Blessed be the bean – pure coffee pleasure
The tradition of visiting coffee houses or cafés has influenced Europe’s society and history for centuries. Allegedly, it was at coffee houses that Marat and Danton prepared the French Revolution and Trotzki initiated Russia’s Red October. Lloyd’s Coffee Shop in Hamburg, which opened its doors in 1688, used to be a popular venue for sailors, merchants and insurance brokers – within only one century, Lloyd’s had become the world’s biggest insurance company. Goethe and Balzac also visited coffee houses to find inspiration for their masterpieces.
Coffee. How can a cherry produce such powerful aroma?
Extremely few machine coffee connoisseurs actually realise what they are wetting their whistle with at work every day.
The strong aroma that supermarket-bought coffee powder promises is a distant cry from the coffee that conveniently comes down the spout of invariably poor quality machines. But there's no fooling a specialist when it comes to the wonderful taste of a carefully prepared coffee.
The bean is a cherry
Botanically-speaking, coffee is the fruit of the coffee plant and is harvested as a drupe, which is similar in appearance to a cherry. Each fruit contains two bean-like seeds from which roasted coffee, as we know it, is produced. Legend has it that an Ethiopian shepherd once picked some raw seeds from the plant, chewed them and threw them into the fire due to their bitter taste. The wonderful smell that they produced prompted the idea of roasting coffee..
There are many legends, but very few pure species
It's not known whether this legend is worth the paper it's written on. Whilst there are so many legends about Germany's favourite drink, the variety of different coffees is a little less legendary. Apart from the renowned Arabica coffee, which enjoys around 60% world market share, there is the Robusta type, which has 36% market share and boasts a caffeine content twice as high as that of Arabica. Excelsa, Stenophylla and Maragogype types lead a niche existence. Those who are not put off by a product that has passed through an Indonesian civet cat can count themselves amongst the fans of the world's most expensive coffee, the Kopi Luwak. This is the result of coffee cherries that the animals eat from the bush and that they excrete in an undigested, yet specifically fermented, state.
There's more to making coffee than putting it in the pot
Making a good coffee begins way before the coffee even reaches the kitchen. The roasting process determines early on whether or not the beans will produce a good coffee. Most industrially roasted coffees fall at this hurdle, which is why small coffee roasters also provide special roasting services. They roast the coffee for longer, and more gently. You can tell a good coffee by its fuller aroma, up to 800 times less bitterness and a better overall flavour. Then there's the grinding. If the coffee is ground too finely, the coffee grounds will produce a bitter-tasting caffeine brew. If ground too coarsely, the coffee will not release its full aroma and the result will be too weak. The art of correct grinding is the answer to a top-quality coffee product. The last step is, of course, the brewing. Whilst Americans brew their coffee with boiling water, European connoisseurs know that a good coffee should always be brewed with water that has come off the boil. Depending on the type of coffee, a temperature of 96°c, a slightly coarse ground and a brewing time of three to five minutes produces the best coffee - one that has absolutely nothing in common with the stale coffee from office pump flasks or the bitter result from a poorly configured espresso machine.