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Along with water and tea, coffee ranks as one of the three favourite drinks in the world. One reason for its popularity is surely its versatility. In many parts of the world a number of different ways to prepare coffee have developed along the course of coffee’s long history. And in many cultures, savouring coffee is practised as a traditional ritual – whether this takes place in Arabia or Vienna. To understand what makes coffee so fascinating and unique, you should get to know all about it. For example, did you know that besides caffeine, coffee also contains antioxidants that help protect our cells from free radicals? We have put together a few questions about coffee and would like to share the interesting answers with you here.
What do coffee plants and their fruit look like?
Coffee plants are shrubs that can grow to a height of four metres. They have elongated, oval leaves and bear white blossoms that resemble jasmine, which produce red fruit – the coffee cherries. Each cherry contains two oval seeds. These are the actual coffee beans. The term, “bean??? is actually confusing in this context, as coffee beans are not botanically related to other kinds of beans. Before roasting, raw coffee beans have a yellowish to greenish-grey colour.
Where is coffee grown?
The coffee plant originally comes from Africa. But nowadays, it is cultivated in broad areas of the tropics and subtropics including South America. The growing conditions required for coffee only exist in the area just around the equator. These conditions include an extremely consistent climate, and depending on the variety of coffee, average annual temperatures between 18°C and 30°C. Highland coffees grow at elevations up to 1,200 m above sea level. They are characterised by their slight acidity and extraordinary flavour, which makes them especially noteworthy.
How many different kinds of coffee are there?
All coffee shrubs belong to the genus Coffea of the plant family Rubiaceae. There are approx. 6,000 species that belong to this family. However, Arabica and Robusta beans have established themselves as the most important varieties of coffee. Robusta coffee has higher caffeine content than Arabica beans. The Arabica species alone accounts for more than 65% of global coffee production. It is very popular because of its excellent quality and its aromatic flavour. For example, Espresso Ristretto for the NESCAFÉ ® Dolce Gusto ® is made from 100% Arabica beans.
What is meant by the term “blend????
A mixture of different varieties of coffee, for example Arabia and Robusta beans, is called a blend. Altering the particular combination of varieties and their ratio creates an ever-greater range of different and new flavours. Similar to the pure coffee varieties, blends can also achieve extraordinary quality. NESCAFÉ Green Blend offers a unique mixture of beans. Besides containing two-thirds roasted coffee beans, NESCAFÉ Green Blend also contains one-third green, unroasted coffee beans. This mixture of beans not only yields an aromatically balanced flavour but also contains valuable antioxidants (coffee polyphenols), which can provide support for the body’s internal system of cell protection.
How is instant coffee produced?
Roasted coffee beans are first washed, ground, and then brewed in hot water. In this process, all the different elements in the coffee dissolve to form a thick extract. This extract is then cooled before it is ready for drying. There are two different drying processes: spray-drying using heat and freeze-drying. Both methods concentrate the coffee extract to produce a water-soluble instant coffee product. Just like ground coffee, instant coffee is a 100% pure coffee product that contains no additional ingredients. Kept in its original sealed packaging, it stays fresh for at least 18 months.
What produces the characteristic coffee aroma and flavour?
The area of cultivation has a major effect upon the aroma and flavour of the beans: while African varieties have a strong flavour and are partially characterised by their high acidity, those from South America tend to be milder and contain less acid, but they are popular due to their intense aroma. And yet, it is only at the time of roasting that the typical coffee aromas and flavours fully develop. The heat of the roasting process sets off chemical reactions that liberate aromatic compounds. To date, there have been more than 900 different coffee aromas discovered. During roasting, the colour of the beans changes from green or yellowish to a clear, dark brown tone (depending upon the degree of roasting), and they double in size. The roasting temperature can be up to 200° C and depending on the process, roasting can take from 6-15 minutes to complete. It is important that the roaster adapts the technique to capture the precise moment when the beans have developed their full aroma, but have not been excessively burned. Toward the end of the roasting process, the beans can continue to roast even without any additional heat, and this could lead to them being burnt. Therefore, at the end of the roast, the beans are immediately cooled using a water spray to stop the roasting process. In this way, all of the beans will be roasted to exactly the same degree.
What is the best way to store coffee so that it keeps its aroma for a long time?
Ground coffee and coffee beans will retain their flavour and aroma for a long time if stored in a dark, cool place and kept as well sealed as possible. As soon as coffee is exposed to oxygen, it rapidly begins to lose its flavour and aroma. The best way to store coffee is to put the opened original container into a coffee canister with a sealable lid, and to store the canister in the refrigerator. If you also are careful to quickly seal up the canister every time you remove some coffee and put it back in the refrigerator, then you will be able to enjoy perfect coffee flavour for a long time. Ground coffee that is vacuum packed can be stored for up to 18 months. If you wish to store coffee in its original packaging for a longer period, you can also freeze it. Coffee beans that are not vacuum packed should be consumed within six weeks. Every coffee package also has a best-before date on it, which will give you an idea of its longevity.
How do you prepare the perfect cup of coffee?
