In-Depth Coffee Information

This is our guide to Coffee: about where it's grown; how we proceed to make it in different parts of the world and in the US; and how we've actually grown into wanting better quality and better machines. So I'll start with what coffee is: basically it's grown on a plant; it's a seed from the plant and it's actually harvested from the cherry when it's ripe. It grows in a thin belt around the equator in the sub-tropical zones between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer.

Robusta vs. Arabica Beans

Now there are basically two types of coffee plants, two species. There's the Arabica and the Robusta. The Robusta grows at lower elevations, quite quickly and lushly, and because of this it actually doesn't have a ton of time to develop into a real high quality coffee that has lots of character or dimension, but it does actually gather up quite a bit of caffeine. So it's actually lower quality than what we would want to drink and much higher in caffeine.

The Arabica bean actually grows higher in the mountains and because of this there is less land mass to grow it. This means itís going to cost quite a bit more, but it's worth it because you get a much better flavor profile, feel on the tounge, and coffee taste. Thereís also less caffeine.

Kitchen Kapers carries only the Arabica beans. 100%, including our flavored coffees, which makes a big difference. A lot of lower-end flavored coffees from different manufacturers are a mix of Arabica and Robusta, and then flavored with heavier flavorings. We use higher quality flavors and just Arabica beans. And the higher quality does not have any sugar or any calories- it's just the essence of flavor, like our number one seller, it's flavored with cinnamon and hazelnut, and I could swear that you can taste a hint of chocolate.

Measuring coffee

From the coffee in the parts of the world, you take this bean, you harvest it, and grind it, and brew it in different methods. But basically, the measurement for just about all coffees is about the same. It just depends on how you're making it, but in general, whether it's drip, French press, auto-drip, or even to a degree, percolator, it's basically one tablespoon or seven grams per five ounces of water. Now for espresso, you use the same amount of coffee, meaning seven grams or one tablespoon, to one ounce, possibly two ounces of espresso.

Now, espresso is kind of interesting because the process actually gets out less caffeine than the processes of drip, French press, auto-drip, and percolator. So you only get about 60% of the caffeine that's in the coffee, so it's a misnomer that espresso's got more caffeine in it because it's actually equal to about 3 ounces of any of the other coffees that I just mentioned. So, how many ounces do you drink when you drink your convenience store coffee? A 20 ouncer perhaps? That's equivalent to almost seven shots of espresso. Kind of crazy.

Types of coffee making

Manual Drip Coffee Makers

Drip coffee is a basic form of coffee making. It requires a finer grind; finer than auto-drip, that is. You boil water, and pour it over the coffee in a filter and it drips into the pot below. This is not electrical. So basically, it relies on gravity to pull out the flavor from the coffee. Of course all the water that you're pouring into is not going to fit in the filter system all at once so you're going to do it multiple times. So you're going to actually allow the coffee to steep. So you get a clean and full-bodied flavor. Some of the better representatives of this are the Chemex Coffee Maker and the Clever Coffee Dripper.

French Press Coffee Makers

Now, a French Press is similar to the manual drip coffee makers. The key differences are that you grind the coffee much coarser, and instead of pouring the water over the grounds, the grounds are actually immersed in the water. You let the coffee infuse in the press pot for 3 to 5 minutes, so it gives you a very intense, rich cup of coffee.; and slightly muddy since the grinds are actually pushed to the bottom when it's complete, so you might get a little muddiness at the end, but that adds a little more character to the coffee as well

Most French Coffee Presses are made of glass, and glass transmits heat very well, so you should make coffee in these vessels that you intend to drink within 10 minutes, otherwise it will cool down too quickly.

There are some thermal French Presses available, and these keep your coffee hot for a good 2 to 4 hours depending on how much you open the lid. Good representatives of these are the Thermos Nissan Insulated French Press and the Bodum Stainless Steel French Press - they're both double-wall stainless steel.

If youíre new to French Coffee Presses, be sure to check out our French Press Insturctions.

