From GoonsWithSpoons
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Adapted from: The Coffee Thread

Gwscfe coffea-la-pianta-675x440.jpg

Coffee comes from the seed of a fruiting bush grown in abundance all over the world on practically every continent, save Antarctica. Though there are over 90 species of coffee, there are only four species of coffee that I have ever tried, and only two of which see large scale production:


Arabica - The earliest cultivated, most widespread, and “best tasting” coffee (in many people's, including my own, opinion). This variety actually has the least caffeine of the two varieties. Arabica tends to have smaller beans and will be slightly more expensive per pound, which is why you may see some blends brag about being 100% Arabica. This is because many cheap blends contain: Robusta - The filler coffee. Admittedly, it's not really that bad, but it gets a bad rap because it is easier to grow, fruits prolifically, and produces bigger beans, all without being particularly remarkable in flavor or aroma. What robusta does bring to the table is a higher caffeine content and a more viscous mouthfeel, the latter of which can translate into better “crema” production in espresso, so you will often see robusta show up in espresso blends.


Coffee can also be categorized into three groups by style, then further into subcontinental regions and eventually by country.

  • Latin American, Carribean, and Hawaiian Coffees tend to be “normal.” That is to say, the flavor and aroma of these coffees are what many people think of when they think of coffee. They are usually pretty balanced in profile but can still be quite robust and have a refined sweetness. The most sought after of all coffees come from this category such as Jamaican Blue Mountain and Hawaiian Kona.
  • African Coffees are bright, lively, and rich. Some people call them wine-like, a description most often given to Kenyan coffees. They can also have a spiced or herbal nose as is the case for Ethiopian Yirgacheffes.
  • Asian-Pacific Coffees are thick bodied, earthy, and have a rustic sweetness. They are really popular in the modern craft coffee scene as their earthiness takes to dark roasts particularly well. Varieties such as the Sumatran and New Guinean coffees are notable for this.


The separation of the coffee fruit or "cherry's" flesh from the seed largely falls into one of two categories or some hybrid of the two: Dry Process coffees' cherries are harvested, sorted, cleaned, and set in the sun to dry, being turned often and taking up to a month to dry. The seed is then removed with a hulling machine. Dry process coffees tend to be more "rustic" tasting, fruitier, and can be a bit inconsistent to roast. Wet Process cherries are harvested, and sorted by using water, bad cherries float. They are then hulled by forcing through a screen, and fermented in its own moisture to allow enzymes to break down the mucilage, a gooey outer layer on the seed. The mucilage is then washed off and the coffee is dried in the sun. Wet process coffees are more consistent to roast and are cleaner and more "refined" tasting.

Semidry processing is a mix between the two. It utilizes hulling machines directly after harvest then allows for fermentation of mucilage, followed by minimal water washing, and drying. Semidry processing is relatively new and is only done in a few places, coffees tend to have the consistency and clean taste of wet process coffees, with the liveliness of dry.

Roast Levels[edit]

Aside from origin, the roast level of the coffee has a huge impact on the coffee's in-cup flavor. City, American, New England Light-medium to medium brown in color, this roast is, generally, the best roast to taste the difference between regions as these differences will be obscured further and eventually completely the longer the coffee is roasted. Coffee roasted to a city roast tends to be grain-like sweet, and bright/acidy. Full City, Continental, Viennese Medium to medium-dark brown in color, this is my favorite roast as it still represents the varietal flavor with a nice backbone of roast flavor. Full city roasted coffee is still lively, but some of the acidy edge is rounded off giving way to a light sweetness. French Dark to deep dark brown in color, at this roast level only the most robust varietal flavors are left, all of the nuanced tones, the liveliness, and the regional distinction has been roasted away. If I have a batch of green coffee I don't care for the taste of, I will usually roast it to a French roast. French roasted coffee is mildly pungent, sweet, full bodied, and with nearly imperceptible acidity. Starbucks Deep dark brown to black in color, this roast level is about one notch away from charcoal. There is no varietal distinction; all coffees roasted to this level taste more or less the same. Starbucks roasted coffee tastes like burnt rubber.

