Everyone has a crutch somewhere in their fiber. For some, it might be a chronic sweet tooth. For others it might be an addiction to work, or flirting, even for those crazy ones- the gym!
Like the rest of the world, I too have many crutches gripping my life. Of course sweets, particularly chocolates, are my scrumptious midnight treat and still remains my second love in life.
Also, I do try to maintain a constant routine at the gym to work off my chocolate crutch. However, above all else, my most cherished crutch in life is that morning cup of Joe- bar none!
When you think about it, coffee is a wonderful concept. First, we grow the beans, then harvest, followed by delivery to the marketplace, retail purchase, grind, brew and finally a cup of rich nectar. Simple to write about, but the process goes deeper then just a few words on paper.
In the big picture, it takes patience, precision, care, nurturing and plenty of manpower. Hopefully, manpower that isn’t being exploited by the mega retail chain corporations of the world.
When executed properly with integrity and ethically sound. Coffee is one of the greatest of all things food related in the world. On a global scale, coffee is the most popular of foods on the planet, with rice following closely behind. Every culture has a variation on coffee. Whether brewing methods, growing techniques, consumption techniques, even how we socialize around a cup of coffee.
Everyone loves coffee!
This wonderful world is FULL of coffee- literally! Coffee is now produced in over 50 countries worldwide. Growing best in the Equatorial zone of our planet, between latitude 25 degree North and 30 degree South known as the ‘Bean Belt’.
Factors in flavor include so many variables that it makes wine production look like pre-school finger painting. Well, that might be a little too harsh on wine makers. I’m just trying to paint a picture here, so that you get my point.
Everything from the species of coffee bean, chemistry of the soil, elevation, sunshine, rainfall, wind, harvesting times, and post-processing methods all play a vital role in the overall flavor and aromas delivered by these little magical beans.
Again associating wine making with coffee production. Coffee plantations, like a winery, offer different styles, methods, and techniques of harvesting and processing.
These plantation characteristics deliver their own unique blend of aromatics and taste. Principle characteristic of coffee come from these small to large plantations including the natural terroir of the landscape.
Even the slope of a crop can play a role in developing overall characteristics. Besides wind conditions, and rainfall vs sunshine. Still soil plays the most important factor in developing the attributes we love in our coffee.
Different regions have different chemistry in the soil creating subtle Arabica or deep rich Robusta beans. Coffee has long been the cornerstone to the human psyche, finding the right balance is up to you.
As mentioned earlier, optimum growing conditions lay between latitude 25 degree North and 30 degree South known as the ‘Bean Belt’. This tropical zone creates the perfect blend of heat, sun, rain and wind to create the perfect blossom for coffee bean production. While each region producing it’s own desirable characteristics, let's review some of the most popular regions around this utmost important ‘Coffee Belt’.
Hawaii - Popular for it’s medium body Kona coffee produced from the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. Nature on the island has provided a fertile volcanic soil, and a perfect environment for coffee trees to flourish on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano.
Mexico - Known more for its smaller plantation with over 100,000 farmers, Mexico rates one of the top producing coffee countries of the world. Mexican beans generally deliver tantalizing aromas with deep bold flavors and crisp sharpness. Coffee tagged Altura refers to the bean being grown at higher elevations creating that boldness in taste.
- Columbia - Probably the world’s most popular coffee producer but still ranking second in overall production to Brazil. Colombia’s production is based on high traditional standards carried out by small family operated farms with tremendous pride. These consistent and traditional methods of production are the primary reasons for their mild, sweet, well balanced blends.
- Brazil - Numero uno in the world of coffee production. Brazil with it’s vast landscape offers plenty of space for large farming operations to carry out a huge volume of coffee production. Both Robusta and Arabica grow plentiful in Brazil. With perfect weather conditions a delicious cup of Brazilian cup should be clear, sweet, medium bodied with low acidic levels.
- Ethiopia – Ground zero of the coffee universe, at least that’s what legend states. Ethiopia is one of the last places on earth where coffee is still harvested from wild coffee tree forests. These wild coffee tree forest produce a full bodied, full flavored, down-to-earth coffee and has always been one of my personal favorite coffees to drink.
- Kenya – A popular coffee among consumers of the United States and European markets. Plantations are small and numerous in Kenya, most of which are situated on the slopes of Mount Kenya. With strict policies emphasizing quality, Kenya produces a delicious product with a sharp, acidic flavor engulfed by a high fruity aroma.
- Indonesia - Known as one of the finest coffee producers throughout the world. The coffee bean was introduced by the Dutch centuries ago and Indonesia has never looked back. Indonesian farmers are known for a method of aging. Placing their beans in a warm, damp, dark warehouse for an extended period of time. A method creating a bold, rich and desirable product. This aging method is only practiced in Indonesia and nowhere else in the ‘Coffee Belt’.
