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Coffee Isn't Rocket Science
A Quick and Easy Guide to Buying, Brewing, Serving, Roasting, and Tasting Coffee
By Chung-Leng Tran
Illustrated by Yannis Varoutsikos
Formats and Prices
- ebook $9.99 $11.99 CAD
- Hardcover $24.99 $32.49 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 3, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Rocket science is complicated, coffee doesn’t have to be! With information presented in an easy, illustrated style, and chock-full of the fool-proof and reliable knowledge of a seasoned barista, Coffee Isn’t Rocket Science is the guide you always wished existed. From how coffee beans are grown, harvested and turned into coffee, the history and flavor profiles of beans from every country, making pour-overs, cold brew, and latte art, and the cultural practices of drinking coffee around the world, this book explains it all in the simplest way possible. All information is illustrated in charming and informative four-color drawings that explain concepts at a glance.
WHAT KIND OF COFFEE DRINKER ARE YOU?
Your first-ever cup as a teenager may have made you cringe, but chances are, you have now come around to liking coffee. It is a regular part of your day. But how exactly would you describe your relationship with coffee?
How many cups of coffee do you drink each day?
Better to measure it on a weekly basis
Moderation in all things
That’s about my limit
Occasionally… well, okay, often
Yes, I know; I’m trying to cut down
When do you drink your first coffee of the day?
When I wake up, before I shower
After my shower
When I get to the office
The coffee’s run out!
You find the nearest café and rush to the counter to order an espresso
You head to the store, even if it’s on the far side of town, to stock up on your favorite brand
You go without, but you’re cranky
Oh well, you’ll have a tea instead; that’ll do the trick
You see yourself as:
A coffee addict: You won’t get anything out of me until I’ve had my fix.
A coffee snob: Once you have learned to appreciate the finest coffees, you can never really go back.
A romantic for whom the morning mug of coffee, croissant, and newspaper are sacrosanct. On the terrace in the sun is even better.
A social drinker, with colleagues around the coffee machine.
A takeout regular.
Someone for whom “getting a cup of coffee” is a way of life.
An occasional coffee drinker: I only really like it because it gives me an excuse to eat dessert.
A wary coffee drinker: You allow yourself a decaf in the late evening.
COFFEES FOR EVERY TASTE
We talk about having a cup of coffee, but coffee comes in myriad sizes and guises! You’re sure to find one that suits you.
COFFEE AROUND THE WORLD
Coffee drinking habits vary according to people’s tastes. But they also differ by region. Here’s a quick roundup of coffee customs around the world.
IN THE UNITED STATES (AND OTHER ENGLISH-SPEAKING COUNTRIES)
Most Americans drink coffee with milk, and usually have their drink to go. In diners and old-style coffee shops you can get a “bottomless cup of coffee.” For the price of one coffee, the waitress will keep your mug topped up. This coffee tends to be very poor quality. It’s brewed from low-grade beans and the coffeepot is kept constantly on the heat, sometimes all day. This is one of the main reasons for America’s poor reputation for coffee.
Italy is the land of the espresso, where it is drunk strong and fast, standing at the counter. At about 11 a.m., which is colazione time (a short midmorning break halfway between breakfast and lunch), people commonly treat themselves to an espresso accompanied by a little pastry. At home, Italian caffè moka reigns supreme. The Italians do not drink filter coffee.
IN SCANDINAVIA (NORWAY, SWEDEN, ETC.)
The Scandinavians are the world’s biggest consumers of coffee, which is drunk predominantly in the form of filter coffee. In nineteenth-century Norway it was common for people to produce their own spirits at home. Before long, to combat alcohol consumption, the Church decided to promote a less dangerous drink: coffee. And when home distillation was banned, coffee consumption became the norm, and has remained so ever since.
The technique used to make Turkish coffee (known as “Greek coffee” in Greece) can be traced back to the sixteenth century and the Ottoman Empire. It involves simmering coffee ground as fine as flour with water in a cezve, a traditional long-handled copper or brass pot. In the past, when it was served, the coffee used to be decanted into a coffeepot, called an ibrik, leaving the grounds behind. But now the terms cezve and ibrik have become synonymous, and coffee is served directly from the pot in which it is brewed. It can be served very sweet (çok sekerli), medium sweet (az sekerli), barely sweetened (orta), or without sugar (sade). After drinking, it used to be the custom to turn one’s cup upside down in the saucer in order to read the future in the patterns left inside the cup by the coffee grounds. This coffee symbolizes a certain laid-back way of life, where time is spent chatting or hookah smoking. Incidentally, it is drunk not only in Turkey, but also in the Balkans and even the Middle East and northern Africa.
Japan is regarded first and foremost as tea country (producer and consumer), but the Japanese are also great coffee lovers and they have developed a real coffee culture since the eighteenth century. They also snap up many of the most expensive coffee lots in the world. They are great experts at the slow methods using the V60 or the vacuum (or “siphon”) coffee maker, for example.
