An Ode to Coffee

I have been a self-taught barista since the fall of ‘06. Unlike the urban, youth Indian populace, I actually got addicted to caffeine. I don’t know how and why. All I know is I used instant coffee to keep me awake during my exams since class nine. Then I bought a coffee maker with one of my initial salaries, and now I need at least 4 cups daily. So over the years, I have devoted some of my spare time to coffee as a subject and here I present a compilation I have collected from the net as well as my own understanding -

1. Beans

a. Bean Types -

Robusta (Coffea Canephora)

Arabica (Coffea Arabica)

2.7% caffeine 1.5% caffeine
Less maintenance and greater yield Lower yield and more maintenance
Full-bodied, earthy flavour, bitter (pyrazine) Slightly acidic tone, smoother, richer
20% of the coffee produced in the world 80% of the coffee produced in the world
Vietnam, Brazil, India, and Indonesia Central America, East Africa, India, Indonesia

b. Cleaning -

Wet Process

Dry Process

Specific equipment and substantial quantities of water Used for about 90% of the Arabica coffee produced in Brazil, Ethiopia, Haiti and Paraguay, also in India and Ecuador. All Robusta are processed by this method
More balanced taste Fruitier taste

c. Roasting –

Roast

Surface

Notes

Flavour

Light Dry At first crack (205 deg C) Light, acidic, no-roast
Med Dry Between first and second crack Balanced, smoother, slight originality
Full Slight Shine At second crack (225 deg C) Aromatic, heavy body
Double Oily Smoke come out, sugar carbonizes Smokey-sweet, nothing original

Caffeine diminishes with increased roasting level: light roast – 1.37%; medium roast – 1.31%; and dark roast < 1.31%. At lighter roasts, the bean will exhibit more of its “origin flavour”; the flavours created in the bean by its variety, the soil, altitude, and weather conditions in the location where it was grown. As a rule of thumb, the “shinier” the bean is, the more dominant the roasting flavours are. Sucrose is rapidly lost during the roasting process and may disappear entirely in darker roasts. During roasting, aromatic oils and acids weaken, changing the flavour. At 205 °C other oils start to develop. One of these oils, Caffeol, is created at about 200 °C, which is largely responsible for coffee’s aroma and flavour.

2. Preparation

a. Grinding and Brewing–

The fineness of grind strongly affects brewing, and must be matched to the brewing method for best results. Brewing methods which expose coffee grounds to heated water for longer require a coarser grind than faster brewing methods. Beans which are too finely ground for the brewing method in which they are used will expose too much surface area to the heated water and produce a bitter, harsh, “over-extracted” taste. At the other extreme, an overly coarse grind will produce weak coffee unless more is used. Water temperature should always stay between 90 and 96 degree Celsius. If the temperature is higher, the result is bitter and ashy taste. If the temperature is lower, then the taste is sour and diluted. In processes involving manual intervention, it is easier to make a mistake of having water at a lower temperature. The other scenario doesn’t happen because water is taken off-heat at boiling point, and by the time it is seeped through coffee, it reaches ideal temperature. Due to the importance of fineness, uniformly ground coffee is better than a mixture of sizes.

  • Coarse – Very distinct particles of coffee. Downright chunky.
  • Medium – Gritty, like coarse sand. (I use this a lot)
  • Fine – Smoother to the touch, a little finer than granular sugar or table salt.
  • Extra fine – Finer than sugar, but grains should still be discernable to the touch.
  • Turkish – Powdered, like flour.

Brew Method

Ideal Grind

Plunger pot / French press Coarse
Percolator Coarse
Vacuum coffee pot Coarse
Drip coffee makers (flat bottomed filters) Medium
Espresso mocha pots Fine
Drip coffee makers (cone filters) Fine
Espresso machines (pump or steam) Extra fine
Ibrik / Cezve Turkish

b. Flavour –

Flavour is the overall perception of the coffee in your mouth. Acidity, aroma, and body are components of flavour. It is the balance and homogenization of these senses that create your overall perception of flavour.

Acidity – It is the sensation of dryness that the coffee produces under the edges of your tongue and on the back of your palate. It provides a sharp, bright, vibrant quality. Without sufficient acidity, the coffee will tend to taste flat. Acidity should not be confused with sour, which is an unpleasant, negative flavour characteristic.

Aroma – Without our sense of smell, our only taste sensations would be: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. The aroma contributes to the flavours we discern on our palates. Subtle nuances, such as “floral” or “winy” characteristics, are derived from the aroma of the brewed coffee.

Body – It is the viscosity, heaviness, thickness, or richness that is perceived on the tongue. A good example of body would be that of the feeling of whole milk in your mouth, as compared to water. Your perception of the body of a coffee is related to the oils and solids extracted during brewing. Coffees with a heavier body will maintain more of their flavour when diluted.

c. My Recipes –

Basic Ingredients –

Standard Espresso shot – 60 ml, Steamed milk, Milk Foam, Condiments (Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Chocolate powder etc.)

1. Cappuccino

Espresso:Milk:Foam :: 1:1:1 (a.k.a. rule of thirds)

Foam dense, Total 180 ml, Optional condiments

2. Americano / Long Black (My daily cup)

Espresso:Water :: 1:2

Always add hot water separately to espresso, Total 180 ml

3. Cafe Latte

Espresso:Milk:Foam :: 1:3:1

Foam Light, Total 300 ml

4. Flat White

Same as Latte except it has no foam, Total 240 ml

5. Macchiato

Espresso: Foam :: 1:1

Foam dense, Total 120 ml

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6 thoughts on “An Ode to Coffee

  1. @pegasus – Oh, that is done to improve the flavor of the beans. That is according to individual taste, just like addition of different types of garam masala to our Indian cooking. Not recommended for beginners, though. Also realized that sticking to correct blend-brew mix and correct water temperature is more important than any other factor for the taste.

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    • It’s pretty crazy. My sitesr wants to start a coffee shop, and she was telling me how coffee is ridiculously different everywhere else but America. Here a double shot latte means a million other things in other countries. Trippy

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  2. There’s a huge difference beetwen pump and steam espresso machines, and the bars of pressure in the machines (needed to compact the grounds when brewing). I had a cheap Melitta before; and now have a DeLonghi Magnifica 3300 which is unbelievable! It has a water reservoir and a bean reservoir; grinds beans fresh for each cup. In addition, you can make multiple cups, without waiting for the machine to cool down (a con with cheaper machines). It has a great frother too; and a reservoir to hold use grinds, so you aren’t emptying them after each cup (another con with cheaper machines). Check out the stats for the Magnifica 3300. Yes, it’s pricey, but you can find it New on eBay (with warranty still in box), and it’s rated the highest of just about any other machine .

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  3. Pingback: Alexander McFadden Coffee Guru – New York « Alexander McFadden Coffee Guru

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