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All About Coffee, How To Choose the Best Coffee

Updated on November 6, 2016

Early Coffeehouse

Capresso Infinity Conical Burr offee Grinder

What's in your coffee pot?

What's in your coffee pot? Do you grind your own beans? Or do you rely on packages of famous brand ground coffee? "Producers of olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, apple juice, and coffee are the most likely to use replacement ingredients to make a few extra bucks" Coffee is big business and the amount traded in world markets is second only to petroleum. The enticement to commit a little fraud must be too difficult to resist. Ground coffee is regularly cut with additives like chicory, wheat, corn, soybeans, barley, brown sugar, rye, acorns, seeds, or even twigs after it has been ground. While Climate change is bringing us ever more droughts, Brazil will produce 42 billion (yes that’s billion with a b) fewer cups of Java this year. Brazil out-produces the rest of the world by a huge margin.

What can we do? The only way to get pure coffee instead of adulterants is to buy beans and grind your own. Whole beans have a much longer shelf life which you can extend by freezing.

Female coffee farmer in Ethiopia


Coffee History

In 1683 the Ottoman Empire was at the height of its power and they had Vienna surrounded. Vienna needed help from outside. A mercenary soldier, a Pole named Kulczycki volunteered to disguise himself as a Turk, slip through the enemy camp and get help from Bavaria. As Kulczycki was making his way through the Turkish encampment around Vienna he smelled the coffee beans they were roasting and tried the new beverage they were drinking. Kulczycki succeeded, he reached Bavaria and the Turks were repelled.

Kulczycki was offered a reward, whatever he wanted was his! Kulczycki asked for the piles of green beans that were left behind by the fleeing Turks. As the Turks fled, their camps were left burning and Kulczycki recognized the smell of roasting coffee beans, very soon Kulczycki started the very first Starbucks. Okay, maybe not a Starbucks but he had the first coffee house in Vienna and a monopoly on all of the available coffee; it wasn’t long before he became quite wealthy. Details vary with the source so the story about Kulczycki is best regarded as legend.

Kulczycki and his beans were part of a coffeehouse craze that was spreading across Europe. The first coffee house opened in London in 1652 and by 1700 Paris was said to have over 3000 coffeehouses. Coffeehouses were a place for gossip and meetings for political and philosophical discussions. King Charles II was none too happy with this source of political dissension. Roger North, a loyalist to the British crown, claimed that sedition, treason, atheism, heresy, and blasphemy were being taught in coffee-houses. Finally, in 1675, Charles II tried to suppress the coffee houses of England altogether by edict. By that time the houses were so popular that there was an outcry by the public and the coffeehouse edict was withdrawn. England already had well developed political freedoms that were reflected in our own revolution.

Coffee Beans, Ripe and Green

How to make Turkish or Greek Coffee

Coffee Plants

Coffee plants are small trees that thrive only in tropical or subtropical climates, in the wild coffee trees will grow to 20 feet but in plantations the trees are kept to manageable sizes through pruning. Coffee grows wild in Africa especially in Ethiopia and stories about coffee all seem to have the same apocryphal story about an Ethiopian goat herder noticing how his goats got frisky after eating coffee berries. There are more than 90 species of the coffee genus of plants, called Coffea but only two make up the vast bulk of what we drink.

Long before coffee the beverage was known the beans were being used as a food and the coffee “cherries” were being fermented into a kind of wine. Coffee was first cultivated around 1100 AD by the Arabs and wasn’t introduced to the West until 1607 by Captain John Smith who would later found Jamestown Virginia. The Arabs tried desperately to maintain a monopoly on the coffee trade but in 1658 the Dutch were able to smuggle live coffee plants out from the port of Mocha. The Dutch had colonies in Indonesia and planted the first commercial coffee plantations in Java. The name stuck, Java is synonymous with coffee to this day. As for Mocha, it has only been a few decades since Mocha has been associated with coffee and chocolate, through most of the 20th century Mocha was another word for coffee.


