Coffee 101: The Ultimate Guide To Brewing Your Perfect Cup

Coffee 101: The Ultimate Guide To Brewing Your Perfect Cup

You love drinking coffee regularly, but if you want to brew your own coffee at home, you’ll need to ensure you get all the elements right.

So, it helps to know how coffee is produced and roasted.

What’s required for the perfect coffee brew?

There are many factors that can affect the way your coffee tastes, such as the brewing method you use. By changing or perfecting it, you can enjoy a tastier cup of coffee.

With that in mind, let’s look at coffee in greater detail. We’ll start with how popular it is and what it has to offer you in terms of health, because it really is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink.

Why Is Coffee Such A Popular Drink?

Why Is Coffee Such A Popular Drink?

If you love drinking coffee on a daily basis, you’re not alone – research (via PBS) shows that more than 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day all over the world. There are many reasons why people love to drink coffee. Here are some.

It’s Filled With Caffeine!

Caffeine, which is a stimulant, is one of the most obvious reasons why people love to drink coffee. After taking a few sips of delicious coffee, they feel wide awake and energized.

The average cup of coffee will contain about 95mg of caffeine, while an espresso will have 63mg and decaf coffee will have 3mg. (via Healthline.)

It Offers Many Health Benefits

Coffee is one of the healthiest beverages in the world. It’s been found to offer many health benefits. These include:

  1. Preventing depression: Research (via The American Academy of Neurology) has found that while drinking sweetened beverages has been linked to experiencing a greater risk of depression, drinking coffee is related to a lower risk.

  1. Preventing Type 2 diabetes: a large study that included over 40,000 people (via Diabetes) found that people who drank three cups of coffee every day had 40 percent less risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Coffee contains substances such as magnesium, chromium, and polyphenols, all of which help to improve one’s insulin sensitivity.

  1. Preventing Parkinson’s disease: Coffee also prevents Parkinson’s disease, thanks to how it makes the part of the brain that’s affected by the disease experience more activity after coffee has been consumed, as Harvard Health Publishing has reported.

  1. Preventing Alzheimer’s disease: Research (via European Journal of Neurology) has found that compounds in coffee can prevent the accumulation of brain plaque that is believed to cause Alzheimer’s.

  1. Preventing heart disease: Research from Korea (via BMJ) found that participants in a study who drank between three to five cups of coffee every day were less likely to show the early signs of heart disease.

Coffee Aroma vs. Flavor: What’s The Difference?

Coffee Aroma vs. Flavor: What’s The Difference?

You’ve probably heard of the terms “aroma” and “flavor” that are used when describing coffee, but what do they mean?

  • Coffee aroma refers to its smell. Aroma is produced during the coffee roasting process, during which volatile compounds are produced.

  • Coffee flavor is said to be a combination of aroma and taste, the latter of which is the sense that is experienced by the tongue and can be sweet, sour, salty, or bitter. Coffee’s oils contribute to its flavor. It’s said that coffee oil makes up 10 percent of a roasted coffee bean (via Coffee and Health).

The Five Elements Of Coffee’s Taste

Ever wondered what it is that makes coffee taste so delicious?

There are five elements that are said to be linked to the taste produced by coffee. These are (via Blue Bottle):

  • Sweetness: the better the quality of the coffee you’re sipping, the sweeter it will taste. While coffee should be a little bitter, that should never overpower its other flavors.

  • Body: this refers to how the coffee liquid actually feels on your tongue. Is it heavy or light? Some coffees are said to taste full-bodied, which means that they are strong but have a viscosity that makes them feel creamy in the mouth. This is a sensation that is produced by the oils and sugars present in the coffee.

  • Acidity: We usually hear about the acidity of coffee, but what does this mean? Acidity is basically how bright the coffee tastes. That might sound strange, but it could have a nutty or citrusy flavor. Or, it could be less tart and have more sweetness to offer, like caramel. Generally, darker coffee roasts result in less tartness and lighter coffee roasts are known for their brightness.

  • Flavors: These refer to the notes that are in the coffee but might only reveal themselves to you when you take your time to savor lots of different types. There are many flavors that can be in coffee, such as caramel, chocolate, toffee, or floral notes, to mention just a few.

  • Finish: This refers to the coffee’s aftertaste. Does it go away quickly or stick around for a while? Does it leave a smooth or rough texture in your mouth?

How Did Coffee Come About?

Although coffee is so popular, it’s worth wondering how it became such a household name. Let’s explore coffee’s colorful history.

There’s an interesting Ethiopian legend about coffee. Centuries ago, a goat herder by the name of Kaldi discovered coffee because his goats had consumed berries from a tree and were seen to have lots of energy as a result.

He told the abbot of a local monastery about what had happened, who decided to try to make a beverage with those berries from the tree.

