical structure of the ‘green’ coffee bean, before it has been roasted. The main goal of decaffeination is to remove the caffeine from the coffee bean while retaining the molecular components which give the bean its flavour.

Decaffeination is a difficult process to get right because coffee beans have a complex structure, with over 1,000 chemicals contributing to the bean’s flavour and aroma. If the process is too harsh and eliminates or alters too many of those chemicals, the resulting coffee would taste horrible!

But how are coffee beans decaffeinated? Well there are several methods:

Indirect-solvent process

This is a very common technique for decaffeination in Europe. The green coffee beans are first soaked in very hot water for several hours. This extracts most of the bean’s caffeine content along with the compounds that give the beans flavour.

The green beans are removed and the water is transferred to another tank. The water is treated with methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, which are chemicals that will bond with caffeine molecules.

The resulting mixture can then be heated to remove both the solvent and the caffeine molecules via evaporation. The beans are then re-introduced to re-absorb the oils and chemicals that are responsible for flavouring the coffee beans.

The water is re-used in subsequent batches of beans to get more flavour into each batch. Eventually an equilibrium is reached, where the beans have most of the flavour of coffee, without the caffeine.

Direct-solvent process

The green coffee beans are steamed for about 30 minutes to open their pores, then exposed to a solvent which is usually methylene dichloride or ethyl acetate. They are washed in the solvent for about 10 hours to extract any caffeine. The solvent is drained and the beans are washed repeatedly to remove any traces of solvent.

The ‘Swiss Water’ process

This is also a chemical-free decaffeination method that was first developed in Switzerland in 1933. It was made commercially available in the 1980’s by a company named Coffex. This method uses solubility and osmosis to extract caffeine from the beans.

The Swiss water process starts by soaking the beans in very hot water to dissolve the caffeine. The water is extracted and passed through an activated charcoal filter. This filter captures the relatively large caffeine molecules while allowing the smaller molecules and oils that give coffee its flavour to pass through.

This results in coffee beans with no flavour and a caffeine-free coffee-flavoured water solution in a tank. The first batch of flavourless beans are discarded and the coffee-flavoured water is used to remove the caffeine from a new batch of beans.

Because the water already contains the oils and molecules that provide coffee with flavour, the oils and molecules from the second batch of beans cannot dissolve as effectively. This means the caffeine will be extracted from the second batch of beans, but they retain most of their flavour.

Decaf coffee that has been produced using this method will usually be labeled “Swiss Water” decaf. It is the method used for most organic coffee beans because it doesn’t involve chemicals.

CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) Method

This is the newest method for decaffeination of coffee beans. The CO2 method was developed by Dr. Kurt Zosel, a researcher working at the Max Planck Institute. This process uses CO2 to remove caffeine from green coffee beans instead of a chemical solvent.

The green coffee beans are soaked in water and placed in a stainless steel container. The container is sealed and liquid CO2 is forced at high pressure to extract the caffeine from the beans while leaving the flavour molecules behind. The caffeine rich liquid CO2 is pumped into another container where the air pressure is released, causing it to become a gas once more, leaving the caffeine molecules behind. The gas is then pumped back into the first vessel, ready for the next batch of beans.

So there you have it, we hope you found our article on decaffeinated coffee useful. You’ll find more articles on coffee on our blog.

And don’t forget to check out our ‘Roaster’s Choice’ decaf coffee subscription – if you prefer decaf, this is definitely the coffee subscription for you!

Coffee Bean Types and Their Characteristics

How often do you drink coffee?

Have you ever stopped to think about the many different types of coffee beans or where they come from? The chances are probably not that often!

If you are a self-confessed coffee lover, to really appreciate your coffee we invite you to learn more about the main coffee bean types that are currently found on the market.

The four main coffee types are Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica and all four of them have radically different taste profiles.

Arabica

Known as one of the most popular and well known types of coffee bean, Arabica beans are the most commonly produced variety and are considered higher quality beans. In fact, over 60% of the coffee beans in the world that are produced are Arabica variety.

These beans are grown at high altitudes and need to be in an area that has a steady rainfall and plenty of shade.

Perhaps one of the reasons that this is a variety of coffee bean that is seen the world over is because the trees are easy to care for, they are reasonably small and they are easy to prune too. Although they are delicate and can be affected by their environment. Arabica is both full of flavour and aroma, which is why it’s our offering for our Handpicked coffee subscription!

Robusta

The next variety of coffee bean is Robusta, which is the second most produced in the world.

As the name hints, the Robusta bean is both hardy and is also immune to a variety of diseases too.

This type of coffee bean grows best in a hot climate with irregular rainfall and can grow at a number of altitudes too. Compared to Arabica beans, those that grow on the Robusta plant have double the amount of caffeine in them, meaning that they are an excellent choice for a real boost and offer a more harsh flavour.

