According to popular rumor, we’re in the middle of National Coffee Month. While the origins of this designation for August seem to be shrouded in mystery — and for true coffee enthusiasts, every month is coffee month — it’s certainly as good excuse as any to wax on about the one of the most popular beverages in the world.
So, to celebrate National Coffee Month, here are 31 facts, tidbits, links, and other sundry items about that lovely, roasted, caffeinated product. A tidbit for every day of the month!
1. Coffee comes in two main varieties: Arabica (higher quality in terms of taste) and Robusta (more caffeine, cheaper, less flavorful). While Robusta is used in some blends, you won’t find a specialty coffee purveyor selling straight Robusta.
2. The Specialty Coffee Association of America evidently needs 1,560 words to define “specialty coffee,” but one good quote from the piece identifies it as “coffee in its green stage as coffee that is free of primary defects, has no quakers, is properly sized and dried, presents in the cup free of faults and taints and has distinctive attributes….” For the rest of the article, see here.
3. Single-origin coffee is becoming increasingly popular; it’s simply coffee with a single geographical origin, be it a single farm or a collection of farms.
4. Coffee is was discovered in Ethiopia.
5. French Naval Officer Captain Gabriel Mathieu de Clie is credited with having brought coffee to the western world by escorting one small coffee plant, bartered for through favors, more 4,000 miles on the high seas, to the island of Martinique in 1723.
6. About a third of the world’s coffee comes from Brazil.
7. Most important step in improving your coffee: water. Brewed coffee is 98% water. According to Caribbean Coffee Company’s John Goerke, the best results come from filtered water “with total dissolved solids of 100 parts per million or lower.” Reverse osmosis filtration is the most effective method to achieve this (and no small coincidence is part of this very Web site’s name).
8. Second-most important (according to many): grinder. Burr = good; propeller = bad. It’s all about a consistent grind.
9. The percolator, which was popular amongst your grandparents and their peers to make coffee at home, is shunned today due to its tendency to push already brewed coffee through the grounds over and over. Also it applies heat directly to already brewed coffee, which diminishes the flavor.
10. Making coffee in a Moka Pot is easy and awesome.
11. Making coffee in a French Press / Press pot is easy, quick, and awesome.
12. Making coffee in a stovetop vacuum pot / siphon pot isn’t so easy. But it’s cool. (Link to a video, courtesy Intelligentsia Coffee, Venice location).
13. Cowboy coffee is worth trying, if only for the feel of the Old West (but it can’t compare to more modern equipment when it comes to taste). Basically, this is how you make coffee in one pot over an open fire.
14. Middle Eastern coffee, while having some variance among its sub-types (Turkish, etc), is hard to make, and not for everyone. But those who dig it find it syrupy and deep and delicious. The process has several variations, but usually is characterized by putting sugar and/or various spices into the mixture, then bringing it to a boil over flame or a stove. For true Turkish coffee, the concoction is thrice-boiled, which creates a stronger brew and encourages a foam that connoisseurs of Turkish coffee consider a necessity. Other Middle Eastern-style coffee only calls to bring it to a boil once, but in all cases it’s served hot, in small demitasses, and almost always with something very sweet.
15. Espresso is approximately 9 bars of pressure transmogrifying finely ground beans into pure poetry.
16. Optimal coffee brewing temp is approximately between 198 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
17. Coffee is baking-soda like in its ability to absorb odors (all the more reason to store it away from stinky stuff and brew it in a timely manner once you bring it home. You don’t want it picking up weird scents.)
18. Coffee “beans” are the seed of a coffee plant, which, as Coffee Scientist Joseph A. Rivera told us a few months ago, is part of the drupe family. (Pics of the coffee plant growing above).
19. There are a number of procedures mainly used to decaffeinate coffee. Check out a guide here.
20. A 20-oz strong-brewed cup of coffee from a specialty coffee retailer (think Starbucks, Peet’s) may contain almost 500 mg of caffeine. Espresso contains 90-100 mg of caffeine per ounce (roughly). So a double-espresso shot Americano is probably less caffeine than a medium drip.
21. It would take 112 cups of caffeinated coffee to actually kill someone (average male).
22. Coffee is typically roasted at approximately 370 degrees F minimum, and can go into the 500s.
23. Coffee will clog your drains. Avoid putting used grounds down the sink.
24. Coffee is a diuretic. (It makes you pee).
25. The instant coffee market is $20 billion+; no wonder Starbucks made Via.
26. The whole the specialty coffee market is slightly more than half that (about $11 billion in 2002).
27. 20 oz. coffee at Starbucks or similar? $2-$2.25. Same at home? Closer to $1 (variables abound, but still)
28. The oft-alluded to “poop coffee” is called Kopi Luwak; it’s from civet cats that eat the fruits whole and poop out the beans. Remember that these things get roasted at high temperatures; while it may not be as good as the crazy prices would indicate, you don’t have to worry that your drinking dung.
29. Salty coffee? Indeed. In Taiwan, you’ll find salt whipped into the foamy cream resting atop your beverage at certain stores.
30. Caffeine that is removed from coffee can be captured and resold to pharmaceutical companies.
31. According to at least one study, coffee drinkers develop a resistance to anxiety. (Interesting theory, but could’a fooled me).
There you go! Celebrate Coffee Month with knowledge. And a good cup of coffee, maybe.