- Vietnam – The new kid on the block, Vietnam is quickly becoming a major player in the global coffee market. Most coffee plantations are found in the southern half of the country operated by small farmers creating mild bodied low acid coffees suitable for blending.
Coffee production and conditions are a few of the essential elements in flavor attributes. However, and just as important, are the brewing methods implemented in the final stages of the coffee process that make-or-break a delicious brew.
Coffee has five essential techniques for brewing with every approach having the same degree of brewing variables.
- Presentation of water
- Blending temperature
- Isolating the prepared alcohol from the coffee beans.
Let’s review the five brewing methods commonly used throughout the major coffee markets.
- "Turkish" or "Greek" Coffee
Turkish coffee is extremely delightful and unique progress of brewing. First, place sugar into the ibrik. The ibrik is a little coffee pot typically constructed of bronze or copper, from which will be used as the vessel for brewing. Followed by scoop(s) of ultra fine powdery ground. The coarseness is important! You’ll almost want the grounds to have the consistency of confectionery sugar. Next, top off the ibrik with cool water. You’ll notice the coffee grounds floating to the top. This is standard and necessary for this method as it acts a seal between coffee and air- DO NOT STIR AT THIS STAGE!! Time to add heat. Traditionally the heat source would come from the hot sands of Revere. However, a gas stove would be fine. Purists state that coffee should be heated slowly, never to a boil, and if the ibrik begins to bubble- start again! When this epic brew begins to slowly foam up to the neck of the ibrik, remove from the heat source and slowly stir the concoction as it cools down.
Concentrate brewing is extremely prominent in Latin America and different parts of the world. Currently it’s beginning to gather steam in trendy U.S. city eateries and cafes.
Concentrate fermenting takes a large amount of grounds that is blended with little volume of water to create a strong concentrate brew. To create more complexity of flavors, blend a portion of the concentrate with high temp water. The concentrate can be brewed either hot or cold. When it’s prepared icy you should give the espresso a chance to sit for no less than a 24 hours. This strategy makes a mellow light- bodied coffee with little fragrance and a little sharpness.
- Percolated Brewing
This method is considered by enthusiast as an insult to the beans because it requires boiling water over the grounds. Creating a bitter tarry finish to the brew. Nonetheless, the percolating method is still extremely popular in the common household because of it is quick, easy and convenient for the active go-go-go personalities.
- Auto drip
Still the most popular way to brew coffee in the states. This method is straightforward. Simply pour warm water over coffee grounds inside a filter. Let the brew drip out the bottom and your all set!
The drip method can produce an excellent cup of coffee if the proper equipment is utilized. One major concern with auto drip machines - consistent temperature. Bunn is one of the few companies which calibrate their machines to the proper brewing temperature.
If you have a good auto drip brewing machine then the next hurdle to tackle is the filter. The residue from paper filters can deposit unsavory aftertaste to the coffee. Including the fact that they do not allow a lot of the coffee oils and organic compounds through. A gold-plated reusable ultra fine mesh filter is the best/only option for the perfect drip brewing results.
- French Press or Press Pot
French press brewing gives you complete control and happens to be one of my favorite methods for brewed coffee. Yes, it’s a little more labor intensive than auto drip, however, the brewing variables can be controlled.
Start with coarse grounds placed in a glass decanter. The warm water(not boiling) is then poured over the grounds. When the brewing is complete, the plunger (consisting of a metal mesh plate) is used to press down, pushing the grounds to the bottom of the decanter.
The coffee liquor is on top ready to be poured off. The mesh filter allows the oils and fine coffee particles through without a problem. Also because a coarser grind is required a longer brewing time is required. A general rule of thumb is four minutes for a French press. This direct contact of the grounds to water allows a more complete, controllable, and even extraction. Even with the coarse grind though a coarse grind will still produce some fine particles. A cup of French-pressed coffee will be fuller, more body, and more flavor. It will also have sediment on the bottom of the cup.
It’s well known by java enthusiasts that coffee always seems to be affiliated with a ‘caffeine buzz’. Some might say that because of the caffeine intake associated with the consumption of coffee that it could pose a risk to your health. Like most things, anything in excess poses tremendous risk to ones health. Moderation is key to all delightful things in life.
The truth remains that researchers have proven that tolerable consumption (3-4 cups per day) of coffee may be linked to many encouraging effects on the consumer. These positive effects include:
- Prevention of liver disease
- Enhanced cognitive function in mature adults
- Acute memory capacity
- Increase in overall endurance
- Reduction of type 2 diabetes
- Durability of the body
In hindsight of these scientific results, coffee has now obtained a new and improved reputation as being part of a healthy lifestyle.
Most of these positive effects are connected directly with caffeine, a bio-natural stimulant found in the coffee bean. The shear volume of caffeine in a cup of Joe can vary, always depending on the many factors ranging from the variety of bean to the methods of brewing.
It’s good to know that there’s actually a crutch out there with positive affects. Thank you coffee, I don’t know what I’d do without you.
I think I’ll have a cup of Joe now!