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Find your perfect cup eva chan




Coffee history





coffee discovered

the First cafe

revolutionary beverage

First espresso machine

First known discovery of coffee cherries.

The world’s first coffee shop opens in Constantinople.

Americans against increased British tea taxes, replaced tea with coffee as their revolutionary beverage of choice.

The first prototype of an espresso machine is created in France.







the decaf process

Instant coffee

the first drip coffee maker

the most popular beverage

The world’s first coffee shop opens in Constantinople.

The English chemist George Constant Washington, invented instant coffee while living in Guatemala.

Melitta Bentz invents the first drip coffee maker with a filter made of blotting paper.

More than 500 billion cups are consumed each year. It is one of the world’s most traded commodities.






tasting guide

health issues



















Taste guide
























































































































































































































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tasting guide

health issues



tasting guide







growing it Arabica and Robusta

Specialty Quality Coffee

There are two major species of coffee

Specialty coffee distinguishes itself

that are grown for commercial use,

first and foremost by the quality of

coffea robusta and coffea arabica.

the raw material. The term “specialty

Robusta grows at lower elevations,

coffee” also connotes a greater level

has a higher yield per plant, and

of attention paid to the processing and

is more disease resistant than its

roasting than is characteristically asso-

arabica relative. Robusta beans are

ciated with coffee that comes in a can.

noteworthy for their harsh, dirty flavor and abundant caffeine­ – twice as much caffeine, in fact, as is found in arabica beans. A relatively low cost of production makes robusta a favorite with North American canned, or “institutional,” coffee roasters. The arabica species, which grows best at higher elevations, is the source of all of the world’s great coffees. While there is more poor-tasting arabica than robusta in the world, this is simply a result of the fact that monumentally more arabica is grown. About 75 percent of the world’s total production is arabica; 10 percent of that is actually of “specialty” quality.

Henceforth, when discussing the growing conditions and coffee in general, these beans are specialty grade arabicas are the beans we’re talking about. Such beans provide the pinnacle flavors and aromas coffee lovers are looking for. The stunning reward of a balance of factors including plant pedigree, altitude, microclimate, and cultivation, these magnificent coffees are the ones people are encouraged you to seek out and sample. People often refer to single-origin coffees, the pure, unblended coffees that come from a single country or region, as “varietals.” Used this way, the term is more colloquial and convenient than botanically correct.





only few arabicas are specialty quality coffee To narrow the pot still further, of the 10 percent of arabicas that can legitimately be called specialty coffee, only 1 or 2 percent qualify as superlative representatives of their growing regions, or grand crus (“great growths�).

10% speciality coffee

1% great growths











Hybrids vs Heirlooms As is the case with many domesticated agricultural products today, the issue of growing heirloom varieties versus modern hybrids is a great concern in the coffee industry. Older versions of the arabica plant are preferred by many specialty coffee buyers for their superior and distinctive taste qualities. Older heirloom types, such as bourbon and typica, are still widely planted in East Africa, Yemen, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Significant pockets can be found in other countries as well. At the same time, modern hybrids such as caturra, catimor, and the hardy variedad colombiana have become increasingly popular with growers. In general, hybrids produce more beans per plant and are less susceptible to disease than the heirloom types. Unfortunately, hybrids are also generally considered by tasters in the industry to be more bland in the cup. Specialty coffee buyers concerned about flavor and the future existence of fine coffee encourage growers to continue cultivating heirloom plants, and are also willing to pay the higher prices that support these growers.

Heirlooms compareD to hybrids less beans more disease susceptible tastes better







Coffee Growing Conditions The coffee tree requires a frost-free

For such high-quality coffee to thrive,

climate, moderate rainfall, and plenty

year-round daytime temperatures

of sunshine. The regions where coffee

must average 60-70°F, which by tropi-

grows, known as “origin regions,” are

cal standards is quite cool. The result

grouped loosely under three geo-

is a longer, slower growth cycle,

graphical nameplates: the Americas,

yielding beans that are denser and

Africa and Arabia, and Indonesia.

far more intense in flavor than their

Within these regions, coffee grows

lower-grown neighbors.

in almost 80 different countries. It can grow at altitudes ranging from sea level to 6,000 feet, in all sorts of different soils and microclimates.

Because they are harder and more dense, high-grown beans can be roasted darker and still retain their integrity. For example, at a darker

The environment required for growing

roast, a premium Guatemalan Antigua

fine specialty coffee, however, is found

offers plush, Belgian-chocolate body

only in select mountainous regions in

and considerable flavor complexity.

the tropics­ — between the Tropic of

At the same roast, beans grown at

Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, to

lower elevations are left with little

be exact. These varieties demand high

other than the roasty, smoky flavors

altitudes, usually between 4,000 and

of the roasting process itself. The

6,000 feet, to produce their stunning

beans grown downslope are still good

and concentrated flavors. They need an

coffee, but compared in the cup

annual rainfall of about 80 inches, with

to those of higher elevations they

distinct rainy and dry seasons. The soil

are simple, mild, and uncomplicated.

in which fine coffees grow must be

To borrow a winetaster’s term, they

extremely fertile, and is often volcanic.

are vin ordinaire, “ordinary wine,”

Regular mist and cloud cover are also

and nothing special. Again, for true

necessary for protection from over-

complexity and flavor, green-coffee

exposure to sunlight at these latitudes.

buyers look to the lofty mountains, bright sunshine, fertile soil, and warm but not hot climes — the land, as the

iDEAL coffee growing conditions

60-70 f o


80in rainfall

people of Guatemala call their highlands, “eternal spring.”

4000-6000ft elevation




wet and dry processing After the ripe cherries have been

The path from ripe to rotten is short. If

plucked from their trees, the next task is

this stage is not arrested at the exact

to get at the seeds, or coffee beans,

moment fermentation is complete, an

inside. To separate the beans from their

entire batch of coffee can be ruined.

cherries, a total of four layers must be

The dreaded taste defect known as “fer-

removed: the tough, shiny outer skin;

ment” will occur and lend its unmistak-

the sticky, mucilaginous pulp of the

ably offensive taste to the beans.

fruit; a stiff parchment casing; and the thin, delicate “silverskin” that clings to each bean.

When ferment is present, even a neophyte taster knows something has gone horribly wrong; its taste could

The washed, or wet, method involves

be described, as urine-like. The control

mechanically removing the pulp from

of fermentation is invariably the job

the beans. After depulping, top quality

of the most experienced workers on a

wet-processed coffees are transferred

coffee plantation. When fermentation

to large fermentation tanks, usually

is complete, the beans are washed free

through a sluice of some kind.

from the loosened fruit. The coffee

In the fermentation tanks, a carefully monitored and controlled enzymatic reaction allows the sticky fruit to swell and loosen from the beans inside. Many first-time plantation visitors are surprised to discover that these tanks of coffee smell remarkably like newly made wine. Fermentation may last from 12 to 36 hours, depending on atmospheric conditions and the nature of the coffee itself. Carefully executed, fermentation yields the crisp, fruity acidity and aromatic high notes that define the world’s great washed coffees.

beans, with parchment layer intact, are left to dry on large patios. To ensure even drying, the beans must be raked and thereby turned several times each day.




Washed coffees are brighter and offer cleaner, more consistent flavors than those processed by the dry method. Not surprisingly, the wet method predominates in Latin America, the very region whose coffees we associate with these characteristics. In more industrialized coffee-growing countries like Costa Rica, traditional wet processing is being replaced with a variation called aqua-pulping. With this method, the coffee is just depulped, rinsed, and dried. Sadly, such coffee can’t express the high notes and varietal charm characteristic of traditionally washed beans. In comparison to the wet method, the dry or natural method seems quite simple. Coffee cherries are spread to dry in open sunlight, usually on patios or tarps, for several weeks. The shriveled husks of dried fruit are then winnowed away, leaving only the interior parchment and beans. Dry-processed coffees are generally heavier bodied and more variable in flavor than wet-processed beans. You will find-and learn to taste-that most Indonesian coffees are dry-processed, as are some of the more traditional coffees of Africa and Arabia.

Washed coffees are brighter and offer cleaner, more consistent flavors than those processed by the dry method.

— Kevin Knox, coffee and tea consultant






Roasting it The degree of roast applied should al-

At the very light and dark ends of the

ways be relative to the potential of the

roasting spectrum, coffee flavors are

coffee being roasted, and invariably

simple. At one extreme, the infamous

ends up being relative to the roaster

American canned-coffee “cinnamon”

who controls the process as well.

roast touts a grassy, green, and cerea-

Green coffee beans are literally seeds of potential flavor, each with its own particular nature. A fine dry-processed Brazilian bean, for example, is physically soft and fragile. It needs a

like flavor. On the other end, the darkest “French” roast imparts pure char, with a hint of oily fishiness. Between these two, there is an enormously wide range of roast styles available.

delicate application of heat to bring

The roast name is not an objective

out its best. This type of bean realizes

indicator of roast degree. When we

its full flavor potential early in the

use roast names in this book, we are

roasting process and turns charred and

incorporating both the traditional trade

burnt at temperatures that are just

definitions and our own knowledge of

commencing to bring out the best in

roasting as reference points.

some harder, higher-grown, washed coffees. Representatives of the latter type, coffees from Guatemalan Antigua and Papua New Guinea, are highly prized by roasters for their chameleon-like ability to display enjoyable yet distinctly different flavors at a wider variety of roasts.

Note: Your job as a coffee lover is to rise above all the jargon and find roasters who handle their coffees skillfully, roasting them in a way that emphasizes the characteristics most pleasing to you. The following description of the roasting process may help you get your bearings.







What Happens During Roasting?

When the roaster judges a roast to

From start to finish, a roast typically

have reached its peak, she opens the

takes 10 to 15 minutes. Over the

door on the front of the machine

course of the process, the green coffee

and allows the beans to cascade into

being roasted loses between 12 and

a cooling tray. A broad paddle arm

25 percent of the weight it possessed

sweeps through the beans, spreading

going in, depending on the specific

them over a perforated screen while a

type of coffee and the degree of the

powerful fan draws air through the lot.

roast applied.


One of the basic exercises roaster

The roasting machines used by most

trainees go through at Allegro Coffee

specialty roasters look like oversized

Company in Boulder, Colorado, is

clothes dryers. These are often called

called “tasting progressive roasts.”

“batch” roasters, and they have ca-

They take a top-quality coffee and

pacities ranging from a dozen to several

sample roast it a dozen ways, then

hundred pounds. The green beans are

cup each sample. Repeating the

poured into a large, barrel-like cham-

process with every coffee in the

ber that has been carefully preheated

warehouse begins to shape the tools

(most roasters are gas-fired).

necessary for conscious roasting.

The beans are spun in the cylinder to heat them evenly, while the roaster monitors their progress by time, temperature (thermometers measure both bean and air temperature), sight, smell, and sound. The all-important visual and auditory feedback is achieved by means of a small, trough-like probe called a “tryer.” The tryer permits roasters to pull samples of beans from the drum at any point

rosting process

10-15min time

during roasting.

12%-25% weight loss




Coffee Roasts 20min


9-11 min 10min

0-6 min

7-8 min


00min name

Light Cinnamon New England

Medium American regular city

Viennese Full City Light espresso, Continental




Dry to tiny droplets


Light Brown

medium Brown

medium dark


Can taste sour and grainy. Typically used only for expensive commercial blends.

The traditional American norm. Flavor is fully developed; acidity is bright; characteristics of green coffee are clear.

Acidity and the characteristics of the green coffee begin to mute and sweetness and coffee increase. The norm for northern Italian-style espresso.



15+ min 12-13 min

14-15 min

French Espresso Italian Turkish Dark

Italian Dark French Neapolitan Spanish heavy

Dark French Neapolitan Spanish

Shiny surface

Very Shiny Surface

Shiny surface

Dark brown

Very Dark Brown


The normal or regular roast for many roasters in the west and southwest. Acidity is backgrounded; the characteristic of the green coffee muted. The norm for most American-style espresso.

Acidity is gone. In tactful versions of this roast, muted but clear characteristics of the green coffee survive; bittersweet with hints of burned or charred tones.

All differentiating characteristics of the green coffee are gone; burned or charred notes dominate. Body is thin. Flavor is reduced to faint sweet tones.







Can a Bean be judged by its Color? The concise answer is no. A bean’s

Sound but basic coffees are typically

roast can not be gauge its color, nor

used for dark roasts and flavor-

the quality of a coffee by its degree

ings-through the cloaks of which less

of roast.

actual coffee taste is discernible.

