I walk downstairs and trip over a toy on the stairs and grumble, walk into the dining room and trip over the rug, step into the kitchen and knock a dish off the counter. Am I a klutz? Well… yes, but that’s not the point – I haven’t yet had my coffee. I am a walking zombie needing my life blood, that which enriches my soul and starts my engine – my coffee.
History of the Bean
Why is coffee such a popular thing? Let’s look at the history for a moment.
Coffee was discovered to have stimulating effects in Africa as the ancient Ethiopian people first discovered the plant and what it could do to enhance their lives. However, it was in Arabia that they first had the genius idea of roasting the seeds from the plant, ground them down and turned them into the delicious beverage we know today.
Coffee quickly spread throughout Europe as the ‘miracle drug’, providing a stimulant that cured headaches and woke up even the grouchiest unhappy person.
Brazil and Italy further went on to refine the bean into extremely potent strong beans, capable of leaping over mountains in a single bound and causing the dead to wake up and dance for joy, while causing heart-attacks with others (which brought joy to even more). In fact, the Italians first fashioned the Coffe-a-nator (also referred to as the Coffinator), rapid firing espresso beans at the stuffy French and British, transforming the European continent into an espresso sipping empire.
Climates and Flavors
All joking aside, coffee has proven to be an amazing plant, but is particular to where it is grown. Generally you can only find it in warm climates such as Africa, South America, Central America and the Pacific Islands (including Hawaii). Every location claims to have their best bean and their best roast, which offers a wide variety for every connoisseur and every taste.
Coffee is has traditionally been planted by placing twenty seeds in a hole during rainy season, though in Brazil they raise the coffee plants in nurseries and then plant them outside once they have matured.
Coffee ranges from a light green bean to the darker seeds of Arabia. They are still predominantly harvested by hand, sorted and then dried before roasting. Sometimes they are laid out on large tables to dry or on a flat open area in the sunlight.
Roasting to release the flavor
Roasting the coffee bean affects the flavor and intensity of the bean. Roasting doesn’t actually start in the bean until it reaches an internal temperature of 392 °F (200 °C). During roasting the bean actually caramelizes, breaking down the starch inside the bean which is what changes it from a green color to the familiar darker colors we know.
Depending on the bean, the longer you roast, the richer the flavor. But it’s a very fine line that you must walk to make sure that you don’t burn the bean.
Yeah, we won’t discuss that here as it’s sacrilegious.
Brew those beans baby!
Last but not least, we grind up the beans (if you’re like me, you grind them right before you brew them) and then brew them in hot water either steeping over the beans as it flows into the carafe or by french press – which has gotten more popular and provides a brew in approximation to how espresso is brewed under high pressure.
Now, sadly, I tend to ruin mine with cream and sugar, but… I do enjoy it black as well. But I’m picky about what coffee I drink black. It must be a dark french roast.
So, what’s your poison?