Coffee, it’s America’s morning ritual. Massive international chains like Starbucks and McDonalds are multi-million dollar coffee merchants that serve billions of cups of coffee every year. Aside from being popular for the caffeine, coffee is also a great source of antioxidants and studies have shown it can be beneficial to your health. On the other hand, a low quality coffee prepared via the typical heating methods can make your coffee drinking experience poor tasting, acidic, and just altogether unpleasant. However a high quality coffee, brewed the right way can give you the best of both worlds – incredible flavor and optimal health benefits. This article is designed to arm you with all the knowledge you need to get the most out of your beans and brew the perfect coffee for your taste.
Choosing the Best Coffee Beans
Coffee will vary in quality and while there are many different types of coffee beans there are only two main species of coffee plants generating this variety of beans. Arabica is believed to have originated in Kefa (the place where “coffee” gets its name) and is also the oldest widest known type of bean. The second type, coffee – canephora or “Robusta” can be traced to Uganda and grows in climates where Arabica beans typically do not. Arabica beans are viewed by connoisseurs as being the better choice, while Canephora is a more cheaply grown and harvested bean that tends to be used by more commercial brands for mass production.
Connoisseurs of coffee can be picky about where they buy their beans from. Having knowledge about the different regions where coffee is grown is important if you are a serious coffee drinker. Brazil exports the most coffee while Columbian coffee beans are used by many of the larger coffee producers. On the other hand a large percentage of connoisseurs prefer beans grown in Kenya. At the end of the day it is really a matter of personal preference more than anything.
Choosing the Best Roast
The way coffee beans are roasted plays probably the biggest part in the overall flavor of your coffee. Prior to roasting coffee beans are green and soft, with a fresh “grassy” smell and little to no taste. The roasting process turns these raw beans into the dark, strong smelling, flavorful and crunchy beans that we know as coffee. Understanding different roasting procedures can be helpful in selecting a coffee that is best suited to your personal taste.
- Light Roasts: Usually light brown in color, light roasts retain the highest amount of the beans original flavor prior to roasting.
- Medium Roasts: Also light brown in color, lack the “grainy” taste of lighter roasts – more balanced overall flavor.
- Medium-Dark Roasts: Rich, dark color – much heavier body than the light & medium roasts.
- Dark Roasts: In dark roasts the bean’s original flavors are largely replaced by the flavors of the roasting process. They will usually have a more bitter and smokey or even “burnt taste”. The amount of caffeine and acidity in dark roasts is also substantially lower than in medium and medium dark roasts.
Hot Brewed Coffee
This is the typical, most popular method of brewing coffee. Critics say that it creates a more acidic and less flavorful brew, but it’s the method that has been used for years. Most large coffee chains only offer a hot brewed coffee but this is slowly starting to change.
Cold Brewed Coffee
Cold brewing has recently become more popular among coffee enthusiasts. This is likely because you get a stronger, more flavorful brew from the process. When coffee is brewed by traditional methods chemical reactions can boil off or morph flavorful, aromatic oils into a more acidic blend. These oils are also beneficial to health so it is said that cold brewing your coffee, which preserves more of the natural oils, is also somewhat healthier. Cold brewing coffee also removes the process that creates a lot of the acidity in coffee so it’s better for your digestive system and overall health.
How to make a cold brewed coffee (without fancy appliances)
Making a cold brewed coffee is simple, while there are appliances available, no special equipment is required. All you really need to do is add room-temperature filtered water to coarse-ground coffee, let it seep for a while and then filter the liquid through a strainer to remove the grounds.
Here is a step by step detailed guide on making a cold brewed coffee:
1) Select a whole bean coffee (preferably organic) and grind the beans.
2) Combine 4 cups of water to every 1 cup of coffee grounds.
3) Steep for 24 hours
4) Strain the mixture through a fine enough mesh to capture the grounds.
As you can see, the process is very simple but remember that the end product of a cold brew is a very concentrated form of coffee that is meant to be diluted with water, to preference of course. Otherwise, it would be a very intense (and expensive) drink. Cold brewed coffee not only tastes great but it also stores well. It can be kept in the refrigerator for around two weeks with a consistently bright and fresh flavor. The taste of hot coffee deteriorates in a much shorter time because of the chemical changes that are caused by the heat during brewing.
If you want to get creative, flavorings can be added to cold brewed coffee to make uniquely gourmet concoctions. One suggestion is to add a garnish like an orange rind, a cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom pods, a vanilla pod, slices of fresh ginger, etc. for a few hours of the cold brewing process. Some people also throw in a pinch of salt to maximize the overall flavor of the coffee. Whatever the case remember to dilute and flavor your brew to taste.
Randi Ragan is a Holistic Well-Being Expert who runs her Green Bliss Eco Spa and frequently blogs on her own personal website.