The Good And Bad About Coffee

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world – it is also mega business. Coffee plants are cultivated in more than 70 countries. It is an important export commodity for Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Half the population in America drinks coffee on a daily basis. Starbucks, founded in 1971, is now the world’s biggest coffeehouse chain with over 20,000 stores in more than 60 countries. In the last five years (2009-2013) alone, Starbucks’ share price has risen more than seven-fold.

Given this widespread popularity, it is no surprise that many people have wondered if drinking coffee is an unhealthy habit. Caffeine, after all, is a stimulant drug and is addictive. For decades, medical advice from organizations like the American Heart Association has indicated that coffee may lead to high blood pressure and is bad for your heart. You may even have been told that coffee will give you an ulcer. However, in recent years, there has been an enormous amount of new research that has just pretty much exonerated coffee.

Is coffee good or bad for you? The following summarizes the latest findings on coffee and how it may actually benefits your health. Further, if you are a regular coffee drinker, there are certain things about coffee that you should also be aware of. Lastly, know that coffee may not be appropriate for everyone, if you have certain conditions, you should not be drinking coffee at all.

Latest Research On The Health Perks Of Coffee

Although not every single study shows coffee to have health-promoting properties, the majority is rather positive.

Apart from caffeine, coffee contains a natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants, bioflavonoids, B vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and chromium. Research shows that not only are the non-caffeine components of coffee anti-inflammatory, they work together synergistically to help neutralize the harsher effects of the caffeine. In addition, coffee may actually activate beneficial pathways in our bodies at the DNA level.

These studies show that moderate coffee consumption on a regular basis reverses cognitive impairment, cuts cancer risk, stabilizes blood sugar, and benefits the heart. In other words, coffee helps reduce the risk of many diseases:

Alzheimer’s disease
Cancer (including breast, colon, endometrial, kidney, liver, and oral)
Diabetes (type 2)
Heart disease (including heart rhythm problems and stroke)
Parkinson’s disease
Prostate cancer
Important Facts For Coffee Drinkers

Even though coffee may have all the amazing health benefits, not all coffee is the same. Besides, how and when you drink it makes a difference too.

Always choose organic. Coffee is a crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides, therefore, you should select only coffee beans that are certified organic. Whenever possible, purchase sustainable “shade-grown” coffee to help prevent the continued destruction of the tropical rain forests and the birds that inhabit them.

Always buy whole bean. Only purchase whole beans that smell and taste fresh, not stale.

You do not want to buy pre-ground coffee because you never know whether it is already rancid by the time you get it.

Darker roast is superior to light roast. The darker roasts, such as French, Italian, or those used to make expresso and Turkish coffee, are higher in neuroprotective agents than the lighter roasts. Dark roast coffee restores blood levels of the antioxidants vitamin E and glutathione more effectively than light roast coffee. Dark roast coffee is also easier on your stomach as it contains a chemical that prevents your stomach from producing excess acid.

Best time to drink coffee is in the morning. According to some research, coffee may increase your metabolism by up to 20 percent. Therefore, having a cup of organic coffee or one shot of espresso in the morning is ideal. If you exercise in the morning, have your coffee before workout as studies show that coffee boosts athletic performance, not after as the caffeine may interfere with your body’s muscle-building mechanism. However, do not go overboard, one or two cups in the morning should be the maximum for the day.

Drink your coffee without sugar, artificial sweetener, or commercial creamers. Otherwise, you are undoing all the health benefits of coffee. Excess sugar intake increases the risk of insulin resistance, suppresses the immune system, and perpetuates addictive food behavior. If you like dairy and can tolerate it, you may add organic or preferably grass-fed whole milk or cream to your coffee. Skim or non-fat milk often has more sugar than whole milk, while commercial creamers tend to have unsavory ingredients.

Organic Fair Trade Coffee Is Good for the Planet

Coffee! The eye opening elixir. Coffee! Black, drinkable, the energizing drink that livens our lives. Coffee! A long history from an exotic unknown berry to a massive commodity production, back to exotic again. And what a past this bitter black beverage has had. The dancing goats, to high volume commodity sales, to the near extinction of the finest of quality coffee beans, the art of growing and handling coffee berries has never died. It has only been altered though out time.

