Coffee beans are harvested as berries from a tropical shrub.Two species of coffee account for nearly all the beans grown worldwide: Arabica coffees are delicate plants, difficult to grow. Nevertheless, they supply about 65 to 75 percent of the world's coffee. Most of the finest coffees are from arabica beans. Robusta coffee plants are hardier and easier to grow. Most ordinary supermarket coffee is made from robusta beans, but robusta can also yield beans of very high quality.
Each coffee berry contains two seeds.The harvested berries are fermented and hulled, yielding green or gray-green coffee beans.The green beans are roasted to develop their flavor.The degree of roasting—light,medium, dark—affects the flavor. Most Americans drink medium roast, sometimes called city roast,while darker roasts, sometimes called Viennese roast (medium dark) and French roast (very dark), are popular in Europe and increasingly popular in North America.The darkest roast, espresso roast,is nearly black and is brewed using a special process discussed below.
Coffee is grown in many tropical countries, and each producing area is known for certain quality and flavor characteristics. Excellent coffees are grown in Colombia, Brazil,Venezuela,Mexico,Jamaica,Hawaii,Indonesia,and nations in Africa and the Middle East.
Most ground coffees are blends of several varieties. Blending enables the processor to combine desirable quantities from a number of beans to produce a well-balanced beverage.
Coffee may be purchased in whole bean or ground form.Whole beans stay fresh longer, but unopened vacuum packs of ground coffee keep well for a week or two and, for many establishments, are the easiest and most economical way to buy coffee. Ground coffee, once opened, should be kept in airtight containers and used within a few days. Better yet, buy ground coffee in premeasured packs suitable for your brewing equipment. Whole beans keep several weeks once opened and months in the freezer. The best practice, though, is to have frequent small deliveries so you always have the freshest coffee on hand.
Brewing procedures for fresh coffee are discussed in the procedures below. In addition to the standard cup of regular hot coffee, the following coffee drinks are sometimes served.
1. Instant coffee is a powdered, soluble extract from coffee beans.To simplify somewhat, instant coffee is made by brewing regular coffee and drying it. In the process, the coffee loses a portion of its flavor and aroma. Most coffee lovers agree that it does not taste as good as freshly brewed coffee. Instant coffee is rarely used in food service.
2. Decaffeinated coffee. Caffeine is a chemical stimulant that occurs naturally in coffee, tea, and chocolate. Decaffeinated coffee is coffee from which the caffeine has been removed by solvents. It is often specially requested by some customers. In
the past, most restaurants offered decaffeinated coffee only in the instant form. Now,however, nearly all restaurants serve freshly brewed decaffeinated coffee.
3. Espresso or expresso is a strong, dark coffee made from beans roasted until they are almost black and ground to a powder. Espresso is served in small cups as an after-dinner beverage. In addition, several popular coffee drinks are made with brewed espresso, as discussed in the next section.
4. Iced coffee is made from double-strength brewed coffee to compensate for dilution by melting ice.
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