Tips And Treats
Coffee as a drink, usually served hot, is prepared from the roasted seeds (beans) of the coffee plant. It is one of mankind's chief sources of the stimulant caffeine.
Because of this, coffee's nutritional benefits are disputed, sometimes labeled a cure-all, other times labeled a health hazard.
Last Updated - 19th November 2005
Coffee Buying Tips
When purchasing coffee, always ask when it was roasted. Many common misconceptions exist when it comes to judging the freshness and optimum time to experience a roasted coffee at its peak of perfection. Generally coffee is best if used a day or two after roasting, and if kept in an air-tight container, flavor should not diminish significantly until after seven to ten days. Old coffee beans may appear very oily, will have little or no aroma, or will take on a somewhat unpleasant aroma.
Air is a coffee bean's worst enemy. Store ground or whole beans in an airtight container in a cool, dark place - but not in the refrigerator. Do not store next to onions, garlic, or strongly aromatic foods. (Coffee absorbs odors.) Freezing protects flavor integrity, so you may freeze excess beans over longer periods of time. There is no need to thaw before grinding.
Never grind more coffee than you will use for immediate brewing. Once the beans are ground, the flavorful oils are exposed to the damaging air. As these oils dissipate, so will the flavor of your coffee. Once ground, coffee will begin to lose its flavor almost immediately. Different methods of brewing will require different grind consistencies. Typically, coffee used for drip brewing should be ground to a consistency similar to granulated sugar. The complete drip cycle should occur within four to six minutes. If the drip cycle is completed in less than four minutes, grind your coffee finer. If the cycle takes longer than six minutes, grind your coffee coarser. When using a French press, the coffee will need to be ground extremely coarse. Espresso requires an extremely fine grind...almost powder-like with a slight grittiness. The key to the proper espresso grind is the extraction time. After the proper dose and tamp, one ounce of espresso should be extracted in approximately 25 to 30 seconds. Like drip coffee, if the one ounce extraction occurs in less than 25 seconds, grind your coffee finer. If the extraction occurs in longer than 30 seconds, grind your coffee coarser. Talk to you local coffee professional for additional information.
Use only clean, cold tap water, or quality bottled spring water. Do not use mineral water, distilled water, or tap water with an odor. If you are using a manual brewer, use water just off the boil.
When making brewed coffee, allow 2 to 2 1/2 level tablespoons for each 6 ounces of water (3 tablespoons for 8 ounces). For espresso, allow 7 to 8 grams for a single shot, and 14 to 16 grams for a double shot.
To prevent coffee from burning or staling, it is recommended leaving it on a warmer no longer than 20 minutes. Use a carafe or thermos to keep coffee warm. Unlike commercial coffees served scalding hot to mask bitterness. Try re-warming your cup, not the coffee.
The flavoring of coffees is an ancient tradition dating back to 13th century nomadic Arab tribesmen who added a pinch of cardamom before brewing. Experiment with spices (nutmeg, cinnamon) and flavorings (vanilla, almond) to create your own signature coffees. Or enjoy any of the Coffee Beanery's delicious blends, hand-flavored still warm from the roaster.
You will want to grind or have your coffee ground to a very coarse consistency for this method. If your grind is too fine, you will over extract your coffee and a bitter flavor may result. It will also be difficult or impossible for you to push the plunger down in your pot if the grind is too fine. Now here is an application for your French press that you probably don't know about. Heat a cup of milk in a sauce pan on your stove or in a microwave. It should be heated just until it is too hot to put your finger in it. Don't overheat or you will scald the milk. Next, pour the milk into your clean, empty French press. Insert the plunger, and pump the plunger up and down like a butter churn for several minutes. The milk will expand and increase in volume by three or four times, creating beautiful frothed milk for cappuccinos and lattes.
Be sure to use a filter which is designed to fit your filter basket. Bleached white paper filters are most common, however unbleached brown filter papers are usually available. Permanent gold-plated wire mesh filters also work very well and are environmentally friendly.
Espresso at home
When selecting a machine for home, look for one that will drive the water through the coffee with the aid of a pump vs. a steam driven machine. A good pump machine will usually cost $200 to $1,000, but the investment is worth it if you are serious about enjoying tasty espresso at home. A steam driven machine (the typical $49 model) will not produce a palatable product. It is suggest you use an espresso pot if you have a limited budget to invest in equipment. Beautiful milk froth can be created for cappuccinos with a plunger pot.