Without knowing what the constituent

There is a certain “rite of passage”

coffees were, it isn’t possible to ac-

quality to drinking ultra-dark-roasted

curately predict flavors from the color

coffees, an initial appeal that smacks

of the result. Decaffeinated coffees

of sophistication. Perhaps, as is the

provide a good example. As a result

case with anything new, coffee are

of the decaffeination process, they

evaluated on the basis of those aspects

start out military drab. During roasting,

of quality that can most easily be

they take on various shades of gray

recognized and enumerated. Dramat-

and black-yet the actual roast degree

ic but simple, the darker roasts are

may be the same as that applied to

impressive in a particular and obvious

caffeinated coffees that still appear

way. They are as forceful and mem-

much lighter.

orable as one’s first experience with

The final roast color of Indonesian coffees can prove equally misleading. Because they don’t have the same inherent pigmentation Central American coffees have, these coffees look

a habanero pepper. Because of the strength of these associations, many coffee drinkers mistakenly associate good coffee exclusively with the darker styles.

dark and oily even when roasted to the same objective degree as a lighter-looking Central American. In any case, darker doesn’t necessarily mean better. It is true that to succeed in expressing varietal flavors through a longer roast, a roaster must begin by investing in high quality coffees. But the choicest beans are never consigned to the darkest roasts, even among those most fanatical about quality.

Note: It is interesting to note that the flavors professional cuppers and tasters most dote upon are the bright, fruity, and winey flavors captured only when coffees (such as Kenya, Yergacheffe, and Costa Rica Dota Conquistador) are roasted no darker than full city.





Artisan Blending

Blending Basic

A blend, simply said, is a combination

In its ideal form, the world’s first

of coffees from different countries.

and most famous coffee blend,

Blend names, while sometimes fanci-

Mocha Java, illustrates one of the

ful, often provide an indication of the

most important principles of blending:

character of the blend or the circum-

blending based on complementary

stances under which it is designed to

ingredients, with an end result that is

be enjoyed.

smooth and unified. Yemen Mocha is

A great blend has an ideal, a specific and complex flavor profile associated with it. In this way, a blend is like the dish an illustrious and inventive chef might concoct. The specific ingredients — the coffee beans — used to formulate that vision will be reapportioned, roasted differently, or substituted as their own flavor characteristics vary. At its best, an artfully composed blend offers complexity and consistency of flavor that few straight coffees can match. Such artisan blending is the expression of a master taster’s understanding of the flavor potential of all the unblended coffees the world produces-at many different degrees of roast. It is an old cliché but a true one: a great blend is one that yields more than the sum of its parts.

a coffee with lots of flavor and aroma, but only medium body. Java’s strong suit is its body, but its flavors are relatively simple. Combine the two in the right percentages and you have characteristics neither alone will ever provide. Mocha Java is a coffee that is balanced and pleasing in all respects: flavor, acidity, and body.




Blending based on contrast plays up the differences between coffees. Classic examples of this principle are the Scandinavian and Viennese blends, which use a percentage of dark roast to spice up a lightly roasted base of bright Latin American coffees. The opposing tastes, typified by the acidity of the base and the smokiness of the dark roast, are intriguing and palate cleansing once combined. Great blends are inspired by the inherently nuanced and dramatic flavors of varietal coffees, and the proficient blenders know their ingredients. Having tasted every coffee in the warehouse numerous times at a wide range of roasts, they must then hold this information in their head and tongue in order to create the combinations that work. Blending is laborious, and the handful of roasters that do it well fashion dozens, even hundreds, of permutations before settling on and sending a blend to the marketplace.


In finding the perfect path for the coffee to express itself, one finds oneself.


— Kevin Knox, coffee and tea consultant






Blending and Commerce Having described blending as the art

In addition, roasters who roast every

it should be and occasionally is, it

coffee in their lineup to an extreme

is important to point out some of the

degree tend to be especially ardent

less noble purposes of blending.

advocates of blends. Why? The

Blends provide a valuable opportunity for cost control. The “art” of blending for most mass-market firms consists of disguising the largest possible amount of poor coffee with the smallest possible amount of good stuff. A

varietal nuances, and therefore flavor complexity, of their single-origin coffees has been significantly diminished by the very dark roast style. Blends give consumers the illusion of additional variety.

substantial amount of money is spent on slick marketing for a particular blend and brand. This has the ultimate fiscal advantage to the roaster of market exclusivity: there is only one place for customers to spend their coffee dollars if they want to drink it again.

Note: this approach to blending is the predominant one in the commercial and “gourmet” coffee business. You can see it in names such as “Kona Blend,” “Jamaican-Style,” or supermarket-quality “Mocha Java.” These coffees rely on famous names to make them attractive to the consumer and usually contain few if any of the rare and costly beans being romanced.


34 2 00

Ca os ft fi en egdg eu ci od de er T



buying it country characteristics

The Grand Crus

Historically, growers have focused

In France, the greatest wines from

on the health of their plants, the

the best vineyards and vintages are

integrity of processing, and how the

greatly revered. They are set aside for

final products look. This orientation,

celebratory consumption on the most

while important and admirable, is

special of occasions. Undoubtedly a

not directly useful to the roasters

question of expense, this habit is also

and green coffee buyers who make

a practical one. The great wines are

choices based on taste. Increasing

massive, powerful, multidimensional

interest in specialty coffee and rapidly

experiences that tend to upstage

expanding global communication

food. They are often best appreciated

networks are beginning to bridge the

by themselves. The grand crus, or

chasm between growing coffee and

“great growths,” of the coffee world

understanding its resultant flavors.

are few in number and similarly de-

Nevertheless, it is still important to

manding. Each conveys a unique taste

understand the discrepancy to appre-

of place, a compelling flavor window

ciate the critical role that professional

into the singular growing conditions of

tasters — including exporters, import-

its homeland. Powerful and dynam-

ers, and particularly roasters — play in

ic, the grand crus require a certain

ferreting out great coffees.

vigilant enjoyment on the part of the coffee drinker. They are the best beans, but not appropriate for every use. It would be a waste of money, for example, to sizzle superior beans in a French roast or to blunt their complex flavors with large quantities of milk or flavorings.





Rating scale for single origin coffee latin america and the pacific

. . . . . 1

..... very good



.. below average






1. Guatemalan Antigua (genuine, from selected estates)




2. Costa Rican Dota 3. Costa Rican La Minita 4.

Top. Regional Guatemalan SHB estate coffees

5. Estate-grown Costa Rican Tres Rios and Tarrazu 6. Panama Estate 7. Salvadoran

(Estate coffees)






8. Colombian

(from premier regions)

9. Mexican Altura (from top farms)

10. Kona 11. Caribbean specialties: Jamaican, Haitian, Dominican 12. Brazilian fancy grades


east africa and arabia

















1. Kenya AA

1. Sumatra Mandheling

2. Ethiopian Yergacheffe and Sidamo

2. Sulawesi

3. Yemen Mocha Sanani and Mattari

3. Papua New Guinea

(estate-grown auction lots from main crop) (carefully selected lots)

4. “Generic”Kenya AA 5. Zimbabwe

(from top estates)

6. Malawi

(from top estates)

7. Ethiopian Harrar 8. Ethiopian Limu 9. Ethiopian Djimmah, Ghimbi


(Grade 1, special preparation)

(top grades)

(from top estates)

4. Java Estate 5. Java

(Non estate and “private” estate)

6. Aged Indonesians (sumatra, sulawesi)







Identify the Taste that Pleases The coffee evaluations in this chapter are based solely on cup quality, and are designed to help a drinker navigate the dense forest of origin countries, grading designations, and estate names to find the most pleased tastes. The only way to become truly knowledgeable about coffees is to sample them widely. There is no way to predict what tastes an individual will gravitate toward initially, or how tasks over time. Experience with good coffees is a spiraling of epiphanies. Adventuresome eaters, and those who already invest great time and energy in seeking out and preparing other specialty foods, tend to have a high tolerance for daring amounts of acidity, of both the fruit and tannic variety.





The Three Great Growing Regions: The Americas, Africa and Arabia, Indonesia

Naming specific regions, estate names, and other designations, present pertinent information, and provide valuable clues that used to evaluate quality. Remember, circumstances at individual farms and within origin countries change every crop per year, making a roaster’s ability to cup and select infinitely more important



than the presence or absence of a par-

cussed is that of the earthy, full-bod-

ticular name on the beanbag or menu

ied Indonesians. Not coincidentally,

board. The discussion starts with

this order loosely parallels a standard

the Americas, the lightest, brightest,

tasting progression; moving from the

and generally most accessible of the

lightest to the heaviest when tasting

world’s coffees. Next, we move to the

multiple coffees.

Africans, successors of the earliest coffee trees and known for their wild, rustic flavors. The last region we dis-


regional characteristics at a glance Jamaica: Bland, neutral

Guatemala: Dark chocolate with spice, smoke, fruit.

Costa Rica: Tangy, consistent, sweet

Hawaii: Mild, sweet, neutral

Mexico: Light, nutty milk chocolate

Colombia: Heavy-bodied, rich, simple, and solid

Brazil: Nutty, low-acid, simple to bland.

Kenya: Bright, hearty, lush black-currant flavor

Yemen Mocha:


Fruit-like, musky, earthy, sweetly spicy.

Caramelly, buttery, sweet, syrupy

Ethiopian Harrar: Winey, wild, blueberry-like

Ethiopian Yegacheffe Sidamo: Lemony, elegant, metholated; intensely aromatic.

India: Dark Chocolate, nutmeg, clove spicy

Sumatra: Earthy, woodsy, smooth, herbal aroma

Java: Hearty, peppery spice

Papua New Guinea: Tropical fruit-like, pungent, clean, bright

Latin America and the Pacific

Hawaii and the Caribbean

East Africa and Arabia







The Americas More impressive than the sheer quan-

Typically, consumers find the flavor

tities produced in this area, however,

profiles of Latin American coffees

is the fact that in the minds of most

to be accessible and welcoming.

North American consumers this

High grown, well-prepared coffees

region defines the taste of coffee al-

from this region have a familiar and

together. As recently as 50 years ago,

reassuring quality to them. They

books on coffee devoted themselves

taste, one might say, like transmut-

primarily to the established growing

ed versions of the canned coffee on

regions of Africa, Arabia, and Indonesia

which most of us were raised. The

and presented only a few scattered

soft, balanced flavors we remember

comments on promising new plant-

are there, but gone are the rubbery

ings in countries with names like

coarseness of robusta and the mealy,

Colombia and Brazil.

cereal-like staleness characteristic of coffee trapped in a can. Our discussion of Latin American coffees also includes several “geographical fibbers.” Although the island coffees of Hawaii and the Caribbean don’t meet the strict geographical criteria, their flavors place them clearly within this category.

Note: Central and South America together are responsible for providing the world with a significant amount of coffee.





brazil (Dry-processed)

Colombia (Wet-Processed)

Brazil produces by far the largest

Colombia stands alone among origin

quantity of coffee in the world. The vast

countries for the outstanding job it has

majority of the country’s yield is low-

done in marketing itself. The legendary

grown arabica, ranging in quality from

figure of Juan Valdez® has convinced

extremely poor to passable.

legions of consumers that all Colom-

A tiny coterie of firms are currently working to produce more nuanced

bian coffee is “specialty”— or at least very special-coffee.

and complex Brazils from carefully

In truth, the country has done an

selected micro-climates. To date, the

exceptional job of producing huge

most promising efforts come from

quantities of good-quality coffee.

farms such as Fazenda Vista Allegre

Colombia’s emphasis on quantity and

and Capim Branco. If you encounter

market share has resulted in widely

them, these coffees are worth tasting;

standardized production, yielding

they offer a more appealing rendition

coffee, which, while it rarely sinks to

of the flavors most of us connect with

great depths, is equally unlikely to

our earliest coffee memories.

achieve great heights. In addition to the traditional, small-

Taste Note: Brazilian coffee is the predominant flavor you taste in nearly every cup of run-of-the-mill American coffee: bland, woody, and innocuous. The very nicest Brazils are nutty, low-acid coffees best suited for use in Italian-style espresso blends, where their mildness and lack of highnotes are virtues.

scale wet milling, there are two reasons Colombian coffee cannot be ranked among the greater Central Americans. The first is the prevalence of a high-yield, inferior-tasting hybrid called variedad colombiana. Second, the bulk of Colombian coffee comes from areas where the altitude, latitude, and microclimate are less than ideal. When you find a regionally designated Colombian coffee, take it as a good sign. It means you are buying from someone who cares enough to ferret out something exceptional, even from a country whose coffees are going to sell themselves anyway.