Auto-Drip Coffee Makers

This is the modern, electric coffeemaker that everyoneís familiar with. Itís an electrified version of the manual drip, but with this you use a more coarse grind than you would with the drip and the water is actually not as hot. You use water that's anywhere between 190 degrees and 205 degrees, although temperatures nearer 205 degrees are actually going to garner more flavor out of the coffee. Now, with the auto drip, you're not actually pouring yourself as you would with manual coffee makers, or watching the infusion as you would with a French press; it's actually through the electronics of the machine. The water that's dispensed through the coffee grounds is timed, and it's not all at once and continuous; it goes in stages so it allows for infusion time, and then more water will come through and push it through to the bottom so it allows you to get a good amount of coffee flavor. Some coffee makers have what they call an "aroma" setting. This allows for a little longer infusion time and therefore you would get a stronger, more full-bodied coffee. Now, some people don't like that strength but some people do, so that's a good feature for them.

Now, some of the better features you want to look for in an auto-drip maker is a shower head, meaning where the water comes out. Water is dispensed over the grounds through the multiple holes in the shape of a showerhead. It will cover all of the grounds immediately and allow the grinds to be evenly brewed. Temperature is also very important, so if you find a coffee maker like a Capresso that brews coffee at the best brewing tempurature (200 to 205 degrees), you're going to get more flavor.

Now, Cuisinart Coffee Makers also brew at a higher temperature. And then you have the Technivorm MoccaMaster that actually brews the water to boiling, and if it doesn't brew to boiling then it actually does not work. So you're guaranteeing with this machine that the water's going to be at the perfect coffee brewing temperature. Once the water boils up and over, it drips into the thermal carafe. The system is very simple, but very technical. It's actually the only one recognized by the American Coffee Association; they recommend this machine because it makes a great cup of coffee and brings the best out of the beans.

Now, the average length of time to brew for the methods weíve talked about so far: the manual drip is about 3 to 5 minutes; the French press is about 3-5 minutes; the auto-drip for a full pot is going to be about 8 minutes. That's for a 10 or 12 cup - it's pretty much about the same.

Best Coffee Maker Brands for home brewers that brew coffee at the best temperature, ensuring a great cup of coffee.

Grind & Brew Coffee Makers

There are coffee makers that also employ a grinder. The "grind-and-brews," as they're called, are very important because coffee does age rather quickly once it's ground, and the finer the grind, the more quickly it loses its flavor, because the oils will evaporate, and the coffee grounds will absorb outside flavors. It's a common misnomer that you should put your coffee in the freezer or the refrigerator for freshness, well, that's not necessarily true because in the freezer, the oils in the bean get broken down and most freezers are frost-free now, and will suck some of the life out of the coffee and dry it. So that will affect how it's ground. Also, in the refrigerator you're going to get a wealth of moisture and you're also getting a wealth of flavors that will enter into the bean and confuse it and destroy it at times, because you really don't want to taste onion coffee, it's not a flavor that I think most people will enjoy.

So, having grounds or having coffee pre-ground, although convenient, isn't the best way to go if you want the maximum flavor from your coffee. If it's ground fresh, you're going to get maybe 10 to 15 percent more flavor from your coffee. You're really going to notice it.

There are two types of grinders. Most of the grind-and-brew coffee makers now made by Capresso, Cuisinart, and Krups, they actually have conical burr grinders, which is a higher grade.

The difference between a blade grinder and the conical burr grinder: A blade grinder actually is a blade that spins around and it chops the coffee. The chopping method actually is similar to using an axe on a piece of wood, and as you bring that axe into the wood, it smashes the wood on either side of the cut, almost burnishing it which makes it less water soluble, so water doesn't penetrate very easily into that. It also, as it chops, by the laws of physics, the small pieces fall to the bottom and larger chunks come to the top, and you're going to get a mismatch of different grinds, so all of the coffee is not going to be brewed evenly. Most people won't notice a difference, or they don't care because they're going to get a decent amount of coffee flavor and better coffee flavor from just the act of grinding just before brewing. So, it's kind of offset by the fact that because of the burnishing effect of the blades, you're getting less solubility in the coffee, and because of the friction developed from the spinning blade's speed, you actually create some kind of frictional heat which actually can change the flavor of the coffee, because it kind of cooks the oils in the bean a little bit, so although it's not the best way of grinding, just the fact that you're grinding prior to brewing coffee is very important.

