As we all know, a cup of coffee is just beans and hot water. Yet any coffee lover knows that coffee is much more than the sum of its parts. Something so seemingly simple has spawned a culture of literally billions of people in the world. Depending on your prior experience with coffee, the world of coffee with all its terminology might feel overwhelming. To help with that, we've put together this Coffee FAQ to help answer basic and advanced questions about the world's greatest drink.
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans are sought after for their pleasantly bright and sweet flavor combined with an intense aroma. These exotic coffee beans are distinctly floral and citrusy with a light to medium body. Grown at an elevation of 6000+ feet above sea level, these beans are exposed to very unique climate conditions which produce such an exotic and unique flavor.
Sumatra coffee is grown on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, more specifically the Lintong region of north central Sumatra. This coffee is known as one of the best low-acid and fully body coffees in the world. It also offers a complex aroma and deep earthen flavor. If you like your coffee incredibly smooth, this is an excellent option.
Check out our list of best low acid coffees for additional options.
Kona coffee is considered one of the most exotic coffees in the world and are exclusively grown in the Kona Belt district in Hawaii. These beans typically deliver a well-balanced, bright, and very clean cup of coffee with medium body. Along with a very appealing aroma, Kona coffee beans often reveal subtle notes of wine and rich butter. When shopping for quality Kona coffee, make sure you research the company and check to see how much of the coffee uses real Kona. Some companies offer as little as 10% Kona where as the authentic brands will use 100%.
Check out our guide to buying the best Kona coffee for more information.
The first definition of specialty coffee is a general one. In short, it's premium coffee that's genuinely quality-driven from start to finish. It's akin to Third Wave Coffee in which coffee is treated as an artisinal product as opposed to just a drink. Specialty coffee captures the entire process from farm to cup using single origin coffee (as opposed to a blend). The roasting and brewing processes require skill and artistry and are meticulously tailored to produce optimal flavor, range, and body. The end result is a carefully refined cup of premium brew. Specialty Coffee also focuses on ethical sourcing and supply chain transparency. More and more specialty coffee roasters are now buying their beans directly from the farmers (direct trade), ensuring farmers receive a fair wage for their services. Removing the middlemen in the coffee supply chain guarantees more money and resources are returned to the coffee farmers and their communities. In this regard, specialty coffee roasters look to build lasting, fruitful relationships with their suppliers.
The second definition of Specialty Coffee is the technical one and it's helped usher in a new era in coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America, formed in 1982, has created official quantifiable standards for specialty coffee that grades virtually every aspect of the coffee beans in question. Coffee that rates an 80 points or above on a 100-point scale is awarded the title of specialty coffee from the SCAA. The existence of such standards by the SCAA ensures the term “specialty coffee” retains its meaning and isn't just used as a unsubstantiated marketing ploy. While the specialty coffee industry has experienced unprecedented growth in the past few decades, the term itself was actually first used back in 1974 by Erna Knutsen in an issue of Tea & Coffee Trade journal.
Learn more about specialty coffee.
Peaberry is a rare type of coffee bean that contains only one seed instead of the usual two. This single Peaberry seed becomes the sole recipient of the plants nutrients resulting a naturally sweeter and fuller flavor. Typically, only 3-5% of harvested coffee is Peaberry thus making this a very exotic and rare coffee. Kimera Koffee harvests their Peaberry coffee beans from the high-altitude mountains in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic.
If you're looking for a good recommendation for Peaberry coffee, check out our review of Kimera Coffee's Peaberry brew.
Like Kona coffee, Jaimaican Blue Mountain coffee is regarded as one of the most prized coffee beans in the world.
Coffee was introduced in Jamaica in 1728 by its then Governor, Sir Nicholas Lawes. Starting in the central mountain system of the island, the cultivation of this already very lucrative crop expanded and eventually reached the country’s longest range: the Blue Mountains. Along this range is the country's highest peak known as Blue Mountain Peak reaching above 7400 feet above sea level.
The Blue Mountain range is blessed with a climate ideal for coffee growing with its year-long mild temperatures, abundant rainfall, rich soil and almost perpetual mists that give this mountain range the bluish color from which its name is derived. The combination of all these factors creates a “perfect storm” for producing a fantastically unique coffee bean that has captivated the world by….”storm”.
Today, Blue Mountain coffee is more than just a type of coffee or an indication of origin. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is a certification mark issued by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica, a regulatory body that controls all stages of coffee production, only certifying the batches that fully comply with its high standards of quality. These parameters cover the gamut. From manually verifying the absence of defects in the beans to tracking the specific elevations in which they were grown, the standards are rigorous to say the least. For example, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee must come from only four specific parishes: Portland, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, and St. Mary. Blue Mountain coffee has to be grown between 3000 feet (914 meters) and 5500 feet (1676 meters). Coffee grown at lower elevation is called “High Mountain” as opposed to “Blue Mountain”.
Arabica and Robusta are two different species of coffee beans that have very different qualities. Arabica tends to be more fragrant and sweeter where as Robusta is sharper and typically more bitter. Most specialty coffees will almost exclusively use Arabica beans for their flavor profiles. Where Robusta coffee shines is in the realm of caffeine. Robusta offers almost twice the amount of caffeine as your average Arabica. It's the coffee bean of choice for many of the best high caffeine coffees. Only around 35% of coffee grown is Robusta where as the remaining 65% is Arabica. One thing to note is that just because a label has the word “Arabica” on it, doesn't guarantee it's good coffee. Arabica, like any commodity, comes in varying degrees of quality. Make sure to do your research about any coffee company you buy from.