Brewing Methods[edit]

Drip machine[edit]

The most widespread method for brewing coffee, I'm sure. This method often relies on poorly designed heaters that begin to drip slightly warm water over coffee grounds. The heaters ramp up and eventually reach a temperature that is too hot. The coffee drips into a glass carafe that is placed on a heating element that is also set to be too hot causing the coffee to have a burnt taste. Some machines have stainless steel vacuum carafes that forego the carafe heater. If you must have a drip machine, get one of these. Resist the urge to use a gold tone metal filter. You defeat one of the biggest strengths of this brew method, the clean, sludge-free cup. Good paper filters have little to no “paper taste,” and if you combine with pre wetting, the “paper taste” should be non existent (with good quality filters). If you can swing it, get a Technivorm.

Gwscfe main.gif

This is the Rolls Royce of drip coffee makers. They are hand made in the Netherlands, they have spray heads that evenly wet the coffee grounds and that don't start spraying until the water has reached the correct temperature. They are completely dismantle-able for cleaning and maintenance. Get one.

Drip machine pros: Convenient, clean cup Cons: Cheap models have no temperature control, there is no steep time control, heating elements can make coffee taste burnt, good models are big and take up a lot of space.

For those considering getting an automatic drip, consider the Bonavita

K-Cup, Keurig, Single serve pods, etc.[edit]


A relatively new thing to come on to the market. They advertise quality, convenience, and environmentalism and deliver on none of them. Read this:

Pros: You'll get a lot of comments at the office about how trendy you are, I guess that's a pro.

Cons: All the cons of a cheap drip machine. Poor quality coffee pods that you over pay for. Lots of plastic waste.

Pour over[edit]

Gwscfe LuxuryFlightDeck-small.jpg

A drip coffee method where you are the “machine” part. This allows you to have precise temperature control with an electric kettle and an instant read thermometer. Examples: Hario V60 02 Clear ($8), Chemex ($30) Pour over pros: CHEAP, small, cheap, ability to have very accurate temperature control, clean cup, did I mention cheap, yeah it's cheap. Cons: Requires you to actively brew the coffee, no full immersion or steep time control, requires a hot water source such as an electric kettle.

Press pot, French press[edit]

Gwscfe french-press.jpg

A full immersion coffee brewing method where coffee is brewed, then the grounds are separated by using a mesh screened “plunger.” The result is a very flavorful and nuanced cup of coffee that still has many of the volatile oils since it has not passed through a paper filter. Examples: Bodum Brazil 8 cup (no nonsense, black plastic) ($20), Bodum Chambord 4 cup (prettier w/ metal and stuffs) ($35) Press pot pros: Accurate immersion time and temperature control, no paper filters, modestly priced. Cons: Requires hot water source, cups brewed with a press pot are almost always murky or sludgy, can cause cholesterol spikes for people with cholesterol problems, carafes are quite fragile.

Clever Coffee Dripper[edit]

Gwscfe PH2009072202583.jpg

My personal favorite morning cup maker. This method is basically a pour over with a stopper on the bottom. It effectively blends the strengths of both pour over and press pot, with none of the weaknesses, except the convenience, I guess... The stopper on the bottom is very convenient, though. It activates anytime it is not on a cup, and when you place it on the top of one it releases the coffee. Pretty nifty. buy them here ($15): [] CCD Pros: Immersion time and temperature control, clean cup, affordable. Cons: requires hot water source


Gwscfe aeropress-hero-260.jpg

Kind of like an overgrown syringe that you place over your cup of coffee. Because you are actively forcing the water through the coffee grounds with pressure, coffee brewed in an Aeropress will have slightly different flavor than these previous ones (I guess they all will, technically, but Aeropress is the first one I've mentioned to have applied pressure be one of the variables). These are about $25 Aeropress Pros: Rich coffee, clean cup, Immersion time and temperature control, affordable Cons: Requires special filters that you usually can't just go to the store to pick up, requires hot water source.

Moka Pot[edit]

Gwscfe moka-pot-4.jpg

Often called a “stove top espresso maker,” moka pots brew small quantities of robust, rich, coffee. It is technically not espresso as the pressures at which a moka pot operates are quite low compared to “real” espresso makers. Nevertheless, moka pots brew great coffee and are perfectly fine for use in milk-based coffee drinks, or “Americanos”. Small ones run about $25. Moka Pot Pros: Small, affordable when compared to proper espresso machines Cons: Requires a stove, doesn't work on induction ranges, doesn't make “real” espresso.