Now there are two different types of the burr grinders. The first one is the flat burr grinder. The Cuisinart is the one I can think of at the moment. And basically, the beans go between two opposing burrs, they fall between these, and you can adjust with the setting for fine, coarse, whatnot, or espresso if you'd like. You're bringing those burrs closer and closer together, or further apart. And so, the grounds can only come out through the sides of those after they've been ground to a certain fineness, which allows them to escape, if you will. Now, the burr grinder also is great because it doesn't chop the bean, it cracks it like you would a nut, which opens the facets of the coffee bean to be more readily water-absorbent so water penetrates very easily, grabbing out the essence of the bean. And, you're going to get a much more uniform coffee grind, so it's all going to be brewed evenly, and that's basically the important part of this.

Now, the other type of burr grinder is the conical burr grinder, and this is what is used in most coffee houses because it's more precision-driven. And if you're making espresso, either burr grinder will be good but this one will be better if you're more technical and really want to get that perfect grind. Because it's cone shaped, it gradually grinds the bean down to exactly where you want. So it's going to be much better for those people that use it for espresso, but if you're just making auto-drip coffee, or drip coffee, or French press, even percolator, the flat burr grinder, being a little less expensive, would be just as good to use.

Most of these burr grinders allow you, because of this, to use a timer so you can actually program how many cups of coffee you're going to brew and then you can grind that amount of coffee just for that brewing session. And you can't really do that with the blade grinder because you actually kind of have to measure afterwards. But it's even good when you're using the burr grinder, to use a measuring device because there are different types of beans; some are much harder, especially the high-mountain grown and the lighter roasts, they tend to be harder and harder to grind, so they take more time. And then there are darker roasts like French Roast, Viennese, and Italian Roasts; they are actually hollow because they've been roasted so long, so they tend to grind much more quickly, so you can actually, in the same amount of time, you get a lot more coffee ground. And also, with some of those darker roasts, because darker roasts moves the oil to the surface, they become shiny; they actually stick together so sometimes they don't fall from the hopper in the burr grinder into the grinding mechanism. So, even though you have the ability to set it for a certain amount of cups of coffee, it's still good to measure them with the one-tablespoon per cup, or per five-ounce cup that these coffee makers make.

Percolators Ok, so we'll go on to percolators now. There are two types - the stovetop and the electric. Basically these use a much more coarse grind because they are more intensely brewed than any other coffee method, other than espresso that is. The stovetop percolator is most often 8 to 10 cups and it takes about 5 to 7 minutes to brew after it's reached the boiling point. And you use more coffee per cup than you would with any other coffee method. Typically, one and a half scoops or approximately 10 or 11 grams of coffee per cup and that's because the more coarsely ground, it's not going to get the essence of the coffee as well. But because it's being brewed in boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes, it's still going to come out with a very strong tasting and very hot cup of coffee, and there are a lot of customers that come in to our stores looking for the hottest cup of coffee. Now if they want an auto-drip, Capresso or the Technivorm Moccamaster is probably the way to go, but if they're looking for the real hot cup, most of the old timers, they want the percolator because that is almost boiling. It's the hottest cup of coffee you can probably get. It's McDonalds hot.

Then there are electric percolators. They do the same thing, except they can have larger capacities and they usually brew for a longer time. The brewing process takes about one minute per cup, so depending on the size of the electric perc that you get, say a 50-cup would probably take about 50 minutes. And the ones that we carry are between 4 and 8, and then we have the 12-cup by Cuisinart. So these are going to both take about a minute per cup, and you can make less than the full pot. Now, like I said, this is going to be an intense brewing process, but the electric, once it's done, you remove the innards, the stem plus the brew basket, very carefully because it's going to be very hot, 212 degrees, and you remove that so it doesn't taint the coffee flavor, and then replace the lid. And keep the cord plugged in, because basically the electric percolators, they will, once you start the brewing process, they will get to boiling and brew each cup for one minute, and then it's done. It'll shut itself off and turn into a warming stage until you unplug it, so that's important.