Regardless of how you prefer to drink your coffee, the following tips will help to optimally develop its flavour and aroma:
The water you use for brewing should have a low lime content and not be hotter than 95°C. You will get the best results using freshly ground coffee. Fully automatic coffee makers create the most aromatic coffee flavours, since they grind the beans just before brewing. But with a simple French press brewer, using freshly ground coffee, you can also obtain wonderful results. The same is true for the very practical capsule or pad machines, such as the NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto®. The higher pressure in these machines results in especially aromatic and creamy coffee. They also offer the advantage that you can use them quite easily to prepare coffee shop style drinks in your own home, ranging from espresso to latte macchiato.
Hand-brewed filter coffee works especially well if you pour the water into the filter in a slow stream rather than all at once. There also are some filter coffee machines that brew coffee according to the same principle. Overall, it is very important to keep the filter and the pot clean, as deposits of coffee oils can generate a slightly rancid flavour. Filter coffee tastes best when it is freshly made.
Preparing instant coffee is especially easy: you simply put the desired amount of powder in a cup, cover it with hot water and stir the beverage. The recommended quantity of powder is given on the package. Depending on your personal preference for a milder or stronger result, you can simply add more or less powder to the cup.
How much coffee do Germans drink in a year?
According to the German Coffee Association, coffee was the most popular beverage in Germany in 2008: the average per capita consumption in that year was 148 litres, which is the equivalent of about 592 cups. German coffee consumption has been continuously on the rise. Since 2005 it has increased by four litres per citizen of the Federal Republic.
Has coffee always been as widely known and loved as it is today?
No, it took several centuries before coffee attained its current status as one of the three most popular beverages in the world. The coffee shrub originated in the highlands of Ethiopia. There, coffee beans were harvested as early as the 9th century. Departing from Ethiopia, coffee first travelled along sea routes to conquer Yemen, where the preparation of coffee as a beverage was invented. Afterwards, the enjoyment of coffee first reached Venice in the early 17th century and went on to launch its conquest of the entire European continent from there.
For a long time, enjoyment of coffee was restricted to the rich and the privileged classes. While many clerics in the early modern age regarded the black beverage as “Satan’s brew???, the leaders of the French Revolution especially loved coffee because of its stimulating effect upon the mind. In Germany, coffee spread relatively slowly, since the nation did not have any of its own colonies where the coffee shrub could be cultivated.
Why does coffee stimulate you?
The cause of the stimulating effect of coffee is the caffeine it contains. Within a half-hour to an hour after drinking coffee, it can improve physical performance and alertness. As a result, one feels stimulated and is better able to concentrate. This effect of caffeine can last for up to five hours.
How much caffeine is there in coffee?
One cup of normal-strength coffee contains 50 – 150 mg caffeine. Caffeine content varies depending upon the type of beans: Arabica beans have a 1% caffeine content, while Robusta beans contain about twice as much. Depending on the ratio in the mixture of ground coffee and water, it is possible to decrease or increase the caffeine content of a cup of coffee. In addition, there are also decaffeinated coffees as well as what is known as “country coffee???, which is made from barley malt and chicory, and also contains no caffeine.
How many calories are there in a cup of coffee?
There are virtually no calories contained in black coffee. It does vary according to how the coffee is prepared: while a cup of filter coffee or espresso contains approx. 5 kcal per cup, a cup of instant coffee contains 2 kcal. Therefore, coffee can be an ideal pleasure for people who are counting calories
Is it really true that coffee can protect you from free radicals?
Yes, since coffee contains what are known as antioxidants. They help protect the cells in our body from free radicals. Free radicals are produced not only in the course of natural body processes, but also as a result of negative environmental influences, such as UV rays or cigarette smoke. Antioxidants are found not only in coffee but also in many other foods. Your can read more about how free radicals are created and which foods contain antioxidants in our article “Antioxidants – our health police force???.
How many cups of coffee is it safe to drink a day?
Coffee can have very different effects upon different individuals, and thus it is hard to set a general upper limit for daily coffee consumption. Drinking a moderate amount of up to four cups a day combined with a balanced and varied diet as well as a healthy life style should not cause any concern – this is the recommendation from the German Nutrition Association. However, anyone who has a heart or cardiovascular illness or other chronic health condition should consult his/her doctor about how much coffee is safe to drink.
Can you count coffee as part of your daily fluid intake or does it dehydrate the body?
It is recommended that adults drink a total quantity of 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid every day. A cup of coffee consists mostly of water, so 150 ml of coffee would correspond to approx. 10% of our daily fluid requirement from beverages. However, for a long time the caffeine in coffee was considered to be a ‘fluid thief’, which could leave the body dehydrated. By contrast, newer studies have shown: anyone who drinks several cups of coffee every day – and is thus accustomed to coffee consumption – can definitely count coffee as part of his/her fluid consumption. Yet, coffee should never be the only beverage you drink, and should be supplemented with water, fruit drinks and herbal teas. Moderate coffee consumption of up to four cups daily should not cause any concern. For people who only drink an occasional cup of coffee, it can indeed have a slight dehydrating effect. Thus, coffee is hardly the fluid thief it was considered to be in the past. In any case, if you drink a glass of water with your coffee, you certainly won’t have anything to worry about.