It is traditionally the woman of the household who takes care of preparing coffee. First she roasts the green coffee beans in a pan. She then grinds the beans with a mortar and pestle and places the ground coffee in an earthenware coffeepot called a jebena. The coffee is poured into small, handleless cups, and popcorn is served to accompany it. This is known as the coffee ceremony.
WHERE TO GET A COFFEE
The diner, the deli, or fast-food restaurants used to be the place to go.
Then came Starbucks, and now smaller boutique chains and independent coffee shops are springing up all over the place.
The coffee shop
It’s the destination par excellence, particularly in urban locations in the United States. The clientele, typically young and online, see it as a “third place,” somewhere between home and work. Your beverage is served by a barista, a specialist in coffee brewing. You can sit and drink it there, with a cookie or piece of cake, or take it out. You can also buy coffee beans there to use at home.
An almost entirely European concept, this is where you go for the revered petit noir or “small black” consumed at the counter, but it doesn’t only serve coffee. In France, for example, bistros or cafés are often the heart and soul of a village, district, or street. You can get a glass of wine, a beer or a soft drink, or have a cup of coffee, and some even serve lunch, tea, or dinner. The waiters serve the petit noir at the counter or bring it to your table, either indoors or outdoors. The price of your coffee varies according to where you decide to consume it.
THE COFFEE FAMILY
A botanical perspective on coffee beans.
Ninety-nine percent of the world’s coffee production comes from two species of coffee plant: Coffea arabica, or arabica, as it’s commonly known, which comes from the word “Arab”) and Coffea canephora (or robusta). They both belong to the genus Coffea (which encompasses around seventy species of coffee plant), which in turn belongs to the wider family of Rubiaceae. Coffea liberica and Coffea excelsa are also cultivated in West Africa and in Asia (largely for local consumption), but account for less than 2 percent of global output.
Arabica vs Robusta
NUMBER OF CHROMOSOMES
COFFEA ARABICA: 44
COFFEA CANEPHORA: 22
COFFEA ARABICA: 2,000–8,000 FT
COFFEA CANEPHORA: 0–2,300 FT
COFFEA ARABICA: 59–75°F
COFFEA CANEPHORA: 75–86°F
COFFEA ARABICA: SELF-POLLINATION
COFFEA CANEPHORA: CROSS-POLLINATION
COFFEA ARABICA: AFTER RAIN
COFFEA CANEPHORA: IRREGULAR
COFFEA ARABICA: 6–9 MONTHS
COFFEA CANEPHORA: 10–11 MONTHS
COFFEA ARABICA: 0.6–1.4%
COFFEA CANEPHORA: 1.8–4%
THE COFFEE TRADE
Coffee, as a commodity, is traded globally in various ways.
The “specialty” coffee market
Specialty coffees account for approximately 1 percent of global output. These are coffees rated at least 80/100, whose price is determined not by the commodity market, but by their quality and rarity. This is part of a new general market approach that is now emerging, whereby the producer cultivates different botanical varieties depending on the nature of the terroir, the roaster devises roasting profiles for each kind of coffee bean, and the barista is always on a quest to improve the way the coffee is brewed. It may be a niche market, but it has wrought changes in the way coffee is produced and consumed; coffee, a basic necessity, consumed for its stimulating effects, has become a precious and complex product in the same way that wine is. Coffee is no longer simply drunk; it is savored.
The commodity market
This is the market on which commodities are bought and sold. Coffee is traded on the New York exchanges in the case of Arabica and in London in the case of Robusta. The price, which is very variable, fluctuating according to supply and demand as well as the speculative behavior of the various market players (traders, pension funds, etc.), is expressed in dollars per pound (454 g) of coffee. Neither the quality of the coffee nor the costs of production are taken into account, something that presents a problem for coffee producers who find themselves no longer able to make a living from their work. To combat this trend, various initiatives have been put in place, including “fair trade,” which ensures that coffee farmers are able to earn a decent income.
Fair trade certification
Fair trade certification was set up in the Netherlands in 1988 by the Max Havelaar Foundation with the aim of guaranteeing a purchase price deemed fair for small coffee producers. If prices trend down, the fair trade label guarantees producers a minimum amount that they can live on. If prices rise above the benchmark, the price will then be increased by a predetermined value.
Fair trade principles
Fair trade is based on three principles:
• a sustainable minimum price (but no minimum quantity);
• environmental conservation (encouraging organic production, no GMOs);
• a social component (collective equipment financing).
Limits of the fair trade mark
• It is not possible for a single farm to obtain this certification; it has to be part of a cooperative.
• When fair trade products started to be sold in large supermarkets, the certification label was forced to work with large farms in order to meet demand, whereas fair trade was created for small producers.
• This certification does not amount to a quality label as such.
THE COFFEE PROFESSIONALS
A lot of work happens before you take the first sip of your morning coffee!
The journey from bean to cup involves a whole series of steps and processes.
