Read on for our non-coffee drinker’s guide to coffee.
The origins of coffee
We don’t know for sure where and how coffee was discovered, although many myths have made their way into popular culture.
One story tells of a Moroccan Sufi mystic who had observed birds eating berries while traveling in Ethiopia. The birds appeared to have high energy levels, so the mystic tried the berries and experienced it for himself.
Another story attributes the discovery of coffee to a man who was starving when exiled to a desert cave. He chewed berries from a nearby bush, but they tasted bitter, so he roasted them to improve their taste. Once roasted, however, the beans became hard. He then boiled them, thinking by doing so that they would soften. The result was a brown liquid that gave him vitality and sustenance for days, and when others heard of his discovery, he was invited to return to his country, and he was made a saint.
The most famous story is that of an Ethiopian goatherd who noticed that his goats had too much energy to sleep at night after eating the berries from a particular tree. Upon reporting this to his local monastery, the abbot made a drink with the berries. He discovered that they gave him high vitality levels to help him stay alert during long prayer evenings. The abbot shared his newfound beverage with other monks, and the news spread from there.
If you want to see how coffee spread throughout the world, you can read about that here.
How coffee beans are prepared
Coffee beans are not beans at all. They are berries from coffee plants.
Once these berries are picked, they are then processed and dried.
The ‘beans’ are then roasted (at various temperatures depending on the taste desired). Then they are ground.
The final step is brewing the ground coffee – at various temperatures and various methods depending on preference – to produce coffee.
Benefits of drinking coffee
Most of us know that coffee provides a ‘pick me up’ when we need a boost of energy. But there are other potential benefits to drinking coffee:
- Added nutrition. Although this is negligible, coffee provides traces of magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, manganese, and omega-6 fatty acids. Coffee is known to provide more antioxidants than some other beverages.
- An adequate diet aid. Coffee is very low in calories, with black coffee containing about two calories per cup.
- Enhanced athletic performance. The caffeine in coffee can increase levels of adrenaline as well as break down body fat. With increased adrenaline, you may find your endurance improves during exercise.
Is drinking coffee safe?
You may be aware that there are people who are very sensitive to caffeine, and that when they drink caffeinated drinks such as coffee, they can have trouble sleeping.
Although coffee seems to be perfectly safe for most people, you may not want to indulge for the first time if you are breastfeeding or pregnant or have any existing medical conditions, including mental health conditions. Children and teenagers are also advised to avoid coffee.
If you have any doubts, consult your doctor before beginning to drink coffee, as it can be addictive. Many coffee drinkers take breaks so that their bodies don’t get too dependent on coffee for energy.
Types of coffee beans
If you do decide to start drinking coffee, you’ll want to get to know your beans. Experiment with different types to see which you prefer.
Below are the two most common types of coffee beans.
Arabica beans are usually more expensive since they grow at high altitudes and take longer to mature. The taste of coffee made with Arabica beans is generally fruity and a bit sweeter than other coffee beans. This is the type of coffee you’ll often get in specialty cafes and stores.
Arabica beans typically come from South America.
Robusta beans are less expensive since they are easier to grow. They have a more pungent, bitter taste, and they contain twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans. They are often used in instant coffee.
Robusta beans typically come from Indonesia and Africa.
There are many brewing methods, and each one will impact your coffee’s flavor differently.
Once you know what type of coffee beans you prefer, try different brewing methods to refine even further your preferred flavor. Here are a few standard techniques:
Espresso. A machine passes pressurized water through fine coffee grounds. The beans used for espresso are roasted for a long time, and the resulting coffee is thicker than other types of brewed coffee.
French Press. This method uses a plunger and filter screen and gives an earthy texture to your coffee.
Drip. This method uses a machine that takes cold filtered water and then warms it up, filtering it through the coffee grounds. The drip method makes for a more subtle flavor of the coffee.
Pour Over. This method uses a filter with the grounds in it placed over your mug. It allows you to brew only the amount of coffee that you’ll drink right away and provides a richer flavor than drip coffee. This is because you pour the water yourself, usually pouring 10% over the grounds first to release gases before pouring the rest to ensure all the grounds come into contact with the water. You can find a pour-over coffee maker for this method here.
Cold Brew. The cold brew method brews the coffee overnight, or up to 24 hours to fully release all flavors. Once your coffee has brewed, you’ll want to strain it to filter out any remaining grounds.
There you have it, now you are a coffee expert and should be ready to experiment. Enjoy your coffee!