Category: Insight

How to Store Coffee Beans

To get the most from your the coffee beans in your coffee subscription, it is important to store them correctly.

This involves placing your beans in a container which limits their exposure to the elements. By doing so, you will enjoy coffee that tastes better and remains fresh for much longer.

In this guide, we will identify a couple of options for coffee bean storage and the best way to store coffee beans. We will also explain how long you can store coffee beans and identify the symptoms of stale coffee, which will help you avoid accidentally drinking bad coffee.

Avoid exposure to sunlight and other elements

So, what is the best way to store coffee beans? The answer is any way that avoids exposure to sunlight, moisture, heat, and oxygen. These elements can be damaging in the following ways:

Sunlight

Ultraviolet light can cause the molecules in coffee beans to break down or change structure. It can also cause evaporation, robbing your beans of the valuable components they contain which give them aroma and flavour.

Moisture

Coffee beans are hygroscopic, which means that they are capable of absorbing moisture. Once they have absorbed moisture from the environment, it will begin to dissolve the valuable molecules the beans contain.

Heat

Keeping coffee beans at temperatures above 25 degrees can speed up how quickly they age, bringing oils to the surface prompting the release of CO2.

Oxygen

Exposure to oxygen causes coffee beans to oxidise. Oxidisation is a chemical process that changes the molecules in the bean responsible for flavour and aroma.

The best way to store coffee beans is inside an opaque airtight container that is stored at room temperature (20 to 25C or 68 to 77F). This will reduce the amount of air, light, moisture, and heat reaching your beans.

The best place for storing coffee beans is in the back of a cupboard, where the temperature is stable and the container is not exposed to light.

Coffee bean storage options

Coffee beans can be stored in any kind of airtight and opaque container. You could, for example, use a plastic canister, metal box, ceramic pot or another container that can form a seal and keeps them safe from sunlight.

However, if you really want to keep your beans fresh, you could use a vacuum storage canister. They are airtight containers that use a hand pump to remove oxygen. By removing the oxygen from the canister, you can slow the rate of oxidisation, which means the beans will stay fresh for longer.

It is also a good idea to use the smallest possible container as this also helps limit the amount of oxygen that will be in contact with the beans.

Some canisters will have one-way vents which are designed to emit the gasses produced by freshly roasted beans. These kinds of canisters can be useful if you often purchase your beans directly from roasters.

How long can you store coffee beans?

Many factors go into determining the best way to store coffee beans, including how the bean was grown, harvested and processed. Unroasted coffee beans (also called green coffee beans) have the longest lifespan at just under a year.

Green beans last a longer time because the molecules and oils that give them their wonderful flavour and aroma remain protected by the bean’s outer layer. Once roasted, these compounds are exposed to the environment and begin to degrade rapidly.

Freshly roasted coffee beans will remain at ‘peak’ freshness for 4 to 5 weeks. However, they will remain enjoyable for up to 3 months. After this point, most people will find that the bean’s flavour and aroma will be so degraded that it won’t produce an enjoyable cup of coffee.

Freshly ground coffee has a much shorter lifespan than whole coffee beans because it has smaller coffee granules which will oxidise faster. The finer the grind, the faster it will oxidise. This means a very finely ground coffee will only remain at ‘peak’ freshness for a few minutes and will remain enjoyable for a couple of days. Medium or coarse ground coffee can remain at peak freshness for a couple of days and will remain delicious for up to 4 weeks.

What about storing beans in the freezer?

Many people believe that coffee beans should be stored in the freezer as it is a very cold and dark environment. The logic seems sound — they will be away from oxygen and sunlight. Also, the low temperature might actually help the bean stay fresh?

Unfortunately, storing fresh coffee beans in the freezer can have some negative consequences. The biggest problem is potential exposure to moisture, which will quickly damage the integrity of the beans, causing them to go stale faster.

Coffee beans coming out of the freezer may also develop a flat flavour profile as the cold temperature can affect the bean’s chemical structure. Storing them in the back of a dark, cool cupboard is always a better option.