He soon discovered that he felt energized after drinking them just like the goats had. He reported back to Kaldi about what happened and soon the news about the berries spread, causing them to become more popular.

Do we have a goat herder to thank for discovering the amazing coffee berries that help us to stay awake and energized nowadays?  

Maybe, but we can trace coffee back to the 15th century where it was grown by people in the Yemeni district of Arabia (via National Coffee Association USA ). By the 16th century, it took hold in other areas, such as Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Persia.

By the 17th century, coffee had spread to Europe, where its interest was also sparked. This was as a result of travellers from Europe who had brought back stories from the Near East about the beverage we now call coffee.

During this century, coffee became a replacement for other breakfast beverages, such as wine. Halfway into the century, there were more than 300 coffee houses in London, which shows how quickly coffee was growing in popularity.  

Quite notably, during this century the Mayor of Amsterdam brought a coffee plant to King Louis XIV of France. Coffee was growing in popularity all over the world, and this was set to continue thanks to that plant.

Seedlings from the tree were taken by a naval officer called Gabriel de Clieu who took them with him to Martinique, where they caused the growth of 18 million coffee trees on the Martinique island over the next half a century, as the NCA reports.

Interestingly, the popularity of Brazilian coffee specifically is as a result of a man called Francisco de Mello Palheta who went to the emperor of French Guiana to get coffee seedlings (via NCA).

He wasn’t allowed to take seedlings, but his attractive looks were what persuaded the French governor’s wife to steal some for him – she hid them in a bouquet of flowers she sent him home with as a gift.

These seedlings further enabled travellers, traders, and colonists to bring coffee into new territories, and ensured that coffee plants could take root all over the world. 

Where Does Our Coffee Come From?

Where Does Our Coffee Come From?

There are many regions in the world from where coffee originates. Different coffee locations will result in different coffee tastes! Here are the top three coffee producers.

Brazil

Most of the coffee in the world comes from Brazil, which is the world’s leading coffee producer – it makes up almost half of the world’s supply of this liquid gold (via Statista).

Both Arabica and Robusta beans are produced. The country’s large coffee plantations have the advantage of experiencing a coffee-friendly climate so that both types of coffee plants can thrive in them.

These include moderate temperature, rich soil, heavy rain, and shaded growing conditions. Coffee from Brazil tends to taste smooth, with sweet flavors, and it’s got low acidity. Nutty and chocolatey flavors are common.

Vietnam

Vietnam is the second largest coffee nation, owning 20 percent of the world’s supply. Some large companies, such as Nestle, even have processing plants in the country. The coffee industry in the country is responsible for the employment of approximately 2.6 million people (via BBC).

It’s common for Robusta beans to be grown in Vietnam. The use of Robusta beans makes coffee from this country have more acidity and a thicker taste.

Colombia 

Colombia is also known for its excellent coffee. Despite dealing with a coffee plant disease known as coffee rust in 2008 that decreased the country’s production, it has now been on the up and up.

Colombia is known for owning almost 10 percent of the coffee production in the world, as Statista reports.

The classic taste of Colombian coffee is mellow in its acidity with strong caramel or nutty flavors.

Arabica Vs. Robusta Coffee

Between Arabica and Robusta coffee, 70 percent of the world’s production is Arabica. This coffee bean originally came from Ethiopia. Robusta coffee makes up about 30 percent of the world’s coffee. You can find these coffee trees in Southeast Asia as well as Brazil.

How Coffee Is Processed

How Coffee Is Processed

After they’re picked from coffee plants, coffee beans need to be processed. This can entail dry or wet processing.

Dry processing

this is a traditional method of processing coffee but is still used in areas where there are limited water supplies, such as Ethiopia and Brazil.

The coffee cherries are put out to dry in the sun, and they are raked and turned to prevent them from spoiling. At night, they are covered to protect them from moisture. Dry processing can take many weeks to complete.

Wet processing

this is when the pulp is removed after the beans have been harvested. This ensures that the beans can dry with only their parchment skin left intact.

After being de-pulped, the coffee cherries are washed in drums, then separated before entering fermentation tanks that are filled with water. They can stay here for up to 48 hours in order for their mucilage (sticky layer) to be removed, as NCA reports.

After being processed, the coffee beans are dried by being put in the sun or with the use of machines.

Sometimes coffee beans are polished, which refers to any silver skin on them that’s still present being removed.

Then, the beans will be sorted according to their weight and size, and then studied for any flaws. Once all the flawed beans have been removed, the beans are prepared for shipping.

Coffee Roasting And Grinding

Coffee Roasting And Grinding

When it comes to bringing out the flavor of coffee beans, roasting and grinding are two important processes.

Roasting

Roasting refers to using high temperatures – usually around 500 degrees Fahrenheit – to roast beans.