Espresso Makers[edit]

This is a big can of worms that I don't know that much about. Thanks to Bob_McBob for helping me write this section. Espresso makers tend to fall into 1 of 3 categories, then further into subcategories:

Semi Automatic Machines[edit]

These are the majority of the market. They have a steam wand and can cost anywhere from 50bux for a cheap POS up to thousands of dollars for a crazy multi head machine with a PID for the water temperature, and on and on and on...

Thermoblock steam toys[edit]

Gwscfe 00000120325-KrupsFND111SteamEspressoMachine-large.jpg

“fake” espresso makers are basically like cheap drip machines, they use heat to generate pressure which is often too low and inconsistent, they have poor temperature control, because pressure is generated with temperature the brew temp is too hot, they are made with cheap plastic parts, and have thin walled pressurized portafilters. If you are after espresso and are only willing to spend as much as these are, save your money.

Single boiler dual use machines[edit]

Gwscfe SCG14020-01-2.jpg

These have one boiler and a seperate pump that applies 15 bars of pressure to your puck of tamped ground coffee. Because they have one boiler, they require you to heat up the water for brewing then heat it again to use the steam wand.

Heat exchanger machines[edit]

These have one boiler that runs at the higher steam temperature dedicated to making steam. It utilizes a heat exchanger to interface water en route to the brew heads and heat it up to temperature.

Dual boiler machines[edit]

These have two boilers so you can brew and use the steam wand at the same time, Gwscfe emot-woop.gif


There are also ways to sperg wrt portafilters! Pressurized portafilters are fitted with a device that makes up for lackluster grinding and tamping abilities and provides a sort of fake “crema”. Because of this, these are often called “crema enhancers”. Some argue that this is also not “real” espresso, but it's closer than the moka pot and the thermoblock stuff.

Nonpressurized portafilters lack the device that equalizes pressure in the portafilter, the result is a much more unforgiving pull, but when dialed in, produces “real” espresso. You NEED a good grinder if you want to make the most of this type of portafilter.

Manual Machines[edit]

Gwscfe la-pavoni-professional-gold-coffee-maker-16-cups.jpg

Manual espresso makers require you to be the pump. The beauty of a manual espresso maker is that, in the hands of a fantastic barista, they will pull the best shots you will ever have. Because they are manual they allow for finesse unlike the semi autos. They are expensive and most people will never use them, hell most people will never have a shot pulled from one by an experienced barista, and that is sad.

Super Automatic Machines[edit]

Gwscfe Saeco Espresso Italiano.jpg

Automatic espresso makers do everything for you. They are very expensive and make pretty mediocre espresso shots.


Gwscfe rocky nodose.jpg

Quite possibly the most important thing when you are considering a coffee rig. If you are looking at getting an espresso rig, you MUST NOT skimp on your grinder. Avoid blade grinders like the devil, they chop the beans instead of grinding them giving you a VERY inconsistent grind, the high speeds with which the blades rotate cause lots of friction problems which translates into lost volatile oils. Good grinders use nestled burrs that are spaced apart and that rotate at a slow rate. The result is an even, consistent grind. If you are looking for a grinder for pour over or press pot methods, a Baratza Maestro (refurb for $70, check the Baratza site often), Virtuoso (refurb for $143) or Capresso Infinity ($90) is usually a good choice. If you want an espresso capable grinder, buy the absolute best you can afford. Many people like the Baratza Vario ($400) and the Rancilio Rocky ($350).

On the other end of the spectrum are manual grinders. I have one myself for my travel rig (yes I have a travel rig, I am aware I have a serious problem). Manual grinders are great because they are cheap and consistent. They are best mated to drip or press pot methods as coarser grinds are quicker to grind. Grinding for a espresso or Turkish coffee with a manual grinder would seriously suck. I have a Hario Mini Mill Slim ($30), the Hario Skerton is also good. Funny story about the skerton, it is actually a typo (I am not making this up, or at least I heard it from the seattlecoffeegear ladies so blame them). Hario is a Japanese company, supposedly the original name is the "Skeleton," but apparently there were some problems in pronunciation... Gwscfe mmmhmm.gif


Gwscfe mmmhmm.gif

Sourcing Coffee[edit]

Gwscfe 5262298811 dab23c0ace.jpg

Coffee beans are very sensitive to how recently they were roasted. They “outgas,” letting off CO2 right after they are roasted, this CO2 makes a sort of “protective barrier” keeping the coffee from going stale. Because coffee outgases, it needs to be packed in special bags with one way valves. Once the coffee is completely outgassed, there is nothing protecting its oils from going stale or evaporating off. Optimally you should consume coffee within 2 weeks of its roasting. Coffee that comes vacuum sealed has been allowed to completely outgas, and was therefore already stale before it was vacuum sealed. If not, the act of sealing the coffee before it was done outgassing would give you a poofball of air and coffee. Store fresh roasted coffee in a sealed container, if it is truly fresh (as in roasted that day) keep the lid ajar to allow the excess CO2 to escape.

