Coffee is the fuel that keeps many of us going, with centuries of history and countless brewing methods. Globally, it’s the most popular drink after water.
Boasting health benefits, many different roasts, and a stimulating effect, coffee has something to offer for almost everyone. In this article, we cover everything you ever needed to know about coffee.
What is coffee?
Coffee is a drink brewed from roasted coffee beans, which are the seeds of berries from the Coffea plant species.
Once a coffee berry has ripened from green to red on the coffee plant, it is ready to be picked and processed. Dried coffee beans can be roasted to varying degrees.
In the 13th century, the history of modern coffee began in Arabia. By this time, fans of the drink were beginning to enjoy coffee brewed from roasted beans.
As roast coffee grew in popularity, European fans began opening cafes and growing coffee plants in the Caribbean.
Coffee Nutrition Facts
Here’s good news for coffee consumption: Your coffee has only 2 calories when taken black. Black coffee can be an effective weight loss aid.
Here’s what else you need to know about coffee nutrition facts:
- Coffee naturally contains polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants.
- When taken black, it contains no significant amounts of any of the three major macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, or fats.
- A cup of coffee contains small amounts of essential micronutrients, specifically magnesium, potassium, and niacin.
- Coffee contains between 30mg and 100mg of caffeine, depending on how it is made.
The caffeine in coffee is potentially its greatest asset. Caffeine starts off many people’s mornings, and it possesses lots of health benefits.
8 Benefits of Drinking Coffee
What are the benefits of drinking coffee? The benefits of drinking coffee include lowering the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and some mental health issues.
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes; can lower blood sugar levels
- Reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease and nerve cell damage
- May reduce the likelihood of heart disease
- Decreases stroke risk in women
- Protection from metabolic syndrome
- Coffee reduces suicide risk by approximately 50%
- Antioxidants in coffee can reduce free radicals, leading to better overall health
- Drinking coffee before a workout can help to increase your physical performance
Is coffee good for weight loss? Yes, coffee is good for weight loss and can speed up the metabolism. Black coffee is best for losing weight because it has so few calories.
Can you drink too much coffee? You can definitely drink too much coffee. Doctors recommend no more than 4 cups a day to retain the health benefits without side effects. Also, do not drink caffeine within 8 hours of going to bed.
Is drinking coffee unhealthy? Drinking coffee is not unhealthy for most people, but it may depend on what you add to your coffee.
However, some individuals, like those with high blood pressure, should limit caffeine as it can aggravate other conditions. These people may not experience the same health benefits from coffee.
Coffee Roasts: Blonde, Light, Medium, Dark, & More
There are many types of coffee roasts, each with its distinctive traits and flavors. Here are the most common roasts of coffee, in order of roasting time:
- Green roast
- Gold roast
- Blonde roast
- Light roast
- Medium roast
- Dark roast
Less frequently, you may also hear of:
- Peaberry roast: During coffee cherry harvesting, peaberries are typically sorted out — they’re a single coffee seed inside a cherry that normally contains two. Peaberry roasts are coffee roasts using these beans, which some believe have a richer flavor.
- Double roast: Double-roast coffees like French, Spanish, and Turkish roasts are intentionally roasted until they begin to smoke, creating a deep, smoky, and even more bitter flavor profile.
- Espresso: Espresso roasting is a slight variation on the green coffee roasting process that’s more suited to how espresso is made.
What are the best beans for espresso brewing? The best beans for espresso brewing are roasted between medium-dark and very dark. Then, they are ground and used in an espresso machine.
“Green roast” is a misnomer, as green coffee beans are totally raw. Most people use green coffee beans as a dietary supplement, but you can purchase them to brew a coffee-like beverage, too.
The chemical makeup of this unique coffee roast is significantly different than other coffee roasts, as the profile of raw coffee beans changes during roasting.
Green coffee has a very mild flavor and tastes more like herbal tea than coffee.
Gold roast sits at the minimally roasted side of the spectrum, falling between a light roast and a white coffee. Gold coffee is typically roasted at a lower temperature, and for shorter amounts of time than other roasting styles. This allows more antioxidants to remain.
Due to the extremely light nature of the roasting process, gold coffee has a much lower acidity than other types of coffee.
The lower acidity can ease the stomach discomfort common in coffee drinkers, all while keeping a nutty, smooth taste with very low bitterness and a high caffeine content.
Blonde coffee is slightly more roasted than gold. Blonde roasted beans are a little denser than their darker roast counterparts.
It still maintains a flavor that lets the coffee beans shine and has relatively low acidity, but will have slightly more bitterness.
Light roast is next up, with the name saying it all. This coffee is lightly roasted, mild-bodied, still with no oil on the surface of the beans. The taste is floral, fragrant, and crisp with a high acidity level. The beans themselves appear a light brown.
Many coffee distributors prefer not to use light roast because the beans are slightly heavier, increasing shipping costs.
Medium roast is the “classic” coffee flavor in the US. Think of a traditional breakfast coffee, and you’ll be picturing a medium roasted coffee.
It has a deeper flavor than the lighter varieties listed above, with a hint of spices and a bittersweet aftertaste.