So, how do you know if coffee beans are stale?

Being able to spot stale beans can say you the hassle of brewing some old beans and discovering that your brew tastes like an old shoe! Some of the warning signs that indicate your beans are stale include:

Appearance

Sadly there is no way of telling if a coffee is fresh or stale by its appearance. You are going to have to rely on your sense of smell and taste!  

Smell

Freshly roasted coffee beans will have a powerful aroma. Depending on the type of coffee you are smelling and its roast profile, you may smell various aromas of fruits, florals, cocoa, chocolate, nuts, wine, and spices. Stale coffee beans typically have a weak aroma that is quite bland.

Taste

Finally, you can assess the freshness of the bean by its taste. A fresh bean will have strong flavours while stale beans will be quite bland and possibility bitter or sour.

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Coffee Brewing Methods

The humble coffee bean is one of the most versatile ingredients on the planet. A single bean from a specific country and farm can be brewed in many different ways with varying techniques to unlock the hundreds of diverse and distinct flavours, textures and aromas that are locked away inside the roasted coffee bean.

To help you learn about the versatility of coffee beans, this post will share with you several different brew methods and divulge into the when, how, why surrounding these skills and techniques that open the door to a complex and fascinating world of making coffee. And by the end, we hope this will help you understand and identify the most convenient, enjoyable and tasty way to make a delicious cup of coffee that suits you.

The Bloom

Throughout this journey through history and the many different brewing methods that have been invented along the way, we will be explaining the varying techniques used to brew coffee.

Amongst these instructions there will be a recurring use of the term ‘bloom’, to put it simply this term is the fast release of gas that occurs when hot water comes into contact with coffee grounds.

You can visually see this reaction occurring as little bubbles will appear and pop all across the coffee grounds once saturated in water. To bloom your coffee you must pour between 30g-60g of water evenly across your coffee grounds at the start of your brew, or less scientifically pour boiling water until the coffee grounds are submerged.

This is important for your brew to taste the best it can, as without this process the gas will be releasing throughout the extraction and this prevents certain flavours and aromas from being extracted from the coffee grounds creating a flat and sometimes lifeless cup of coffee.

Tip: Brewed coffee consists of 90% water, therefore we recommend you try and use the best water possible. You will be amazed by the contrast in quality between filtered and unfiltered water. With the prior creating a clean, complex and vibrant cup of coffee whereas the former can often mask many flavours and aromas in a cup of coffee. A simple and cheap charcoal stick does a great job filtering water for your morning brew.

Espresso

The Espresso coffee machine was invented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo, however, it didn’t take off in popularity until the early 20th Century. This big breakthrough came with

Achille Gaggia’s invention, which used a large lever, compressing a spring which when released, creates a large amount of pressure forcing boiling water through the coffee.

The end result was a small, strong and well-extracted cup of coffee which used a far finer grind size than any other brew method. Today, we can see a dramatic improvement in the knowledge, coffee equipment and techniques used in brewing espresso shots, resulting in a coffee that can be complex, full-bodied and sweet. And has now shaped the foundation for each new wave of coffee that has passed over recent years, and is the most popular and primary method of brewing for coffee shops of all different styles and quality around the world.

Forming the basis for a wide variety of many consumers’ favourite drinks from an intense macchiato to a silky smooth latte.

Just a word of warning to anyone who is interested in using the espresso machine to make your morning coffees at home, making a great espresso requires dedication, attention to detail, and consistency.

But if a new hobby interests you the effort is always worth it. The espresso shot is a combination of pressure and resistance, as the speed at which the water flows through the coffee determines how much flavour is extracted. This is why grind size is pivotal to the process producing your desired tastes and results.

If your grind is too fine then the water will struggle to pass through the bed of coffee creating a cup with too little liquid that is sour, astringent and over-extracted. If it’s too coarse the water will rush through the bed of coffee too fast creating a cup with too much liquid that is bitter, weak and under-extracted. Both of these results create an unbalanced and unpleasant tasting coffee.