Costa Rica (Wet-Processed) These regionally designated Colombi-

A seasoned coffee pro once said

ans may be hard to find, but they are

that Costa Rica is to Guatemala what

the living links to archetypal Colombi-

Switzerland is to Italy. Costa Rica

an flavor. Like the towering mountains

processes coffee with the same regi-

in which they grow, they are rugged

mented attention the Swiss give their

and large scale, offering heft rather

watches, while processing norms in

than finesse as their virtue. Although

Guatemala are as relaxed as, say, an

they lack the complexity, clarity,

Italian after lunch.

and elegance of the finest Centrals, high-quality Colombians can still provide plenty of luscious enjoyment.

Costa Rica sets the world standard for consistently high quality in both its wet processing and dry milling. The majority of the processing is done in larger mills using precise quality-control proce-

Taste note: The Narino region produces balanced coffees with fine acidity and body, and unusually distinctive flavors which may include an agreeable black-walnut bitterness. Best offering region: The Narino region Taste note: Coffees from the Huila region feature an intense fruity acidity that complements their full body. Best offering region: Huila region

dures. The best producers recognize a dozen or more distinct qualitative separations during milling, versus two in most Central American nations. Most Costa Rican coffee comes from the modern hybrid caturra, which yields large quantities of good coffee. Some would say that Costa Rican coffee could be even better if more of the older bourbon and typica types were planted.

Taste: Coffees are mild, sweet, and flawless with bright acidity and great consistency from cup to cup. Two of the more famous green-coffee marks from this region are Bella Vista and La Magnolia. Best offering region: Tres Rios area near the Pacific coast Taste note: A compelling, forceful coffee with notes of chocolate, tropical fruit, and a multidimensional, vinous acidity kissed by the honey (miel) of the fermentation tanks. Best offering region: Rugged Tarrazu region





El Salvador (Wet-Processed) Imagine remote highland valleys

El Salvador is also home to a well-orga

replete with greenery and wildlife, acre

nized cooperative that produces one of

upon acre of heirloom bourbon and art-

the best and most consistent certified

fully planted shade trees, and precisely

organic coffees, under the Pipil brand

delineated farms run by growers dedi-

name. The largest part of the crop

cated to the highest possible quality —

goes to Europe. This coffee is 100 per-

Santa Ana, El Salvador.

cent typica, and its SHG (strictly high

The rich heritage of growers here

grown) grade is excellent.

combined with an infusion of post-civil war rebuilding funds from the European Economic Community has made El Salvador the brightest rising star in Latin America. This characterization currently applies to the superb estate and cooperative coffees marketed under the Itzalco Premium banner, including those from farms such as Pacas, El Borbollon, and Los Ausoles. These coffees are processed to exacting standards, and stand in sharp contrast to the bulk of Salvadoran production-which consists of neutral, attractively priced blending coffees.

Taste Note: The best coffees are beautifully prepared and perfectly balanced, with pointed acidity, medium body, enticing sweetness, and depth.



Guatemala (Wet-Processed)

Honduras (Wet-Processed)

This beautiful country produces more

Like El Salvador and Mexico, Hondu-

distinctive regional coffees than any

ras is mostly considered as a source

other Central American nation. The

for cheap blending coffees — when it

only region known to most consum-

is considered at all. Some in the trade

ers is Antigua; these are often, but

refer to Honduran coffees as “Co-

by no means always, the best coffees

lombian substitutes”. As in so many

produced in the country.

other places, there are excellent

At their best, they are perhaps the most complex and compelling coffees of the continent. Quality varies widely from year to year, farm to farm, but

coffees grown here, but getting them out of the country before they are blended with lesser beans is always a problem.

some of the established producers

With numerous good farms and

whose names you might encounter

knowledgeable farmers, as well as

include San Sebastian, San Miguel,

large stands of heirloom arabica

San Rafael Urias, Bella Carmona, and

trees, Honduras has a good chance

Cafe Pulcal.

of reaching more specialty coffee

The current reference-standard coffees from this region are called Pocola and Santa Cecilia. The better farmers in these and several other upand-coming areas have large stands of heirloom bourbon coffee (some are even going so far as to rip out existing plots of higher-yielding hybrids).

Taste Note: Genuine Antiguas offer a unique blend of high-grown acidity, deep body, and Belgian chocolate flavors edged with smoky spice.

drinkers as the market matures.





Mexico (Wet-Processed)

Nicaragua (Wet-Processed)

Mexico produces large quantities of

Coffee farming promises to save

sound but somewhat unremarkable

displaced farmers from urban squalor

coffee, most of which is a good fit

and return them to the countryside,

for costconscious blending and dark

while bringing desperately needed cash


into the country.

Small amounts of world-class coffee

Some decades past, coffees from

with much greater acidity and flavor

Nicaragua’s premier growing regions

intensity are produced in the high

of Jinotega and Matagalpa were

mountains of Oaxaca, Veracruz, and

legendary for their quality. There is no

Chiapas, but, here again, extracting

doubt that the country possesses the

them before they are blended requires

soil, micro-climates, coffee types, and

monumental effort. Several importers

skilled farmers necessary to rise to

and roasters have risen to the chal-

such heights again.

lenge of importing and featuring these special coffees, which are usually designated by farm name once they arrive. Some of the best small farm coffees, incidentally, are also certified as organically grown.

Historically, coffees have been washed and partially dried on farms before being blended, machine-dried, and processed by exporters, who don’t always give individual coffees the attention they need and deserve. Generally, however, prices are still

Taste Note: Good, high-grown, or altura, coffees from Mexico are characteristically light bodied and nutty. The better examples have a milk chocolate-like tang and delicacy-well suited for a light first cup of the day.

more than fair for the quality, making these coffees a good choice for blending and the application of darker roast styles.

Taste Note: Today’s good-quality, high-grown Nicaraguan coffees are typically bold (meaning very large) beans with a pronounced, sometimes almost salty acidity. They have the heavier body for which Caribbean coffees have earned renown and simple, satisfying flavors. This profile is sometimes marred by a bit of past-crop woodiness or other flavor taint caused by the cumbersome traditional


Panama (Wet-Processed) At their best, Panamanian coffees are very similar to Costa Rican coffees from the Tres Rios region. A handful of top producers have dedicated themselves to producing coffees whose purity and intensity of flavorand price-matches the top Costa Ricans and Guatemalans. These estate-designated coffees are definitely worth trying.

Taste Note: Sweet, bright, balanced, and neutral to a fault, they are useful blenders and, in the case of the top farm- or estate-designated coffees, provide ideal mild breakfast brews.









So how does anyone get away with

The interesting coffees from this area

such inflated prices? Marketing

are, truthfully and despite their rep-

mystique, and the pervasive belief that

utations to the contrary, few and far

quality is indicated by rarity and cost.

between. None are world class.

The fact that many people first en-

In a blind cupping of fine coffees from around the world, the stunningly expensive coffees of Jamaica and Hawaii rank right at the bottom — just about equal in quality to a well-prepared Mexican or Costa Rican blending coffee that typically commands only a tenth, or even a twentieth, of the price.

Note: Some-most notably Jamaican Blue Mountain and coffees from Puerto Ricohave been marketing themselves as producers of high-quality specialty coffee. These coffees are primarily distinguished, however, by their high price and disappointingly mediocre flavor.

counter Hawaiian, Jamaican, and Puerto Rican coffees on their honeymoons and holidays surely enhances the appeal of these coffees as well. One should take into account that these countries incur significantly higher production costs than most, due to higher wage standards and astronomical real estate values.





Hawaii (Wet-Processed) Kona is, of course, the most famous

Jamaican Blue Mountain (Wet-Processed)

name, but these days there are also

Today, the results of overproduction

newly minted offerings from the is-

and a marked lack of attention to

lands of Maui and Molokai. These latter

cup quality throughout the stages

have reached their goal of providing Ko-

of processing and export handling

na-like flavor for half the price. Where

make even authentic Blue Mountain

all of these islands are concerned,

coffees mediocre at best. The lesser

however, “there ain’t no mountain high

Jamaican grades, “high mountain”

enough” to produce coffee worthy of

and “prime,” are still expensive and

the premiums they are demanding.

surpassed in flavor by virtually every

The biggest, boldest grades of Kona

other specialty coffee.

(Fancy and Extra Fancy) are gorgeous

For a taste of the contemporary coffee

to look at, the beans so bold and even

that’s closest to what Jamaican once

that they almost seem artificial. There

was, try Papua New Guinea — much of

are descriptions written that flatter

which has been cultivated using Blue

Kona as, “wonderfully aromatic,” but its

Mountain seed stock.

aromas pale in comparison to Kenya, Ethiopian Yergacheffe, Yemen Mocha, and others. If you do feel compelled to try Kona, go the distance to get fresh, 100 percent unblended coffee. (If you really want to taste it, you will have to.) Blends including Kona abound, most craftily labeled so as to appear pure. But given its delicate nature, few coffees in the world are more ill-suited to this practice; once blended, a true Kona disappears.

Taste Note: In the cup, however, even the finest small-farm Konas-which are far superior to the bulked offerings of the island’s larger exporters-offer simple, mild flavors, slight acidity, and medium body.

Taste Note: Choices of lots of Jamaican Blue Mountain were superb. Offering pungently nutty aroma, fine acidity, and a unique beef bouillon-like flavor, this coffee staked out a truly persistent reputation.


Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Cuba (Wet-Processed) They are ideally suited for the moderately dark-roasted espresso blends in which they have traditionally been used. Dominican and Cuban coffees are priced realistically enough that such blending is still possible. Unfortunately, the Puerto Rican and Haitian coffees offered within the specialty market in the United States are expensive and not worth the price. Puerto Rican coffee is heavily marketed with the romantic beaches of the island at the core of its message; Haitian beans are offered for sale on a platform of social causes. However, based solely on performance in the cup, these coffees do not merit being offered to consumers in unblended form.

Taste Note: Growing at moderate altitudes, the coffees from these countries are rich and full-bodied with decent acidity and uncomplicated flavors.








AFRICA AND ARABIA Set out cups of Kenya, Yemen Mo-

At the other end of the spectrum lie

cha, Ethiopian Harrar, and Yergacheffe

Kenya and its East African neighbors,

for a blind tasting, and even a neo-

producers of ultra-modern washed

phyte coffee taster can distinguish

coffees. Despite their consistency,

and name them.

these offerings are still replete with

Coffee still grows wild in Ethiopia, its native land, and tribesmen harvest

the exotic, vivid, and uniquely African aromas and flavors.

the berries. Across the Red Sea lies Yemen, which in ancient times was called Arabic (whence arabica). This is the land where coffee first made the transition from wild bush to cultivated crop, and the coffee there today is grown by the descendants of those who discovered the magical transformation achieved by cooking the seeds of the coffee cherry. These natural, organically grown coffees have a complexity and rusticity no others in the world can match.

Note: While Latin American coffees are accessible, Africans and Arabians are original.





Ethiopia (Dry or Wet-Processed)

idyllic Sidamo region, where coffee

A wide range of dry and wet-processed

is grown organically in pristine forest

coffees are produced in Ethiopia. The

conditions. Given the Byzantine reali-

quality of these varies widely. This

ties of commerce in today’s Ethiopia,

makes cupping expertise all the more

however, coffees sold under the less

critical to ferreting out the green coffee

specific name of Sidamo may be as

gems, but the search is worth it; the

good as or better than a Yergacheffe.

best Ethiopian coffees are unsurpassed in their intensity and distinctive flavors. The best and most costly of the dry-processed coffees comes from the highlands surrounding the medieval city of Harrar.

More than any other coffee, Yergacheffe is about aroma. Properly roasted (and for this coffee, that means relatively lightly), a superlative sample offers a seductive, almost perfumed aroma of lemon peel laced

Unfortunately, the classic samples are

with honeysuckle and apricot. The

few and far between; one more typical-

flavor is almost mentholated, while

ly encounters Harrars that feature

the body is light and elegant.

the characteristics of less expensive Ethiopians such as jimmas or lekempti. Both of these coffees are dominated by burlap-like flavors. “Rustic” is too polite a word for them, but the traditional descriptor, “gamy,” comes close. Lekempti often displays the two most watched-for coffee defects, ferment and hardness, simultaneously! Fine washed-process Ethiopian coffees are every bit as inconsistent as the naturals, but the best examples are stunning. Yergacheffe can be one of the most outstanding; in theory, Yergacheffe is an especially fine part of the overall production of the

Taste Note: Classic Harrars offer a veritable cornucopia of aromas-cinnamon, wood, spice, and above all blueberrywhich can fill a room with perfume. The coffee’s flavors match its aroma: winy and berry-like, with good body and plenty of acidity.



