Do you fancy yourself as a coffee connoisseur or maybe you are a just coffee lover who really appreciates the finer things in life? If either of these is true then you sound like the right person to try a speciality coffee.
As a coffee drinker you have a two options on what to drink — regular or specialty. But what’s the difference between those two, and why should you care?
Besides the taste, one of the major differences between the two is that speciality coffee is actually good for you in more ways than just taste. You’ve probably read studies about the health benefits of coffee ranging from reduced risk to diabetes, Alzheimers, dementia to preventing various cancers, but remember, even an overdose of the good stuff can lead to some less than wanted effects (e.g. ruining your sleep pattern). However, drinking regular coffee often has worse side effects and affects your entire system from head to stomach.
So, how do you choose your coffee then? How do you know if coffee is regular or speciality? The only way to comprehend these skills is to understand the coffee production from the plantation to cup. So here we go...
Growing and processing
First an unprocessed coffee seed is planted. It has to be a good quality seed and it has to be planted in the right place at the right time to produce quality coffee. There are two different species of coffee: Arabica which is softer and Robusta, which is more bitter, but easier to grow. Roughly all speciality coffee comes from the top 10% of Arabica seeds.
After 3–4 years, the planted coffee tree will bear it's first red fruits — coffee beans which are ready to be harvested.
Coffee is mostly picked by hand, either “strip picked” or “selectively picked”. Strip picking is a quicker process but it also means all the berries of the tree are picked at the same time. Selective hand picking takes more time but gives better result, as only the beans that are just at the peak of ripeness are picked and raw beans left for later.
Once the picking is complete the coffee has to be processed as quickly as possible to prevent spoilage. There are methods to do this: dry, semi-dry and wet.
When using the dry method, coffee beans are spread to dry onto a large surface and dried under the sun. In the wet method, the pulp of the bean is removed and beans are fermented in tanks and washed with great amounts of water. This is one of the most crucial steps of coffee processing and often done wrong. False fermenting and washing can give coffee impurities and a bad bitter taste that cannot be removed afterwards.
Once the coffee is dried, they are sorted by size and weight. Damaged and wrongly coloured beans are removed. Unfortunately huge part of the global coffee industry consists of bad quality coffee beans which are sold and used to produce cheap coffee blends, without fair pay to the farmers. Removing these bad quality coffee beans is important because even one over ripe coffee bean can ruin your cup of coffee by giving it a sour and vinegar-like taste. Once the sorting is complete the green coffee beans are stored in jute or sisal bags until their shipment to a roastery.
To give you an idea of the coffee traffic, in the year of 2012 there was almost nine million TONS of green coffee produced.
Now, it’s time to test the coffee. The taster, also called “the cupper”, will check the colour, which for a professional cupper tells a lot about the quality. After visual approval, is time for some chemist-like roasting, brewing, smelling and “slurp” sounding tasting, and once the quality is approved by the cupper, the rest of the beans are roasted.
Beans are usually roasted at about 230–260 degrees celsius. Coffee is kept moving during to roasting. When the inner temperature of the beans reaches 230 degrees celsius, the oil inside them begins to emerge. This changes the beans from green to brown and gives the coffee it’s actual aroma. Once roasting is complete, the beans are immediately cooled, either by air or water and now the coffee has to hurry to get to your cup. Aromas begin to fade immediately after roasting as coffee is at it's best to enjoy 2–30 days from roasting. High quality coffee is often excellent after 30 days but there is no hope for regular coffees.
Now for the last two steps.
Grinding and brewing
Are you already buying your coffee as beans? If not, you might want to give it a thought, as getting the right grind for you can make a huge difference. Why is this important? Well, it will allow you to extract all the flavour quickly (before they lose their aroma after grinding) to allow for that perfect cup of coffee. Finer for espresso, coarser for filtered. Some studies say that ground coffee can lose up to 60 % of it’s aroma within 15 minutes after grinding, so if you’re wondering why coffee at home doesn’t taste as good as at your favourite cafe this could be one reason. Now to brewing...
Coffee brewing itself is a chemist-like process that you can spend your whole life studying, but you can make great coffee at home if you follow our recipes. Brew with care and before taking the first sip, take a second and appreciate the long journey it has travelled, just for you and your health.
So how we do it at Coffee Masters?
We work with one of the UK’s most talented coffee tasters, Q-Grader Rebekah Kettrick who selects some of the worlds finest Arabica beans and roasts them to perfection, creating our New Speciality Coffee Blends.