Brew method

If brewing espresso at home we highly recommend using scales for consistent and accurate results. These are rough guidelines and can be altered according to preference and desired tastes.

  • Remove your portafilter from the group head, flush the group head with boiling water for a few seconds. Empty the portafilter and make sure there is no leftover coffee grounds or moisture.
  • Measure out 18g coffee into the portafilter, make sure your grounds are evenly spread across the basket by tapping the edges where the majority of your coffee sits until it is level.
  • Tamp the coffee using a hand tamper to firmly and evenly compress the grounds. This will force out any air pockets and create a longer extraction. Make sure the rim of your portafilter is clean as this will cause an uneven extraction.
  • Lock the portafilter into the group head by twisting it from left to right until tight, then place your cup underneath.
  • Immediately after start your water flow and timer, the coffee should drip slowly for 3 to 5 seconds, before a faster, thicker and even flow of coffee follows. We recommend a guideline of 30 seconds extraction time and 36g of end weight of coffee in your cup.

Tip: The key to brewing espresso is to stay loyal to your brew method, by keeping as many variables such as time and start/end weight consistent and only changing one variable at a time, such as the grind size. You will find it easier to understand what needed altering or keeping the same in your recipe to create the desired flavours you want in your espresso.

Stovetop

Moka pots (such as the Bialetti stovetop) have connotations of being a throwback to a more rustic way of preparing and drinking coffee, with traditionalist drinkers savouring the bitterness caused by extremely high water temperatures extracting bitter compounds in the coffee, whereas many others dislike this brewing method for those exact reasons.

This method of brewing has many similarities to the espresso, due to the strong, heavy-bodied and rich cup of coffee it produces.

However, it is important to not also confuse the brewing methods as being the same as a result of these similarities. For example, you don’t use a fine grind in a stovetop, as you would for an espresso machine.

A fine grind works in espresso machines because of the high speed and pressure of coffee extraction. Because the stovetop is slower and applies less pressure during the extraction, a fine grind or a slight amount of over brewing past boiling point will lead to a sharp increase in bitterness.

If you’re meticulous and attentive, however, these little contraptions can produce some beautiful, strong coffee that’s not the intense and sharp drink you get from an espresso machine.

Brew method

  • Wipe, clean and dry your Stovetop’s filter before brewing. Then fill the bottom chamber of the Stovetop with water just off the boil up to the bottom pressure release valve.
  • Fill the Stovetop’s filter basket to the top with coffee and gently level off without compressing the grounds, then place the filter basket into the bottom chamber.
  • Screw the top and bottom chambers of the Stovetop together carefully.
  • Place the Stovetop on a stove plate or gas burner with the heat at about 75% or a flame just big enough to cover the base.
  • Pressure built up by steam allows the extraction to occur. The water from the bottom chamber will make its way to the top chamber, passing through the coffee grounds.
  • When you hear a hissing, bubbling sound, the extraction is done, this should take 2minutes. Remove from the heat source quickly, in order to not over-extract the brew.

Tip: To get the best results from your stovetop to choose a light espresso roast or coffee grown at lower altitudes, this will avoid an overly bitter brew.

French Press

The French Press, is one of the most popular and accessible brewing methods for coffee, with the majority of homes having one either proudly sat next to the kettle or tucked away in a cupboard gathering dust.

In some ways, it is underrated for it is reliable, repeatable and super easy to brew at home and it’s perfect for making multiple cups of heavy-bodied coffee either for yourself or a group of friends.

Its classic and well-engineered design hasn’t changed much since its invention in 1929. Ironically despite the common use of the name, it was an Italian named Attilio Calimani who first invented the French Press.

However, a very similar brewer had been invented and patented first by two Frenchmen, Mayer and Delforge, in 1852 which may suggest why the name stuck.

A French Press is an infusion brewer, where the water and coffee steep together and over time you get a more uniformed extraction as all the coffee grounds have equal contact with the water and flavours are extracted evenly, the beauty of this method is the longer your extraction time the richer and more full-bodied our brew will be without creating any undesired bitterness.

