Coffee 101

We know a lot about coffee. We could talk about it for hours, and we often do with our customers. We thought we could share a little of that knowledge with you online.

Please use the links to jump ahead:

Tasting | Robusta vs Arabica | Health Benefits | Caffeine | Espresso Dictionary

How to taste coffee

Coffee culture, like wine culture, has its own vernacular, clubs and associations, personalities, etc. But you don't have to be a coffee snob to learn to differentiate and appreciate great coffees. We can help!

Before you try a coffee, there are three things to consider: the bean, the roast, and the brewing method. Coffee beans are a lot like wine grapes; the bean will reflect the climate and farming culture of the places they are grown. This may be referred to as "terroir."

Raw coffee beans are roasted, or cooked, to augment their flavor before brewing. Beans can be roasted lightly or darkly, and this decision greatly determines the richness of the coffee. Most beans are best suited for a particular type of roasting, so it is important to know that improper roasting can ruin otherwise good beans. Additionally, there are various regional differences and schools of thought in roasting preferences. Ask about how various coffees are roasted to discover your own preference!

Assuming that you have good coffee grounds, the brewing method is a crucial component of good coffee. Funnel Mill highly recommends avoiding machine dripped coffee, because it tends to bring out the bitter flavor and acidity in the coffee. Our preferred brewing method is by Syphon because it yields a smoother and richer beverage.

Robusta vs Arabica

Coffee beans are broadly classified into two major categories: Robusta and Arabica.

Robusta beans hail from Coffea Conephora, which grows at lower altitudes and produces an abundance of beans. As the name implies, this species is very robust and resistant to disease, making its beans very economical to produce. As a result, Robusta beans are drunk all over the world, and are commonly used for commercial purposes and instant coffee. These beans naturally have about twice the caffeine and acidity as Arabica beans, and the taste tends to be much more harsh and bitter. Many roasters will mix Arabica beans into Robusta blends in order to compensate for its shortcomings.

Arabica beans are grown at approximately 4,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level, which is much higher than its less expensive counterpart. The beans require much more of their environment in order to flourish. Abundant rainfall, high humidity, warm temperatures, and fertile soil contribute to a good Arabica bean. Because of the care required to produce high quality beans, Arabica comes in several grades. Only 5% to 10% of Arabica beans are considered specialty grade. Hawaiian Kona Fancy, Jamaica Blue Mountain and Kopi Luwak are the very best examples.

What is caffeine?

Time for the chemistry lesson of the day! The caffeine molecule is composed of 8 carbon atoms, 10 hydrogen atoms, 4 nitrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. It looks a little like this:

only a little bit smaller. Caffeine has long been recognized for its mild stimulatory properties; you already know that a cup of coffee in the morning or after lunch can perk you up and increase your focus. But did you know that it has been used for many centuries in medicine to treat headaches and other ailments? In fact, even today the caffeine used in medicines is often derived from tea or coffee.

Espresso Dictionary

Coffee is incredibly versatile, and over the years people have invented many unique ways to drink it. If you are used to ordering a latte or a mocha, try adding these to your repertoire!