– Arabica coffee is more flavorful
Read our full article on comparing Arabica and Robusta coffee.
Mushroom Coffee is a relatively new trend in the coffee industry. Mushroom coffee is regular black coffee mixed with medicinal mushrooms in powdered form. No these aren't psychedelic mushrooms. Specific types of mushrooms are curated for their strong medicinal properties to give your coffee an extra boost. Amazingly enough, mushroom coffees have a reputation for NOT tasting like mushrooms and have instead become known for it's very low-acid and smooth flavor.
Read our mushroom coffee article for more details.
DON’T store coffee in the freezer – Coffee is porous by nature and can absorb the smells of the surrounding area.
DO keep coffee in the dark and away from air. The best option is an air tight canister
For more details, check out our full coffee storage article.
A standard “cup” of coffee uses 6 oz of water. The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) suggests using 10 grams of coffee for every 6 oz or 177ml of water. 10 grams of coffee is roughly two tablespoons
The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) recommends using the gold ratio to determine how much coffee to water you should use. The ratio is 1:18 which is based on coffee grounds (grams) to water volume (ml).
While the exact number varies, coffee experts recommend brewing your coffee anywhere between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of the specific temperature, you never want to use boiling water as it will scorch the beans.
If you're new to the world of coffee, you might feel a little overwhelmed by all the fancy words and foreign terminology. Don't worry. Shopping for a coffee that fits your taste preference is actually pretty straight forward.
A good place to start is with the coffee's roast which will be light, medium, medium dark and dark. The longer a coffee is roasted the darker it will become. Lighter roasted coffees will typically allow you to taste more of the natural coffee flavor. Darker coffees will have almost a refined burnt flavor which many coffee drinkers love.
The flavor of a coffee bean is largely determined by the climate in which it's grown. So you can really get an idea of what to expect when you chose your coffee by region. For example, Sumatran coffees which are Indonesian islands typically have an earthen, grounded, smooth, and low-acid flavor. African coffees, on the other hand, will often have a bright, floral, and pleasing acidity.
Feel free to print out our handy coffee infographic to help you choose your coffee.
CBD will not get you high as it does not have any psychoactive properties when ingested. Tetrahyrdrocannabinol (THC) is the fancy scientific name for the active ingredient in marijuana that gets you “high”. True CBD coffee will not contain THC.
For more information, check out our article for the best CBD Coffees.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in the cannabis or marijuana plant and has been proven to help relieve a wide range of ailments from physical pain and anxiety to Alzheimer's and cancer. CBD has been highly sought after for its medicinal affects, and it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea to infuse it into coffee.
It's important to note the difference between CBD and THC which is the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis responsible for giving users the “high” feeling. CBD Coffee will NOT get you high.
If you're a coffee lover that has a job requiring periodic drug tests, there's nothing to worry about. Drinking CBD Coffee will not flag you.
For more information, check out our article for the best CBD Coffees.
Tips for Brewing Coffee
The pour over method is extremely popular among connoisseurs and regular coffee drinkers alike because it produces a very flavorful and clean-tasting brew. To make good pour-over coffee, you will need a large mug, carafe, or pot, a filter cone, and a paper filter. Making the perfect pour over isn't hard but does require you to be aware of what you're doing so you can make adjustments as needed. Follow the instructions below:
Grind the Coffee
You'll want to use a fine to medium-ground coffee for the pour-over method; grounds about the size of sugar crystals should be about right. For stronger coffee, use a slightly finer grind, and for milder coffee, use a slightly coarser grind.
Get your equipment set up by placing your filter cone on top of your carafe or pot so that it fits together properly. Bodum makes an excellent pour over coffee maker for under $20. Then place the paper filter into the filter cone.
Heat the Water
Next heat your water until it is almost—but not quite—boiling. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and the best temperature for making coffee is around 195 to 205 degrees, so be sure not to pour boiling water into your cone. When the water is too hot, you may scorch the beans and lose out on a whole range of flavors.
Rinse the Filter
Before you add any coffee, gently pour a little of the hot water into the empty filter to wet and rinse.
Measure the Coffee
Add one generous, heaping tablespoon (or, if you want a more precise measurement, use two level tablespoons) for each six-ounce cup of coffee that you want to make.
Make the coffee “bloom”
Next, pour a little hot water over the coffee in the filter. Pour just enough to thoroughly wet the coffee. You may notice that the coffee bubbles and expands. This is referred to as the “bloom” and occurs when freshly ground beans release CO2. Once you have poured in your water, let it stand for 30 seconds to allow time for the water to soak in.
Pour in the remaining water.
The water pour is considered the most important part in making the perfect pour over. Very slowly pour in the remaining water to make the desired amount of coffee. Pour the water using a spiral motion, starting in the middle of the ground coffee and working your way outward.
Allow all the water to drip through the filter, and then enjoy your perfect cup of coffee!
For more details on this process, check out our article for how to make the perfect pour over.