Yemen Mocha (Dry-Processed)

Kenya (Wet-Processed)

This is archetypal coffee, for within a

Great Kenyan coffees are grown on

single cup of Mocha one may glimpse

small farms which wet-process their

all the flavors coffee grown the world

coffee cooperatively. The small, indi-

over has to offer. The variations in

vidual lots from these co-ops typically

flavor can be maddening, or intriguing.

amount to only 20 to 70 bags of coffee

Every cup, every pot, every purchased

during the main crop season. (These

lot is different.

co-ops are the true producers of cof-

The sum total of ripeness at the

fees labeled “Estate Kenya.”)

time of harvesting in Yemen happens

The Kenyan coffee production system

when the majoritybut not all-of the

is unique, with a structure that rewards

beans have reached their peak. The

farmers directly for achieving top

coffee is stripped from the trees and

quality. Quality remains high, because

dried on mats or bare ground in the

expectations on both the buying and

long Arabian sun. Sufficiently dry,

selling sides are rigorous and mutually

the cherries are winnowed by crude


mortar and delivered to roasters in a refreshing state of naturalness. The best contemporary Mochas come from a small area in Bany Matar province (called Mattari) or from the steep, and hillsides around the capital of San’a (Sanani). Sanani Mochas generally boast a more “top end” wildness and fruity character, while Mattaris yield

While Kenya is without a doubt Africa’s quality leader and a standard-setter for the rest of the world, there have been worrisome indications of decline in recent years. When world market prices are low, quality suffers; the use of fertilizers, proper pruning techniques, and other growing aids declines.

extra body and chocolate. With these coffees, the skill of individual roasters is particularly critical to coaxing the full range of nuances from the beans. Price is one guide to authenticity, but though expensive, a strong argument can be made that these are among the best values in coffee on a strictly pleasure per-pound basis.

Taste Note: You may find bright acidity; musky, wine-inabarrel fruitiness; earth and sweet spice; roasted nuts; chocolate; wood; or tobacco.

Taste Note: A “regular” Kenya AA (AA being the designation for the largest, most evenly graded bean) is almost invariably an excellent cup of coffee, clean and full bodied with impressive acidity.







INDONESIA Only about a dozen of Indonesia’s

The great arabicas of Sumatra, Su-

13677 islands produce coffee, which

lawesi (formerly called Celebes), and

was first introduced by Dutch traders

Java, which specialty coffee drinkers

to this area in 1696. Java, of course,

think of as prototypically Indonesian,

is the most well-known primarily be-

are actually quite rare and obscure

cause the Dutch cultivated trees there

from a commercial standpoint.

first. As recently as 50 years ago, all Indonesian coffee was sold as Java, despite the fact that only a relatively small portion of it actually came from the island.

The Indonesians draw devotees with an herby, earthy range of flavors. Gone are the acidity and high notes of the Central Americas, the wine and fruit of Africa. Instead, these are contemplative coffees. They offer tantalizing, entrancing hints of crushed autumn leaves, wood smoke, and wild mushrooms.

Note: Today, Indonesia is the world’s third-largest producer of coffee, but over 90 percent of the total crop from Indonesia is robusta.





Estate Java (Wet-Processed) After many years of declining quality,

Sumatra and Sulawesi (Dry-Processed)

Javanese coffees are undergoing a

The really great coffees come from

revival. Java is a coffee that offers a

Sumatra and Sulawesi. They are

pure experience of body; it can seem

massive and full-bodied-low in acidity

almost oily or syrupy when the roast

and heavy in body. Produced on small

is dark enough.

family farms averaging less than three

As washed coffees, contemporary Javas do not have the more classic Indonesian forest-floor flavors found in Sumatra and Sulawesi. It is exactly this absence, however, that makes Javas all the more useful in blends, where they are able to contribute weight without funk.

acres in size, coffee grows alongside fruit, spices, and other food crops. It is not unusual to see dried cherries spread along the road for winnowing under the tires of passing vehicles. This tradition results in tremendous variation in quality from region to region and year to year. At their finest, Sulawesis are considered the best of the very best of the

Taste Note: The flavors are relatively simple, with a pleasing nuttiness and subtle hints of black pepper and leather.

Indonesians. Aged Coffees: Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi Once the Dutch had Indonesian coffee production in full swing, the inevitable occurred. Surplus beans started piling up. Held in the thick, wet heat of government plantations, the extras began changing color. They turned yellow after two to three years, and then progressed to a deep shade of brown.

Taste Note: The aging process emphasizes the earthy, spicy notes of the Indonesians so dramatically that even unroasted samples carry the uniquely heady aromas of cedar, tobacco, and oriental spices. The reduction in acidity results in a mellowing that many find profoundly pleasing.



Papua New Guinea (Wet-Processed)

India (Wet-Processed)

Here you have a coffee with a history

is also an important coffee produc-

as fascinating as its taste. The

er, and was in fact the first country

original 1927 plantings used Jamaican

outside Africa and Arabia to begin cul-

Blue Mountain seedlings, which were

tivating coffee. Most of the produc-

nestled in the island’s spectacular

tion is lower-quality institutional-grade

high-elevation swamps.

coffee, but transitions in the Indian

At about 5,000 to 6,000 feet, these seedlings flourished in incredibly good soil and produced coffee with more complexity and flavor than the best Jamaican Blue ever had. This coffee is fabulous and fascinating at multiple degrees of roast. What you get with the best Papua New Guineas is a pungent, mango and papaya fruitiness in the aroma. It is probably the most versatile blending coffee in the world (when cost is no object, that is). The best of these coffees are plantation-grown, the most famous of which include Sigri and Arona. New Guinea

This legendary producer of fine teas

coffee market over recent years have made a tiny trickle of world-class coffees available. If you love Indonesians, you will find Indian coffees to be worth a special search. They offer similar body and different but highly complementary flavors. Fine Indian coffees are produced in the states of Karnatka (formerly Mysore), Kerala, and Tamilnadu (formerly Madras). The best plantation-grown coffees from these areas are washed arabicas, which in good crop years offer Guatemalan-like acidity and cocoa notes.

is also the source of a world class,

Fans of aged Indonesians like Suma-

certified organically grown coffee sold

tra and Sulawesi will also want to

under the Okapa brand name.

experience India’s famous “monsooned” coffees, which have been exposed, under carefully controlled

Taste Note: A large-scale, perfectly balanced coffee with superb acidity, pungent nutty aroma, clean flavor, and extremely full body, Papua New Guinea perfectly synthesizes the fruit and zing of Latin American with the depth and warmth of Indonesia.

conditions, to the sea air and high humidity of the monsoon season itself. Appealing to those who shun acidity in favor of the earthier range of flavors, monsooned coffees have a distinct woody, briny quality.

Taste Note: These characteristics are anchored by a body fullness reminiscent of Javan coffee, and illuminated by the uniquely Indian spice flavors of nutmeg, clove, cardamom, and pepper.


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Brewing it the importance of brewing Brewing coffee is a type of cooking. The finished cup reflects the quality and freshness of its ingredients, coffee and water, as well as the degree of precision with which they were measured and combined. These, in turn, reflect the level of attention and knowledge the cook brings to bear. Most Americans give far less attention to brewing coffee than they do to cooking any other dish, and as a result they get far less enjoyment from their daily cup. The goal of brewing coffee is to extract the fullest possible range of desirable flavors and leave the rest behind. Essential to great coffee are these elements: coffee freshness, grind, water, proportion, and holding time.

great coffee elements 01

Freshly roasted beans


correct grinding


good water


proper proportions







Freshly Roasted Beans

Conscientious Coffee

Great coffee starts with freshly roast-

Ideally, coffee is purchased weekly,

ed beans. Depending on where you

like fresh-baked bread. You buy whole

live, obtaining fresh coffee may be as

beans, store them in an airtight con-

simple as walking down the street or

tainer at room temperature, and use

challenging enough to prompt order-

them up.

ing by mail.

When buying coffee that has been

Over 90 percent of the coffee in this

exposed to air, its life can be extended

country is sold stale. The simple pres-

power beyond two weeks by using this

ence of whole beans is not enough

method: first, transfering whole-bean

to guarantee superior freshness; such

coffee to the smallest practical airtight

coffee exposed to air (in a bin, for

container (a canning jar is ideal). Label

example) is at its best during the first

the contents, and freeze them. It is

week after roasting. By the end of the

important to make sure the container

second week, it has begun to stale

used is really airtight, and remember

slightly. The coffee still offers decent

that the coffee bag doesn’t qualify!

flavor, but acidity and aroma are becoming muted. It takes several more weeks for serious staling to take hold. And after a month or six weeks, no matter how noble the beans or artful the roast, coffee is reduced permanently to the lowercase “c” variety. So here’s the issue: freshly roasted coffee produces at least three times its volume in carbon dioxide gas (C02)This gas helps to allow fresh coffee what little shelf life it can enjoy, but is also the reason fresh coffee can’t be sealed in a can, brick pack, or other totally airtight container. The pressure created will simply explode it. Coffee sold in such containers is typically ground and allowed to “degas”.

Note: For the same reason, avoid keeping coffee in the refrigerator. It is not cold enough to do much good and is invariably full of strongly scented foods. Beans should be used straight from the freezer, in manageable portions; avoid thawing and refreezing, which make the coffee wet and therefore stale. How long will these beans last? Frozen whole-bean coffee remains palatable for up to two months.





correct Grinding After the bean’s cellular structure

so that the particles are touching but

is broken, oxidation and therefore

do not overlap, covers 3 square feet.

staling are accelerated exponentially.

This is the same space covered by a

While whole-bean coffee is good for

daily newspaper, laid open for perusal.

two weeks, the ground stuff is stale

Such a finely ground dose of coffee

within hours.

will stale irretrievably within an hour.

The most extreme case, as usual, is typified by espresso: a single 7-gram dose of coffee, ground to the necessary exquisite fineness and spread

Note: The more brief the contact time between grounds and water, the finer the grind should be. And vice versa: The longer the contact time, the coarser the grind.



Grind Size and Time For optimum flavor, coffee needs to be

The right grind depends on how

ground so that just the right amount of

much time the coffee is going to take

soluble material is extracted into the

to brew. An espresso machine yields

finished cup. If the grind is too fine,

a shot of espresso in 20 seconds

the water will take forever to make

and so requires very finely ground

its way through. You will get yielding

coffee. A coffee press, on the other

over extracted, bitter-tasting coffee.

hand, steeps the grounds in water

Too coarse and the grounds and water

for around 4 minutes. A coarse grind

hardly get to know one another; the

suits this method the best.

brew will be underextracted, watery, and unsatisfying.





Home grinding guide 6min


1-4min 4min





Brewing method


saeco / estro home espresso Machine

25-30s cone filter / vacuum pot





4-6min time in A blade grinder

brewing time

15s commercial drip brewer

10s plunger pot

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Good Water: 98 Percent of the Cup

The water used should be not only

Ninety-eight percent of every cup of

good and fresh, but hot. In fact, very

coffee is water. The taste of the coffee,

hot. The ideal temperature for all

therefore, is directly related to the

brewing methods other than espresso

taste of the water used to brew it. For

is 195-205°F, which is the same as

brewing, use fresh water free from

“just-off-the-boil” at sea level. Achiev-

any “off tastes” and odors. In a few

ing this exact temperature range is

lucky parts of the country, tap water is

critically important to pulling good fla-

good enough to use as is.

vor into your coffee. This requirement

In most other instances, a simple carbon taste-and-odor filter is all that is required to produce the good water suitable for drinking and cooking. Some mineral content (“hardness”) in


is particularly easy to meet when boiling water and brewing manually. With home electric drip brewers, however, it becomes far more difficult to accomplish.

the water is actually desirable, as long as you bear in mind that the residual scale that builds up in coffee making equipment will require more frequent cleaning. In some parts of the country, most notably southern California and Texas, excessive hardness and the presence of some other problems (sulfurous water, salt water intrusion, etc.) necessitate the use of bottled water. For brewing, avoid distilled or softened water, which won’t properly extract flavor from the grounds.