Next, we'll talk about espresso. Now, espresso is actually not a coffee as some will believe; we have an Espresso Milano Roast, and it's a wonderful coffee. I use it myself in various methods. I use it in the French press; I use it in my auto-drip coffee maker because it's coffee. There isn't one special coffee that works well in an espresso maker, but what they typically employ is a blend of beans that works best in the brewing process of espresso. So espresso making is actually a process that employs pressure and higher temperatures, because as you pressurize it, you increase the temperature of the water because it's under pressure. It's just a natural, physical property.

So making espresso, it is a process, and again, to make it much more flavorful, you want to definitely, this is more important than making any other kind of coffee, grind the beans fresh. It's very important because you have to grind very fine. So when you grind coffee very fine, you increase the surface area innumerably, quite a bit, tenfold from what you do with any other kind of coffee. So the possibility of the flavors going into the atmosphere and being tainted is much higher, so you want to grind it to order, using a burr grinder, respectively.

Now, the espresso process - you grind it fine, you measure it out perfectly, again, seven grams per one ounce shot, so if you want a double shot you would go with fourteen grams, which is equal to two tablespoons.

Stovetop Espresso

Now there are stovetop methods, and this is the least expensive and very easy to use. Basically, you fill the bottom with water and put the brew basket on top of that and you fill that with coffee. In this regard, you do not tamp this kind of coffee maker. And then you put the lid on and you put it on the stove and after it comes to boiling it takes about 3 to 4 minutes for it to fully brew your espresso. And we carry the Bialetti brand, which is a very good brand and it is very widely used in Italy.

Pump Espresso

Next is the pump espresso machine. Now, the pump espresso machines are electric and they use an electric pump that pumps the water continuously so it's actually not using a boiler system. This allows you to steam longer and brew multiple espressos without having to let it cool down. So most machines are going in this direction. Most of these that we carry at Kitchen Kapers are 15 bars, and 15 bars of pressure allows for proper pressure to get a good crema, some have heard them say that between 8 and 12 is a minimum that you want to develop that pressure to develop a good crema.

Now, we carry the pump espresso machines by Delonghi, Capresso, and Breville, and each of them employ 15 bars of pressure and each of them also has a steam wand for frothing milk. Now with these, because you don't have a grinder attached to them, you need to buy the burr grinder or somehow get the coffee ground fresh instead. Use the finest setting; you'd measure it out, tamp it, put it in the brew pot, and for one to two ounces of coffee; it should come out within 20 to 30 seconds if you've ground it correctly and if you've tamped it properly and you've built up the proper pressure. It's basically the act of grinding it fine and tamping it; basically you're creating a block that the hot water has to get through. That's what actually increases the pressure and gives you the good crema. Without that, it's going to be a muddy cup of strong coffee. So these are obviously very good, and they do a good job, and this is more for the person that wants to start off with espresso or just likes the process of espresso.

Super Automatic Hot Beverage Centers

There are other, much easier methods; because most people are too busy or just don't have the time each morning to wake up early to make their espresso. So there are what they call "Super Automatic Hot Beverage Centers," because they do more than just make coffee. And these common carriers are Capresso, probably the originator of these type of coffee making machines, the super automatics; then there's Delonghi, Saeco, and Krups. These employ a hopper which has a holder that houses the beans, up to 8 ounces at a time, so it's actually kept in storage here so it's always ready. They have their onboard water vessel in varying ounces. I think the S9 has the largest capacity at 96 ounces and there are others at 64 and 50 ounce vessels. The more you've got, the longer it can sit in there, but you don't want the water to be too stale; you want fresh water every three days.

Now, they also employ a built in burr grinder. So basically, this allows you to change the grind setting from fine to more coarse, most of them employ six different grind settings. And then you also have the ability to brew anywhere from one half ounce of coffee to sixteen ounces of coffee, and most will allow you to change the settings from strong, medium, to mild, or in the case of the S9, you can actually go the extra mile, or extra strong. And, this will be noted in another time because you really have to get in-depth with these machines to understand the differences because they are all with different types of whistles and bells.

