Coffee 101

Coffee: Did you know?


What’s the best way to brew?

Brew methods that employ a paper filter (drip, aeropress, siphon) help bring out the complexities and nuances in a coffee, which makes them great for lightroasted and single-origin coffees. If you’re brewing a medium- or dark-roasted coffee, a method that uses a metal filter (French press or stovetop mokka pot) will accentuate the heavier body and deeper flavor notes that make these roasts popular. For all methods, the proper grind and quantity are key for enjoying coffee at its best.

Why shade-grown?

All organic coffee must be shade-grown, meaning it’s grown under a canopy of diverse shade trees, often on small farms using traditional techniques. Shade-grown coffee fields provide food and shelter for songbirds, as well as habitat for other animals and plants.

Coffee and health

Research indicates coffee may lower the risk of heart disease and has beneficial antioxidants. It’s also a mild painkiller: drinking coffee before you exercise can enhance your workout and prevent post-workout muscle aches.

Coffee’s “acidity”

“Acidity” in coffee references two separate meanings: the way it tastes and the way it affects your body.

Acidity and taste: “Acidity in coffee refers to a certain ‘mouthfeel,’ and definition,” says Marianne Pemberton of Ethical Bean Coffee. It’s gives coffee its brightness and liveliness.

There are more than 1,000 different chemical compounds identified in coffee and about 50 are acids, many of which diminish in roasting. A (very) general rule is the lighter the roast, the higher the acidity; darker roasts have lower acidity. Matt Bunn of Tony’s says “some of the coffee’s acids will increase due to roast level and some will diminish, but the levels of perceivable acids diminish.”

Some beans of a certain origin and grown at a lower elevation (such as Brazil, Sumatra and India) can have naturally lower acidities, but a high-acid green bean can be roasted dark and lose much of its initial acid.

Acidity and the body: If you don’t drink coffee because it irritates your stomach, you may just be drinking the wrong kind. Researchers have found that dark-roasted coffees are easier on the stomach than light because they contain a particular compound that prevents the stomach from producing too much acid.

Some compounds in coffee, including caffeine, cause the stomach to create more acid, but another compound (Nmethylpyridinium, or NMP) reportedly has the opposite effect. Research shows NMP is generated as the coffee beans are roasted, and the longer and darker the roast, the higher its levels. Dark-roasted coffee can contain as much as twice the NMP levels as light-roast coffees, though that can vary depending on the variety of the bean. That’s good news for those who like their coffee rich and dark.

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