Coffee and Health Issues
Coffee has been studied for more than a century. For every report that alleges a potential health risk, another may discredit or show benefits. It is generally agreed that pregnant women should limit their coffee consumption. Did you know that drinking a cup of coffee can help calm an acute attack of asthma? Coffee has many positive effects.
Coffee as a stimulant
Coffee contains caffeine, which acts as a stimulant. For this reason, it is often consumed in the morning, and during working hours. Students preparing for examinations with late-night "cram sessions" use coffee to maintain their concentration. Office workers take a "coffee break" whenever their energy is diminished.
Recent research has uncovered additional stimulating effects of coffee which are not related to the caffeine. Coffee contains an as yet unknown chemical agent which stimulates the production of cortisone and adrenaline, two stimulating hormones.
For occasions when one wants to enjoy the flavor of coffee with less stimulation, decaffeinated coffee, also called decaf, is available. This is coffee from which most of the caffeine has been removed, by the swiss water process, which involves the soaking of raw beans to absorb the caffeine, or the use of a chemical solvent such as trichloroethylene ("tri"), or the more popular methylene chloride, in a similar process. There are also tisanes that resemble coffee in taste but contain no caffeine.
- Coffee increases the effectiveness of pain killers -- especially migraine medications -- and can rid some people of asthma.
- Some of the beneficial effects may be restricted to one sex, for instance it has been shown to reduce suicide for women, and prevent gallstones and gallbladder disease in men.
- It also reduces the incidence of diabetes in both sexes, but reduces the risk by about 30% in women and over 50% in men.
- Coffee can also reduce the incidence of liver cirrhosis and prevent colon and bladder cancers.
- Coffee can reduce the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, a variety of liver cancer.
- Coffee reduces the incidence of heart disease, though whether this is simply because it rids your blood of excess fat or because of its stimulant effect is unknown.
- Coffee has the ability to increase short term recall and increase IQ.
- It also changes the metabolism of a person so that their body burns a higher proportion of lipids to carbohydrates, which can help athletes avoid muscle fatigue.
- Caffeinism, a condition which mimics mental illnesses ranging from anxiety and bipolar disorder to schizophrenia and even psychosis, is among the more worrisome effects of acute or chronic coffee consumption.
- Many coffee drinkers are familiar with "coffee jitters", a nervous condition that occurs when one has had too much caffeine.
- Coffee can also increase blood pressure among those with high blood pressure, but follow-up studies showed that coffee still decreased the chance of dying from heart disease in the aggregate.
- Coffee can also cause insomnia in some, while paradoxically it helps a few sleep more soundly
- It can also cause anxiety and irritability, in some with excessive coffee consumption, and some as a withdrawal symptom.
- There are also sex specific effects, in some PMS sufferers it increases the symptoms, and it can reduce fertility in women, also it may increase the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, and there may be risks to a fetus if a pregnant woman drinks 8 or more cups a day (48 oz or more).
- Decaffeinated coffee is occasionally regarded as a potential health risk to pregnant women, due to the high incidence of chemical solvents used to extract the caffeine.
- Caffeine is toxic in high enough doses. It is unlikely though, that a toxic dose will be ingested in the form of common drinks. In concentrated forms such as pills or powders it can be taken in sufficient quantities to cause vomiting, unconsciousness, and even death. A single box of caffeine pills can be fatal if taken at one time.
- The health risks of decaffeinated coffee have been studied, with varying results. One variable is the type of decaffeination process used; while some involve the use of organic solvents which may leave residual traces, others rely on steam.
- A study has shown that cafestol, a substance which is present in boiled coffee drinks, dramatically increases cholesterol levels, especially in women. Filtered coffee only contains trace amounts of cafestol.
- Coffee as a fertilizer - Spent coffee grounds are a good fertilizer in gardens because of their high nitrogen content. Coffee grounds also contain potassium, phosphorus and many other trace elements that aid plant development. Many gardeners report that roses love coffee grounds and when furnished with the same become big and colorful. When added to a compost pile, spent coffee grounds compost very rapidly.
- Coffee grounds can be obtained inexpensively (usually free) from local coffee shops. Large coffee shop chains may have a policy of composting coffee grounds or giving them away to those who ask.
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