There’s less acidity and a little more oil. Medium roast beans are roasted around 410-428°F.
A dark roast coffee is where you’ll find the most robust flavor, with a bitter edge and caramelized flavor. These full-bodied, brave flavors have the lowest acidity level, despite having the most bitter taste.
Additionally, you’ll find a heavier mouthfeel in a darker roast, as well as more oiliness to the bean. The average roasting temperature for this bean style sits around 464°F, without going over 482°F to avoid burning.
The 5 Most Popular Ways to Make Coffee
There are even more ways to make coffee than there are roasting varieties.
What is the caffeine content in coffee? The caffeine content in coffee is around 100 mg a cup. That number can vary based on preparation style, with cold brew having a high content and espresso having a lower content.
How do you make coffee? The most popular ways in the world to make your coffee include:
- Macchiato. Unlike the pop-culture version at Starbucks, a proper macchiato is 2-3 oz of straight espresso with a small amount of milk, typically foamed. Macchiato means “marked” in Italian, and it has a 2:1 espresso to milk ratio.
- Latte. This is a heavy-hitter in the coffee shop world. A latte is traditionally made with shots of espresso and steamed milk, though an iced latte is popular as well.
- Cold brew. In a cold brew, ground coffee is soaked in water for 12-18 hours before the sediment is filtered out. The result is an extra-caffeinated, smooth-tasting chilled coffee.
- Pour-over. A pour-over involves pouring hot water over grounds at a slow, steady pace and allowing the resulting coffee to filter. Think your traditional office coffee maker.
- Black. This no-fuss way to take your coffee simply requires you to brew and pour — no cream or sugar needed.
Hopefully, this list inspires you toward a new coffee drinking experience. (However, if you start experiencing caffeine withdrawals, calm down with the cold brew)!
How Coffee Is Grown
Coffee is grown from one of two plants in the same genus: Coffea arabica or Coffea robusta(sometimes called Coffea canephora). Arabica beans make up about 70% of the world’s coffee supply.
Coffee beans will only grow in tropical regions. The plant grows across Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, South America, and Latin America. It’s most common to see beans from Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
Once planted, coffee plants can grow 15-20 feet tall, sprouting simple white flowers that give way to beans. The beans are picked while still green for maximum quality, either by stripping the branch with a machine or selecting them by hand.
After picking, the coffee beans are dried before being either wet or dry cleaned. (Wet cleaning is terrible for the environment, for the record.) Now, these beans are ready to be sorted and shipped off.
The Coffee Roasting Process
As discussed above, the degree of roasting can vary depending on the flavors desired. The coffee roast duration and temperature are up to each individual company. Remember, not all beans are roasted until dark.
Here are the 6 basic steps of roasting, though some roast varieties will not undergo the whole process:
- Green coffee beans are loaded into the roaster and tossed, like in a household dryer.
- High heat is applied to the beans for a very short time to avoid drying them out. The color of the coffee begins to change to a very light yellow or gold.
- The temperature is lowered to between 300°F and 350°F.
- The final 2-5 minutes in the roaster develop a fuller-bodied flavor. The beans begin to crack, releasing gases that have built up inside. Now, the beans are developing internally, deepening the flavor with an ideal internal temperature and pressure.
- The beans are warmed to 360-395°F, creating a medium roast, with chemical reactions bringing the flavors to a more caramelized, malty taste.
- To deepen the roast further, the temperature may be brought up to 420°F for the most robust taste.
Cheap vs. High-Quality Coffee (How to Tell the Difference)
The difference between cheap and high-quality coffee can be confusing at first, though veteran coffee lovers will be able to spot the gap right away.
Here are some quick ways to tell the difference between high- and low-quality coffee:
- Skip instant coffee. This coffee has either been spray-dried or freeze-dried and often has added flavors. These alterations detract from mouthfeel and taste, and often contain more acrylamide, which increases cancer risk.
- Choose fair trade. Fair trade coffee is the best way to support local farmers, communities, and ecosystems. Added bonus: Buying fair trade results in better-tasting coffee that’s been grown in smaller batches without agrochemicals and GMOs.
- Seek specialty coffee. The term “specialty coffee” signifies a roast which the Speciality Coffee Association of America (SCAA) has rated between 80 and 100.
- Try organic coffee. USDA-certified organic coffee, or coffee made with organic ingredients, will put you at lower risk of consuming pesticides and produce a more high-quality, natural product.
- Say no to high acidity or bitterness. Over time, highly acidic coffee can lead to stomach discomfort, acid reflux, and indigestion. Also, bitter is not better. Coffee roasters simply ship out more bitter, highly roasted beans because they weigh less and are therefore cheaper.
By the way, skip the decaf coffee. Many coffee makers are using lower quality beans or intense processing to make their decaffeinated coffee.
What is the world's best coffee?
The world's best coffee is highly debated, but we believe it’s here at Golden Ratio. Our Gold Roast coffee uses single-origin coffee beans from Ethiopia for incredible flavor. It’s roasted to perfection, keeping the smooth taste without the burn, and preventing stomach discomfort.
With plentiful flavors to choose from and the option to brew it hot or cold, we think we've finally got it: the world's best coffee.
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