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Q: How much coffee is produced each year?

A: About 148,000 bags of 60 kg, or about 20 million pounds in the 2015/2016  season. About 86,000 bags are Arabica and 62,000 bags are Robusta species. Brazil is the largest producer with about 48,000 bags.

Q: What is the difference between Arabica and Robusta?

A: There are about 124 species of the genus Coffea. The two most commercially important are Coffea Arabica and Coffea canephora (also called robusta). Arabica is the most popular because it is considered to produce the best tasting cup. Robusta is still very popular because it has a wider range of growing conditions, is hardier than Arabica, and contains about 2x the caffeine.

Q: What is a coffee bean?

A: The coffee bean we know and love is actually the seed of the fruit of the coffee tree. This fruit, botanically called a drupe, can be bright red, to yellow, to orange in color depending on the variety of coffee tree. The pulpy sweet fruit is composed of several layers:

– Skin: the outermost protective colorful layer

– Pulp: the sweet edible portion

– Mucilage: composed of pectin

– Parchment: tough woody protective layer around the seeds

– Silver Skin: thin layer covering each seed

– Seeds: generally two per fruit, but one and three can also be found



Q: Why does the Coffee plant produce caffeine?

A: Although we cannot be sure why the coffee plant produces caffeine, it must serve some essential role for the plant. We know this because caffeine is not part of the plant’s central metabolism. It does not use it to make energy or produce new plant material. Therefore, it is called a secondary metabolite. Again, because it is found in all parts of the plant, from roots to leaves, and it takes energy to make, it must perform something essential. Here are the current theories:

– Allelopathic agent: produced by one plant to inhibit the growth of other plants. Although the toxicity of caffeine to other plants has been shown in the laboratory, it has not been demonstrated in nature.

– Defense against pets: it has been shown to be toxic to some insects and fungi. However, because we do not yet have a caffeine deficient mutant coffee plant, we cannot conclusively demonstrate this in nature.

– Pollinator stimulant: research has shown that caffeine improves the memory of honey bees. Although, this has not been demonstrated in nature, and would not explain why caffeine is found in the root system.

Q: Why is altitude important to coffee production?

A: Coffee grows and produces fruit best in climates where the daytime temperature is not too hot, and the nighttime temperature does not freeze. The conditions are found in tropical regions at high altitude. So altitude is really about temperature. Coffee grows in a narrow band (the “Coffee Belt”) of latitudes near the Equator, between 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South.

Q: What is a peaberry?

A: Usually, the coffee cherry is composed of two seeds. As the seeds grow, they push against each other in their confined space and become flat on one side. But frequently, one seed fails to develop and the remaining seed grows to fill the space and becomes round. This occurs in about 4 to 8% of all coffee cherries.

Q: How is coffee processed?

A: The ways in which a coffee cherry is processed to achieve a stable dry coffee green bean are constantly evolving as new technology develops, and environmental constraints are applied in various regions. Traditionally, we referred to three types of processing: Washed, Natural, and Pulped Natural or Honey processes. Each process begins with a ripe cherry picked from the tree and transported to the “wet mill”. The cherries must be transported very quickly due to the high carbohydrate content that will begin to spoil very quickly.

– Washed. The cherries are processed to remove the skin and pulp using mechanical “pulpers” which essentially squeezes and mashes them. The seeds are now contained in their parchment covered by mucilage. The mucilage is removed by natural fermentation in water tanks for 8 to 16 hours. Once freed from the mucilage, the two seeds in parchment are dried either naturally in thin layers on large patios, or by mechanical drum driers, or a combination of both.

– Natural. The natural process dries the whole coffee cherry in thin layers on raised beds to better air circulation.

– Pulped Natural or Honey. A variation on the Natural process where the cherries are run through pulpers to remove the skin and most of the pulp, but then the seeds are dried with some pulp still attached.

Once the seeds are sufficiently dried in their parchment, they are sent to a “dry mill” to be milled to remove the parchment and produce the green bean with most of its silver skin still attached. In this form, it is ready to be sold and roasted.

The terminology is changing now to focus on the way the coffee is dried versus how the cherry is handled. The new terminology is:

– Fruit Dried, instead of Natural

– Pulp Dried, instead of Pulped Natural or Honey

– Parchment Dried, instead of washed

And a new term for Seed Dried which is rarely used these days, but refers to coffees that have the parchment removed while still fairly wet, and then dried as seeds.

Q: What is Kopi Luwak?