Because you shouldn't buy more coffee than you can consume in a 2 week period, it is important to find a local roaster. Local roasters ideally roast twice a week, though once a week is fine, too. Nice thing about local roasters is that you are supporting local business, which is also a good thing. There are also a few really good places to get fresh roasted coffee online, but it can get pricey, especially if you order from places like intelligentsia.

If you feel the need to freeze your coffee you are arguably buying too much at one time. If you absolutely must freeze, try and use vacuum bag devices like foodsavers, and consume all the coffee before 2 months after the roast date, this is admittedly less than ideal.

Roasting Coffee[edit]

By far, the most affordable way to get high quality roasted coffee is to roast it yourself. This may seem absurd to many of you, but the notion that you can go to the store to buy ready-to-brew coffee is only about 100 years old. Fresh, home roasted coffee fell by the hands of industrialization. Roasting coffee used to be a thing that everyone did once a week. These days coffee is a bland cardboard tasting brown granule that comes from a can. This is unfortunate, as home roasting is really no more of a chore than doing the dishes.

The easiest way to get into home roasting is with either a stovetop whirley pop popcorn popper or a hot air electric popcorn popper. Both of which can be found at a thrift store for chump change. I, personally, use a stove top whirley pop. If you use an electric popper, use it outside, the flying chaff can be quite messy. Nice thing about the whirley pop is that it has a lid so the chaff stays contained. You also need two colanders. A fan and a spray bottle is also useful.

Here is a useful guide! [] Method for stovetop poppers Heat the inside of your popper to 450F. Add coffee and start stirring. When your coffee has reached the desired roast level, take your popper outside and dump the coffee into one of the colanders. Pass the coffee back and forth between the colanders to allow the chaff to escape and to quickly cool the coffee. Doing this with a fan helps clear the chaff and cool the coffee. You can also spritz the hot beans with a couple of sprays of clean water. This is called water quenching. If you do this, note that you are not actually wetting the coffee, you are evaporating water off of the surface of the coffee; the act of evaporation absorbs heat from the beans due to the latent heat of evaporation. You really should only spritz 2 or 3 times. The coffee should not be wet. How to determine roast levels Using color to determine the roast of your coffee is quite inconsistent. The best way to determine doneness is to listen to it. Over the course of roasting, your coffee will undergo two periods of snapping and popping called the first and second “cracks.”

As the first crack ramps up it will eventually reach a peak then trail off. If you allow the first crack to happen and stop immediately after it is finished you have roasted a “City roast.” As mentioned, City roast coffees are bright and lively, and retain the strongest origin character of the roast levels. Allowing the coffee to darken slightly past the city roast level is often referred to as City+ or C+. Stopping just shy of the first crack's end is often referred to as New England roast.

Gwscfe 5403652791 e31fc8b0eb.jpg

This is an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe roasted to about a C+

Allowing the roast to continue you will eventually reach the start of the second crack. Stopping when you hear the first few pops of the second crack will give you a “Full City” roast. As mentioned, Full City roasts offer good origin character with a bit of roast character. Allowing the second crack to actually develop for a bit longer gives you a Full City+ roast or FC+.

Gwscfe 5414697043 c67f750c90.jpg

this is a Nicaragua Nueva Segovia, roasted to a FC

Allowing the roast to continue to the point of a rapid second crack gives you a French roast. As mentioned, a French roast is almost completely roast character, only a few coffees can retain origin at French roast stage, Sumatran, for instance. Between FC+ and French is sometimes called Vienna roast. Just past French is sometimes called Italian or Spanish roast.

Gwscfe 5446305215 9a174af9b7.jpg

this is an Indonesia Sulawesi Toraja Sapan roasted to about a Vienna.

Allowing the second crack to finish is a fire hazard, don't do this.

Stay tuned, more to come!


Actual goon roasted coffee:

Green coffee beans, roasting information/gear: []

Green coffee beans: []

Espresso and coffee machines and supplies: []

Great quality already roasted coffee: []

A list of great roasters! []