The beans have to be turned and moved around during the process so that they won’t burn. When they start to turn brown, a fragrant oil inside the beans will be released. This is known as pyrolysis and it enhances the taste of coffee.

Different roast levels will also draw out different flavors. Lighter coffee roasts will have brighter flavors, such as more tartness, while darker roasts will have bolder, deeper flavors.

Once the beans have been roasted so that they’re light, medium, or dark, with darker roasts taking more time, the beans will be cooled. Water or air is usually used to cool them.

If you’ve ever wondered why some coffee companies produce their coffee in certain countries but roast them in others, it’s because the roasted coffee is meant to get to the consumer as quickly as possible in order for the beans to maintain their freshness.

Grinding

Coffee grinding refers to breaking down the coffee beans so that their flavor will come out in the best way when the coffee is brewed. Beans will be ground into different sizes – extra-fine, fine, medium, or coarse – so that different brews will be full of flavor.

Larger coffee grinds need to be in contact with water during the brewing stage for longer so that their flavors will be released, while finer grinds need less brewing. 

Coffee Brewing: What To Know About The Different Methods

There are many different ways in which you can brew the perfect cup of coffee. Let’s look at some popular coffee brewing methods.

Espresso Machine

ESPRESSO MACHINE

These machines enable you to get your caffeine fix fast.

Espresso machines force water over the coffee beans that are finely ground (espresso coffees need a fine or extra-fine coffee grind) to release their flavor. When done correctly, an espresso coffee will have a beautifully sharp and strong flavor, without being too bitter.

While these machines can be expensive, you can find ones that won’t burn your budget. Espresso machines will also ensure you achieve your coffee fix pronto, as they will pull a shot of coffee within 20 to 30 seconds!

French Press

If you love rich and heavy coffee, the French press brew is your best bet! This brewing method takes four minutes to brew you a bold cup of coffee.

  • First, fill the French press with water and let it come to a boil. 
  • Then, make sure you have a coarse coffee grind on hand. 
  • Carefully pour most of the water over the coffee, being sure that you have double the amount of water as compared to coffee. 
  • Stir the liquid to help the extraction process along and then let the coffee flavor and aroma seep out of the beans for about half a minute. 
  • Then, pour the rest of the water over the coffee and place the lid on top. 
  • Allow the coffee to continue seeping for about three and a half minutes before you plunge the French press. 
  • When you press the filter, it shouldn’t feel too tough as that can be an indication that you’re using too-fine coffee granules.
  • In order to ensure that your French press coffee tastes delicious, you want to decant it as soon as it’s done brewing. This prevents bitterness from overpowering it.

Aeropress

AEROPRESS

Not to be confused with the French press, the Aeropress is a coffee brewing method that also makes use of a plunger.

How it works is that you put the Aeropress on top of your coffee cup with the filter paper and filter cap in place. Then:

  • Pour ground coffee through the top, followed by hot water. 
  • Insert the plunger and press it so that its contents move through the filter and enter the cup.

What’s so interesting about the Aeropress is that you can make use of different methods in order to bring out the best flavors in your cup.

For example, you could use two filters instead of one to produce an even cleaner taste; or you could steep the coffee for a longer time in order to create a thicker mouthfeel and more complex flavors. Generally, though, you should brew coffee with the Aeropress for no longer than two minutes.

Stovetop Coffee

Did you know that you can brew coffee on the humble stovetop instead of using a coffee machine? You just need a pan!

  • Start by filling your pan with water and heating it up on the stove. You should use a bit more water than you usually would when making use of a coffee machine, as some will remain at the end.
  • Then, when the water boils, you should add the coffee. How much? A good estimate is two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water. This can be used as a guideline to ensure you get your water-coffee ratio correct.
  • Bring the heat of the stove completely down to zero, then cover your pan.
  • You should wait a few minutes to ensure that the coffee settles at the bottom of the water. The maximum time to wait is five minutes.
  • After that, simply pour the coffee. You could also ladle the coffee into your cup.

This is a coffee-making hack courtesy of chef Jimmy Bradley (via Grub Street). It’s perfect for making at home if you don’t have a coffee machine that’s working for you or when you’re on a camping trip. No coffee machine? No problem!

Percolator

PERCOLATOR

The coffee percolator has two chambers in it to help you make coffee that’s a bit acrid but filled with those lovely burnt flavors.

Make sure you use a medium roast coffee as this will prevent loss of flavor such as in the case of light roasts.

This can happen because of how the coffee has to circulate the percolator’s chambers. Aim for one tablespoon of coffee per cup, as that is a general guideline to prevent the coffee from being too strong.