Note: When we say fresh water, we mean water that hasn’t been sitting around for a long time. Water, just like anything else, will stale. As it stales, it loses oxygen, and this makes for flat, poorly extracted coffee.

195-205 f o

iDEAL temperature

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Proper Proportions: The Key to Good Coffee With freshly roasted coffee and water suitable for brewing territory where more coffee-brewing mistakes are made than any other: is the ratio of grounds to water. The bottom line is that brewing great coffee requires adherence to one specific formula. Guessing and skimping don’t work. It takes a little calculation to apply this formula to any particular coffeemaker, but once achieved it can be effortlessly repeated. As with good cooking, there is much to be learned from watching how professionals brew coffee. A good coffee bar or restaurant weighs each and every batch of ground coffee prior to brewing. Why? Individual coffees vary greatly in volume. For example, dark roasts are much less dense and contain less soluble material than lighter varieties. This is also true of many Indonesian coffees, and all decafs.

1 lb coffee service

40oz brew




THE FORMULA A standard restaurant pot is made by

Unfortunately, if coffee is skimped,

pouring a half-gallon (64 ounces) of

the brew will be bitter. Some mistake

water through a set weight of coffee.

this for stronger.

To make good coffee, this weight must be between 3.5 and 4.25 dryweight ounces. Metrically speaking, this is 50-70 grams per liter. Less exact but easier to understand is the measure in standard terms: a 1/4-pound per pot. (These days, the majority of restaurants outside the specialty realm use only half that amount-which may not be a bad thing, given the appalling

After a few minutes on a burner, however, there’s really no mistaking overextracted coffee; it tastes like paint thinner. What has happened is that instead of extracting the “middle” of the coffee-the desirable aromatic and flavor compounds-you extracted this plus all the coffee’s bitter soluble components.

quality of the coffee many buy.) The

At the risk of sounding utterly techni-

volumetric translation of this ratio is

cal, excellent tasting coffee is achieved

simple and far less imposing: 2 heap-

by extracting 18-22% of the weight of

ing tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces

the grounds into the brew.

of brewing water.

So this is the chemistry behind the of repeated advice for varying the strength of coffee. Using the basic equation to brew coffee to recommended strength, coffee flavors to be less concentrated, dilute to taste with good, hot water.

18%-22% brew excellent tasting coffee

Note: There is a total of about 30 percent extractable material available, but the final 8 percent is made up entirely of bitter and otherwise undesirable flavor compounds.




Throw out any odd-sized scoops you

Since the grounds absorb and retain

have, and buy a standard 2-tablespoon

water, this ratio results in a yield of

measure. Fill your coffeemaker with

about 5-1/2 fluid ounces.

water, then determine its capacity by

This standard was developed decades ago, when fine china cups rather than gaping mugs were the norm. Quality, not quantity, was the priority. Coffee was brewed full strength and tasted better; one hungered for less per sitting because it was so satisfying, ergo smaller cups...

pouring the water into a measuring cup. Once you know the total number of ounces, divide it by 6. This will tell you how many 2 tablespoon measures you should use. For brewing, simply portion out this number with your new scoop. (But first, read “Drip Coffee” below to make sure your coffeemaker is capable of brewing full-strength without overflowing.) 1 pound of coffee will make 40 5-1/2-ounce servings of fabulously flavorful brew.

Note: The residential volumetric equivalent of the professional standard is 1 heaping standard coffee measure (2 tablespoons) per each 6 ounces of water poured through the grounds.





Common coffee-brewing mistake

. . . . . .

If coffee tastes “bitter”: Too little coffee, too finely ground. Coffee was brewed with an overlong brewing cycle. Coffee was “cooked” on the burner or held too long after brewing. If coffee tastes “weak”: Didn’t use enough coffee (2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of brewing water). Coffee was too coarsely ground. Coffee was not brewed long enough (i.e., with a plunger pot, didn’t wait long enough before plunging).




Make It Fresh, Drink It Fresh Once brewed, drip coffee made with

But coffee stays hot much longer than

a filter should be held at 185-190°F.

that, sure it does. However, oxidation

How long it will keep depends on

and ongoing chemical reactions occur-

where it’s kept it. On a warming plate

ring in brewed coffee rapidly degrade

or burner, brewed coffee retains peak

its flavor. In a restaurant or coffee bar,

flavor for only about 20 minutes.

an airpot without a timer attached to

Transferring coffee into a thermos or

it displaying when the contents were

airpot-or brewing it straight into one in

brewed should inspire suspicion (the

the first place-extends its useful life to

same freshness alarm that goes off

45-60 minutes.

when undated whole-bean coffee sits in a bin). More frightening yet is the sight of a halfdozen airpots in a row at the “gourmet” store, each offering prebrewed-and prestaled-coffee for your convenience. Because the fine particles and oils they contain continue brewing in the beverage, it serves little purpose to transfer them to a thermal container.

Note: Brewed coffee that contains higher concentrations of oil and sediment, such as those brewed with a gold-washed filter, coffee press, or vacuum pot, should be consumed within 20 minutes.

20min coffee remain paek flavor




The basic brwing the coffee equation equation

2tbsp 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh, properly ground coffee.



One flavorful serving of fabulous coffee.


195-205 f o

6 ounces of good, fresh water heated to just-off-the-boil.

4-6min a BREW TIME OF 4 – 6 minutes





To decide which brewing method or methods best match your needs, start by asking yourself these questions:



On what occasions do I normally drink coffee? What is the relative importance of taste and convenience?

How much money am I willing to spend on brewing equipment? On coffee?

03 Can this brewing method brew great-tasting coffee?



Brewing Methods: Finding the Best Fit

We define great brewing methods

Our goal with this section is to steer

as those that meet all the criteria,

people through the obstacle course

the “essential elements,” There are

that is brewing a great cup of coffee.

several great methods that, while a

It is possible to brew coffee in a way

bit more “hands-on” than automatic

that delivers flavors far superior in the

methods, brew monumentally better

same amount of time, or less.

coffee in considerably less time.

For most coffee drinkers, the biggest hurdle to overcome is the electric drip coffeemaker, and the vast majority of electric drip brewers sacrifice taste for convenience. Grinding fresh and measuring coffee precisely becomes second nature after a week. If anyone gives the trouble of sourcing fresh, optimally roasted beans, brew to capture every precious nuance of flavor and aroma you paid for.

These manual brewers are also simple, easy to use and maintain, and inexpensive.








DRIP COFFEE This method is the original version of

“Automatic drip” brewers are exactly

what electric home brewers have long

what their name suggests: an attempt

sought to imitate. Ground coffee is

to automate something that was

measured into a filter placed atop an in-

originally done by hand. By taking a

sulated container, and water is poured

detailed look at the process you are

over the coffee so that the brew `drips”

trying to automate, it becomes much

right into the thermos.

easier to understand why most home

Great drip coffee combines the essential brewing elements in a very specific way. You need a filter that contains a heaping measure of fresh

electric brewers make such poor coffee. However, similar effects can be achieved with other brands and components.

grounds for each 6 ounces of brewer capacity, and water heated to 195205°F. The water should saturate the grounds thoroughly and gently; the total brew cycle, start to finish, must take 4-6 minutes. If it takes more than 8 minutes, the coffee will be overextracted. This sounds relatively simple, and is-as long as you are brewing coffee by hand, in a manual drip maker. It is all but impossible to brew drip coffee that meets the above criteria using typical home electric brewers, and herein lies the source of the frustration so many coffee lovers encounter when they try to duplicate good coffee-bar coffee at home.

On Filters: The advantage of using paper filters is the complete clarity of the finished brew. Its body is relatively light, and the coffee remains palatable longer than that of any other method. We recommend the “oxygen-whitened” (nonchlorine-bleached) variety; bleaching is an environmental no-no, while brown, unbleached filters can impart a woody taste to the brew. You can reduce the paper taste of any filter by rinsing it with a little good water before you fill it with ground coffee. Gold-washed filters have the great advantage of lasting for months, even years, if gently hand-washed. These filters are made of fine mesh lightly coated with gold, which prevents coffee oils from clinging better than any other metal. Gold-washed filters leave a higher concentration of sediment and flavorful oils in the finished brew; the coffee is slightly more intense, the pot life somewhat shorter. We find these trade-offs worthwhile-besides, the grounds easily emptied from these filters make great compost.

4-6min for brewing

04 08

C To af sf te ie ngde gc uo ider

Manual Drip Brewing Amount of coffee



1 quart of freshly boiled water

2 dry-weight ounces


20-25s medium

Cot fa fs et ein dg ecg ou did ne g


Put a kettle’s worth of good, fresh water on the stove to boil. or, if the kettle is electric, plug it in.


If using a paper filter, rinse and place it in the filter holder atop the thermos. Hint: Use a paper filter one size larger than the holder calls for.


Place the coffee in the paper Grind the coffee and place it in the paper (or goldwashed) filter.


Pour water over the ground Once your water has reached the boiling point, remove it from heat. Pause for a moment, then pour it on to grounds the grounds. Fill the filter with water each time the level drops, continuing until all of the water has been poured through the grounds.


serve coffee Remove the filter, pour yourself a cup of hot coffee, and cap the thermos-but only until you find yourself ready for another cup.

08 05







THE COFFEE PRESS This simple, elegant brewer is the easiest way to make good coffee. Freshly boiled water is poured over coarsely ground coffee, then allowed to infuse for about four minutes. The plunger’s stainless steel filter is then pressed down through the infusion, resulting in a very thickly textured cup rich in natural coffee oils. Many people have seen a coffee press, but it’s astonishing how few have actually used one-and how impressed coffee lovers are, once they try the coffee pouring out, with its taste. The coffee press, or plunger pot, is simple, elegant, and hands-down the easiest way to make good coffee. Pour fresh boiled water over medium to coarsely ground coffee, and then allow it to infuse for about four minutes. Press the plunger’s stainless steel filter down through the infusion, and you get a very thickly textured cup that is full of natural coffee oils.

Note: The best coffees to serve iced fall into two camps: those with strong floral or fruity tastes, such as Kenya, and those with milder characteristics. Here’s an unusual must-try: half Sumatra, half French. Mind-bogglingly strong when hot, this combination has great presence and persistence when diluted over ice. The sediment produced with the coffee press is an acquire d tast e for s ome . T he mode s t pressure you use to plunge at the tail end of brewing accentuates the perceived acidity of a coffee, making this an especially good choice for low-acid Indonesians and darker blends. Pressing, incidentally, is the most flavorful way to brew decaf. Once you try it, you will never go back. Coffee-press coffee should be consumed within 20 minutes of preparation. Because the oils and particles in the finished brew continue to extract even after plunging, decanting the contents of a coffee press into a thermos for longer storage is not recommended.

20min The time coffee Should be consumed




coffee press brewing Amount of coffee



bodum, 1-liter(“8-cup”)size

2 dry-weight ounces


12s coarse



Make sure the brewer is clean. If it has been sitting unused for any length of time, residual oils in the filter screen assembly may be rancid and will spoil anything you brew.


Boil water and place the coffee Measure your ground coffee into the press pot, and bring a liter of fresh water to boil in a kettle.


Pour water over the ground Remove your kettle from the heat, wait a moment to achieve the justoff-boil temperature, and pour half the water over the grounds. Give them a quick stir, add the rest of the water and place the filter assembly loosely on top.


wait for 4 minutes Enter 4 minutes on your countdown timer and press start, or keep a close eye on your watch.


serve coffee When the 4 minutes are up, gently press the plunger through the grounds and serve. If you encounter much resistance when you start to plunge, pull up gently on the plunger and then continue pressing down. Always press straight down, not at an angle, to avoid breaking the glass.








THE VACUUM POT Invented in 1840 by Scottish engineer

The brewer looks something like

Robert Napier, this brewer is one

an hourglass. Water comes to a boil in

way to reach the subtler flavors of truly

the bottom bowl, while the grounds

fine coffee. It has two glass or metal

sit in the top. The boiling action pushes

globes that fit together to make a seal.

the water upstairs to mix with the

A plug, often attached to a spring,

grounds, where it infuses at just-be-

seats in the upper globe. Before assem-

low-boiling temperatures for three

bling, make sure both globes are clean

minutes. Then the whole thing moves

and free from coffee oils or debris.

away from the heat, at which point a

Few people these days have even seen, let alone used, a vacuum pot.

vacuum develops in the lower bowl as a result of its slight cooling.

