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10 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Coffee

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The sensational, almost intoxicating aroma of a freshly brewed pot is what has been kickstarting your days for many years. And yet, as you pour these brown beans into your grinder, you realize that there is actually a lot you don’t know about coffee

Like, why is it sometimes shiny and sometimes not? Why are some beans darker than others? How to make the best brew? And what on earth is poop coffee? 

Did I manage to tickle your curiosity? Good, that was my goal. Because this article has the answers to all your coffee-related questions.

10 Surprising Coffee Facts​

Why Are Some Coffee Beans Lighter and Darker?

Contrary to what many people think (surprising, but true), the color of the coffee beans does not indicate how crisp the Java is. In fact, the color has nothing to do with freshness. The thing that determines whether the coffee will be light or dark is heat.

In their raw form, coffee beans are green. During the roasting process, they take on their familiar, brownish color. The longer the roasting takes, the darker the color will be. Think of cooking meat. The more it sits in the pan, the darker the meat gets, until it gets completely burned. The same thing happens with coffee. The longer you “cook” them, the darker the brown color. Overdo it, and they will quickly turn black.

Lighter beans indicate that they have been roasted for a shorter amount of time compared to their dark relatives. They have no oil on the surface and have retained more of the unique flavor profile of the coffee. Light roasts are denser, mellow, and packed with fruity and herbal notes.

Dark roasts are beans that have been roasted longer. They are low in acidity, oily, more intense, and with a deeper (or heavier) coffee flavor. Dark beans are packed with chocolaty and nutty notes.

Between the dark and light beans, there lies the medium roast. Roasted slightly longer than the light beans, the medium roasts still preserve most of the characteristics of raw coffee, while reaching for those deeper caramel and chocolaty notes. Medium roasts are perfect for specialty coffee.

What Does the Term “Arabica” Mean?

Buy ten different brands of coffee, and chances are, you will see the term “Arabica” slapped on every single package. But have you ever stopped and wondered what does Arabica really mean?

Coffee, just like all living things, has its own taxonomy. Tax-o-what? No, I am not teaching you a biology lesson – just making things clearer. Taxonomy is how we group different organisms based on the characteristics they share. In short, coffee is a plant that has many different species. Over 100, to be more exact. Arabica, happens to be the most superior of them all. But why is that?

Arabica is the coffee type made from the plant of Coffea Arabica. It grows on higher elevations – the elevated ground gives it a more complex profile, perfect acidity, and well, a better taste. It is ideal when it is grown on 800 – 2,200 meters, but higher elevations than that can kill the complexity and richness of flavor. It takes about seven years, on average, to mature.

The most popular Arabica-growing countries are Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and India.

The taste of Arabica is sweet, chocolatey, with caramel and nutty notes. In some cases, you can also get a fruity and berry-like aftertaste. The acidity is not sharp, and there is just the right amount of bitterness left on the tongue. Understandably, that’s why it is the most popular type of coffee.

It originated in Ethiopia, but since it moved to lower Arabia in the 7th century, the name Arabica got stuck.

Are Darker Coffee Beans Better-Tasting?

There really isn’t one correct answer to this question, as not all of us have the same taste. Some may find lighter roasts to be more appropriate for their palate, while others will swear that they will never brew anything but dark beans.

If your taste buds love complexity and uniqueness to go alongside your brew, then lighter roasts may be the perfect fit for you. But don’t expect to find that familiar coffee taste with this roast. Plus, coffee grown in different parts will taste differently, just because you are able to feel the rawness with the light roasts. So, whether it is Colombian, Kenyan, or Indian coffee, it does matter with light roasts because you can actually taste the difference.

The reason why darker roasts taste similar is thanks to that charred note that they are packed with. For a rich, deep, chocolatey, and full-bodied Cup O’ Joe, choose a dark roast.

And if you cannot make up your mind, then stick to coffee beans roasted to medium. These beans make a lovely compromise having a bit of both – richness and uniqueness.

So, a gun to my head, I would probably say yes, dark roasts taste slightly better because they offer a familiar taste and flavor that we can rely on with every brew.

Do Lighter Coffee Beans Have More Caffeine?

Despite the popular belief, no, dark roasts are not more caffeinated than light beans. Quite the contrary, actually. It is the light roasts that contain more caffeine. But the difference in the caffeine content is barely noticeable.

Dark roasts have a stronger taste and flavor, but as we’ve already explained, that is achieved thanks to the longer roasting process. So, nothing to do with the amount of caffeine present.

Since the light beans are roasted for a shorter amount of time, they are denser and have a slightly higher mass.  That is why, when you measure by scoop or cup, the light beans will have more caffeine than the dark roasts – because they are slightly heavier.

But don’t expect to get a higher caffeine kick if your brew light roasts, because as I said, the difference in caffeine content is barely recognizable. If you need a stronger jolt of energy, just add more coffee for higher caffeine content.

How Should I Store My Coffee?

After you open your bag of coffee, you should immediately find a proper home for the leftover beans, because, from the moment they get in contact with air, they start losing their freshness at a pretty fast rate.

Air, moisture, heat, and light are your coffee’s worst enemies. Needless to say, you should keep them away from these elements. But, what is the ideal place for your Java beans?

To preserve the freshness and ensure a tasty cup with each brew, the most important thing is to store your coffee – whether ground or in a whole-bean form – in an airtight container. The perfect coffee containers are opaque and do not let light in.

Once you have the perfect vault for your beloved Java, you should find the ideal spot for storage. Make sure to keep your coffee someplace dark and cool. Avoid the counter if it is near a light or heating source. A pantry is usually a decent place, so if you cannot think of a better storage location, know that your coffee will be safe there.