A: Literally translated means coffee of the civet. The Asian Palm Civet belongs to the order Carnivora, suborder Feliformia which consists of “cat-like” members including cats, hyenas, and mongooses. The Palm Civet is native to Indonesia where it likes to dine on coffee cherries. The seeds were not digested by the civet and passed right through. The natives collected the “processed” seeds and found that they produced a rather unique flavored coffee. The rarity of this coffee has resulted in some of the highest prices paid for a pound. And as a result, considerable notoriety has been given.

Because of the high value of this coffee, the Indonesians have captured wild civets and confined them in cages to be living production systems. The ethics of this practice has rightfully caused outrage by many.

Q: How is coffee decaffeinated?

A: Although there is some progress being made in plant breeding programs to produce an Arabica coffee plant that does not produce caffeine, there is no commercial production of caffeine-free coffee seeds. Therefore, the caffeine must be extracted from the coffee seeds using one of four chemical solvents: water, carbon dioxide, ethyl acetate, and methylene chloride. The coffee beans are first soaked in water to enable the solvents to penetrate and reach the caffeine. There are two main processing methods:

– Direct: the solvent is added to the soaked coffee beans to extract the caffeine. Then the solvent is removed, usually by steam and the beans are dried.

– Indirect: water is used to extract caffeine and then a solvent or filter is used to remove the caffeine from the water.

In both systems, more than just caffeine is removed from the beans. And this is why decaf coffee has had a poor reputation for quality. However, recent improvements on the process have resulted in significant improvements in retaining important flavor compounds within the bean.

In the improved water process, the first batch of coffee is soaked in water and then separated by filtration. This batch of coffee is discarded. The second batch of coffee is soaked in the water used to extract the first batch. Because this reused water contains the flavor compounds, it does not extract these compounds from the second batch.  This produces excellent tasting decaf coffee.

A note about the use of carbon dioxide as a solvent: As we all know, carbon dioxide is a gas at room temperature and pressure. As a gas, it would be a poor solvent for extracting caffeine. But if pressure is applied to about 73 atmospheres (about 1036 pounds per square inch), carbon dioxide reaches a supercritical point where carbon dioxide will exhibit the behavior of all three phases of solid, liquid, and gas. At this point, it is an extremely good solvent for removing caffeine from coffee beans. The pressure is then lowered to where the carbon dioxide returns to gas phase and evaporates off where it can be captured and recycled.

Q: What determines the quality of green coffee?

A: Even though the coffee bean is well protected by the layers surrounding it in the cherry, many bad things can happen to it along the way including attached by cherry boring insects, damage by milling equipment, spoilage in drying, transport, or storage. So green bean quality criteria has been established in order to set prices for sellers and buyers and established a global nomenclature for the finished green bean sold. The Specialty Coffee Association and developed a set of standards that limit the number of defects a 350 gram representative sample can contain.

Q: What are roast levels?

A: One of the most talked about, yet poorly defined terms in roasted coffee. Roast levels have been arbitrary and vary significantly among coffee aficionados. Terms such as light, medium and dark are not defined and differ greatly – one person’s medium roast is another person’s dark roast. Terms such as city, full city. french, cinnamon and blond have been used without any clear definitions. Although the SCA has developed a set of colored discs based on an Agron reading that can be used to quantify the roast level, the consumer is unaware of this system. So a significant amount of consumer education would be needed to adopt this method of standardization.

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Q: How is roasted coffee judged?

A: Roasted coffee is judged by a well-defined protocol of “cupping” brewed samples. Standard methods have been made to assure coffee is prepared and tasted the same way. Several aspects of brewed coffee are evaluated including: fragrance, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, sweetness, and balance. A scale of 6 to 10 is used to judge each attribute and an overall score. Although is seems arbitrary, highly trained individuals with skilled palettes can independently judge coffees to within fractions of a point. These individuals must be trained and certified by the Coffee Quality Institute to be coffee quality graders, or Q graders.

Q: How do I keep my coffee fresh?

A: Once coffee is roasted, it begin to stale based on three aspects: loss of volatile gases, oxidation, and temperature. Storing coffee to inhibit these processes will best retain freshness. It is best to store your coffee in a sealed container in a cool dry place, out of direct sunlight.

– Loss of gases is dependent upon surface area or particle size. Therefore, keeping the roasted coffee whole bean will keep it fresher than grinding it. Grinding should only occur right before brewing.

