Essential Tips for Coffee Lovers – Part 2: Coffee Terms & Tastes

Yesterday, my friend and coffee connoisseur, Laura, gave us some savvy insight into drinking, making, and buying the best coffee. Catch up on those essential tips, then pop back over here to drink in more fresh coffee savoir faire. I even managed to fit in a question about unethical corporations, since I know how passionately Laura feels about supporting mindful products and companies. Grab a hot mug of your favorite brew, and enjoy today’s caffeinated tidbits of wisdom!

I know there are many of us out there who have earned the right to call ourselves coffee lovers, but how much do we really know about our buzz-worthy, morning beverage? I’m excited to learn more about the industry in future — including digging into fair trade issues, and finding out where the best beans in the world originate. Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

K: Can you gives us a rundown on what the terms ‘grind’ and ‘roast’ refer to? How do they affect the quality of the coffee?

LG: These terms confuse many people! The roast and the size of the grind are different features of coffee, so let me try to explain them!

The beans are ground in different sizes for different brewing machines; so a filter machine or cafetière would use a medium grind, whereas an espresso machine should use a finer grind to maximize surface area, since the water will filter through the coffee faster. When buying coffee from a specialty shop, they will usually ask you how you make coffee at home and then grind accordingly. In supermarkets, coffee is usually medium grind, unless it says otherwise on the label.

As for the roast, the different names refer to how long beans are roasted, which affects the flavor. There are four major types of roast – light, medium (city or breakfast), dark/full (high or continental), and double (French) roast.

The name of roast depends on the roasters. There is no international standard, but medium roast is the type that most Americans prefer. Contrary to their names, the light roast is the strongest type whereas the double roast is the weakest (but with the strongest taste).

The process of roasting involves high volumes of beans. Caffeine is lost the longer beans are roasted, so sometimes the light option gives the strongest kick!

I must confess that for a long time, I had no idea what light roast or dark roast actually referred to. The terms are slightly confusing at first! (For photography nerds, this is akin to learning what aperture numbers mean.) Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

K: In your experience, how does the quality of water affect the quality/taste of the coffee?

LG: The type of water you use makes a difference, as water is also a main ingredient in making coffee! Water from the tap can contain calcium or fluoride tastes, and this gets transferred to your coffee — I’ve had coffees with odd tastes before, and I used to wonder if the cup hadn’t been cleaned… until one day, I noticed a friend filtering their drinking water — but filling their kettle directly from the tap!

My general rule is, if you don’t drink water directly from the tap, then don’t use tap water for your coffee either!

 

Two simple ways to make sure we’re brewing great coffee at home is by using high-quality beans, and fresh, filtered water.

Is your favorite coffee shop using filtered water? Make sure to find out for the sake of better-tasting, and healthier coffee! Using filtered water is just as important at home, too. If we’re concerned with sustainability, and appreciate beautiful design, the Soma water filter has the answers with its minimalist look, and all natural materials. Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

K: There are always studies coming out about coffee that range from promoting the its health benefits, to discouraging us from drinking it. What do you think?

LG: I think it depends on the drinker. You should know yourself and how your body reacts to caffeine. If you are not used to drinking coffee, then starting to drink 3 cups a day is probably not healthy. But for regular drinkers, I think there are benefits to drinking coffee. Of course, people should be aware that the studies are based on drinking simple drinks like Americanos or lattes – sweetened, sugary coffee concoctions like Frappuccinos are definitely not good for your health!

For me, I run better after a shot of coffee in the morning, and 2-3 cups a day suits my lifestyle. I have given up coffee in the past, but didn’t feel as alert without it. I also realized that I enjoy the ritual of drinking coffee, like taking a time out from the busy day, or meeting and connecting with a friend over a hot cup. I feel that the coffee break is beneficial for my mental well-being.

I really relate to Laura’s comment about coffee breaks being a great way to relax. I love the comforting ritual of it, whether I’m on my own or with friends. Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

K: What have you learned from visiting so many coffee shops? And, what’s your all-time favorite coffee drink?

LG: I love seeing and talking to the different kinds of people in coffee shops. To learn from them, the conversations over-heard, listen to the regulars and staff – each cafe has its own personality and atmosphere. As a business graduate, it is also interesting for me to see coffee shops’ different marketing strategies, branding, and how they try to find niches in already saturated markets – their creativity never ceases to surprise me!

And as for my ideal drink, hmm… A hot, strong, and rich cappuccino on a chilly morning with a good view of nature! Bliss!

There’s definitely something special about finding a café that feels right for us. Since café hopping can become a pricey habit, it’s helpful to know how to brew excellent coffee in our own homes. Photo by Kimberly Bryant.

Comforting moments — and beyond

Mindfully sipping a hot cup of coffee, whipping up a frothy latte, or relaxing with a friend at our favorite cafe are comforting rituals — small moments of luxury that can add a touch of warmth to our daily routines. If we’re not coffee drinkers, the same can be said for tea, water, or any other drink that nourishes both our body, and soul.

Another aspect of mindfulness rests in our choice of brand: the coffee beans we choose to purchase, and the cafes we support all have a story behind them. Nonetheless, finding out about where, when, and how our coffee is being produced can be tricky. Next time in our coffee quest, we’ll delve into the world of fair trade.

 

Everyone should believe in something.

I believe I’ll have another coffee.