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That perfect cup of coffee

Updated on June 9, 2009

I love coffee, strong and black. I grind my own beans so I can get just the right flavor. My favorite coffees are Jamaican Blue Mountain and Kona, but we don't use them in the bed and breakfast because they're way too expensive. We use a nice European blend and mix it with French roast, which gives it a little bite. All our brewed coffee is made with freshly ground beans. It makes a huge difference to the taste.

The Basics — Roast, Body and Acidity

There are three basic elements which affect the taste of coffee: roast, body, and acidity. The lightmess or darkness of the roast directly affects the acidity: the lighter the roast, the more acidity. A darker roast will produce less acid and will bring out the sugars that caramelize during the roasting process. If you prefer a dark, smoky taste, you should select dark roast coffee. You prefer a sweeter, bright taste, then a light roast is the one for you.

The body of the coffee can be analyzed in terms of delicate and light, as compared to heavy and full. Where or not, you select a light bodied texture or full bodied one, is strictly up to you personally. It's a matter of preference, not of good and bad. Finally, the acidity in coffee refers to the sweet, tart sensation you experience in your mouth when you drink it. Most Arabica coffees, and coffees grown at higher altitudes, tend to be acidic. This includes Kenyan coffees and any coffees which are wet-processed.

Pros and cons of drinking coffee

The aroma of a fresh brewed cup of coffee or the taste of a freshly pulled shot of espresso is enough to get anyone out of bed on time, even on a dreary, cold morning. Coffee is truly a comfort food. But while some studies suggest that coffee is practically a health elixir with its abundance of antioxidants, others highlight the negative side-effects that caffeine has on our bodies. In 2007 alone, studies concluded that caffeine supplements eased post-workout muscle pain and the combination of caffeine and exercise can reduce the risk of skin cancer. Other findings said three or more daily cups of coffee may aid memory in older women, and drinking five or more cups a day can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

In March 2007, the American Psychiatric Association said more than 250 milligrams of caffeine daily may cause insomnia, irregular heart beat, muscle spasms, and the inability to concentrate. Other studies indicate that an afternoon power nap is more effective than caffeine at boosting energy levels and improving alertness. And most recently, in January 2008, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology said that drinking two cups of coffee a day doubles the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women.

Myths about caffeine

it's addictive According to the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, it may be habit forming, but it's not addictive.

it doesn't cause dehydration It is a mild diuretic and increases the need to urinate frequently.

it worsens heart disease There's little proof that this is true.

it causes hypertension It does cause a slight elevation in blood pressure, but this decreases as the caffeine leaves the body.

it causes hyperactivity in children Caffeine is not the reason children are hyperactive.

it doesn't cause bone loss There is a slight decrease in bone density, but can be counteracted with calcium supplements.

it's linked to fibocystic breast disease Caffeine is in not way related to fibrocystic breasts.

it's not unhealthy for pregnant women Caffeine is a stimulant and not recommended for pregnant

it's high in calorie content Coffee has no calories, unless you add milk or cream or other ingredients containing calories.

Which coffees should you buy?

In general, African coffee beans and those from the Middle East have well-rounded flavor, medium to full body, and a bright spark of acidity. They are often described as floral or winy.

Coffees from South America, the Caribbean, and Hawaii are known for good balance, medium body, bright acidity, and floral hints.

Indonesian and Asian coffee beans are known for their full body, light acidity, aromatic flavor, and earthiness (Norman Kolpas, "A Cup of Coffee, 1993).

Grinding your own coffee

Be sure and adjust your grinder to the proper setting for the coarseness you desire. The coarsest grinds are for percolators, French presses, and the old cold-water method. Medium grinds should be used for flat-bottomed drip makers and stove-top espresso makers. Fine grinds are used for cone-shaped drip filters, and very fine grinds are used for espresso machines. An extremely fine and powdery grind is used for making Turkish coffee in a jezve (a long handled brass or copper pot).

Brewing yourself a great cup of coffee

The most common method of brewing coffee in America is the drip method. No matter which method you use, the following tips will apply:

  • Always use fresh water
  • Use 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to every 6 ounces of water (except for espresso)
  • Always use the proper grind for the equipment you're using
  • If using a manual device, use water that is just under the boiling point
  • Serve coffee immediately after making. Don't reheat coffee. Don't reuse coffee grounds.
  • Clean your equipment regularly.
  • Never leave your coffee on the burner for more than 20 minutes.

What is your favorite coffee?

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