Turkish Coffee
Turkish Coffee | Source
Latte art
Latte art | Source

Brazilian Coffees

Yellow Bourbon Coffee, a variety of Coffea arabica- São João do Manhuaçu City - Minas GeraisState - Brazil
Yellow Bourbon Coffee, a variety of Coffea arabica- São João do Manhuaçu City - Minas GeraisState - Brazil | Source
Red Catucaí Coffee, a variety of COFFEA ARABICA - Matipó City - Minas Gerais State - Brazil
Red Catucaí Coffee, a variety of COFFEA ARABICA - Matipó City - Minas Gerais State - Brazil | Source

Brewing Methods

Coffee brewing methods, there are only two different methods of brewing coffee but many variations on the two. Turkish coffee brewing is grinding coffee to a fine powder, stirring the coffee into a pot of cool water, slowly bring it almost to a boil, remove from the heat and repeat, sugar is usually added at the beginning of the process. The French brewing method is what most of us are familiar with and it is just filtering hot water through ground coffee. Espresso is a variation of the French method where steam is forced through finely ground coffee. The important thing about brewing is to match the grind to the brewing and the filtering method.

French brewing, the important part of these instruction are brewing time and water temperature, there are many machines and methods that will give good results. The old fashioned percolator is about the only method that is recommended against because it recirculates the already brewed coffee over the grounds.

Coffee should be brewed for 4.5-5 minutes using a ratio of 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 ounces of filtered water (195-205°F). Filtered water and spring water are recommended. Straight tap water may impart off flavors to the coffee and some minerals are essential to coffee flavor. Distilled water is not recommended for brewing coffee as it lacks the minerals needed to bring out the natural flavors of the coffee. The quality of tap water varies tremendously from place to place so yours could be fine. If the only issue you have with your own tap water is chlorine, heating the water will drive off the chlorine.

Grinders Old and New

Coffee Grinds

Grinds, the grind you choose will be all about your personal taste, the finer the grind the more coffee flavor is extracted. As a rule a coarse grind is most suited for a French press coffee maker because of the limited ability to filter out fine grinds. Medium grind is the most widely used and is suitable for anything from a percolator to a drip pot and in a pinch will even work in an espresso maker. Fine grind coffee is the choice for espresso makers and Turkish coffee. The best coffee you are likely to have is one that you grind yourself. Coffee grinds. Coffee grinds make an excellent addition to compost and are good just to be scattered on the lawn or in the garden, just don’t put them in the same spot too often or the soil acidity will be changed.

Coffee grinders have come a long way, in the photos on the right you can see my grandfathers coffee grinder alongside two modern grinders. The new coffee grinders would almost fit in the drawer that collects the grinds of my grandfather’s grinder. Modern grinders serve a double function too, grind your own spices with a blade grinder and you can save money by adding more flavor to your food. A burr grinder will do a better job of releasing the essential oils that give coffee its flavor and would be the first choice when buying a grinder. For Turkish coffee even a burr grinder may not yield a fine enough grind for some, in that case a mortar and pestles are the tool of choice to pulverize the beans.

Coffee Roasting


The Roast

Next to the bean itself the roast may be the most important aspect of a good cup of coffee. Unfortunately it is also the aspect we have the least control over unless you have a local roaster. Roasting is the critical step when the flavor of the coffee will be determined. Coffee beans all start out the same color, after roasting they will be labeled as light, medium light, medium, medium dark, dark, or very dark according to the judgment of the grader. During roasting the sugars present in the beans gradually browns and in the darker beans all of the sugars may be caramelized, but at the same time the acids are cooked away. In general the lighter roasts have a more complex, both sweeter and more acidic flavor while dark roasts are a little bit assertive to the point where some of the darkest roasts will garner complaints of tasting burnt. A lighter roast will reveal its place of origin in the flavor while the darker roasts will taste of the roasting, almost sooty.


Oh boy, yummy Civet poop holds expensive coffee
Oh boy, yummy Civet poop holds expensive coffee | Source
latte art
latte art
Ayutthaya Elephant Camp in Thailand
Ayutthaya Elephant Camp in Thailand | Source

The Beans

here are two important coffee tree species being cultivated, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is the original coffee and Robusta was discovered later and brought into cultivation more recently. Robusta is named for its more hardy nature; it is more resistant to frost as well as warm temperatures and diseases. Unfortunately Robusta is not as flavorful as Arabica; it seems that difficult growing conditions and higher elevations make for more complex flavors. Ripe and unripe beans grow at the same time on the same coffee tree requiring hand picking. Juan Valdez is more than an icon people like him are needed to pick the beans by hand. needed

In the western hemisphere most coffee being raised is Arabica, in Africa it is mostly Robusta and in India there is an even split between the two. The highly esteemed coffees such as Kona, and Jamaican coffees are Arabica beans grown in small areas, the rarity makes them expensive. One can’t forget to mention the Columbian coffees grown in the Andes mountains, very good and like all of the more scarce coffees widely used in blends to improve beans that would otherwise yield inferior coffee.