Vacuum-pot brewing represents the ideal for which drip brewing is a convenience-oriented compromise. The setup looks a bit unwieldy and quite fragile, but it was the method of choice in diners and restaurants across the country through the early 1950s. Today, vacuum pots are found mainly in high-end Japanese coffee houses and at home with in-the-know coffee connoisseurs.

Note: This vacuum draws the brewed coffee down. Once it’s all there, get ready to enjoy it. Like drip coffee, the finished brew is almost perfectly clear-but with absolutely no influence from paper filters. It also pours out piping hot, more so than coffee made by any other method. The entire process takes about six minutes after the water is hot, and once underway needs no tending beyond a watchful eye. In the words of food expert Corby Kummer, the vacuum pot is truly “the CD player of coffee makers: all you taste is the coffee.” Because of its fragility and seemingly cumbersome nature, the vacuum pot is probably destined to occasional or weekend use, at least by all but the most hardcore consumers. But if you cherish coffees that are bright or aromatically complex, or never can seem to get your coffee hot enough, you may find a vacuum brewer to be a very rewarding investment.


02 4 09

C To af sf te ie ngde gc uo ider

vacuum pot brewing Amount of coffee



bodum santos, 1-liter size

2 dry-weight ounces


20-25s medium

Cot fa fs et ein dg ecg ou did ne g


FILL BOTTOM GLOBE WITH WATER Fill the lower chamber 3/4-full with fresh water.

steps for brewing


ASSEMBLE THE VACUUM BREWER Measure the proper amount of coffee into the top globe and fit it to the bottom globe so a seal is made between the two.


STIR IN THE COFFEE Add your coffee and stir until there are no dry grounds. This step should take approximately 10 seconds.


WAIT THEN STIR Allow the coffee to brew for 30 seconds then gently re-submerge the grounds.


REMOVE BREWER FROM HEAT After the draw-down begins, give the coffee one gentle stir to create a whirlpool in the brewer. Once the water stops pulling back through the coffee and the filter, remove the top globe and pour the coffee into cups.

09 03 5

tasting guide

health issues



health issues


94 6 00

Ca os ft fi en egdg eu ci od de er T



Caffeine Panacea or Poison Contradictions run throughout the

In seventeenth-century and priests

history of coffee. Coffee was first con-

to doctors, the debate continued.

sumed as medicine and graduated to

One physician claimed coffee relived

serving simultaneous roles as panacea

dropsy, gravel, gout, migraine,

and poison. Early in its history, coffee

hypochondria, and cured scurvy

was adopted by Arabian dervishes to

outright, whereas another declared

fortify religious meditation. Yet no

that coffee drunk with milk caused

more than fifty years later, in Mecca, it

leprosy. “The lovers of coffee used

was the subject of vehement religious

the physicians very ill when they

persecution on the grounds that it

met together,” says one wonderfully

encouraged mirth and chess playing

detached French observer, “and the

among the faithful. Religion still

physicians on their side threatened the

cannot make up its mind about coffee;

drinkers with all sorts of diseases.”

Mormons and some fundamentalists reject it, whereas most Muslims and many Christians consider it as sober and wholesome alternative to wine and spirits.

Note: When Sir William Harvey, the seventeenth century physician credited with discovering the circulation of the blood, was on his deathbed, he allegedly called his lawyer to his side and held up a coffee bean. “This little Fruit,” he whispered, eyes doubtless still bright from his morning cup, “is the source of happiness and wit!” Sir William then bequeathed his ext ire supply of coffee, fifty-six pounds, to the London College of Physicians, directing them to commemorate the day of his death every month with a morning round of coffee. To those who hang out in health food stores, this anecdote may strike a sinister note. Did Sir William die young? How much coffee did he drink, and did he have any enemies in the College of Physicians?


94 8 00

Ca os ft fi en egdg eu ci od de er T

caffeine contain

100-150mg The average cup of American-style coffee

80-120mg a properly prepared demitasse or single serving of espresso

40mg The average cup of tea

20-60mg the average chocolate bar

20-60mg A 12-ounce bottle of cola drink




THE VILLAIN uncovered: amount of CAFFEINE

The current conclusions about the

Out of all this confusion and debate

short-term psychological and physio-

came the world’s first scientific

logical effects of caffeine are not

analysis of the coffee. In 1685, Dr.

so different from the first conjectures

Philippe Sylvestre Dufour described

by Arab physicians to the findings

the chemical constituents of coffee

arrived at by Dufour in the seventeenth

with some accuracy and, apparently

century. But the long-term effects

through numerous experiments on

are not nearly so well understood

human beings, arrived at the same

and remain the subject of a vigorous,

conclusion every other researcher

confusing, and thus far inconclusive

has come to since: Some people can

medical debate.

drink coffee comfortably and some cannot. Dufour even found a few who slept better after drinking coffee than they had before, probably because, in Dufour’s words, the coffee “relieved their disquiet, and removed their feeling of anxiety.” Dufour also helped the critics of coffee identify for the first time their true enemy: the odorless, bitter alkaloid called caffeine. The average cup of American-style coffee contains about 100 to 150 milligrams of caffeine: a properly prepared demitasse or single serving of espresso 80 to 120 milligrams. The average cup of tea delivers about 40 milligrams; the average chocolate bar about 20 to 60. A 12-ounce bottle of cola drink contains 40 to 60 milligrams, about half as much as a cup of coffee.

coffee relieved their disquiet, and removed their feeling of anxiety.

— Dr. Philippe Sylvestre Dufour, world’s first scientific analysis of coffee




Short-Term Effects of Caffeine

One the negatives is the medical

The short-term effects of caffeine are

descriptions of the familiar “coffee

well agreed upon and widely docu-

nerves.” The heavy coffee drinker may

mented. A good summary appears in

suffer from chronic anxiety, a sort

The Pharmacological Basis of Thera-

of “coffee come-down,” and may be

peutics by Dr.J.Murdoch Ritchie. On

restless and irritable. Insomnia and

the positive side, caffeine produces “a

even twitching muscles and diarrhea

more rapid and clearer flow of thought”

may be among the effects. Very large

and allays “drowsiness and fatigue.

doses of caffeine, the equivalent of

After taing in caffeine, one is capable of

about ten cups of strong coffee drunk

greater sustained intellectual effort

in a row, produce toxic effects: vomiting,

and a more perfect association of ideas.

fever, chills, and mental confusion.

There is also a keener appreciation

In enormous doses, caffeine is, quite

of sensory stimuli, and motor activity is

literally, deadly. The lethal does of

increased; typists, for example,

caffeine in humans is estimated at

work faster and with fewer errors.”

about 1 grams or the equivalent of one

Such effects are produced by caffeine equivalent to the amount contained in one to two cups pf coffee. According to Dr. Ritchie, the same dosage stipulates the body in a variety of other ways the heart rate increases, blood vessels delate; movement of fluid and solid wastes through the body is promoted. All this adds up to the beloved “lift.”

1g =100

cups coffee

The lethal dose of caffeine

hundred cups in one sitting, however, which doubtless accounts for the unpopularity of caffeine as a means of taking one’s own life.




Simple Moderation It would seem that the resolution to the caffeine debate, at least in terms of short term effects, is simple moderation. Drunk to excess, coffee literally verges on poison; drunk in moderation, it is still the beloved tonic of tradition, a gentle aid to thought, labor, and conversation. But just how much is enough and how much is too much? No study will commit itself. This is only an estimate based on inference. There have been no studies reporting negative effects from doses of caffeine under 300 milligrams a day. Since the average cup of coffee “or single serving of espresso) contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, one would infer from this evidence that anyone should be able to drink about three cups of coffee a day and enjoy the benefits of caffeine with none of the drawbacks. Such a figure assumes, of course, that a drinker does not also consume quantities of cola drinks, chocolate bars, and headache pills. This is a conservative estimate, however. One could infer from other stydies that five cups a day is safe for most people. Furthermore, reaction to caffeine varies greatly from individual to individual; some people cannot consume any amount comfortably.




caffeine moderation




Long-Term Effects of Caffeine

Researchers in the last thirty years or so have tried to implicate coffee, specifically the caffeine in coffee, in heart disease, birth defects, pancreatic cancer, and a half-dozen other less publicized health problems. So far, the evidence is, at most, inconclusive. Clinical reports and studies continue to generate far more questions than



answers, and for every report tenta-

If anything, the medical evidence

tively claiming a link between caffeine

currently is running in favor of exoner-

and decease, there are several others

ating caffeine rather than further

contradicting it.

implicating it in disease. Some evidence even points to modest, long-term health benefits for coffee drinkers.





A Warning Withdrawn One example of the way the medical

Although human beings metabolize

establishment has tended to see-saw

caffeine differently from rats (and other

on caffeine, condemning on partial

researchers had questioned some of

evidence then backing off on further

the conditions of the experiments),

evidence, is the purported connection

the United States Food and Drug Ad-

between heavy caffeine intake by

ministration issued a widely publicized

pregnant women and birth defects.

warning about the possible ill effects

In the mid-1970s, experiments indicated

of caffeine on the fetus. Subsequently,

that the equivalent of 12 to 24 cups

and analysis by Harvard researchers

of coffee (the equivalent bottles of

of coffee drinking among 12,000 women

cola) per day may caused birth defects

early in their pregnancies failed to

— in rats.

find a significant link between coffee intake and birth defects. The upshot of the debate? The official position, if there is one,

came from a committee of the National Academy of Sciences, which recommended what common sense dictates,

what this book recommends, and what While we cannot coffee lovers through the ages have pregnant women, according to exclude the the possibility argued: the NAS committee, should exercise “moderation” in their intake of caffeine. that high coffee intakes may enhance carcinogenesis under special circumstances, overall, the results are reassuring.

— Erik Bjelke, Norwegian researcher



Reassuring Results Similar controversies have accompanied

Two similar long-term studies medical

the purported links between coffee

researchers call “population” studies,

and fibrocystic breast disease, high

indicate no consistent association

blood pressure, and pancreatic and

between coffee drinking and blood

lung cancer. On the positive side, and

cholesterol levels (a study of 6,000

eleven-year study of nearly 17,000

men and women reported by the

Nor wegian men and women found

Framingham Heart Study researchers)

that, once the effect of smoking had

or between caffeine intake and heart

been eliminated from the data, people

attacks and stroke (a study of 45,000

who drank coffee had lower than

men aged forty to seventy-five by Dr.

normal rates of cancers of the colon,

Walter Willett and colleagues of the

kidney, and skin. Norwegian researcher

Harvard School of Public Health).

Erik Bjelke’s report to the 13th International Cancer Congress concluded, “While we cannot exclude the the possibility that high coffee intakes may enhance carcinogenesis under special circumstances, overall, the results are reassuring.”

Nevertheless, Talk to Your Doctor: opinions on how to interpret the medical evidence on coffee differ, and important new studies appear regularly. Anyone who drinks regular caffeinated coffee and also is pregnant-or takes tranquilizers, or suffers from ulcers, high blood pressure, or heart complaints, or is experiencing begin beeast lumps (fibrocystic breast disease)-should certainly bring his or her coffee-drinking habits to the attention of a physician for evaluation.






caffeine’s unexpected coffees on health modest coffee drinking helps us to live healthier and longer

people who drank two cups of coffee per day were

66% less likely to take their own lives than those who drank no coffee

A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University



modest coffee drinking lowers the incidence of gallstones

men who drank two to three

Men who drank those four or

cups of coffee per day has

more cups per day has

lower incidence of gallstones

lower incidence of gallstones

than those who did not drink

than those who did not drink

coffee regularly

coffee regularly

40% 45%



Ca os ft fi en egdg eu ci od de er T



COFFEE AS A SCAPEGOAT In light of the continuing conflicts in

The ease with which the early

the medical evidence, why have so

persecutions of coffee on religious

many people, at least until recently,

grounds modulated into condemna-

been so eager to pin blame on coffee?

tions on medical grounds makes the

Partly, this is, because of the frus-

motivation behind popular attacks

trations of dealing with degenerative

on the healthfulness of coffee doubly

diseases with multiple causes, such

suspect. Every culture or religion

as heart failure.

has its dietary taboos as well as its

There is a tendency in the face of our lack of information a band certain diseases to cast about for dietary scapegoats. Coffee is ideal for such a

sacrament. Certain foods are holy, and others are forbidden. A group that wished to define its own identity must establish taboos.

role, not only because it has no food value, but because it makes us feel good when we drink it.