Coffee! The eye opening elixir. Coffee! Black, drinkable, the energizing drink that livens our lives. Coffee! A long history from an exotic unknown berry to a massive commodity production, back to exotic again. One must hand it to that little coffee shop from Seattle that now encompasses the globe. They sure did take the world by storm. In one fell swoop that little coffee company took a commodity beverage and cast it back into the exotic drinkable realm where it was born from as well as distorting the beauty of specialty gourmet coffee for future generations. What is now perceived as a quality coffee bean has traveled back to the art of commodity coffee. The competition on the street corner for a drinkable cup of coffee has become fierce. Each brewer says that their brew is the “perfect cup of coffee”. However they all grab from the same commodity level stocks. Of course without these commodity grown stocks coffee would be in greatly diminished supplies. Yes, coffee is in diminished supply. That is the supply of good quality coffee beans had almost vanished over the last couple of decades as corner boutiques converted to the ravishing corner coffee shop.

There is a change! Finally there is a change in the air. The very small boutique coffee shop and coffee roaster is finally allowed the glory of finding high quality coffee beans once again. Small farm and niche green coffee beans are now becoming available to the fair trade coffee market. Quality organic coffee is being selectively grown just for the small independent coffee roasting operations.

Finally we have coffee drinkers who care more and more about the people of the Earth and the planet that we live on. We now have coffee drinkers who care about the survival of coffee farmers and the lands on which the coffee bean is grown. There are specialty coffee drinkers who cherish the survival and health of our mother earth.

Sustainable Organic Fair Trade Coffee is finally becoming a household request. Fair trade is good for the people. Organic coffee is healthier for you as well as giving health back to our planet.

Fair trade coffee provides a fair platform for the whole supply chain of this wonderful drink. Fair trade coffee beans mean fair prices for those who drink it. It may not be the cheapest coffee to buy however for the quality and sustainability the prices are equitable. It also provides better wages and living conditions for those who grow and produce the sought after bean. Fair trade is an agreement between farmers, workers, shippers, and consumers to care about each other and everyone involved. After all that is what community and health is all about.

Foresight by coffee growers proved beneficial. The few that saw a future for renewed exotic demand set course with new direction. Armed with a brighter knowledge these coffee plantations moved away from the distorted massive commodity market left to flounder by that little coffee shop from Seattle. These foresight seers set their sights on a smaller specialty marketplace. This knowledge was that there would be a need for finely grown and carefully cared for coffee beans. They knew that the land was important, that their community was important, and the survival of quality coffee was important. There would be a need for carefully grown, hand selected, artistically roasted, and rushed to the discerning consumers waiting coffee grinder and brewing system coffee. Out of the fair trade coffee supply grew the expertise to market the perfect cup of coffee. Quality fair trade organic coffee beans are available. Still a consumer can find the organic coffee they seek for their cup of coffee at the corner commodity brewer. Astute coffee drinkers find it a poor substitute for the real experience of fine coffee.

Those coffee drinkers with the discerning desire for the perfect bitter tinged elixir must still seek the out of the way roasters to fulfill their needs. They must discover the hidden gems in the coffee roasting world. And, yes, there are those little gems and merchants, imports, roasters, and sellers. And yes there are many who like yourself desire their cup of coffee to stand out as the pure enjoyment of a cup of coffee should be. After all tingling taste buds and allowing your senses to dance around the flavors of coffee is what life is all about. Allowing your mouth to wrap around the delicate chocolate or nutty earth flavors of the coffee bean and the smoky power of a fine roast is what we seek as a coffee drinker.

If, and when, you find that little quality niche coffee shop hold onto it tight allowing it to grow and become sustainable. Seek out the online coffee merchant that has done the leg work of finding the best roasters and fastest service. Get that cup of coffee. Get your organic blend. Get the roast you desire. Get the fair trade coffee beans you deserve. Don’t let go.

Yes, people drink coffee to stimulate their minds for the long stress filled hour of the day. Stimulating the senses is more important as well. Awakening the olfactory system with quality flavor from specialty hand selected coffee puts the shear aspect of the lowly commodity coffee production into a totally insignificant perspective. Hum drum becomes the everyday ordinary cup of coffee sold at all of the corner coffee shops. Taste bud boredom is a crime of depriving the human senses of ecstasy that we all crave and deserve. Alive taste buds cause the human being to be alive, excited, and adventurous in our every day activities. Start your day with an eye opening sense grabbing cup of coffee and know that your day will be brighter more enjoyable and full of experience. And further know that when you purchase great organic fair trade coffee that you are caring for the planet that gives us our daily life.

