FAQs (4)

Friday, 15 May 2015 19:26


What is "Mocha" coffee?

In the coffee industry the term "mocha" can refer to three things:

1. Variety - mocha is one of three varieties originating from Yemen - others include typica and bourbon. While these three varieties are considered "heirloom varietals" and are perhaps the oldest, they are considered by many coffee experts as superior; they are usually more compact and less productive than their hybrid counterparts.

2. Beverage preparation - before the destruction of Yemen's coffee industry by a fungus, Mocha coffee was appreciated by many roasters due to its unique dark chocolate/caramel taste. When its production significantly dropped due to infestation, many roasters were severely left without inventory and ultimately had to create a way to "recreate" this unique origin. Nowadays, the term "mocha" is a beverage prepared where dark chocolate coffee is usually added along with milk.

Source: Coffee: A Celebration of Diversity, p. 75

Who is Kaldi?

Kaldi is the Abyssian (present day Ethiopia) herder who is credited with the discovery of coffee. Apparently one day he awoke to see his goats frolicking around a coffee shrub eating a red cherry. After trying the bean himself he soon found himself widely awake, the rest is history. See our history section for more info.

What is Postum?

Developed by C.W. Post in 1895, Postum is a caffeine free, powdered coffee substitute made mostly of roasted wheat and molasses. The product was developed as an alternative to coffee, since caffeine at the time was thought to be harmful to health. Several products have since been created in an effort to mimic coffee's taste, without the caffeine. Postum is still available today, but is now marketed by Kraft Foods.

Why is coffee brown?

Coffee's characteristic brown color comes from the formation of melanoidins, brown colored polymetric compounds created during the roasting process, namely the Maillard reaction. In coffee, melanoidins account for roughly 25-30% of coffee's beverage weight. The compounds are quite similar to the 'melanin' stored under human skin and responsible for our skin characteristic tan-like color.

Does the U.S. produce coffee?

Both Puerto Rico and Hawaii have been growing coffee since the early 1800's, although technically Puerto Rico is not a State. Together they produce roughly 161,000 bags (60kg) according to 2006/2007 estimates, of this only 14,000 bags are of specialty quality1.


What are "espresso beans"?

Contrary to popular belief there is no such thing as "espresso beans" grown on espresso plants. The term is usually used to refer either a specific blend of beans for espresso use, or a style of roasting or a combination thereof.

What is "Chemex" brewer?

Developed during the 1940's by industrial chemist Peter Schumbohm, and popularized in the 1950's, these brewers consist of a glass coffee pot shaped like an hour glass. In essence, the brewer is a modified glass funnel over a Erlenmeyer flask. What differentiated this brewer was the use of heavy filter paper, which retained sediment, but allowed for aromatic compounds to come through. Schlumbohm described his brewer as "the Chemists way of making coffee". CHEMEX is a registered trademark and does not refer to a generic style of brewer.

What is a "peaberry"?

Under normal development a cherry will produce two beans, each grown along their flat sides facing each other. When one bean fails to develop, the other bean will occupy its space and a single bean forms - resulting in a 'peaberry'. Although technically a mutant bean, some coffee professionals claim the beans have a richer more concentrated flavor, though this is still inconclusive. Perhaps the most famous peaberry beans are the Tanzanian peaberry which command higher prices, but several other origins including Kona, Kenya AA and Java exist.

What is "monsoon" coffee?

Monsoon coffee originated in India as a way to replicate Old Brown Java coffees after the island was devastated due to fungal infestations. The exact origin of monsoon is varied, but it is believed that shipping the coffee from Java to Europe in the wooden hulls of ships resulted in a coffee with a similar taste profile as that of true Java coffee.
In the monsoon aging process, beans are stored in open-sided warehouses for several months and exposed to the damp salty winds of the monsoon. The process is believed to reduce acidity, imparting a 'meaty', heavy, syrupy profile. Monsoons beans have a slightly tan color, resembling pergamino, and are roughly double in size.

What is "Excelsa" coffee?

Excelsa coffee or Coffea Dewevri is another type commercially available coffee, although less important in market, it accounts for only 1% of total coffee production.

What is "Kopi Luwak" coffee?

Kopi or Indonesian for 'coffee', is coffee that has been eaten and digested through the digestive tract of the Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). The mammal, which goes by a number of different names inlcluding Luwak, Luak, Toddy Cat or Asian Palm Civet, is indigenous to the South east Asia. The animal is commonly seen in Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi in Indonesia, though in Vietnam the coffee is called "weasel coffee" or Kape Alamid.