– Chemical reactions are dependent upon temperature. Therefore, keeping your coffee cool will prolong freshness. Storing your coffee in the refrigerator or freezer will accomplish this. However, freezing coffee will cause water to expand to ice form and damage the structure of coffee. Moreover, freeze/thaw cycles will add moisture to the beans increasing this damage. Finally, there is the potential of the coffee picking up odors from other foods stored in the freezer or refrigerator sections.

– Preventing or inhibiting oxidation reactions is accomplished by keeping oxygen away from your beans. Because air contains 21% oxygen, storing your coffee in a sealed container helps. But one must be careful that the sealed container does not burst due to gases released from the coffee.

Decaffeinated coffee is more susceptible to these staling reactions, so greater care should be taken.

Q: What type of grinder should I use:

A: there are two types of grinders available for home use – blade versus burr. A blade grinder is least expensive and operates by added beans to a container and turning on a set of rotating blades the chop the coffee beans. After an appropriate amount of time, and average particle size can be achieved for various brew methods. However, because the beans are contained in the chopping compartment, each piece can be chopped repeated resulting in a large amount of fines. Although the average particle size may be appropriate, the range of particle sizes is very large in blade grinders. High level of fines leads to over extraction in brewing resulting in bitterness and astringency. This is why burr grinders are an improvement and widely recommended for home use. In a burr grinder, the beans pass between a fixed and a rotating disc burrs and are grind based on the distance between the burrs. Therefore, the ground pieces pass through the grinding zone so that a more consistent particle size is achieved, with fewer fines.

Q: Why does my coffee taste different from before?

A: There are many reasons why your bag of coffee tastes different from when you tried it in the café, or from your previous bag. We must remember that coffee is an agricultural product that varies in quality from month to month and year to year. And even when stored under ideal conditions, some attributes may change. Coffee is harvested during only a few months of the year, depending on the country of origin. So coffee tasted in March will be different than when tasted in December. Also, each bag of coffee will contain a range of coffee bean qualities. And even though they from the same roasted batch, there is variety in each bag so that one cup may differ ever so slightly from the next. For example, green bean grading allows for a certain limit of defective beans. Your bag may by chance have a higher number of these beans versus the previous bag.

Q: Will coffee dehydrate me?

A: We have heard that caffeine is a diuretic, and as such may cause us to urinate more often. However, we are also consuming a significant amount of water with each cup of coffee. Research has shown that there is no difference in the amount of urination caused by a drinking coffee versus drinking the same amount of water.  Thus, caffeinated beverages do not lead to dehydration.

Q: Is coffee good for me?

A: Research has shown that coffee has several positive effects on our health with numerous benefits when consuming it on a daily basis. That is, of course, in reference to black coffee and not those behemoth-sized ultra high-calorie mostly milk and sugar concoctions dolloped with an extra large serving of whipped cream.

The fact is, today coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the western diet, outranking fruits and vegetables combined. The antioxidants found in coffee, including hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols, to name a few, act as a repair mechanism for free radical molecules, which damage important cell structures in the body such as DNA and proteins that can lead to a variety of very serious diseases.

Here are five of the health benefits from drinking coffee that might surprise you:


The caffeine in coffee helps speed up your metabolism, which will help you to burn more overall calories as well as boost how much fat the body burns. Black coffee is also one of the lowest-calorie drink choices in existence. Again, providing you don’t dump a bunch of sugar in it.


Researchers from Harvard found after 28 separate studies that people who drank just one cup of coffee per day were eight percent less likely to develop type II diabetes than those who don’t drink coffee at all. Additionally, they found that the more coffee people consume the odds of developing diabetes decreased even further. The studies showed that people who drank as much as six cups of coffee per day reduced their risk up to 33 percent.


Alzheimer’s, which is now the most pervasive neurodegenerative disease across the globe is also the leading cause of dementia. Recent studies have shown that those who drink coffee daily actually have a 60 percent less chance of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.


One study mentions that coffee has been shown to reduce the effects of chemical carcinogenesis in liver tissue, and also has an inverse relationship with liver cirrhosis. Several other studies have shown that four or more cups of coffee can reduce the risk of cirrhosis of the liver by up to 80 percent.


People who drink about three to five cups of coffee a day may be less likely to die prematurely from some illnesses than those who don’t drink or drink less coffee, according to Harvard researchers. Drinkers of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee saw benefits, including a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, type II diabetes, and suicide. Studies show varying results that reduce the risk of dying prematurely, especially from Cardiovascular disease by up to 30 percent.

Q: What is acrylamide? Why is it in my coffee?