Brew method

  • To begin, you must pour boiling water into your empty vessel, this helps maintain the temperature while brewing for best extraction.
  • Next, measure out 50g of ground coffee, or around 6 tablespoons to a grind size as course as caster sugar.
  • Now your French Press is warmed, discard the water and add your coffee. Start your timer and add boiling water to half way, saturating all the grounds and allow the coffee to bloom.
  • After 1 minute use a large spoon to break the top layer of crust and stir well. Next, fill your vessel all the way to the top and allow the coffee to brew for around 4-6 minutes (the longer you’re prepared to wait for the better your brew will be).
  • Finally, we recommend giving the plunging a miss, as once your coffee has brewed the grounds have settled to the bottom and you’re left with a clean and sludge free brew that is still filtered by the mesh filter and has a pour-over style body and mouthfeel.

Tip: By pressing down the plunger you are agitating the settled grounds and creating the muddy texture often associated with the French press.

Pour over

This method can be seen to describe a number of different brewing methods, the most common being the simple but effective V60, an inverted cone shaped funnel that water slowly drains through over time, whilst others include the Kalhita and the Chemex.

All pour over methods require a slight variation in brewing style whether that be grind size, pouring technique or what type of filter material you use, however, they all have a common factor which is they brew by percolation, meaning that the water passes through a bed of coffee extracting flavour along the way.

The invention of the paper filter is credited to a German entrepreneur, Melitta Bentz in 1908 whose family still sells and produces coffee brewing equipment.

The filter method has come a long way and has since been credited with encouraging the industry to move away from the percolators and batch brewers which create a bitter brew to the tastier, lighter and cleaner brew you get from a pour over.

It is widely considered the best method to fully represent and appreciate the complex flavours and aromas you find in a coffee bean. When using your pour over it is important to remember that you can accentuate and manipulate the strength, flavour and body of the coffee by increasing the time the water is in contact with the coffee grounds.

This can be achieved through the grind size and the speed at which you pour. Just like sand, the finer the beans are ground the slower the water flows through the coffee, extending the brew time and increasing the amount of extraction taking place.

Brew method

  • Begin by folding your filter into a cone shape, place into the V60 coffee dripper and cover the V60 filter paper with boiling water, this eliminates any paper flavour and warms up your server.
  • Next, discard your rinse water, and add 20 grams of ground coffee, around 3 tablespoons to a grind size as fine as salt.
  • Start your timer and saturate the grounds with 50g of water or enough water to cover the grounds. Let it bloom for 30 seconds as the coffee raises up and the bubbling begins to reside.
  • Pour your water in a slow, spiral motion adding water every 30 seconds and after each pour give the V60 dripper a gentle swirl which allows for an even coffee bed and extraction. Once your brew time reaches 2 minutes all your water should be added to the coffee grounds and your final pour weight should be 300g if you’re using a scale.
  • Leave your final pour of water to drain slowly through the coffee grounds by which point your brew time should be around 3 minutes, you can go slower or faster however this may create over or under extraction in your final cup.

Tip: Although we give specific weights for coffee grounds and water to be used within each method, a general guideline for water to coffee ratio is usually 60g coffee : 1000g water.

  • V60 for a single serving 20g coffee : 300g water.
  • V60 for multiple serving 30g coffee : 500g water.

Aeropress

The Aeropress coffee maker is one of the most recent phenomenon in the world of coffee brewing, its newfound popularity stems from it being both affordable, portable and versatile.

The Aeropress was invented by engineer Alan Adler, who also brought us the Aerobie Frisbee, and the Aeropress has fittingly inspired ingenuity in varying brew methods for the device.

This creativity has influenced many professionals in the industry to test their own skills and techniques with the Aeropress at the yearly Aeropress World Championships. The beauty of this device and method of brewing is that its simplicity and durability mean whether you are a professional or home brewer you can produce a coffee that is sweet, full-bodied and complex whether you are at home or on the road, it’s also very handy if you don’t have a scale.