Want an extra tip? Avoid buying in bulk unless you have a large household of avid coffee drinkers. Aim for smaller packages that will not stay open for a long time, to enjoy a crisp and flavorsome mouthfeel every morning.

What’s So Good About Italian and Colombian Roasts?

So you’ve heard that Italian and Colombian coffee offer some of the best cuppas, and you are curious to know why.  

First of all, Italian is a roast. That means that it is a type of coffee that has been roasted for a certain amount of time. In this case, near the dark side of the spectrum of roasting shades. The beans are roasted at approximately 440 degrees F, for the perfect dark shade of brown and the best taste.

Italian roast is not Italian coffee. The beans are not grown in Italy – it is merely a type of roast that is widely consumed in southern Italy.

Colombian coffee, on the other hand, is not a roast, but a type of coffee that is cultivated in Colombia’s hillside; meaning that Colombian coffee can actually be processed into an Italian roast. Does it sound a bit clearer now?

Why Are Some Coffee Beans Shiny?

Just like with color, the shininess of the beans is often mistaken as a sign of freshness. Although an oily surface can indicate that the roasting process didn’t happen that long ago, a non-shiny look doesn’t mean that the bean is stale. Confused? Let’s explain this a bit more.

The glossy appearance of the beans happens as a result of the roasting process. The heat used during this process forces moisture to evaporate through the surface of the beans, drawing out their hidden volatile oily compounds. That explains why darker roasts are shiny, whereas lightly roasted beans are not. Because in light roasts, there isn’t enough heat to expose these trapped compounds.

The bottom line is – not all beans produce the same amount of these glossy-looking compounds, so do not use the oily surface as a gauge for freshness.

What’s the Difference Between Coffee and Espresso Beans?

Although technically, they are both beans of coffee, there is a difference between what we call Espresso and Coffee Beans.

Remember how we said that Italian roasts are dark and pretty rich? Well, that is the roast needed to make an Espresso. Full body, very little acidity, rich taste, and a hint of the actual bean flavor as well. Espresso beans are the oiliest of beans because they are roasted for a longer time – enough to get all of these trapped little glossy guys out.

The best thing about Espresso beans is their ability to produce the richest crema to top your shot with, which is why they are the perfect match for Espresso machines.

Coffee beans, on the other hand, offer a more mellow mouthfeel. They can be roasted differently – from light to dark. So yes, technically, Espresso beans are Coffee beans in their darkest form.

It may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, mixing these two types of beans can seriously alter the taste of your brew. For instance, if you use regular coffee beans (which are usually a tad lighter than dark roasts) for pulling an Espresso shot, you will be disappointed with the result. You will end up drinking a weak, not-so-rich, and definitely not-as-creamy coffee.

Add Espresso beans to your drip maker, and you will end up with an overly strong brew. And unless that’s your thing, we strongly recommend sticking to Coffee beans for regular coffee makers.

What’s the Best Way to Make Coffee?

This depends on what you consider to be the best. For some, there is no better way to start the day than with a world’s best coffee. Some love the taste of their French Press brew. Others wake up to a freshly brewed pot of drip black coffee. You cannot really know what satisfies your palate the most unless you try them all.

Considering you already know what your preferred brewing method is, here are some tips on how to make an amazingly good Cup of Joe:

Brew Only Fresh Coffee – Brew a batch of fresh and stale coffee, and you will be able to tell which is which right away. Nothing beats a crisp and vibrant brew. The aroma is inviting; the taste lingers on your tongue beautifully, begging you for a refill. For the best cuppa, brew only fresh coffee.

Grind Your Own Beans – Never buy pre-ground coffee. It may seem more convenient to do so, but the fact that the beans have been sitting broken-down for some time tells you that they will never be as fresh as the moment they were ground. Why? Because that way, oxygen has more surface to act on, forcing Java to spoil faster.

Grind Just Before Brewing – It is not only recommended that you grind your beans at home, but also to grind just before brewing. That way, the grounds are ground only for seconds, which means that your bag of coffee can stay fresh longer.

Invest In Good Filters – If using paper coffee filters, try not to buy the cheapest kind, as experts warn they can alter the taste of your brew. Aim for filters that are free of dioxin or oxygen-bleached for the best flavor.

Use Filtered Water – If you don’t want chlorine to ruin your put, then you should seriously think about brewing with filtered water. And if you are a really enthusiastic coffee-drinking household, then you will probably benefit from a decent filtration system. And save tons of money in the long run.

Is Poop Coffee Really a Thing (AKA Kopi Luwak)?

It may sound disgusting, but many claim that this is the world’s best coffee. One thing we can definitely agree on –  it is the most expensive one, for sure.

Kopi Luwak is coffee made with regular coffee cherries. What’s not regular here, is that the coffee is made after the cherries are eaten and (yes, you’ve guessed it!) defecated by an Asian palm civet (a viverrid that’s native to South Asia).

The coffee cherries pass through the mammal’s intestines and get fermented that way. After a day or so, the cherries get defecated in clumps, incredibly so, with the beans still intact. Then they are harvested, cleaned thoroughly, dried, then skinned and sorted, and finally, roasted.

Those who’ve tried it say that Kopi Luwak is smooth, rich, with both earthy and nutty notes, but lacking the usual bitterness and oomph you expect to find in your cuppa.  

If you can separate your disgusted feelings from your will to try an incredible good cup of Joe, Kopi Luwak may be the best cup of coffee you’ll ever taste. Or so they say!

Conclusion

There is more to coffee than just brewing a pot for energizing and eye-opening purposes. Knowing more about these magical beans that our morning selves seem to be addicted to can help you gain a deeper appreciation for your cup. And the best part? The knowledge can also challenge your inner barista and force you into perfecting your brewing skills. We hope that this article got you at least a step closer to that.

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