Kopi Luwak is one of the most expensive coffee's in the world commanding up to $300 USD per pound with the majority of the coffee being sold to Japan and the United States. It is estimated that only tree to five hundred pounds of this coffee is produced per year.

According to coffee professionals, the distinct conditions within the digestive tract of the palm civet creates a coffee with a smoother cup profile. In 2004, a SARS scare led to thousands of civets being exterminated, though the demand for coffee remained unaffected.

How many cups of coffee can I make from 1 lb of coffee?

Generally 1lb of coffee will produce anywhere from 30-40 cups (6-8oz) cups of coffee. Of course this depends on the method of brewing, coffee weight use, strength, etc. The SCAA recommends using 55 grams of ground coffee per liter of water, or approximately 8.25g per 150mL, accounting for less than ten cents per cup and making specialty coffee a relatively low cost "luxury".

How much production does Arabica represent?

Roughly 75% of world coffee production is arabica, with the remaining 25% being robusta. Brazil is the largest producer followed by Vietnam and Colombia.

Friday, 15 May 2015 19:25


What is "french roast"?

French roasts or sometimes referred to as Italian roasts are typically very dark coffees with over 20-30% of their initial weight lost. The style of coffee is typically used in espresso and espresso based drinks, since the increase in astringency/bitterness allows for the coffee flavor to 'cut 'through' the milk products. Commonly seen in cafes such as Starbucks.

What is "first crack"?

The first crack is the point in which an audible 'cracking' sound is perceived during roasting process. This occurs as pressure builds up within the internal cells and eventually burst due to the rapid expansion of water into steam. The first crack is typically seen at around 205°C (400°F) and is the point at which the beans typically double in volume and lose about 5% of their initial weight.

What is "second crack"?

The second crack is characterized by a very short endothermic phase, followed by a rapid exothermic phase, where another louder 'popping' sound is heard. At this point a second pyrolysis occurs, resulting in pressures build up within the beans cells and oils rapidly being pushed out onto the surface. This is typically seen at around 225-230°C thereby leaving most of the sucrose (sugar) in its caramelized bitter form.

What is "white coffee"?

White coffee is very light roasted coffee with almost tan-like color and rock hard texture. Some believe white coffee contains more caffeine than regularly roasted coffee and is hence used commonly for espresso drinks, although it is seldomly used for drip coffee. In the US, the term is also used to describe coffee with a whitener added (milk, non dairy creamer).

What is "high yield" roasting?

Also known as "fast roasting", high yield roasting is a method of roasting using very high temperature and short time (HTST). Commonly used for lower quality coffee, it produces a beverage with a higher solubles content important for the instant coffee market. Some find this coffee highly astringent due to high levels of chlorogenic acid. According to food scientists, this method of roasting improves the flavor of lower quality Robusta coffee.

What is the "Maillard reaction"?

The Maillard reaction (MRx) is one of the most important reactions occurring during roasting. MRx involves the binding of an amino acid with a sugar, resulting in the formation of a number of important flavor and colored compounds.

Examples of the Maillard reaction in other products include: toasted bread, flavor of roast meat, grilled steak, etc. The MRx is non-enzymatic which means it requires an external energy source such as heat to initialize the reaction.

Are larger beans better?

Although there is a slight correlation between bean size and beverage quality, this is not always a rule of thumb. For example, "peaberry" beans are generally seeked out by quality demanding roasters, whereas larger "maragogype" beans do not always guarantee high quality.

In Colombia, "supremo" beans are usually of lesser quality than the smaller "excelsa"1. The truth is that at higher altitudes beans grow larger, have a harder structural rigidity (eg. SHB), and roast more uniformly. When considering quality, one should always look at several other factors than just bean size.

1. Castle, T. The Great Coffee Book

What is the "Agtron scale"?

Developed by the Agtron Corporation (Reno, NV), the agtron scale is the most commonly used reference scale for roast color classification.

The scale ranges from 25 to 95 and is the measure of light reflected off roasted coffee - measured in either ground or whole bean form. The lower the number, the darker the coffee (i.e. less light reflected back) while larger numbers refer to lighter roasts. Photo below illustrates a typical color disc.

Friday, 15 May 2015 19:26


How much caffeine is in green coffee beans?

There are over 60 species of coffee currently in existence, but only two are of main commercial value. Namely, Coffee Arabica or "Arabica" and Coffee Cenaphora or more commonly known as "Robusta" coffee. On average caffeine content in Arabica is 1.2% (range 0.9-1.4%) and 2.2% in Robusta (1.8-4.0%).

How much caffeine is in my cup of coffee?