The fascinating thing about the Aeropress is that it combines two different brew methods. Initially, the coffee and water steep together, as they would in a French press.

However, to complete the brew, a piston is used to push the water through the grounds and then through an Aeropress paper filter – which is a combination of both espresso and filter coffee-making methods, this explains the variety of techniques and flavours that have been discovered using this ingenious brewing device.

Brew method

This device consists of a screw cap filter, paper filter and two tubes, one which is used for the immersion of coffee grounds and water and extracts flavour, the other is used to as a pressurised plunger.

  • To begin this brew you need to weigh out 17g of coffee, or one rounded Aeropress spoonful, and grind your coffee as fine as table salt.
  • Prepare the Aeropress by preheating the brewer and rinse the filter with boiling water, this removes any paper flavours and keeps your brew warmer for longer.
  • Next, discard your rinse water, add your coffee, and as you begin to pour start your timer and bloom your coffee for 30 seconds by covering all your grounds evenly up to the No.1 mark.
  • After 30 seconds and your coffee has stopped bubbling pour the rest of your boiling water to the No.4 mark on the chamber, give it a quick stir so all the grounds are evenly saturated.
  • At the 2 minute mark of your brew, you are ready to place the plunger on top of your brewed coffee and gently press down with steady pressure, stopping as soon as you start to hear a hissing sound.

Tip: To extract more flavour and produce a stronger coffee push a little harder on the plunger, allow the coffee to steep in the water for longer or grind the coffee finer.

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.

Which Country Produces the Most Coffee?

Coffee has become a huge business and so it is of little surprise that it is now one of the leading commodities worldwide.

Popular at breakfast tables and with a coffee shop seemingly on every corner, it is easy to see why coffee production has become such a big business.

With climates varying from country to country, coffee bean growing isn’t suitable for everywhere. This means that there are some stand-out coffee producing countries in the world who are able to produce much more than others.

So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at the top coffee-producing countries in the world.

Brazil

We start our list with Brazil.

Brazil is, quite simply, the largest coffee producer in the world. For example, in 2016 it is thought that 2,595,000 metric tons of coffee beans were produced in Brazil alone.

Interestingly, Brazil has been the highest producing country for coffee for over 150 years with 27,000 square km of land dedicated to growing the beans!

Vietnam

Surprisingly to some, another one of the main coffee producing countries is Vietnam.

Vietnam’s coffee production has grown drastically in recent years, in 1975 it only produced 6,000 tons. To compare, in 2016 the country produced 1,650,000 metric tons.

Colombia

When you think of coffee, you might instantly think of Colombia and there is a good reason for this.

The coffee produced in Colombia is world-famous. Over recent years, however, the temperature, and the rainfall has risen slowly. This has meant that the type of bean that is usually produced in Colombia hasn’t been able to grow as well.

Despite this, Colombia still managed to produce 810,000metric tons of coffee beans in 2016, which puts it third in the rankings.

Indonesia

Next, we move back to South East Asia. Although not traditionally known as a producer of coffee, Indonesia is estimated to have produced over 660,000 metric tons back in 2017.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia takes fifth place, producing 384,000 metric tons in 2016. Ethiopia is also considered to be the home of Arabica coffee, one of the most popular types available on the market.

As a product, coffee exports are considered an extremely important part of Ethiopia’s economy and was even estimated to be worth 34% of the country’s total exports in 2006.*

Other Countries

Honduras, India, Uganda, and Thailand are some of the other countries just outside of the top five. With so many countries involved in coffee production, the world is seemingly spoilt for choice!

Here at Cafédirect, we have over 20 years of experience of working directly with farmers from around the world and are therefore able to offer speciality handpicked coffee.

Why not start your coffee subscription with us and enjoy some of the world’s best tasting coffee delivered fresh to your door!

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_production_in_Ethiopia

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-coffee-producing-countries.html

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.