  • When making coffee with a percolator, you should start by filling the bottom chamber of the percolator with water. Try to leave a bit of space at the top – you should not cover the spring that’s located at the top of the percolator’s stem.
  • Then, put your coffee grounds in the top chamber, or basket. 
  • Attach the two parts of the percolator together. You will probably need to do this by screwing the bottom of the percolator into the top. 
  • Then, put your percolator on the stovetop. You should allow it to heat up slowly. You don’t want it to boil too quickly so don’t heat up your stove before you put the percolator on it otherwise that will make the coffee turn out bitter. 
  • When the water bubbles, you should allow the coffee to brew for up to 10 minutes. You might want to brew it for a bit less, such as five minutes, if you prefer a bit of a lighter coffee.

Vacuum Pot

A vacuum pot is sometimes called a syphon and it is as beautiful as it sounds. It makes use of a cloth or metal filter that prevents granules from entering the cup, keeping your coffee clean and full of flavor.

It might look a bit scary to use, because it’s made of glass, metal, and chains, as well as a burner, but it feels so artistic to use. Here’s how to use a vacuum pot to make excellent coffee (via Stumptown).

  • You should start by pulling the metal filter’s attachment chain so that it sinks it. There’s a clip that needs to be attached at the bottom of the funnel.
  • Fill the globe of the vacuum pot, but make sure that the exterior of this globe is fully dry before you apply the hot water otherwise you risk it breaking.
  • Now you need to use the candle burner (if yours doesn’t have one, then it will have a butane burner). Turn it on and place the funnel that’s located inside the globe so it’s at an angle.
  • When you see that the water is boiling, you can attach the funnel on top to secure it to the globe.
  • Take your coffee – it should be approximately six tablespoons and medium coarse – and put it into the water. 
  • Then, turn the heat down a bit and stir the coffee.
  • You’ll need a stopwatch for this next part: After forty seconds, make sure you stir it again, a bit slower this time. Then, when the time is 1:30 minutes, turn off the heat. Swirl the coffee around.
  • By the time the stopwatch reaches 3 minutes, you’ll see that the coffee has filtered down into the globe.

That’s it!

Coffee Pods

COFFEE PODS

For the ultimate convenience, you might want to make coffee with the use of coffee pods. You can find a variety of pods on the market, in a range of coffees and flavors, with one of the most popular being K-Cups by Keurig.

You might not realize that you can use coffee pods even if you don’t own a pod machine. So, with that in mind, let’s look at how to use your coffee pods in two ways: the first one is with a coffee pod machine and the other is without.

How To Use Coffee Pods With Pod Machine

  1. Fill the machine’s water tank up to where it says “max fill.”
  2. Then, open the pod holder – some machines have a button you need to press in order to open it.
  3. Firmly place the pod into its slot so that it slides into the holder.
  4. Make sure it’s secure and then close the pod holder.
  5. Choose the strength setting. You can usually choose from between a light, medium, or strong setting on the machine.
  6. You’re then ready to go! Press the start button, which is usually marked as “brew” so that the pod machine can get to work.

How a pod machine works is that it makes use of a pump that sends water through the pod machine.

Water will heat up and then the machine will pump it into the coffee pod so that it can immerse the coffee that’s inside it. Some machines, such as those by Keurig, have two needles to pierce the pod in the top and bottom to release the coffee.

Then, as the water mixes with coffee, it enters your cup. The filter that’s inside the pod container will be used to prevent any coffee granules from joining it. 

How To Use Coffee Pods With Water

With some pods, you can simply put them into a cup and then slowly pour water over them. You should allow the pod to steep in the water and you’ll benefit from using a spoon to keep the pod submerged.

If you leave the pod in your cup of boiling water for about five minutes, this will give you a stronger cup, so make sure you keep it in for less if you want a weaker coffee.

Instant Coffee

If you’re looking for convenient ways to make coffee, look no further than instant coffee.

This is even more convenient than using a pod because you just have to pour hot water over the fine powder of instant coffee. That said, there are some important tips to follow so that you make it a quality cup that tastes delicious.

  • Boil the amount of water you need to make a cup of coffee. You want to avoid boiling a full kettle and reheating it whenever you want another cup, as this causes oxygen to escape every time and it changes how your coffee tastes. 
  • Put a small amount of cold water in the bottom of your coffee cup. Then put a spoon or two of instant coffee. This ensures that the coffee can better dissolve.
  • Pour the boiling water into the cup.
  • Finally, add some milk and sugar if you don’t like to have black instant coffee. 

Related Questions

What are alternatives to putting milk in coffee?

You can add other things to your coffee to enhance its flavor, such as spices, cocoa, or even coffee creamer.

Is coffee more popular than tea? 

It’s interesting that tea is more popular in most of Asia and the former Soviet Union, while coffee wins in continental Europe and the Americas, as Pew Research reports.

Conclusion

There are many different ways in which you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee. In this article, we’ve provided you with different coffee brewing methods and types of coffee so you can find the best one for you that you love sipping every day.

We’ve also provided you with information to help you learn more about the most popular beverage in the world.

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