The beans also have a smooth texture and it is often said that they even have a slight chocolate hint to them, which makes them ideal to have with milk and sugar (perhaps as an iced coffee).

Liberica

One of the hardest types of coffee bean to come by is the Liberica bean. They are larger than the other beans and is the only one in the world that is known to have an irregular shape.

Liberica beans are also unique in their aroma and some say that they are not only smoky, but they are fruity and floral too.

Excelsa

Although having recently been classified as a member of the Liberica family, the Excelsa bean is vastly different in taste when compared to the Liberica coffee bean.

Mostly found in the South East of Asia, it accounts for only around 7% of the worlds coffee.

So there you have it, a full run-through of the main types of coffee. You can check out our range of coffees, subscriptions and coffee equipment in our online shop.

How to make frothy milk

When you are at a coffee shop enjoying a nice drink, one thing that is incredibly satisfying is just how perfectly they manage to froth and foam the milk in the coffee. Whilst you can easily make some kind of coffee yourself at home, it isn’t always easy to know how to make frothy milk.

So to help you to learn more we have put together a helpful guide on how to froth milk at home.

Does every coffee have frothed milk?

Although typically found in beverages such as espresso drinks, cappuccino or macchiatos. It doesn’t really matter what type of coffee it is that you are making, the chances are that you are going to have foamed milk in it. Not only does frothed milk look great but it also helps to improve the taste and texture of the milk within the coffee too.

If you are planning to make a cappuccino then you are going to want to make sure that you have plenty of foam, but if you are making a latte, you won’t be too focused on the froth and more on how it is going to improve the taste and texture of the coffee.

The good news about learning how to make milk froth is it doesn’t matter which type of milk you prefer to have in your coffee, all of these kinds of milk can be frothed and give great results.

What equipment is needed in order to froth milk?

If you want to know how to froth milk at home then you are going to need some key pieces of coffee equipment in order to get things right.

This includes :

  1. Coffee machine with steam arm/wand
  2. Milk jug
  3. Milk
  4. Thermometer

Once you have these items you can start to practice frothing milk and take your coffee to the next step.

How to make milk froth

When it comes to foaming and making frothy milk at home you always need to use fresh milk that is cold and straight out of the fridge. You will need to pour the milk into either a straight-sided or a belly jug. You should aim to fill up the jug between a third and a half of the way, you need to have plenty of milk in there to work with, but you also need to give the milk room to expand too.

Turn on the steam arm for five seconds, as this will remove any of the standing water that may be left in the arm and will also get the pressure starting to build up.

The next step is to place the tip of the steam arm just below the surface of the milk and then turn the steam arm on to full power. If you hear a chirping sound in the milk then you are at just the right power.

As the milk in the jug begins to froth up, you will want to lower the jug, which will make sure that the tip of the wand is submerged in the liquid, rather than being in the froth. Then, heat the milk to the right temperature, add it to your glass and then take the time to clean the seam arm as best you can.

So, now you know more about how to make milk froth yourself, why not get practicing with one of our coffee subscriptions and see what you can create. You might be surprised by the results!

How to Grind Coffee Beans

Whilst some people might be more than happy to drink instant coffee or pre-ground coffee, if you are serious about your coffee then you will want to look into buying a coffee grinder.

Grinding coffee is a simple process, but just like any skill, it can take a few times to achieve the perfect result.

This article attempts to guide you so you can learn more about how to grind coffee beans yourself.

Why is freshly ground coffee better?

If you are looking to achieve a great-tasting cup of coffee it is always considered better to purchase the actual coffee beans rather than purchasing ground coffee from the shops (we sell both in our online coffee shop including coffee subscription options).

This is because pre-ground coffee from a packet runs the risk of degrading faster thus becoming stale quicker over time, whereas coffee beans tend to last longer due to still having its protective shell reducing the oxidizing effect.

By manually grinding the beans yourself before making a brew ensures a fresh cup every time.

Grinding the beans yourself also offers more control over the coarseness which can massively impact the flavour of your coffee.

Choosing your coffee grind consistency

One common question when it comes to grinding coffee is just how fine to grind the coffee beans. There are a variety of different grinds that you can aim for. Coarse is when you leave the largest granules of coffee left at the end of the grind. You will often aim for coarse if you are using a cafétiere or a percolator to make your coffee.

A medium grind will feel just like granulated sugar and you will want to opt for this if you have a drip coffee machine, such as the Hario V60 coffee dripper. That said, you can also use this grind for other brewing methods, but it is not suitable if you want to make an espresso.

You can also choose to have a fine grind on your coffee beans. This is the ideal grind for espressos and has a real powdery consistency. This coffee grind is not just ideal for espresso makers but is great for flip drips and filter brews too.