No article about coffee would be complete without mentioning Kopi Luwak. In Indonesia the Dutch colonists forbade the locals from picking coffee for themselves, coffee was a cash crop and the cash was for the Dutch. In short time the locals noticed that the Asian palm civet was eating coffee cherries and the beans were left behind in the droppings. A quick wash and a light roasting was all that was needed for the locals to have their own source for coffee. Kopi Luwak has become the most expensive coffee in the world, prized because the beans are partially fermented in the gut of the civet resulting in a lack of bitterness that is unique. The flavor of Kopi Luwak, will vary with the type of beans the civet has eaten but will never be bitter. Finally, there's a newcomer on the market and it rivals and even tops Kopi Luwak, the newbie is Esmeralda Special, an estate coffee from Panama.

Entrepreneurs are always looking for the next thing to make big bucks or in this case big Bahts, (Thai currency). The latest entrant into the ultra premium coffee is Black Ivory coffee. This is by far the most expensive cup o' Joe on the planet coming in at £30 for a cup! That's 30 British Pounds or about 48 bucks US. Want to buy a kilogram of beans? That will set you back $1,100. Tough luck though, the first batch is already sold out but they are increasing production for next year. Black Ivory coffee is only available in Thailand, Maldives and Abu Dhabi so you may need to figure in airfare just to get to the coffee. First the coffee beans are fed to elephants which take 15-30 hours to digest them stewing together with bananas, sugar cane and other ingredients that were eaten by the elephant. Canadian Blake Dinkin, 41, is behind this coffee, spending $300,000 developing the production process, Dinkin said the digestion helped infuse unique earthy and fruity flavors. The acids in the elephant's stomach are thought to interact with the proteins in the beans to eliminate any trace of acidity. The Black Ivory beans are then retrieved from the elephant dung by hand and they are washed and roasted to yield the final product. Okay, next time you are at the zoo looking at the elephant exhibit you may just want to check out the pile of dung for a delicious beverage.

There can be no substitute for personal experience and taste when it comes to coffee. The major brands spend a lot of money finding and blending just the right combination of beans to be uniform from one batch to the next. The best advice is to try small amounts of different coffees and settle on the one you like the most. The gourmets and food snobs will all tell you to grind to order and not to keep ground coffee too long, that’s good advice. good advice. Grind your own coffee and it will last for many months in the freezer and weeks on the shelf in an airtight container, do keep it away from the light!

Other Choices, when choosing coffee you have to decide between regular coffee, organic coffee, Fair Trade coffee, and ideally, organic Fair Trade coffee and even green organic Fair Trade coffee beans.
Organic coffee is grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Fair Trade coffee is raised and picked on farms that protect the small farmers and pickers from exploitation by middlemen in the industry.
Green coffee beans are unroasted beans that you roast at home, these have the longest shelf life (up to two years), make it easy for the consumer to always have the best type of coffee beans on hand. And, you can save money!

How to Make Cappuccino


It turns out that Granny knew something after all, adolescents lack the ability to metabolize caffeine as quickly as adults so kids can get an overdose much sooner than adults but that just means they’ll be jittery. For healthy adults who are not pregnant there is no evidence of any harm from caffeine. Please note the bold text, there are exceptions and the March of dimes recommends that pregnant women take no more than 200 mgs of caffeine per day, that’s equivalent to a 12 oz. cup of Joe. Good news for dieters though, caffeine has been shown to enhance the metabolism of fatty acids in the blood. In other words a slug of the mug will help you burn fat, especially for the infrequent consumer of caffeine.

Coffee Caffeine and Diabetes Evidence is showing that caffeine may help delay the onset of type 2 diabetes BUT in those who were already affected with Type 2 diabetes, several small studies have linked caffeine intake to a rise in blood sugar levels. The advice now is obvious, if you are not diabetic, take a slug of the mug, Joe, BUT if you are diabetic, it’s time to switch to decaf.

All fluid ounces are U.S. fluid ounces.