Caffeine content varies widely in various beverages due to beverage serving size and beverage strength. The table below summarizes caffeine content in common foods and beverages:

Source: NCA, August 1999, www.coffeescience.org

There are number of other variables such a the species of the coffee, grind level, duration of brew, water brew temperature, etc. that greatly vary total caffeine in the final beverage.

Why is coffee "bitter"?

Contrary to popular belief, coffee is not bitter due to caffeine, but rather due to the formation of several protein containing compounds created during roasting. In fact, its been estimated that less than 10% of coffee's 'bitterness' can be attributed to caffeine alone.

What are "melanoidins"?

Melanoidins are brown colored polymetric compounds created during roasting process and responsible for giving coffee it characteristic brown hue. It accounts for approximately 25-30% of coffee's dry beverage and has been identified as a potent antioxidant, generally higher in medium color roasts.

Whats the most common method of decaffeination?

Methylene chloride (CH2Cl2) is the most common method of decaffeination, representing 50-75% of the decaf market. The method is sometimes referred to as the KVW method or European process. A large percentage of the coffee is still decaffeinated in Germany since this is where much of the technology originated.

What is chemical free decaffeination?

"Chemical free" decaffeination refers to the removal of caffeine without the use of traditional chemicals, namely methylene chloride or ethyl acetate.

There are several "chemical free" methods currently on the market with the most popular being the patented Swiss Water method, Mexican Water process, and Super Critical Carbon Dioxide method. The first two use water as a solvent used to extract caffeine from the bean, whereas the super critical method uses naturally occurring compressed CO2 gas as the solvent.

What is "naturally decaffeinated" coffee?

Naturally decaffeinated coffee is coffee decaffeinated using ethyl acetate (C4H8O2), a naturally occurring compound created during the ripening of several fruits.

Although manufactures label coffee as "naturally decaffeinated"  the truth is that the solvent is produced synthetically. In pure form ethyl acetate exists as a clear volatile liquid with a fruity smell. It is also used in a number of industries including perfumes, nail removers, and in the storage of insects (entomology).

What is OTA?

Produced by a mycotoxin Aspergillus ochraceus, OTA is short for "Ochratoxin A". Thus far, researchers have identified three distinct strains of the toxin: ochratoxin A, B and C, though only ochratoxin A has been associated with coffee.

OTA has been under extensive research over the past decade, since studies have shown to cause renal tumors in animal models. Currently the toxicity of OTA has been debated, since studies have shown its inability to form reactive intermediates in humans.

OTA formation in coffee has been correlated with poor manufacturing practices, namely: poorly stored cherries, improper drying, and rewetting of the beans on drying patios. Cases have also been found in poorly processed decaffeinated coffee samples.

Although OTA exposure from coffee is minor, it accounts for an estimated 4% - much behind its occurrence in other products, including cereals (44%), wine (10%), and beer (7%).

Sunday, 17 May 2015 11:29


What is "fairtrade" coffee?

Under the overview of the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) the association provides certification for over 20 labeling initiatives in several countries including:  Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Mexico and the United States. In the US, Tranfair USA is the third party certification organization which ensures farmers in producing countries receive a 'fair' price for their product(s) and labor efforts. The certification also ensures a for a social development including:

1. Better and fair labor conditions.
2. Direct Trade with buyers
3. Community Development
4. Environmental sustainability
5. A more democratic and transparent organization

Although the movement initiated in Europe, the Fair Trade movement has gained significant awareness in the United States through various consumer conscious organizations. Conventionally grown washed arabica coffee from Central America, Africa and Asia receive a minimum of  $1.26 USD/per lb FOB; whereas certified organic coffee's from the same regions receive a minimum of $1.41 USD/lb. In the event that world coffee price rise above this floor, farmers ensured a premium of $0.05/lb above market price.

What are "black beans"?

Black beans are severe primary defects that occur as a result of the following:

1. Picking over ripe coffee during harvesting.
2. Over fermentation and/or cross contamination during processing
3. Carbohydrate deficiency during maturation.
4. Poor drying or re-wetting, especially in dry processed coffee.

Typically these beans are easily removed by screening, hand, and/or density sorting. Recently many coffee mills have been equipped with optically sorting equipment, which rapidly reject these beans during milling. Black beans are typically slow to roast and rarely fully develop past a yellowish color. Their impact on the cup is significant imparting ferment, phenol-like, and sour mouldy characteristics. Photo below shows a typical black bean, though bean damage can vary in severance.

What is "C" coffee?

"C" coffee is exchange coffee that is readily tenderable at the New York Board of Trade (NYBOT) - a futures market. C coffee is the minimum standard which is currently exchanged daily on the world market. Typically one C contract is equal to one container of green coffee or 38,500 lbs (roughly 250 sacks, depending on origin).