To summarise:

Coarse Ground Coffee

A grind commonly used for French press coffee and is also the best grind for percolators. It is often the same consistency as heavy grained Kosher salt.

Medium Ground Coffee

Great as drip coffee. It is also considered the standard grind consistency for what is found in supermarkets.

Fine Ground Coffee

This type of grind is similar to that of powdered sugar and is needed for making a shot of espresso or for Moka pot coffee (see the Bialetti Moka Pot in our shop).

Choosing your grinder: the different types

Before grinding your coffee, you will also need to decide which type of grinder to use. There are many different types of coffee grinders that are available, here are a few we listed down below:

Blade Grinders

Often associated with the high-speed whirring noise. They are often the cheapest grinders that you can buy and are readily available in many high street stores.

The thing to remember about these particular types of grinders is that whilst they will work, they do not always offer the most precise method and you can find that they hack up and slice the beans rather than creating a fine grind that is ideal for your coffee.

Burr Grinders

The second option is a burr grinder. These types of grinders can be more expensive to buy, however, they are more consistent. Burr grinders use two spinning disk that will essentially smash the coffee beans into a precise and uniformed grind. Burr grinders also offer you the flexibility to adjust the grind from coarse to fine so that it best suits your preferred method of brewing coffee.

They are ideal for grinding your own coffee at home, however, one thing that you will want to keep in mind is that these grinders can become very hot during use and if you leave your beans in there too long then you can find that you burn the beans and ruin their flavour.

Hand/Manual Coffee Grinders

If you are opting for more of a traditional approach on how to grind coffee, then another option you may want to consider is a manual coffee grinder. These grinders come in all shapes and sizes and although they can be hard work, manual grinders offer a cost-effective way on grinding coffee beans yourself.

One element you will want to consider with manual coffee grinders is that when buying one, do ensure it comes with a good quality grip.

How to grind coffee beans

Once you have chosen your coffee equipment and the grind size, try to plan around grinding your coffee just before you decide to brew it. This ensures that your coffee will be fresh and taste better.

Once you are ready to start brewing, the grind can begin! Simply load up your coffee grinder with about two tablespoons of coffee beans per cup (this also depends on how strong you want your coffee!).

Place the beans in your grinder and follow your manufacturer’s instructions.

Note: If you are using a blade grinder, then don’t forget to lift the coffee grinder to give it a little shake between pulses, this will free up the beans while they are still in the machine.

Whether you want to use an electric grinder (which believe us is considerably easier) or perhaps go for something that is a little more manual, either way we can promise you that grinding your own coffee is both satisfying and absolutely worthwhile!

Now you know more about how to grind coffee beans, it’s up to you to decide how fine you will want your ground coffee to be.

What is coffee cupping and how does it feature in speciality coffee?

Specialty coffee is classified as any coffee that has a SCA score of 80 or more and is free of any primary defects within a 350g sample.  SCA stands for the Specialty Coffee Association and they have developed a method for grading and scoring coffee. Those who are qualified graders and who can legally post their scores are called Q graders. This grading involves an inspection of the green and roasted coffee and an assessment of the roasted coffee known as coffee cupping.

It’s important to perform this cupping test as a way of evaluating the aromas and flavours of the coffee, even more so to determine if the coffee is defective or not.

The method of coffee cupping is universal and everyone can do it. No special coffee equipment is needed: just a set of cups, some hot filtered water and a great batch of coffee. The standardised protocol is easy to follow:

  • Place 5 cups of each coffee, ground to a coarse level, and proceed to smell the coffee to determine fragrance. 5 cups are used to identify any defects or lack of uniformity between each cup.
  • Pour hot filtered water into the different cups, ensuring an equal amount of water in each cup.
  • After four minutes, a crust is created on top of the cups, which must be broken. This “break” is an important time to assess the aroma after which point the remaining crust will be cleaned off the surface
  • Next it’s time to slurp – for real. In order to determine flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance and any coffee defects, it’s important to actually slurp each sip. This will help spray the coffee across your palate, which will enable the aromas to reach your nasal receptors. Slurping helps to determine even the most subtle aromas and flavour.
  • Each of these individual steps needs to be scored, which then adds up to a final coffee score. As mentioned before: a speciality coffee needs to score at least 80 out of 100. Also, by scoring different roasts of the same coffee, a roaster can choose the best roast to then reproduce and sell.

The Handpicked team has two Q-graders, who also roast and pack the coffee in London Fields. The Q-grade certification means they have passed 20 tests over a period of three days, which include sensory, olfactory, cupping and triangulation skills and identification of organic acids. It demands a lot of cupping practise in order to be able to identify coffee defects.

The programme is run by the coffee quality institute and the purpose is to enable coffee professionals around the world to have the same method of evaluating coffee. A Q grader in Brazil should be calibrated in how they score with a Q grader in Sumatra. In this way a universal language to evaluate and discuss coffee has been implemented.