A: Acrylamide is a chemical form when heating the amino acid asparagine in the presence of certain sugars. Thus, it is present in baked goods, fried potatoes, and roasted coffee. It has received attention because some research has shown in to cause cancer in rats, and when exposed to very high levels (in industrial settings), it is a neurotoxin in humans. It occurs in very low concentrations in roasted coffee (parts per billion) but higher in brewed coffee, especially when brewed at high pressure (espresso). Robusta coffee has higher levels of asparagine versus Arabica and therefore has 2x as much acrylamide. Heat destroys acrylamide, so darker roasted coffees have less than light roasted coffees.

Most research indicates that acrylamide is not carcinogenic in humans. Moreover, the amount of acrylamide in coffee has not been shown to cause cancer. And finally, there is no link to coffee and cancer of any kind in humans.

Q: What is Certified Organic?

A: According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “certified organic” means:  “foods are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.”  So a product that is labeled USDA Organic has been “grown, produced, inspected, and certified to be in compliance with the organic standards of the National Organic Program (NOP), a program of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).” Moreover, organic standards prohibit the use of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The USDA does not directly certify producers and farmers. Instead, there are organizations that inspect and certify these producers and farmers to assure that they follow the federal standards.


Q: What is Fair Trade?

A: Fair Trade is an organization that develops social and environmental standards to promote health and safety of workers and the environment. In coffee, farmers in the Fair Trade system are guaranteed a minimum price for their crop so the can be economically sustainable.

Q: What is Biodynamic?

A: Biodynamic farming takes the concept of organic farming to another level. According to the Biodynamic Association, the term biodynamic refers to a “holistic, ecological, and spiritual approach to farming”. Viewing the farm as a balanced ecosystem, the focus is on rejuvenating and improving the farms health and vitality through use of materials derived from the farm itself. A significant focus is on the development of fertilizers made from compost derived from materials within the farm. A series of homeopathic preparations are used as a source of micronutrients for the compost and fields. Biodiversity is another key aspect, especially in coffee farming where a variety of shade trees are used to promote soil health.

Q: What is the SCA?

A: The Specialty Coffee Association (formerly the Specialty Coffee Association of America). Established in 1982 by a small group coffee professionals seeking a common forum to discuss issues and set quality standards for the specialty coffee trade, SCA is now the world’s largest coffee trade association with nearly 2,500 company members. SCA members can rightfully be credited for much of the growth and success the specialty coffee industry has experienced over the past twenty-five years.

Q: What is “clean” coffee?

A: Clean coffee has been marketed in recent years by coffee producers, exporters and even coffee roasters. It is typically thought of as a washed coffee that is free of agrochemicals, pesticides and toxins (in other words, organic). The term “clean” is more often used as a marketing tool than anything else, implying that coffees produced as naturals or pulp dried are “dirty” due to the fact that, if poorly processed, they can be physically dirty or may contain mold-producing microtoxins. However, this can be true for any and all coffees due to the fact that all coffee is exposed to certain amounts of fermentation during processing and, if done poorly, the production of microtoxins can occur. Buying coffee from ethical businesses can ensure that high quality standards are maintained and that the coffee is free of these potentially harmful microtoxins.

Q: What is “third-wave” coffee?

A: Third wave coffee can be described in two separate ideas. The first being the current state of time that the coffee industry as a whole exists in. The other, as a style of roasting.

Many people would describe the “first wave” of coffee as the strong, instant and high cost (for the time) but low quality brown stuff in a can their parents or grandparents used to drink (and in some cases, still do). This period lasted from the depression era until around the 1980’s. The “second wave” was the Starbucks and Peets era, the “have it your way”, on every corner, fast and fancy coffee phase. This was signified also by a darker style roasting, which many people loved because it was so “bold” compared to what they grew up on or were used to. Think venti dark roast with two sugars, steamed nonfat milk and a add shot on top. The “third wave” is thought to be the current frame of time we in specialty coffee exist today. This is characterized by high quality, purist type beverages where customers are interested in origin specifics including where and how the coffee was grown, maybe even the varietal and the specific lot the coffee comes from. Local, small batch roasters are thought to produce better quality and crafted coffee, and typically light roast their coffee, swinging the pendulum in the opposite direction in regard to flavors in their morning cup of brew. Think light body, tea-like flavors and high acidity.

As for describing a style of roasting, “third wave” is typically rather light, sometimes bordering on being very underdeveloped in flavor and lacking balance. These coffees are characterized by high acidity, low body, and may seem grassy or astringent (drying) in flavor.