Coffees From Around the World - South America

Coffee is often referred to as the most popular drink in the world, and with over 1 billion cups estimated drunk every day it would certainly seem so. In this article we discuss the origins and peculiarities of the coffees the South American Continent.

Brazilian Coffee - Brazil produces roughly a third of the worlds' coffee, but the bulk of it is of the Robusta variety and is not considered to be of high quality. It is mainly used for blending, and the Brazilians have always had the priority of low price over quality.

However there are some excellent Arabica coffees grown around the Sao Paulo region, where the well know Santos or Bourbon Santos bean are produced. Another popular variety is the Rio, a dry-processed bean with a characteristic medicinal-like flavour. Considered a defect by most westerners it is however much loved in the Balkans and Middle-Eastern countries.

Coffee From Colombia - Colombia produces a large amount of excellent and consistent quality - predominately Arabica - beans each year. It is in fact the worlds' largest producer of Arabica coffees.

The standard Colombian coffee is wet-processed, and is grown by small farmers or smallholders - mostly in the three main mountain ranges (called cordilleras) - and collected, processed, milled and exported by the Colombian Coffee Federation. It is all well balanced, has excellent consistency and can range from a superb, high-grown, mildly fruity flavour, to a rather ordinary, yet still fruity coffee.

What is Spray Dried Coffee?

Instant coffee comes in three different forms, freeze dried, spray dried and liquid concentrate. Although the initial brewing process is the same for all methods they vary greatly with the methods used to produce the final coffee product.

Typically the coffee beans chosen for instant coffee production are from the lower end of the quality scale, since many of the subtle flavours and aromas of the more expensive types are lost in the production process.

Freeze dried coffee was discussed in a different article, so here we concentrate on the production of Spray Dried Coffee.

Stage One - This stage involves the production of large quantities of freshly brewed coffee using industrial bulk brewers. Freshly ground coffee is put into contact with hot water in industrial brewers until the desired degree of extraction has occurred. The process can either be the drip filter method that many use in the home or an industrial version of the coffee percolator. A large quality of waste material in the form of used coffee grounds are produced by these methods. However these days they are recycled for use in animal foods, used as organic fuels or processed as compost.

Stage Two - The resulting coffee liquor liquid is then concentrated through an evaporation process where some of the volatile aroma components are removed and stored to be returned later prior to packing.

This stage produces a thick more viscous coffee liquid that is then ready for the next stage in the making of spray dried instant coffee.

What is Freeze Dried Coffee?

Most people given a choice would prefer the taste of fresh ground coffee rather than instant freeze dried coffee but nonetheless the freeze dried coffee market is vast both domestically and commercially.

It's sheer convenience and ease of use is probably its main advantage and with the improvements of modern production processes the flavour of the final beverage has improved dramatically. Just add a spoonful of freeze dried coffee granules to a mug, add hot water and you can enjoy a decent cup of coffee.

We have all probably drunk freeze dried coffee at some stage, but what actually is it and how is it made?

Initially fresh brew coffee is made in the usual way using a very large industrial bulk brewer in which very hot water is passed though fresh coffee grounds in a filter system to produce the hot coffee liquor we are all familiar with.

This coffee liquor is then concentrated through a series of evaporators under vacuum where some of the aroma and flavour compounds are also removed and stored. This ensures that some of the flavour and aroma of the coffee that is lost during the freeze drying process can be 'put-back' into the final product just before packing.

The concentrated coffee liquor then moves on to the actual freeze-dry processing equipment. Here the coffee liquor is initially foamed and then frozen to a temperature of -450 degrees centigrade. It is then ground to the required particle size.

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Whichever blend of coffee you prefer or whatever type of equipment you are using to prepare the coffee the objective is the same. To release the coffee oils and soluble coffee compounds into solution in the final beverage.

Not all the soluble compounds are desirable particularly tannin so it is important to brew the coffee is just the right manner to produce the perfect cup.

Although it is possible to extract as much as a third of the mass of coffee from the grounds the optimum amount is about 20%

There are six important factors to consider when making fresh coffee.

1/ The coffee grind - By this we mean the particle size of the coffee grounds. This varies typically from largest to smallest thus: coarse, medium, fine and espresso (or very fine)

Over-extraction can occur if the grind size is too small for the method and equipment used resulting in a coffee being bitter and too strong. If the size is too large then under-extraction will occur resulting in a weak wishy-washy coffee.

Typically one would use a coarse grind for a coffee pot, medium grind for a cafetiere (French Press), medium to fine for a typical filter drip machine and espresso grind for an espresso machine.

A Simple Guide to Tasting and Describing Coffee

Tastes and aromas are subjective things and everyone perceives them slightly differently. Furthermore a person's sensitivity of taste depends on what food or drink they have consumed recently, how well they are feeling and how old they are amongst others things. A persons sense of smell can vary considerable too as well as being a function of age and general well-being.

However professionals in the coffee industry still need some type of criteria when discussing and analyzing coffee samples and so they have attempted to create a common language amongst themselves to help them compare and understand certain characteristics of coffee taste and aroma.

Whether these professionals are testing for consistency of product or are sampling new blends they have created four basic descriptive criteria that are recognised amongst themselves.

1. Acidity - This is the most important distinguishing characteristic of coffee. It is defined as a pleasant sharpness around the edges of the tongue and towards the back of the palate. Some people would describe the sensation as dryness. Acidity should not be confused with sourness, as a good coffee should have some degree of acidity.

Acidity provides the punch to a coffee and a lack of such will result in a dull, flat lifeless brew. Coffees described as mellow have low acidity, but should have enough to avoid blandness.