ATTENTION: For the ordinary coffee drinker, the real solution to the coffee and health issue may be treating coffee with the love and attention it deserves. If you are aware of what you are doing when you buy and make coffee and take a moment to appreciate the results, many of the alleged negative effects of coffee drinking might vanish. If anyone suffers from coffee, it is the unconscious coffeeholic who wanders around all day holding a half-filled cup of cold, tasteless instant or a badly prepared, lukewarm triple latte.



Ca os ft fi en egdg eu ci od de er T



Decaffeination DECAFFEINATED COFFEE Technology is always trying to give us

Unfortunately, fine decaffeinated

back the garden without the snake. So

coffees are the exception rather than

you like coffee and not caffeine? Well,

the norm. Decaffeinated beans are

then, we will take out the caffeine and

notoriously difficult to roast, so even

leave you your pleasure, intact.

the best decaffeinated beans may

Decaffeinated coffee is indeed without venom. It contains, at most, on-fortieth of the amount of caffeine in untreated beans. Nor should the

produce a thin-bodied, half-burned cup once they are roasted. Still, for the coffee devotee, even listless decaffeinated coffee is better than mint tea.

removal of caffeine alter the taste of


coffee. Isolated, caffeine is a crystalline

Coffee is decaffeinated in its free state,

substance lacking aroma and possess-

before the delicate oils are developed

ing only the slightest bitter taste. Its

through roasting. Hundreds of patents

flavor is lost in the heady perfumes of

exist for decaffeination processes,

fresh coffee. So if you hear people

but only a few are actually used. They

say, “Coffee doesn’t taste like coffee

divide roughly into those that use a

without the caffeine.” they are wrong.

solvent to dissolve the caffeine, those

The only real problem is how to take

that that use a solvent to dissolve

out the caffeine without ruining the

the caffeine, those that use water and

rest of what does influence coffee

charcoal filter, and those that use a

flavor. But technology has triumphed,

special form of carbon dioxide.

more or less. The best decaffeinated coffee, freshly roasted and ground and carefully brewed, can taste so nearly the equal of a similar untreated coffee that only a tasting involving direct comparison reveals the difference.

Note: Most caffein-free coffee sold in specialty stores is shipped from the growing countries to decaffeinating plants in Europe to Canada, treated to remove the caffeine, then refried and shipped to the United States.





Decaffeination Methods Using Solvents

then soaked in an organic solvent that

The direct-solvent method is the

selectively unites with the caffeine.

oldest and most common decaffeination

The beans are then steamed again to

process. On coffee signs and bags it

remove the solvent residues, dried,

is typically not identified at all or called

and roasted like any other green coffee.

by various euphemisms such as Euro-

A more recent developed process

pean or traditional process. The beans

called the indirect-solvent method starts

are first steamed to open their pores,

by soaking green beans in near boiling



water for several hours. The water

still contains oils and other materials

is transferred to another tank, where

important to flavor. In order to restore

it is combined with a solvent that se-

these substances to the beans,

lectively absorbs most of the caffeine.

the water is returned to the first tank,

The caffeine-laden solvent is then

where the beans reabsorb the fla-

skimmed from the water, with which

vor-bearing substances from the water.

it is never really mixed. The water, now free of both caffeine and solvent,





What About the Solvents? The joker in the process is still the

A New and Better Solvent: Methylene Chloride

solvent. People concerned about the

Nevertheless, the news that the

effects of coffee on their health obvi-

caffeine that some feared caused heart

ously are not going to feel comfortable

disease was being replaced by a

purchasing a product containing even

solvent that actually did cause cancer

minute traces of solvent. In 1975, one

provoked understandable consternation

of the most widely used solvents,

among health-conscious consumers.

trichloroethylene, was named a probable cause of cancer in a “Cancer Alert” issued in 1975 by the National Cancer Institute.

The coffee industry promptly responded by replacing trichloroethylene with methylene chloride, a solvent not implicated in the National Cancer

The alert addressed the potential health

Institute study. So far tests of

hazards trichloroethylene posed to

methylene chloride have not linked it

people who work around it rather than

to any known disease, and give its volatility (it vaporizes at 104 0 F; coffee

consumers of decaffeinated coffee, the solvent remain in coffee. The

is roasted at over 400 0 F for at lease fifteen minutes then brewed at 200 0 F)

United States Food and Drug Admin-

it seems hardly possible that any of

istration, for example, permits the

the 1 part million occasionally found in

solvent in quantities up to 10 parts per

the green beans could end up in the

million in ground coffee. By com-

consumer’s cup or stomach.

since only extremely minute traces of

parison, the doses that the National Cancer Institute administered to laboratory animals were gargantuan. To match them in equivalent terms, a human being would have to drink 20 million cups of decaffeinated coffee a day over a lifetime. Also, no one knows how much of the solvent residue – if any – is retained in the brewing process and ends up in the cup.


i s s u e0 0 4

An Even Newer and Better Solvent: Ethyl Acetate

The Solvent-Free Swiss Water Process

Now in use in some European

In the 1980s, the Swiss firm Coffex

decaffeination plants, ethyl acetate,

S.A. developed a commercially viable

like methylene chloride, has not

decaffeination process using water

been implicated in any diseases and

only-no solvents whatsoever. As in the

environmentalists consider it more

direct solvent or solvent / water

begin than methylene chloride Because

process described earlier, the various

ethyl acetate is derived from fruit,

chemical constituents of the green

some publicists and brochure writes

coffee, including the caffeine, are first

have taken to calling coffees decaf-

removed by soaking the beans in

feinated using ethyl acetate “naturally

very hot water.

decaffeinated,� and you may see them so advertised.

In the Swiss Water Process, however, the water is stripped of its caffeine, not by a solvent, but by percolation through activated charcoal. (It really ought to be called the Swiss Charcoal Process.) The beans are returned to the hot water, where they reabsorb the remaining, caffeine-free flavor constituents from the water. This process is more costly than the solvent process because the separated caffeine cannot be recovered from the charcoal and sold separately, as it is with the two solvent methods. It is also controversial in terms of flavor. Many coffee professionals contend that the Swiss Water Process

note: management of the Canadian plant that currently produces all of the Swiss Water Decaffeinated coffees sold in North America continues to make determine efforts to refine and improve the process.

blurs flavor more than the competing solvent processes.



Ca os ft fi en egdg eu ci od de er T



Decaffeination Methods Using Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination processes using carbon dioxide (CO ) differ in their details. All 2

take advantage of the fact that carbon dioxide, when compressed, behaves partly like a gas and partly like a liquid and has the property of combining selectively with caffeine. In the most widely used CO process, the steamed 2

beans are bathed in the compressed carbon dioxide and the caffeine is removed from the carbon dioxide through charcoal filtering, just as it is in the water-only process. However, the flavor components remain in the bean throughout the process, rather than being soaked out and then put bank in again, as they are in both the Swiss Water and the indirect solvent processed. Since carbon dioxide is the same ubiquitous and undisputable “nature;� substance that pants absorb and humans produce, and since, in most versions of the CO method, the flavor 2

components remain safely in the be throughout the process rather than being remove and put back in again as they are in Swiss Water Process, carbon dioxide methods would seem to be the decaffeinating wave of the future.

note: coffees decaffeinated by the CO2 method have been slow to come onto the specialty market, and reviews have been mixed.







Buying Decaffeinated Coffees

think that enough of the chemical

If you are concerned only about health

could possibly survive the roasting

issues, I suggest that you buy the

and brewing processes to be anything

decaffeinated coffee that testes good

more than the tiniest pea under the

to you, regardless of process. Given

health-conscious consumer’s mattress.

the temperature at which all currently used solvents evaporate, I do not


i s s u e0 0 4

If, however, you are concerned about

by CO processes. Coffees decaffein-

the environment there is good reason

ated by the Swiss Water method are

to avoid coffees decaffeinated by

always so labeled. If no decaffeination

methods using methylene chloride.

method is indicated, or if the method

Choose instead coffees decaffeinated

is called European or traditional, you

by the Swiss Water method, by sol-

will have to make inquiries.

vent methods using ethyl acetate, or



C To af sf te ie ngde gc uo ider


Other Alternatives for Caffeine-Shy Coffee Drinkers


. . .

Caffeine is only one of the villains in the coffee controversy. Another is certain chemicals often lumped together under the term “acid.” Some people do not like the acid or sour note in coffee and claim it upsets their stomaches. Others say it causes jitters. I suggest that you experiment. Does that sourness in coffee make your tongue or stomach feel uncomfortable? Then you have three alternatives: Try to find a coffee with the acid reduced through a process much like the ethyl acetate solvent decaffeination process. These coffees, treated in Germany, are marketed under the name “special mild coffees.” They are hard to find, do not offer much choice, and suffer from the same potential for flavor diminution as decaffeinated beans. Buy a moderately dark to dark-roast coffee. Dark roasting reduces the acidity in coffee. Buy a lower-altitude, naturally low-acid coffee brought to a moderately dark roast (full city, Viennese, light espresso). Naturally low-acid coffees include Brazils, most India and Pacific (Sumatra, Timor, Hawaii) coffees, and most Caribbean coffees.



Other Alternatives for Caffeine-Shy Coffee Drinkers

Or you can brew your coffee differently.

Of course, if you simply want to cut

reduces caffeine, acidity, and fast.

down on your caffeine instate, rather

Unfortunately, it also reduces flavor.

than eliminating caffeine from your

Coffee brewed with paper filters

dirt completely, there are alternatives

may contain slightly less caffeine than

other than decaffeinated coffees.

coffee made by other methods and

One is to drink less coffee whole

The cold-water concentrate method

definitely less fatty oil.

focusing on enjoying it more. This is a

Lastly, you can amuse yourself making

good tactic for people who consume

low-caffeine blends by combining

too much coffee at work out of habit

decaffeinated coffees with varying

or reflex. Rather than drinking the

amounts of distinctive, full-bodied,

coffee from the automatic coffeemaker

untreated coffees. Kenyas, Yemens,

or urn, for example, make your own

the best Ethiopias, and Guatemalas,

coffee carefully in a small plunger pot,

for example, all pack enough flavor and

focusing your attention on the act of

body to spruce up even the drabbest

brewing and drinking.

of decaffeinated beans.

You can also buy coffees that are naturally low in caffeine. Specialty and other hight-quality coffees contain considerably less caffeine than cheaper commercial coffees. Most inexpensive commercial blends are based on robusta coffees, which contain almost double the amount caffeine as arabica. So if you drink a specialty coffee, you are probably consuming considerably less caffeine per cup than if you were drinking a cheap, canned coffee.





tasting guide

health issues








COFFEE GROWN IN BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOTS Coffee is grown in about half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots


coffee growing areas

biodiversity hotspots


coffee wing areas

biodiversity hotspots

Ca os ft fi en egdg eu ci od de er T


coffee sustainability What is sustianable coffee? For the purpose of coffee production

from destruction. Shade-grown refers

and consumption, sustainable means

to the agricultural practice of growing

a practice that allows for maintaining

coffee under a canopy of trees, in

ecological balance without destruction

opposition to the Green Revolution

of environments. Sustainable coffee

methods of the 1960s, 1970s, and

is coffee that is grown and marketed

1980s that focused on large full-sun

for its sustainability. This includes

monocropped plantation-style growing

coffee certified as organic, fair trade

methods for coffee. Shade-grown

and shade-grown bird friendly. Coffee

also implies a practice that is closer to

has a number of classifications used

natural ecology or natural ecological

to determine the participation of grower

methods. So again, a “maybe”emerges

(or the supply chain) in various combi-

in response to the question “Is coffee

nations of social, environmental, and

green?” When we consider that shade

economic standards.

grown coffee at least green at its site

Coffees fitting such categories and that are independently certified or verified by an accredited third party have been collectively termed “sustainable coffees”. This term has entered the lexicon and this segment has quickly grown into a multi-billion dollar industry of its own with potentially significant implications for other commodities as demand and awareness expand. Coffee growing of course then assumes a green designation in its shade-grown method, as the practice protects environments (migrating bird habitats)

of production. The shade itself, vastly improved in smaller, family operated, local farms. This satisfying result might be enough to allow certain consumers to decide to judge coffee as green. The page after will introduce the main sustainable coffee in the United States.



hade grown coffee sun grown coffee




organic coffee Organic coffee is grown using meth-

Where is organic coffee grown?

ods and materials that have a low

As more organic coffees come on

impact on the environment. Organic

the market produced in variety of

production systems replenish and

contexts, the overall quality of organics

maintain soil fertility, reduce the use

improves. Today, some certified

of toxic and persistent pesticides

organic coffee rival the finest conven-

and fertilizers, and build biologically

tionally grown origins in quality and

diverse agriculture. Third-party


certification organizations verify that organic farmers abide by the law.