The Water In Your Coffee

An often overlooked element in the coffee-making process is the one which makes up to 98% of any black coffee – water.

After going to the effort of choosing the perfect Handpicked coffee subscription and investing in your preferred coffee equipment we usually think very little about the water we use for brewing. However this step can prove crucial in bringing out the best in your coffee.

Water quality can vary dramatically depending on your location, so filtering your water is certainly something to consider. Removing impurities from tap water can improve the brightness and character of your brew. Another advantage to using filtered water is that it reduces the buildup of limescale in your equipment, reducing the likelihood of equipment issues in future.

Things to consider:

1. Use fresh water each time. Don’t reboil water and make sure you don’t have it stored in your espresso machine or kettle when not in use. If you reboil the water, it loses oxygen. which is a key element for brewing a fresh, flavoursome coffee. 

2. Use filtered water to ensure you remove any impurities from the water.

Introducing the New SCAA Flavour Wheel

In our Handpicked booklet last month we introduce you to the new SCAA wheel. This is one of the most iconic resources in the coffee industry and is used every day by experts. 

The Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is the most prominent body in the coffee industry, setting the standards for everything from green coffee to roasting and cupping. The SCAA Annual Expo is the coffee event of the year. Our roaster Hugo attended its 28th edition last month in Atlanta, where one of the highlights was the launch of the new SCAA Coffee Flavour Wheel

The first SCAA wheel was created 21 years ago to offer a common language for coffee professionals to describe the complex taste profiles. Everyone in the coffee supply chain, from farmers to baristas, uses these terms as a shared point of reference, and posters of the wheel decorate the walls of cupping and roasting rooms around the world. Those who have been with our coffee club for a while may remember the wheel from our Spotlight on cupping coffee in March last year.

Now we are pleased to share with you the revised version of the wheel, its first update in 21 years, developed by the SCAA and World Coffee Research to reflect the latest spectrum of coffee flavours and the vocabulary used to describe them.

Use this wheel to describe the various characteristics of your Handpicked coffee subscription. First, take a minute to breathe in the aroma. Next, take a sip, spreading the coffee over your palate and see what flavours you can identify and how they balance each other.

For example, April’s Kenya sits in the fruity category, with a citrus acidity balanced by soft floral notes, while June’s Indian coffee belongs in the top left section i.e. Sweet, Nutty/Cocoa.

To find out how to cup coffee using the flavour wheel, visit the SCAA website at scaa.org/chronicle/2016/02/05/how-to-use-the-coffee-tasters-flavor-wheel-in-8-steps/.

* The Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel by SCAA and WRC (© 2016) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. You may not use this material for commercial purposes.

The Art of Processing

Many factors contribute to a coffees flavour, but the way it has been processed at origin has a tremendous impact. This “processing” involves the removal of the fruity exterior of the coffee cherry, something which can be done in a few different ways. So what are the different methods and flavours they produce?

Dry or Natural processing

This is the oldest form of processing. Coffee beans are typically spread out over large surfaces, such as patios or raised beds, and dried. The coffee is laid out for up to 4 weeks to dry while being constantly turned to avoid unwanted fermentation. When the moisture level of the coffee is below 12%, it is then milled to remove the remaining cherry and parchment layers, leaving only the green bean.

While natural processing requires little equipment or water, it can be a very risky endeavour. If the coffee is left out too long or if the coffee is exposed to rain, an entire crop can be ruined. However, if well executed, the results can be spectacular – though this is by no means the status quo.

Natural processed coffees typically have a unique flavour profile with bigger body and higher sweetness, but with less acidity and clarity.

Wet or Washed processing

The first step of the wet or washed processing method is the removal of the skin and flesh of the cherry, which is done by pulping machines. After the initial de-pulping the coffee is then left in fermentation tanks (covered by water) for 14-36 hours, during which time natural enzymes break down the sticky layer of fruit that’s tightly surrounding the beans. This procedure is delicate and timing is critical! If the coffee is left too long, fermented flavours of rotten fruit and acetic acid can be imparted. Because wet mill stations can be very expensive, they often service a whole community of smallholders.

Washed coffees typically have a higher, more refined acidity and better defined flavours, but with less sweetness and body.

Honey or Pulped natural processing

The final method of processing sits somewhere between washed and natural. In this method an amount of the pulpy layer around the bean is removed from the coffee before it is laid out to dry. The result is an intensely sweet and fruity cup. Honey processing is becoming increasingly popular, as it can produce the favourable characteristics of both the natural and washed processes to the degree desired by the farmer. The removal of the skin before drying means the drying happens more easily and there is far less risk of excessive fermentation.

Honey processed coffee can have flavour characteristics anywhere from natural to washed coffees.