And, for different reasons, like the S9, all the Capresso machines actually allow you to go to a half ounce while other machines do not. That's important because if you want a nice, what they call, a "ristretto," a "ristretto" means "restrained," and basically in the first, it's about a half ounce shot of espresso, so you're getting all the great quality of the espresso in that half ounce shot, that if you allowed to go longer, brew longer, to an ounce or two ounces, you're getting more dissolved solids and more bitterness from the coffee.

The thing that comes out first when you start brewing is the oil, which is the essence of the crema, and the aroma, and basically that creates a cap. Basically, crema, all it is is the emulsion of the oil and the beans being emulsified by the heat and pressure to create that little frothy layer on top of the coffee, but in turn that is like a damper to keep the aroma from escaping the coffee, so when you take your first sip, it's released and you get that wonderful sensation into your olfactory region. So, that's why that's very important. But you can make a 16-gram, which is the equivelent of more than 2 tablespoons of coffee, into a half-ounce shot of espresso- that's strong espresso. So if you want a real strong espresso, go Capresso.

These machines also offer a wide range of programmability. They allow you to program the amount of coffee you're going to use, the amount of water you're going to brew through that, and at what grind, and you have multiple buttons for these. And then there are also some buttons, are programmable buttons, on some of the machines like the C9, the S9, and the Saeco Xelsis, and even the Delonghi that allow you to one-touch cappuccino or latte, meaning that you can actually program the type of milk, or frothed milk, or steamed milk and the amount of that, the strength, the amount of coffee, and the grind of that coffee at the touch of a button. You release all of these programmabilities in from the machine, you put your cup there, you walk away, and your cappuccino is made. This is basically what a lot of people are looking for; they want to have that perfect coffee house cappuccino at home, but easily and without so much training. These machines go anywhere from 15 to 18 bars of pressure. I believe the Krups, the Delonghi, and the Saeco each have 15 bars of pressure, while Capresso has a maximum pressure of 18 bars, which will garner just a little bit more crema, a little bit more pressure.

Now, each one these also do things other than just cappuccino, espresso, lattes. They allow you to steam milk, they allow you to have hot water for tea or hot cocoa if you wish, and they also make pressure-brewed coffee, so if you want a regular cup of coffee, you just program another button or switch it up on the fly, where you can make a 16-ounce cup of mild pressure-brewed coffee, which tastes very much like an Americana. And this is where of a lot of Americans are going; they're going with something with ease and quality at the same time, because you do not want to compromise quality, especially in the last 20 years where our sensibilities, and our interests, and our knowledge of coffee has increased, so has the amount of gourmet coffee in the world.

Single-serve espresso machines

Next we'll talk about a coffee maker that doesn't actually employ grinding the beans, but uses a capsule, and that's the Nespresso system. Now, the Nespresso system started research and development in 1970 and it wasn't until 1986, fifteen years later, that the first machine came out. So they spent that amount of time, fifteen years, in developing this machine before they got it right, or where they wanted it. And basically, where they wanted it, they wanted to come out with a premier quality coffee that's easy to make in your own home, and quickly and consistently each time. Now, some people do not like the fact that it has capsules, but the capsule actually has some benefits that being able to grind your own beans does not, and that is that it's consistent each time. And it's easier to store and easier to get, so it's actually very, very convenient. Now, this Nespresso system actually also employs the most pressure of any home unit espresso maker of 19 bars. With the entire system, you can probably get the best crema of any home espresso maker. And that's probably in part due to the quality of the coffee they use in each of the capsules as well.

Now they have seven regular espressos and two decafs. They also have what is called a "lungo" available, and that's in regular, intense, and also in decaf. So you have a wide range of espressos, and the espressos are what they call them, "grand cru," or blends. They have different coffees from around the world that are blended together to create each different flavor profile. And they are different strengths on the palette. There is mild all the way to intense, so there is something pretty much for everyone here. The decafs, I have to say, are fantastic. I've never seen a decaf with that much crema. The crema on the Nespresso Grand Crus is amazing. And the lungos, for someone who doesn't necessarily want espresso all the time, this allows you to make kind of a cafe Americano. The coffee that is ground to a more coarse texture, there's actually more coffee in this capsule for the lungo; therefore you're able to brew it longer without getting any bitterness of over brewing. And so you're going to brew that between 4 and 6 ounces whereas the espresso you brew between one and two ounces. So if you want a regular cup of coffee, this is what you do and if it's still too strong you can add a little hot water after you take the pod out of the machine.

