Coffee: one of the world's most popular beverage. We have been drinking it ever since figuring out that a good caffeine buzz helps with mornings. And afternoons. And writing papers, conversations and sitting around doing nothing. Coffee helps everything.
For the neophyte bean-head, however, the range of choices beyond Maxwell House or Folgers can be daunting. I present to you, therefore: The Caffeinated Coffee Kid's Handbook.
, the bean. Beans come from all over the world, but the most popular strains come from Indonesia, Sumatra, Columbia and the island of Java.
There are two types of beans out there, namely "Arabica" – more flavorful, less caffeine – and "Robusta" – lower quality, more caffeine. Recently, trends have been favoring Arabica beans as they tend to make a better tasting brew, but Robusta beans remain extremely popular for their high caffeine content.
Once you have your beans in place, you have to roast them. When coffee is roasted it basically pops like popcorn, producing a burned bean full of delicious oils and flavors. Roasts range from light to dark. Darker roasts have less caffeine and a stronger, more "coffee-like" flavor, whereas light roasts tend to have a more complex flavor and more caffeine. Just remember: A French roast is super-dark, and a light roast is light. If you can't remember that, you probably need more coffee.
After roasting, the coffee must be ground. Grinding is possibly the most important aspect of the process, as it determines the intensity of the flavor. Turkish and espresso grinds are extremely fine, producing a thick and almost syrupy brew. On the other end of the spectrum, coarse grinds tend to produce weaker coffee, unless brewed in a French press – a manual coffee maker – that lends a less-bitter flavor to the brew.
Finally, of course, there is a vast array of coffee beverages from which you can choose. For those who like strong black coffee, try an Americano, which is espresso diluted with hot water. Cappuccinos and lattes are both made with whipped milk, but cappuccinos have less. If you're feeling brave, try a shot of straight espresso (perhaps garnished with some lemon juice) as a bracing way to wake up in the morning.
Until next time, bottoms up.