chocolate covered coffee beans

coffee: the nectar of the gods

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Coffea

Coffea (coffee) is a genus of ten species of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae. They are shrubs or small trees, native to subtropical Africa and southern Asia. Seeds of this plant are the source of a stimulating beverage called coffee. The seeds are called "beans" in the trade. Coffee beans are widely cultivated in tropical countries in plantations for both local consumption and export to temperate countries. Coffee ranks as one of the world's major commodity crops and is the major export product of some countries. In fact, coffee ranks second only to petroleum in terms of legally-traded products worldwide.

When grown in the tropics coffee is a vigorous bush or small tree easily grown to a height of 3–3.5 m (10–12 feet). It is capable of withstanding severe pruning. It cannot be grown where there is a winter frost. Bushes grow best at high elevations. To produce a maximum yield of coffee berries (800-1400 kg per hectare), the plants need substantial amounts of water and fertilizer. Calcium carbonate and other lime minerals is sometimes used to reduce acidity in the soil, which can occur due to run off of minerals from the soil in mountainous areas.[1]

There are several species of Coffea that may be grown for the beans, but Coffea arabica is considered to have the best quality. The other species (especially Coffea canephora (robusta)) are grown on land unsuitable for Coffea arabica. The tree produces red or purple fruits (drupes, or "coffee berries"), which contain two seeds (the "coffee beans", although not true beans). In about 5-10% of any crop of coffee cherries, the cherry will contain only a single bean, rather than the two usually found. This is called a 'peaberry' and contains a distinctly different flavor profile to the normal crop, with a higher concentration of the flavors, especially acidity, present due to the smaller sized bean. As such, it is usually removed from the yield and either sold separately (such as in New Guinea Peaberry), or discarded.

The coffee tree will grow fruits after 3–5 years, for about 50–60 years (although up to 100 years is possible). The blossom of the coffee tree is similar to jasmine in color and smell. The fruit takes about nine months to ripen. Worldwide, an estimate of 15 billion coffee trees are growing on 100,000 km² of land.

Coffee is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Dalcera abrasa, Turnip Moth and some members of the genus Endoclita including E. damor and E. malabaricus.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Espresso

Espresso (Italian) is a flavourful coffee beverage brewed by forcing very hot, but not boiling, water under high pressure through coffee that has been ground to a consistency between extremely fine and powder. It was invented and has undergone development in Italy since the beginning of the 20th century, but up until the mid 1940s it was a beverage produced solely with steam pressure. The invention of the spring piston lever machine and its subsequent commercial success changed espresso into the beverage we know of today, produced with between 9 and 10 atmospheres, or bars, of pressure.

The qualitative definition of espresso includes a thicker consistency than drip coffee, a higher amount of dissolved solids than drip coffee per relative volume, and a serving size that is usually measured in shots. Espresso is chemically complex and volatile, with many of its chemical components degrading from oxidation or loss of temperature. A distinguishing factor of properly brewed espresso is the presence of crema, a reddish-brown foam which floats on the surface of the espresso. It is composed of vegetable oils, proteins and sugars. Crema has elements of both emulsion and foam colloid.

As a result of the high-pressure brewing process, all of the flavors and chemicals in a typical cup of coffee are concentrated. Some people prefer a single or double shot instead of one or two cups of coffee to get a quick shot of caffeine. Also, because of its intense and highly concentrated ingredients (including caffeine) espresso lends itself to mixing into other coffee based drinks, such as lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and mochas, without the need to overly dilute the resulting drink.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Quotes about coffee

  • "Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love." - Turkish proverbs
  • "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons" - T.S. Eliot
  • "No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness." - Sheik Abd al-Qadir
  • "Coffee leads men to trifle away their time, scald their chops, and spend their money, all for a little base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking nauseous puddle water." -The Women's Petition Against Coffee (1674)
  • "Is it impossible to get a cup of coffee-flavoured coffee, anymore, in this country? What happened with the coffee? Did I miss a fucking meeting with the coffee, huh? You can get every other flavour except coffee-flavoured coffee!" - Denis Leary
  • "I like my coffee like I like my women- Black and Strong." - Paul Howell (2005)
  • "I like my coffee the way I like my women -- in a plastic cup." - Eddie Izzard
  • "I like my coffee the way I like my women -- covered in beeeeeeeeeeeees!" - Eddie Izzard again a couple of minutes later
  • "I believe humans get a lot done, not because we're smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee." -Flash Rosenberg
  • "Decaffeinated coffee is kind of like kissing your sister." -Bob Irwin
  • "Coffee is a beverage that puts one to sleep when not drank." -Alphonse Allais
  • "Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat." -Alex Levine
  • "The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself." -Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case, 1995
  • "He was my cream, and I was his coffee - And when you poured us together, it was something." - Josephine Baker
  • "When we drink coffee, ideas march in like the army" - Honore de Balzac
  • "Coffee comes in five descending stages: Coffee, Java, Jamoke, Joe, and Carbon Remover." -Oscar,Glory Road
  • "A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems." - Paul Erdos, mathematician
  • "Life is just one cup of coffee after another, and don't look for anything else." - said to be Bertrand Russell's last words
  • "I like my woman like a like my coffee dark, hot and bitter"

Monday, July 31, 2006

Roasting coffee

The roasting process is integral to producing a savory cup of coffee. When roasted, the green coffee bean expands to nearly double its original size, changing in color and density. As the bean absorbs heat, the color shifts to yellow and then to a light "cinnamon" brown then to a dark and oily color. During roasting oils appear on the surface of the bean. The roast will continue to darken until it is removed from the heat source.

French roasted coffee beans
Enlarge
French roasted coffee beans

At lighter roasts, the bean will exhibit more of its "origin flavor" - the flavors created in the bean by the soil and weather conditions in the location where it was grown. Coffee beans from famous regions like Java, Kenya, Hawaiian Kona, and Jamaican Blue Mountain are usually roasted lightly so their signature characteristics dominate the flavor.

As the beans darken to a deep brown, the origin flavors of the bean are eclipsed by the flavors created by the roasting process itself. At darker roasts, the "roast flavor" is so dominant that it can be difficult to distinguish the origin of the beans used in the roast. These roasts are sold by the degree of roast, ranging from "Light Cinnamon Roast" through "Vienna Roast" to "French Roast" and beyond. Many consider that a "full city" roast is a great roast because it is "not too light" and "not too dark".

In the 19th century coffee was usually bought in the form of green beans and roasted in a frying pan. This form of roasting requires much skill to do well, and fell out of favor when vacuum sealing of pre-roasted coffee became possible. Unfortunately, because coffee emits CO2 for days after it is roasted, one must allow the coffee to get slightly stale before it can be vacuum sealed. For this reason two technologies have recently been employed: Illy has begun to use pressurized cans and many roasters bag whole beans immediately after roasting in bags with pressure release valves. Today home roasting is becoming popular again. Computerized drum roasters are available which simplify home roasting, and some home roasters simply roast in an oven or in air popcorn poppers. Once roasted, coffee loses its flavor quickly. Although some prefer to wait 24 hours after roasting to brew the first cup, all agree that it begins to get off-flavors and bitterness about 1-2 weeks after roasting even under ideal conditions like being stored in an airtight container or de-gassing valve bag.