Now the pods are actually capsules that are hermetically sealed after they are roasted and ground to perfection and blended. They are sealed where they are guaranteed freshness for at least 12 months. So you can actually buy a 12-month supply and just have it sit on your shelf, always available, always ready to go, and always tasting the same.

Now it always tastes the same because Nespresso really takes care of how they get their coffee. Basically what they do is create a sustainable farming situation with the farmers in each region where they get their coffee beans from. They teach the farmer how to maintain the environment or their farm, how to take care of the land, and a better managing of their coffee sales where they get an increased margin over their competitors. So they are actually making more money, have an increase in the farmersí efficiency, and they are actually building better access to clean water, schools, and healthcare for these farmers. So there's a great impetuous for these farmers to create the same beans, the high quality beans that Nespresso wants, every year. So this allows Nespresso to have consistency in their high quality coffee.

And in fact, these are the statistics: Of all the coffee in the world, 90% of the coffee in the world is commercial grade. 10% is gourmet. Gourmet coffee is what you get in the coffee houses and Nespresso. Now of this 10% of the gourmet coffee in the world, which we consider the best coffee, Nespresso only uses or deems to their standards 1% of that. So basically, the coffee in these capsules is the best 1% of coffee in the entire world, and they are basically taking care of the farmers to keep producing that, so you know every time that you take a capsule out and brew it, you're getting the same quality and the same flavor profile you expect from that coffee, which is quite a stark change from any other coffee beans. Even if you have a grind-and-brew system or one of the super automatics, the coffee isn't always going to be the same. Depending on the humidity and the temperature of the atmosphere around it, it's actually going to change and effect the way that it's brewed. It's amazing how the environment surrounding that will change the flavor of the coffee. Since the Nespresso system is contained in a hermetically sealed capsule, it's not going to change; it's always going to be the same. You're going to get the cup of coffee that you wanted.

Nespresso has many different machines. It seems like every year they create a new machine. Most of the old machines came out only making coffee or they had a wand for steaming. They still have many that just make the espresso or the lungo coffees, because there are many people that just prefer that, and Iíve actually seen that in more of the European audience, but in America we like to have the lattes, the cappuccinos, we put milk in our coffee. Not all of us, but many of us, so they've actually created an Aeroccino. The Aeroccino is a wonderful mechanism for frothing milk or steaming milk. If you're frothing milk for a cappuccino, I don't believe there is a finer way to do it, or an easier way to do it. When you're using the stem on an espresso machine, you hold a pitcher filled with cold milk and you have to hold it just under the service to allow the steam to bubble up and create your froth with the lactose sugar in the milk. Now this takes probably 2 to 3 minutes and you have to hold it the entire time.

With the Aeroccino, you actually just put in the, there are two different paddles, one for an aerator, and that's for cappuccino. So you put that in there and you fill the cold milk up to the line. You put the lid on and put it on the electrical base, and you press go. Within 60 seconds, it's heated and it's frothed and ready to go. And the froth that comes out is something that a barista would have to learn three or four weeks to create. You get a very fine, bubbled, velvety-textured froth. This is what they call "chrome foam," and you did this without really trying, and it's amazing. You can buy this separately or you can get those Aeroccino's with some of the newer machines, as in the Citiz with Milk. It's a great-integrated system where it's only one plug going into the wall but you have the two machines together. And you don't have to use them together. You can use them separately, one or the other. It's just when you need it you can use them both at the same time. And that actually heats from cold in 60 seconds, yes. So, saving time, and it's very easy to clean up because the frother is now sealed, they aren't dishwasher safe, but an easy washing in the sink will not destroy them - the water will not penetrate.

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