Coffee, brewed (drip) - 4 to 20 mg/floz (130 to 680 mg/liter) (40 to 170 mg/5 floz)

Coffee, decaffeinated - 0.4 to 0.6 mg/floz (13 to 20 mg/liter)

Coffee, instant - 4 to 12 mg/floz (130 to 400 mg/liter)

Espresso Arabica - ~40 mg/floz (1360 mg/liter)

Espresso Robusta - ~100 mg/floz (3400 mg/liter)


Black tea, brewed (USA) - 2.5 to 11 mg/floz (85 to 370 mg per liter)

Black tea, brewed (other) - 3 to 14 mg/floz (100 to 470 mg/liter)

Black tea, canned iced - 2 to 3 mg/floz (70 to 100 mg/liter)

Black tea, instant - 3.5 mg/floz (120 mg/liter)

Oolong, 3.75 mg/floz (120 mg per liter) (12 to 55 mg per tea bag, i.e. one serving)

Green tea, 2.5 mg/floz (85 mg/liter) (8 to 30 mg per tea bag, i.e. one serving)

White tea, 2.0 mg/floz (68 mg/liter) (6 to 25 mg per tea bag, i.e. one serving)

Decaf, 0.5 mg/oz (17 mg/liter) (1 to 4 mg per tea bag, i.e. one serving)

How do they decaffeinate coffee?

Glossary of coffee drinks

Greek coffee is the same as Turkish coffee, properly presented and prepared it will be served in a personal pot called a A briki (μπρίκι, pronounced BREE-kee). Finely powdered grinds are added to cool water with sugar and heated three times, then cold water is added to help to settle the grind and the coffee is served in little demitasse cups.

Cuban Coffees

Traditional Cuban coffee is made by adding raw sugar to the container into which the espresso will drip

Cortadito literally means "small cut", is an espresso topped with steamed milk.

Café con Leche Espresso served along with a cup of steamed milk

Italian Coffees:

The proper amount of grounds for one shot of espresso is 1 to 1.5 ounces.

Caffè Same as espresso, a small cup of dark rich coffee with a bit of foam on top called crema

Usually made by forcing steam through finely ground dark roasted coffee

Caffè Machiatto

Espresso “marked” with a dollop of foamed milk.

Caffè Latte, also known as cafè au lait (French) and cafè con leche (Cuban / Spanish)

One half espresso one half steamed milk with little foam on top.

Caffè Corretto

One shot espresso laced with a shot of brandy or liqueur.


One third espresso, one third steamed milk, one third foam.

Cappuccino Chiaro

Cappuccino with less espresso and more steamed milk.

Caffè Mocha

One third espresso, one third steamed milk, one third cocoa.

Mocha is the name of the port in Yemen where coffee was introduced and first shipped to Europe.

Centuries later when chocolate was introduced , they thought it tasted like Mocha coffee and it started being called mocha.

French coffees:

Café au Lait (French) Equal parts drip-brewed French roast coffee and heated milk poured simulataneously into a bowl-type café au lait cup.

Café crème as it sounds, coffee served in a large cup with hot cream.

Café Décafféiné decaffeinated coffee. You would still need to describe the rest of the drink like au lait etc.

Café Noisette espresso with a dash of cream in it. It is called "noisette," French for hazelnut, because of the rich, dark color of the coffee.

Café Americaintraditional American coffee.

Café Léger (kuh-fay lay-zjay ) is espresso with double the water.

Café Louvois 1 part cognac, 2 parts espresso and 2 parts hot chocolate, top with whipped cream

Cappuccino at home

Instructions for frothing in a home cappuccino machine: Start with cold milk, the lower the fat content the better it will froth. Pour about four ounces of milk into a stainless steel pot that can hold twelve ounces or more. Place the steam wand in the milk one half inch. Start the steam and be aggressive. Bubbles will form. As the milk gets hot lower the wand toward the bottom and make sure the milk is frothing rapidly. This process sets the proteins in the milk and lets them form the structure of the froth. If the milk is overheated (over 180 degrees) the proteins break and the bubbles collapse. The milk should double in bulk in about10 to 30 seconds depending on your steam pressure and the amount of milk you are frothing.


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    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      6 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Othellos, glad you stopped by

    • othellos profile image

      Mario Psomas 

      6 years ago from Europe

      Enjoyable hub, full of knowledge and details. Excellent source for any coffee lover. Thanks for sharing. Thumb-Up & Interesting:=)

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      6 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Greatstuff

      I'd like to try some Luwak myself but I'm afraid I might really like it and find another way to waste money

    • greatstuff profile image


      6 years ago from Malaysia

      Interesting and a well-rehearsed post on coffee. I like your story on Vienna's '1st Starbucks king', Kulczycki! In fact, it will make another interesting article, all of its own. Back here in Malaysia, we have Luwak Coffee from the state of Sabah where all the best coffee beans are already selected by the Palm Civet. All we need to do is wait for the droppings and roast the beans! It is supposed to be tasty, but expensive. I have yet to try it.


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