Eleven Steps to a Better Cup of Coffee

If you are like most coffee drinkers, you probably think you are already getting an awesome cup of coffee. However odds are that you can probably still improve the quality by following these eleven steps:

  1. Use Quality Coffee Beans

Stay out of the grocery stores! OK that is a serious statement, but seriously do not buy coffee beans at the grocery store. No one knows when it was roasted and that is a critical, key point in coffee freshness. These beans are known for being stale, whether they are in the gravity bins (especially stale!) or bagged (usually stale!). No one really knows how long the beans have been in the bins or bags. Buy your coffee from an area independent coffee shop or artisan coffee roaster that can verify the roasting date. This is the only way to know you are buying freshly roasted coffee beans of gourmet quality. Their reputation is on the line so they strive for the best quality coffee freshly roasted.

  1. Store Properly Remove your beans from the original bag and put in an airtight container like Tupperware or Glad Ware. The more opaque the container, the better to keep harmful light out. Extreme light like keeping coffee in a glass jar on the sink can cause deterioration of your beans, allowing your final cup of coffee to taste flat or stale.

Do not store in the freezer or refrigerator. Keep them in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place like a cupboard or pantry. Refrigerators harbor many odors and coffee is very porous. It will act like a sponge to odors whether it’s ground or whole bean. Freezers can cause freezer burn, and the flavor oils to crack and lose flavor. These oils are where the flavor is. Storing in the freezer freezes the surface condensation each time the coffee is taken out of the freezer.

Excess moisture will cause your beans to stale faster and shorten the life span of your coffee so a cool, dry and dark place it recommended for storage.

  1. Proper Grind and Grind Just Before Using

The grind of the coffee matters. Your coffee should be ground for the type of brewing method you are using. Coarse for French press and single serve, fine for espresso. The in between matter but for most auto-drip makers your grind should be just finer than coarse meaning that when you rub it between your fingers the grinds should feel similar to typical bread crumbs. Espresso grinds should feel like somewhere between sugar and powdered sugar. Also, by using a burr grinder your coffee will receive less friction than a typical blade grinder giving your grinds less chance to get scorched during grinding.

Coffee is very porous and will absorb odors and air (oxygen) very fast. Oxygen will make your coffee taste really bad! So, the longer your coffee is ground and not used the longer it has to stale and make a bad cup.

  1. Measure Properly

Weigh your coffee before you grind it. To make a good, well-rounded cup of coffee you should use approximately.75oz (22g) of coffee beans to every 8oz of cold water. You can +/- to taste but this is a good starting point.

  1. Purified Water at Precise Temperature

Fresh, clean tap water (purified is best) or quality spring water is recommended. Do not use mineral water, distilled water or tap water with any type of odor. It will make your coffee taste bad. The water should be between 195-205 degrees when ready to brew. At this temperature, the coffee will get proper extraction to optimize the flavor oils and caramelized sugars inside the coffee bean. This is hard to accomplish with most home brewers as the heating elements are not heat adjustable nor are they reliable to heat to the proper temperature at all. Good home coffee brewers will cost about $200 but are well worth it and last a lot longer. If you can, try the single cup pour over methods available or other brewing methods such as French press or siphon. The taste difference is remarkable. Google search each method for more information.

In Search of the Best Coffee Makers

Coffee may be the most popular beverage in the world. Recent statistics indicate that over 50% of the American population are coffee drinkers and this number would more than likely hold true in many other countries as well. This more than any thing else helps to explain why there is such a wide range of coffee makers available for purchase today.

With such a diverse range of coffee machines, there is more choice for the coffee drinking public than ever before. Main stream popular styles include the Automatic and Manual Drip, Pod, Automatic Espresso, French Press, Percolator, Stovetop Espresso and the Vacuum. Each one of these styles has some unique characteristic that are sure to appeal to a certain segment of the coffee drinking public.

Automatic and Manual Drip Coffee Machines

The most popular style of coffee maker continues to be the automatic drip coffee maker. The basic design is very simple and efficient. Add fresh water to the built-in reservoir, insert a filter in to the handy filter holder, measure your favorite coffee grounds and pour into the filter and then press the start button. Within minutes your senses are excited by the smell of freshly brewed hot coffee! Most models also have a built-in timer and a pot warmer included so that you can set your coffee to brew and be ready at any hour of the day or night, and kept constantly warm as well.

Manual drip coffee brewers do take a bit more work since you need to boil the water using another heat source, but after that it is basically the same coffee making process of putting coffee grounds in the filter and pouring the hot water through the filter so that the coffee liquid is collected in the pot or container below. One great advantage of the manual drip coffee machine is that is can go most any where with you as it is not dependent upon having electricity to operate so it is great for camping and other outdoor activities.

