Every journey has a beginning and an end. Here’s the one from the coffee plantation to your cup.
Coffee plantations. Where the magic begins.
The coffee plant.
The coffee plant is an evergreen shrub that belongs to the Rubiaceae family and has its origins in central and western sub-Saharian Africa. Left to grow on their own, the plants are usually kept to a maximum of 2 metres in height. The fruits of the coffee plant, called berries, drupes or cherries take about 9 months to ripen and are often grown in the shade of trees so that they’re not overexposed to the sun and the quality is always preserved. There are two main species of the coffee plants, Coffea Canephora (whose most common variety is Robusta) and Coffea Arabica.
Harvesting is the first step in the coffee making process. It usually occurs once a year and can stretch over a few months to guarantee all the fruits are ripened completely. There are three different methods: Manual picking done by hand by fruit pickers, who only pick perfectly ripe drupes. This takes time, but allows to get high-quality washed and natural coffee. Strip picking Trees are harvested at the same time “stripping” all the beans, both ripe and unripe, off the branches. Consequently, additional sorting is still required. Machine harvesting possible only in flat plantations. The harvesting machines, taller than the coffee plants, shake the tree and cause the fruit to drop, for collection. This process is speedy but results in lower quality coffee because it does not allow a selection of fruits.
The coffee processing methods.
To preserve their quality, cherries need to be processed right after they have been picked and sorted. This can be done in different ways: The natural or dry process, during which the beans dry out in the sun. It is common in regions where there is no access to water, such as Ethiopia and some regions in Brazil, but not practical in rainy or humid areas. The dry process adds sweet and fruity notes to the cup. On the other hand, fermented and wild flavors can also be found. The washed or wet process Beans are first depulped, then they are put in a water tank where the fermentation process starts. If the fermentation is too long, there can be a negative effect on the flavor of the coffee. After the fermentation, the coffee beans are washed and then dried. With this method, the beans’ qualities are well preserved, producing a higher quality green coffee with acidic and complex flavours in the cup. Semi-washed process which, compared to the wet process, skips the fermentation phase Pulped natural or honey process, a relatively new method, half-way between dry and wet, that requires more processing time and consumes more water, but also offers a better-quality cup.
The types of roasting and how roasting affects the bean.
Without the roasting process, coffee beans are just young green beans. They contain all the characteristics we love in our cup, but the flavour is non-existent until they are roasted. This rigorous transformation process alters both the physical and chemical make-up of the coffee bean, extracting its truest flavour. The coffee roasting processes are unique, complex and often tailored to produce the roaster’s own preferences. Varying the timeframes and temperatures of the roasts allows roasters to meet the needs of many different flavour palettes. Coffee roasting is divided into three main phases: the initial drying phase, which takes up about 80% of the roasting time, the proper roasting phase, in which the most important chemical reactions take place and the seed takes on that distinctive brown colour, and finally the cooling phase, during which the bean is brought back to room temperature.
Depending on the type of coffee you want to create, the size of your coffee grind will make a significant difference to the final flavour and texture of your coffee. The extraction process is the passage of water through the coffee grounds and its ability to acquire flavour and caffeine. The size of the grind and how it is tamped will determine the speed of the water flow through the coffee and how long it takes to extract, both of which will affect the final outcome.
Your cup of coffee. Where the magic happens.
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Coffee dosage.The espresso brewing method uses specific dosages of coffee during preparation. Traditionally, this value corresponded to 7 grams per cup; today, however, it has increased to 16 grams +/- 2 grams for two cups. The 7-gram rule can therefore be broken, as long as the grain size and percolating times are respected.
Tamping.Compacting ground coffee with a tamper restricts water flow, forcing the coffee and water to interact at the right pressure.
Pre-infusion.Pre-infusion is when you gently soak the puck of ground coffee in the filter before applying the full desired brewing pressure.
Extraction.Pressurized hot water is percolated through a layer of roasted, ground and tamped coffee to extract the drink which then flows out from the filter spouts and into your cup. The way coffee is extracted defines the quality of the final result.