Organic coffee is grown in 40 countries including Bolivia, Burundi,

The organic movement is fueled in

Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia,

part by consumers’ health concerns.

Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic,

With coffee, however, the health issue

Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia,

is less persuasive than it is with most

Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras,

other agricultural products - apples

India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lao PDR,

or carrots, for example, consume the

Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal,

fruit of coffee trees. Instead, we strip

Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Philippines,

the fruit off and compost it, retaining

Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timore-

only the seed, which we then dry,

Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago,

roasted, ground seeds and drink the

Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania,

chemical residue that may or may

United States (Hawaii), Venezuela,

not survive in the seed actually survives

Vietnam, and Zambia. The leading

roasting and brewing to make it

producer countries are Brazil, Ethiopia,

to the cup.

Mexico, and Peru.

By buying organic coffee, consumers could assure the growers a premium for their coffee. Growers would make more money, take more pride in what they were doing, and the environmental advantages of organic procedures would be confirmed and institutionalized.

Understanding Organic Labeling: Look for the USDA organic seal on raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients. Or it may appear on a sign above an organic produce display. On multi-ingredient products, the seal is usually placed on the front of the package (principal display panel); however, it may be placed anywhere on the package. When you see this seal, you know the product is at least 95 percent organic. The seal may be printed in green and brown (as shown), in black and white, or outlined in black on a transparent background.





coffee and pesticides Coffee ranks in the top 3 most heavily pesticide sprayed crops in the world


60% of pesticide used in coffee cultivation are toxic





Pesticides used in coffee farming

Even though many chemicals that have been found to be harmful to the environment have been banned or are strictly regulated in the U.S. or Europe, they remain legal to use in less-developed countries, including many countries that grow coffee.This is troubling on many levels, beyond the fact that dangerous chemicals are being applied to crops.


For instance, workers in these countries may be less likely to be well-informed about the dangers of the chemicals, less likely to be provided with protective gear, and less informed about proper application methods. These regions are also much higher in biodiversity and ecosystem complexity, increasing the risk to the environment.

Common toxic pesticides used in coffee: Endosulfan (brand name Thiodan); Chlorpyrifos (brand name Dursban); Diazinon (brand name Basudin); Disulfoton; Methyl parathion; Triadimefon; Cypermethrin.





rainforest is disappearing drinking shade grown coffee can help save the forest.




of rainforest can be saved by drinking one cup of shade grown coffee



ld’s oxygen

xygen from rainforest




shade grown Coffee Coffee is traditionally grown in shade

Meanwhile, more and more shade

in many, but certainly not all, parts of

trees was being replaced or displaced

the world. In some places the Arabica

by what environmentalists call “tech-

trees require protection from the

nified” coffees. These are coffee from

tropical sun. In other, wetter places,

recently developed hybrid trees are dis-

shade is not practical because it

ease resistant and bear more coffee

encourages leggy, disease-prone trees.

faster than traditional varieties. They

Shade may be provided by rows of

also require more chemical fertilizers,

carefully managed non-native trees that

pesticides, and fungicides, and may

are often sterile to prevent their seeds

also display less quality and character

from sprouting and competing with

in the cup.

the coffee. In many parts of the world, however, shade is serendipitous business, and coffee grown by small farmers as one component in a rich jumble of native trees, fruit trees, legumes, and other vegetables. It is this kind of shade that scientists and birders discovered was providing particularly important habitat for migrating song birds, especially those that migrate through Central America.

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has made the most well-known effort to establish criteria for shade grown coffee. In order to carry their trademarked “Bird Friendly” label, coffee must be grown under a minimum shade cover of 40%, and the overstory should include at least ten different species of shade trees, with no more than 70% of the trees being Inga species. Pruning of the overstory and

In addition, the mere biomass

the removal of epiphytes is discouraged,

associated with the shade tree compo-

and buffer zones are encouraged.

nent of coffee agroforestry systems

These are the most stringent environ-

can easily be seen as a carbon sink,

mental criteria.

where carbon is bound up in the trunks, limbs, and leaves (above ground biomass) as well as the roots (below ground biomass).

Understanding (SMBC) “Bird Friendly shade grown coffee seal: Play a key role in the conservation of migratory birds, which find a sanctuary in their forestlike environment. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) has developed the only 100%-organic shade-grown coffee certification.





rainforest capture carbon CARBON CAPTURED WHEN PRODUCING one CONTAINER OF COFFEE IN SHADE AND SUN. coffee container: 15 metric tons of green coffee in a container






180 t


sun grown coffee farms


3375 t

shade grown coffee farms



de grown fee farms

un grown fee farms




Fair Trade Coffee

Without Fair Trade

The Fair Trade Coffee movement is

Small family farms often do not

part of a larger movement that

receive enough money to pay for the

promotes improved pay and working

costs of production. Young children

conditions for those who produce

work in the fields with their parents in

certain products — in this case, coffee

order to meet quotas. That is not

growers and harvesters. It is all too

only dangerous, but prevents children

common for the profits from gourmet

from receiving an education that

coffee to go to brokers and middle-

would allow them to gain better jobs.

men while the workers live in poverty. Fair Trade certification is an attempt to develop standards that allow farmers of coffee and many other crops to share in the profits and to improve their working conditions.

In order to become certified by TransFair USA, the organization that oversees the Fair Trade movement in the U.S., a coffee purchaser must pledge to pay a minimum price per pound ($1.26 at this writing), provide credit in the form of loans to farmers, and provide technical assistance including help with transitioning to organic farming.

Understanding fair-trade Labeling: A Fair Trade Certified seal means that growers, usually subsistence growers, have been paid a reasonable, formula-defined price for their coffee. The fair-trade movement is quite prominent in Europe, less so in the free trading, price-busting United States.





large portion of sustainable coffee is shade grown crossover: Organic, shade grown bird-friendly and fair trade

100% shade grown BIRD-FRIENDLY





shade grown BIRD-FRIENDLY




rd-friendly hade grown

fair trade

tasting guide

health issues










The sensation of brewed coffee

A taste and odor taint that gives

vapors, ranging from carbony to choc-

coffee a flat bouquet and insipid taste.

olatey, spicy to turpeny, as they are

This taint is caused by the application

released from the residue remaining

of too little heat over too long a period

in the mouth after swallowing.

during roasting (specifically, when


roasts take longer than approximately

A dry, clawing sensation at the back

18 minutes).

of the tongue caused by alkaline and


phenolic compounds that have bitter

A basic taste sensation perceived

but not necessarily displeasing tastes;

primarily at the back of the tongue. Dark

characteristic of dark roasts and some

roasts are intentionally bitter; other-

Indonesian coffees.

wise, bitterness is primarily associated


with overextraction.

The odor or fragrance of brewed coffee.


Bouquet is a less frequently used

The pale, insipid flavor often found

term, often employed to refer to the

in low-grown coffees. Underextracted

smell of coffee grounds. Aroma is

coffee is also bland.

often distinctive and complex; terms


used to describe it include caramelly (candy- or syrup-like), carbony (for dark roasts), chocolatey, fruity, floral, malty (cereal-like), rich, round, and spicy.

Astringent A puckering, salty sensation felt on the anterior sides of the tongue when coffee is first sipped.

A salty sensation caused by exposure to excessive heat after the brewing is complete.

Buttery Rich and oily in flavor and texture, characteristic of some Indonesian varietals (for example, Sulawesi).

Caramelized A sweet, almost-burnt, syrupy flavor not unlike the experience of caramelized sugar.




The opposite of dirty, and a character-

A taste fault in the coffee beans

istic of all fine washed coffees.

that produces a highly objectionable


spoiled-fruit taste. Ferment is the

A positive characteristic when applied to dry processing; the herbal, musty, mushroom-like range of flavors characteristic of Indonesian varietals. For washed coffees, tasting “earthy� is a defect.

result of enzymatic activity that occurs during the drying process, changing sugars to acids in the green coffee beans. Unlike dirtiness and mustiness, which can be disguised by dark roasting, ferment becomes worse the longer it cooks. It is the most


dreaded and common defect found in

Characteristic of the coffees from

washed coffees, and tasters spend a

East Africa, exotic refers to unusual fla-

lot of time looking for it. As a result,

vor notes such as floral and berry-like

they often have a hard time bringing

(containing black currant or blueberry

themselves to drink coffees that

notes, for example).

possess the berry-like wildness of nat-

Conversely, Latin American coffees, whose characteristic clean, acidy flavors provide the standard of reference, are generally not exotic.

urally processed Ethiopian varieties. Ferment is of this same character, but carried to an extreme.

Flat An odor taint that occurs as a result of aromatic compounds departing from beans during the staling process in both whole-bean and ground coffee, or during the holding process in brewed coffee.

Fruit A descriptor that refers to the natural aroma of berries, and that also correlates with the perception of high acidity. It should be distinguished from fruity, which is the first stage of the taste defect ferment.







A taste and odor defect that gives

An odor taint giving coffee beans a

coffee the character of newly mown al-

moldy odor. This taint is caused by

falfa or green grass. Green An herbal,

the presence of fungus on or in beans

grassy character caused by incomplete

during drying or shipment.

development of flavor due to improper


roasting. It may also be present in the early pickings of a new harvest.

This quality is characterized by the absence of any predominant taste


sensation on any part of the tongue

A harsh, medicinal, iodine-like flavor

when a coffee is first sipped.

defect often caused by letting cherries


dry on the tree. It is found primarily in lower grades of Brazilian coffee.

A descriptor that refers to the aroma of fresh nutmeats, usually accompanied


by specifics such as walnut-like.

The lifeless flavor of coffee brewed


from stale beans.

A distinct woody flavor, accompanied by


loss of acidity and found in green coffees

A term used to describe a well-balanced

held in storage for more than a year.

coffee of low to medium acidity.



A taste taint that gives brewed coffee

Denotes a coffee with harmonious,

a pronounced peanutty flavor. This taint

delicate flavors. For example, fine,

is caused by including unripe, green

high-grown Central American coffees

coffee cherries in the harvest; after

are often described as mild. Mild is

roasting, the beans remain light in color

also a coffee trade term for arabica

and markedly undeveloped.

coffee grown anywhere in the world


outside of Brazil.

An intense, burnt-rubber character usually found in robusta coffees and caused by allowing the coffee fruit to begin drying on the shrub.




A visual and taste defect that is a

An aggressive sourness almost fruit-

more severe relative of tipping (burn-

like in nature; related to winyness. Fine,

ing the ends of beans by applying

high-grown Costa Rican coffees are

excessive heat during roasting). The flat

frequently described as being tangy.

surfaces of scorched beans appear


and are charred; coffee brewed from these beans leaves an unpleasant, smokyburnt aftertaste.

Soft Is a tasting term used for low-acid coffees such as the Indonesians. Soft coffees may also be described as mellow or sweet.

Lacking in flavor and watery in body; characteristic of low-grown coffees.

Wild A descriptor that indicates extreme flavor characteristics. It can be a defect, or a positive attribute. Wild denotes odd, racy, even gamy nuances of flavor and aroma. Ethiopian coffees,


especially Harrar and Djimmah, are

A primary taste perceived mainly

the textbook examples.

on the posterior sides of the tongue.


This taste is characteristic of lightroasted coffees.

Despite all the jokes about “whiny� coffees, winy is a desirable flavor


quality that implies characteristics of

An aroma or flavor that recalls a par-

the finest red wines. Kenya coffees

ticular spice: peppery, cardamom-like,

are classic examples: heady and

cedar cigar box-like.




A general descriptor that refers to a

A taste characteristic primarily of

large presence of flavor and aroma,

past-crop coffees. This flavor, when

or to the relative proportion of soluble

less severe, may also be referred to

solids to water in a given brew.

as strawy.

Sweet A general term that refers to coffees which are smooth and palatable.


Coffee decoder First published 2013 Š 2013 Eva Chan All right reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retreval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the written permission of Eva Chan. Designed by Eva Chan Infography and chart by Eva Chan Typeface: Univers Sponsored by Academy of Art University

Coffee Decoder Book  

With so many varieties of beans and brews to choose from these days, whether you are already a coffee fanatic or you are just an occasional...

Coffee Decoder Book  

With so many varieties of beans and brews to choose from these days, whether you are already a coffee fanatic or you are just an occasional...