Pod Coffee Machines

These are becoming very trendy and popular in recent years. Working similar to the automatic drip machines, they feature the ability to use pre-packaged containers or pods of specialty coffees to brew great tasting coffee. With many reputable coffee chains such as Starbucks now selling their most popular coffee blends in the pod format, consumers can get the same tasting cup of specialty coffee at home that they had to go out and purchase before at a much higher price.

Automatic Espresso Coffee Brewer

Espresso coffee makers have become much more affordable in recent years and because of this, they are gaining in popularity amongst serious coffee drinkers wanting something more than just a normal cup of coffee. There are currently three types of espresso coffee brewers to choose from, namely semi automatic, fully automatic, and super automatic. As a rule, the more automatic the espresso maker is, the less you need to do to brew your coffee, but unfortunately the more expensive it is to purchase. For example, where a semi-automatic model will tamp the coffee grounds, brew the coffee, fill your cup and eject the old grounds, an entirely automatic model will also grind the coffee for you as well, and the super automatic espresso coffee maker will do all of the above plus having additional features such as built-in water filters and self-cleaning.

Stovetop Espresso Coffee Maker

The stovetop espresso coffee brewers are basically a manual method for preparing espresso coffee when you do not have access to an automatic version or an electrical source of energy. This makes it an ideal coffee maker for taking outdoors on camping or fishing trips if you feel the need to make an espresso cup of coffee. First water is placed inside the underside boiler and then a cone filter is situated inside the boiler and filled with coffee grounds. Next the top is lightly tightened and the brewer is place over the heat source. After a few minutes, once the top of the boiler is filled with the freshly brewed coffee it is removed from the heat supply and the coffee is ready to be served. Here again, the absence of any warming feature means the coffee has to be served immediately.

Coffee Bean Processing Method Affects Final Flavor

How do you take your coffee? Two creams, a dozen sugars? Nine splendas? Lots of high fructose corn syrup in that latte? Or are you more of a purist that loves the delicate nut and chocolate notes of a Guatemalan? How about the sweet caramel finish of the best straight espresso shot in town? Well, before you can drink up Joe in any method, coffee beans have to be removed from the cherry. Even organic coffee. That is done in a couple of ways depending on the country of origin and it is called processing. In addition to the growing region’s effect on cup taste, each method of processing helps to give the bean a distinct flavor profile in the overall final taste of the coffee.

The wet process is the process in which the fruit is removed from the seeds (beans) before they are dried. The wet process method is also called washed coffee. In this method the fruit is removed in water and the beans are usually dried on patios in the sun.

Wet processed coffees are like those from South America, Colombia and some from Ethiopia. Most Central Americans like Guatemalan and Costa Rican are wet-processed as well. These coffees are cleaner, brighter, and fruitier. Most countries with coffee valued for its perceived acidity, will process it using the wet-process.

The dry process is another method, also known as unwashed or natural process. It is the oldest method of processing green coffee beans where the entire cherry is cleaned and then placed in the sun to dry on tables or in thin layers on patios, completely intact and the dried cherry is removed after it has dried. This will give the coffee a sweeter taste due to the fruit drying intact.

Most of the coffees produced in Brazil, Ethiopia and India use the dry method. In rainy areas however, it is not practical. However, there are many characteristics that are directly related to the way these coffee beans are processed as well. Dry-processed coffees are like those from Indonesia, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Yemen. The dry-process (also known as the natural method) produces coffee that is heavy in body, sweet, smooth, and complex. This processing method is often used in countries where rainfall is scarce and lots of sunny days are available to dry the coffee properly.

Another method used in Brazil mainly but also used on some farms in Sulawesi, Indonesia and Sumatra. These are known as semi-dry processed coffee (aka pulped natural or semi-wet process). The coffee is prepared by removing the outer skin of the cherry and drying the coffee with the sticky mucilage and the inner skins still clinging to the bean.

As for the pulped natural method of processing coffee beans, eliminating the fermentation stage that removes the silver skin allows for a coffee that has both wet and dry characteristics. Therefore, more sweetness than wet-processed coffees, some of the body of dry-processed and some of the acidity of a wet-processed coffee. This type of processing only happens in countries where there is relatively low humidity and the coffee can be dried rapidly without fermenting. The country that has made this process famous is Brazil. FYI fermentation occurs when the inner slimy mucilage is removed before drying. Pulped coffee beans are put into cement fermentation tanks with water where they are allowed to ferment for 16-36 hours.