- Why are certain coffees roasted to certain roast styles?
Specialty coffee from different regions have special features like aroma, acidity, body, earthiness, etc. Different roast styles bring out or diminish these special characters. If, for instance, a region is famous for acidity and you don’t want to reduce the acidity in the final cup, it should be roasted lighter, and so on.
- What is the best method to brew coffee?
This is subjective. However, whichever method you choose - drip, french press, espresso etc - make sure to follow the procedure recommended so that you do not over extract or under extract. Time, temperature, ground particle size and the quality of the water are all very important.
- What is Espresso?
Espresso is made by passing water at a temperature of 195-203°F under pressure of 8-10 bars (130 psi) through very finely ground coffee for 30 seconds. About 8 grams of coffee per 1 oz of water is used. The most important part of espresso is the layer of froth in the cup. This froth traps the flavor compounds in small bubbles and releases them to the olfactory sensors when we drink the coffee. Espresso is consumed hot and fresh from the espresso machine.
- Why use organic coffee?
It is well known that many of the chemicals used on coffee farms are highly carcinogenic and banned by industrialized nations. The World Bank and USAID promoted high tech sun-grown coffee. Farmers were taught to increase the yield and ripen their cherries faster by cutting down the shade trees. Many farmers had no choice because often that was the condition to get bank credit. Cutting down the shade trees reduced the habitat for the birds that controlled pests. So farmers had to use synthetic pesticides. This required the increased use of synthetic fertilizers to give the extra energy taken up by the pesticides. Also, without the shade, the weeds increased and became difficult to control, so the farmers had to use synthetic weed killers. Coffee is one of the most chemical intensive crops. The farmers do not know how to use the chemicals safely and many suffer from health problems caused by chemicals like DDT. Groundwater is contaminated causing further environmental problems. The pulp of the cherries, which constitutes about 60% by weight, is removed to get the coffee beans. This pulp is then thrown into the rivers, which reduces the pH of the water and kills the marine life. Organically grown coffee goes back to the ageold method where coffee is grown under shade trees and pests and weeds are controlled by natural means. One of the greatest ways to use the pulp is to transform it into fertilizer using redworms. This is successfully done at many organic farms. Sadly, many businesses use organic labels on products that are not organic. The new certification laws will hopefully reduce this problem. It is believed that coffee roasted at very high temperatures loses all the toxic chemicals, so the use of those chemicals may not be directly harmful to the consumer. Coffee farmers have suffered. We can help them live healthier lives and support our environment by using certified organic products. Government approved certifying agencies gives the certification. We are certified by Oregon Tilth – Seal of Oregon Tilth.
- Why use Fair Trade Coffee?
Refer to the section on the plight of coffee farmers. The industry has long taken advantage of poor farmers and farm laborers. It is time to step up and be fair to people who produce the product we love so much. Fair Trade is an international organization that certifies farmers and their cooperatives without any cost to them. The sellers of their products get to use the Fair Trade seal by paying a certain amount per pound. This money is then diverted to marketing of Fair Trade certified farm products and policing honest use of the seal. By using the Fair Trade seal the seller assures that the farmer is paid at least a minimum base price established by the Fair Trade Organization. This will assure that the farmers can live a dignified life. Fair Trade also makes sure that such farmers and their coops carry out community projects such as schools and health care, and that the farm labor is treated properly. The cost associated with coffee is only 15˘/lb, which is less than half a penny per cup of coffee. The time has come to do a little something to help the farmers live a dignified life. Fair Trade Seal ”
- What is Shade-Grown coffee?
Traditionally, coffee was always grown in the shade under the forest canopy. It was in the 1950’s that the World Bank and USAID promoted high tech coffee, the farmers were asked to produce sun-grown coffee in order to increase production. The shade trees were therefore cut down. When the trees were cut down the birds lost their habitat. Without the birds, the worms were not kept under control, farmers had to rely on pesticides. The coffee plants were stressed from growing in the sun and from the pesticides, to counteract this, chemical fertilizers had to be used. The sun also caused increased weed growth, necessitating use of chemical weed killers. The coffee cherries ripen faster in full sun, the quality of the coffee also became questionable. It is now generally believed that it was a mistake to cut down the trees, and we are now asking the farmers to go back to their age-old shade-grown coffee. The Smithsonian Institute certifies farms as “Bird Friendly”. The cost of certification is paid by roasters on charge per pound of “Bird Friendly” certified coffee sold. There are many farmers now growing shade grown coffee but they may not yet be certified. We purchase only shade grown coffee.
- Shelf life of coffee:
It is generally considered that the shelf life of green beans in a cool dry warehouse is at least a couple of years. However, once roasted, the shelf life goes down tremendously. Roasted beans are good for no more than a couple of weeks, unless stored freshly after roasting, in one-way valve bags which are flushed with nitrogen. Oxygen is the worst enemy of roasted coffee. Coffee thus packed in impervious bags and stored in a cool dry place is said to last for six months, but that is questionable. In any event, coffee should always be ground just before brewing as the flavor compounds dissipate very fast.
- Why is coffee ground to different particle size for different brewing methods?
Each brewing method such as drip, perk, french press, espresso etc. involves different times of contact between water and ground coffee. Espresso takes only 30 seconds; the grounds are very fine to give maximum surface contact with the water for full extraction. In a french press, the granules stay in contact with water and are well immersed for about 4-5 minutes. The coffee is ground coarse for french press, both to prevent over- extraction by reducing the surface area of contact between coffee and water and to make it easier to filter through the metal filter.
- Are there differences in coffees from different parts of producing countries?
The quality of coffee and its characteristic taste and aroma differ not only from one region to another but also from year to year depending on rainfall and other weather conditions. Coffee from countries like Guatemala with different altitudes, rainfall and many microclimates can vary vastly from one region to the next, and also within a region.
- Arabica vs. Robusta:
The two commonly grown coffee trees are Arabica and Robusta. Most specialty coffees are Arabica, whereas cheaper coffees on the store shelves are Robusta blended with some Arabica to improve taste and flavor. Robusta trees are hardier and resistant to frost and diseases. Most high quality Arabicas are produced in central and South America and Hawaii. Eastern countries and Brazil are the major producers of Robusta. Robusta has twice the caffeine content of Arabica. Robusta flowers are cross-pollinated whereas Arabica can be self-pollinated. Robusta trees are taller and produce more coffee beans per tree. Robusta coffees are considerably cheaper than Arabicas. Good Robusta coffees have good body and pungency and are used for blends of excellent espressos
- Why roast at home?
It is easy with modern electric home roasting equipment. You can be adventurous and try out different origin coffees with different roast styles. You get the freshest coffee. It is less expensive than buying roasted coffee