There is a very big difference between coffee and espresso, most assume that espresso is a just a type of coffee, this is both true and false. Coffee in itself is just that; coffee. However finely, or coarsely ground the coffee beans are, is what makes the difference as to what it should be used for. I am going to explain a few brewing methods, and overview how coffee should be prepared depending on which brewing method you prefer.
I have also included a short glossary of terms at the bottom of this article.
Coffee plants can only grow between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. This is the belt around the equator. Coffee must have a warm and humid climate to grow. Coffee demands soil that is mineral-rich and fertile.
Here are a couple of examples of the differences in taste depending on where and how coffee is grown:
-Coffee that is grown on the side of a volcano such as Kona, is likely to be very robust, acidic, and tart in flavor. It generally has a heavy mouth-feel, making it heavy in body.
-Shade Grown coffee is exactly what it suggests, it is grown in the shade. This coffee is milder in flavor, and usually is not bitter. It is typically has a light mouth-feel, making it light in body.
Elevation, specific weather, soil conditions, and time of harvest are all things that will change the flavor of the coffee. Since these conditions change, coffee crops are different from year to year.
There are a few different types of roasts for coffee beans. Typically, there is a dark, medium, and light roast. This process begins with husking and drying the beans, which takes several days. Next, the “green beans” are dried in a dryer designed to roast the beans. The longer the beans are dried, the darker and more robust they will become. The best way to tell if they are done, is by looking at the beans. When roasted properly, the oils will have risen to the surface of the bean, the beans will also be a dark tan color to a dark mahogany.
Dark Roasts- Dark roasts usually have a bold robust flavor, best for espresso. These usually are heavy-bodied and will take the longest to roast.
Medium Roasts- Mild or Medium roasts are typically nutty, mild in taste, and light in body. Medium roast is usually good for french press or Perculating coffee makers.
Light Roasts- Light roast is less robust, has an even lighter mouth-feel, and will take the least amount of time to roast.
Make sure to keep in mind that the coffee’s origin will make a difference in taste, as well as the roasting process.
Storing your beans
Make sure beans are kept in closeable foil bags only, this will ensure optimum freshness. Once opened, the beans will stay fresh for seven days, afterwards they will start to loose their oils and go bad. Do not keep the coffee in the freezer or the refrigerator, they are not the best methods of keeping the beans fresh. Freezing the beans freezes the oils inside them, cracking the beans. This will dry out the beans and change the flavor, making the coffee bitter. In the refrigerator, the beans will tend to work like baking soda, they will soak up all of the odors in your fridge. Instead, keep your beans in a cool dry place.
Grinders and Grinds
There are three types of grinders:
Blade Grinder- A blade grinder has a blade with two sides to chop beans with. Press down on the lid to grind, stop pressing when it looks about right, depending on what type of grind needed.
Burr (Flat Wheel)- A flat wheel burr grinder has a hopper that you fill and a dial-setting for a more precise grind. These have two semi-concave disks, one that spins and one that is stationary.
Burr (Conical)- These Burr grinders are said to be the best on the market. They use a conical shaped grinding surface for an even more precise grind. Virtually, this is the only difference between the two types of burr grinders.
Three types of grinds:
Espresso Grind- This is a very fine grind, almost like a powder.
Perc Grind- This is a semi-fine grind, and is the mid-range grind.
French Press Grind- This is the coarsest grind, very chunky.
Remember to only grind what you need. Grinding more than necessary only leads to waste. Once the coffee is ground, it starts to loose its oils, this drys out the coffee leaving it bitter. If there is excess, put it in a foil bag and use it within 24 hours.
Coffee Brewing Methods
There are three different types of brewers that you can use and how they work:
Espresso Machine- An espresso machine uses a high pressure steam system and hot water to brew a shot of espresso. Fine, “espresso ground coffee” is packed very tightly into what is called a portafilter. This portafilter is then locked onto the head of the machine. Here, water and steam can saturate the coffee and dispense the liquid through the bottom of the portafilter. Make sure to have a shot glass under the portafilter to catch the liquid. However, the shot must be used within 10 seconds, or before it stops “raining-gold”. Adding cold or steamed milk will preserve your shot if you don’t intend on using it right away. If it is not used quickly, it will go bad and must be thrown out. Serve as a shot, mixed-drink such as a mocha or latte’, or as an Americano.
Peculating Coffee Maker- These are the typical coffee makers found in homes and offices. There is a wide variety, but all work pretty much the same. Fill the pot with water, then empty it into the water basin inside the machine. Put about 2 tablespoons of “mid-range ground” or “perc-ground” coffee into the filter. Close the lid and press brew.
French Press- A French Press, also known as a “Press-Pot” or “Plunger-Pot”, is a glass carafe’ with a pour spout that is usually encased in a metal frame. The lid has a plastic shroud that allows you to pour, or not pour depending on which direction it’s turned. The shroud also prevents spray while plunging. Through this lid, is a screened
mesh plunger used to “press” the coffee. This process requires the coarsest grind possible. Which is typically about the size of small pebbles. Add 2 tablespoons of “french press ground” coffee to a dry french press. When ready pour in about 8 oz. of 180 degree water and replace lid with plunger in the up position. Allow about four and a half minutes for the beans to steep, make sure the pour spout is closed to prevent spray, then slowly press the plunger down. Turn the spout to pour position and pour.
Don’t forget to recycle
You can save your used coffee grounds for fertilizer. By tilling the by-product of coffee into your garden or flower beds, you are not only recycling, but making the soil extremely fertile.
Mouth-feel- This is the way coffee feels in your mouth.
Portafiler- This is the filter with a handle used to lock onto the head of the espresso machine.
Raining-Gold- As the coffee is pouring and churning in the shot glass, it will give the appearance of falling gold.