Coffee plantations are tended by a coffee farmer. The coffee farmer, or producer, is someone who lives close to the land. At harvest time, he gathers the coffee cherries, then dries them by one of various processes to extract the beans from them.
The green coffee buyer
The coffee buyer travels around coffee-producing countries to select green coffee beans and negotiate a deal, then sells them on to the coffee roaster, or merchant. He takes care of the logistics of transporting the bags to the consumer countries where the beans will be roasted.
To unlock all their flavors, the green coffee beans have to be heated and tumbled simultaneously. At the roasting house, this is the job of the roaster, who adjusts the roasting process according to the type of bean in order to produce the best possible results. These days the role of the roaster is changing, with more and more roasters traveling to the producer countries themselves to select their own coffee beans.
The barista, the final link in the coffee chain, is more than merely a waiter. A great connoisseur of coffee, he serves the concoction that he has expertly prepared, transforming the roasted beans into a drink on demand. He also advises customers on the different coffee varieties, flavors, and methods of preparation (espresso, slow methods, etc.), and sells coffee beans.
If you want to understand the world of coffee, there are some words you need to know!
Grand cru is the name given to a coffee bean variety noted for its flavor qualities. You just need to know how to get it to release its full potential!
A batch is the quantity of coffee roasted at one time.
Coffee makers are the appliances commonly used for making coffee, from the mildest brew to the strongest.
Grind size is a measure of how finely the coffee is ground.
A barista is the coffee expert who crafts the drink you actually get to consume. The coffee shop is where you’ll find him!
The cherry is the name of the fruit of the coffee plant. It contains one or two coffee beans.
Latte art is the name of the technique in which a design is drawn in the milk foam of a cappuccino.
A blend is a mix of coffees of different origin (different regions, countries etc.)
Roasting is the process of cooking the coffee beans. The word roaster designates both the roasting expert and the machine used to perform this process.
The basket is another name for the filter on an espresso machine.
Filter coffees, gentle methods, slow methods: These are synonymous terms referring to coffees not prepared by a fast method under high pressure, like espresso.
A coffee is said to be clean in reference to its clarity.
The burrs are the part of the coffee grinder that grinds the beans.
A shot is a single 1-ounce portion of espresso. It is drunk in one go.
A tamper is the special tool the barista uses to pack or “tamp” down the ground coffee in the filter.
Cupping is a standard tasting method for judging the quality of the coffee.
Ground coffee is referred to as the grounds.
The kettle is a familiar kitchen appliance. But in the world of coffee, “kettle” refers to the typical coffee kettle with its gooseneck spout, which is a must-have when preparing filter coffees.
Calibrating an espresso means adjusting the various parameters involved in making an espresso.
During roasting, the bean produces a characteristic noise, rather like popcorn: the crack.
THE TROUBLE WITH COFFEE…
There are many myths surrounding coffee. Are they true or false? Here are some answers from a reliable source.
Coffee is a diuretic and a laxative!
It takes five minutes for caffeine to reach the brain. Caffeine has a half-life of three to five hours. This refers to the period of time after which its effects are halved.
It seems that coffee helps to prevent certain diseases: It is thought to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease in men. Caffeine is also believed to improve memory function in Alzheimer’s sufferers. The polyphenols (antioxidants) contained in coffee are believed to counteract type 2 diabetes. Some sixty studies have shown that coffee plays a part in preventing several types of cancer (bladder, mouth, colon, esophageal, uterine, brain, skin, liver, and breast).
Coffee increases secretion of stomach acid, which aids digestion.
Consume in moderation! Is coffee a drug? No, not strictly speaking. But if someone who consumes a lot of coffee (more than 400 mg of caffeine a day) goes cold turkey, it will take three to five days for the symptoms—irritability, headaches and temporary tiredness—to disappear.
Coffee is bad for your nerves!! Caffeine has a stimulating effect that makes you more alert, increases your heart rate, enhances cognitive function, reduces fatigue, and improves your reaction times.
Excessive consumption (more than 400 mg/day of caffeine) of coffee as well as drinking coffee too close to bedtime can make it hard to drop off to sleep and can cause insomnia. Excessive caffeine intake can also cause palpitations and anxiety.
A filter coffee contains more caffeine than an espresso: a cup of espresso contains 47 to 75 mg; a mug of filter coffee, 75 to 200 mg.
Although it is true that coffee can stain your teeth, caffeine and polyphenols (or phenolic compounds) have antibacterial properties that help to prevent tooth decay.
Caffeine improves physical performance, particularly endurance, by converting fat into energy. Caffeine was even included on the list of substances banned under the World Anti-Doping Code until 2004.
- "Coffee may not be rocket science, but despite the title, even a quick spin through this highly detailed volume suggests it might come close.... A coffee lover is sure to find plenty that's useful in this illustrated book, which is mostly about making the beverage properly."—The New York Times
- On Sale
- Apr 3, 2018
- Page Count
- 192 pages
- Black Dog & Leventhal