What are the Origins of Coffee?


Did you know that we don’t actually know when people began drinking coffee?

It is believed that some were drinking it in Africa as early as the thirteenth century, but there is little hard evidence to support that.

So, What’s the Origin of Coffee?

The first hard evidence of people drinking coffee comes from Yemen in the fifteenth century. From Yemen, coffee spread throughout the rest of the Muslim world, and then finally into Italy and the rest of Europe.

The drink was initially a luxury item, with the merchants selling the product charging exorbitant prices.

It remained a niche product until 1600, when pope Clement VIII stated that it was okay to consume the beverage. Soon after, in 1645, the first European coffee house was opened in Venice.

The first coffee house in England appeared in 1650 with the Grande Cafe. The Grande Cafe is actually still open, though it is a wine bar now. Four years later, the Queen’s Lane Coffee House was opened, and it still serves coffee to this day. In 1675, just 25 years after the first coffee house appeared, there were more than 3,000 such establishments.

The Muslim world kept control of the supply of coffee for as long as they could, but every European nation dreamt of getting their hands on an actual coffee tree. The Dutch were finally able to procure some trees in the late seventeenth century after winning a battle.

They brought the trees back to their forts in India, where the plants grew readily. It did not take long for the Netherlands to eclipse the Muslim world as the chief supplier of coffee.

Coffee was spread to the Caribbean in 1720 by naval officer Gabriel de Clieu. The plant sprouted readily, and so was soon plentiful enough to spread to other areas. The plant quickly spread to the mainland of South America. Brazil was the first country to get access to the beans, though its growth there didn’t really explode until the nation became independent in 1822.

So the next time you drink a cup of coffee, look at the origin. Coffee has had a long journey to get to where it is today, and has survived attempts to ban and control it. Each growing location is like a step in time, marking coffee’s spread. So enjoy, but think about the history.



What Is Espresso Tamping?

Espresso Tamper

When making espresso with your espresso machine, it is very important that the ground coffee is well packed in the filter basket. If the ground is not properly compacted, the water will flow through the coffee to quickly and create thin and bitter cup of espresso. This is much the same principle as when grinding espresso.

The Espresso Tamper


The tool for the job is called an espresso tamper, and the process is called tampering. A correct tamping makes the water flow through the coffee evenly so that no part of it is overextracted during brewing. The tamper is usually made of metal and can have a flat or a rounded bottom. Cheep ones coming with your espresso machine may also be made of plastic.

Choosing the right tamper is not rocket science, however it is important that the tamper has the right dimensions for the filter basket of your espresso maker.

If the tamper is too small, this will result in an unevenly packet ground with higher density in the middle, and thus the water flowing past in near the edges of the basket. Also, getting a tamper that gives you a good grip will also make things easier.

Good tamping with the right technique

When tamping your espresso ground, follow these easy steps.

1) Fill the filter basket with ground coffee. If you are making a double espresso, start by only putting half the dose in the filter.

2) Knock the filter basket lightly against the counter to make the coffee even out in the filter basket.

3) Grab the tamper and press straight down against the coffee. You should press quite hard, so it helps to put the filter basket down on the counter. Finish by twisting the tamper a bit using the power of your wrist.

4) Check the basket for any loose coffee near the walls, you will find at least some. Knock the tamper lightly against the counter again, and repeat the tamping once again.

5) If you were making a double espresso, add the rest of the coffee and repeat step 1 to 4 above.

When you have finished your tamping exercise, make sure that the coffee is evenly spread in the filter basket. If not, start over again until you get it right.

Espresso tamping is not hard when you know how, but depending on the pressure and quality of your machine, as well the ground you are currently using, the pressure you need to apply with the tamper may vary. Practise a few times until you learn the technique and the right pressure for your particular machine.


How Coffee Is Made


Many of us drink coffee everyday, but have you ever wondered what goes in to making that delicious cup of Joe? Coffee production is actually a surprisingly long and involved process, and many steps must be taken to transform coffee fruit into your morning brew. Let’s take a look at the work that goes in to creating the perfect cup of coffee.

Coffee trees blossom with beautiful white flowers in the spring, which then give way to small green coffee beans. These beans grow over the following months, until they ripen into a red fruit called coffee cherry in the fall. This cherry must be picked by hand, which is a very laborious process.

To get the best quality coffee, experienced pickers will carefully select only the ripest beans from each tree, leaving the younger beans for later. However, low quality coffee farms will pick green and red beans at once to save time and labor. This results in a final coffee that is bitter and acidic, not smooth and flavorful.

Coffee is processed by hulling the outer skin off the bean. Once the cherry is collected the first processing step is to remove the outer red skin of the fruit. This process, called pulping, is done by a machine with a cylinder and spinning knobs that pull the skin off of the bean.

Once the beans have been pulped they are laid out in the sun to dry. This drying process takes about a week, as the beans must reach a moisture content of no more then 10%. Special drying houses are often built to expose the coffee to sun while protecting it from rain.

Once the coffee is fully dried it is known as parchment, due to a thin membrane of skin still surrounding the bean. At this point the parchment can either be stored for a few months, or the processing can immediately continue to the next stage.

Hulling and roasting

To continue the process, coffee parchment is run through a hulling machine that strips the last layer of skin away from the beans. The result is called green bean, and is an expensive product that can be sold on its own.

Once the coffee is hulled it must be sorted. The sorting process classifies beans based on size and weight using a gravity table.

Once the coffee is sorted it moves on to the roasting process. Roasting is done as close to the time of sale as possible to prevent degradation of the flavor. This process turns the green bean into a dark and flavorful bean due to chemical changes during the roast. Roasting is not a straightforward process, as it can be done at different temperatures and durations to produce unique results.

Roasted coffee can be light, medium, full, or somewhere in between. The degree of roast influences the final taste of the brewed coffee, which can be smoky, spicy, smooth, or even a combination of many flavors. Roasting is an art unto itself, and dramatically changes what the final product will taste like once brewed.

In the end, about 8 pounds of coffee cherry go into making one pound of roasted coffee.

At this point you probably know the rest. Roasted coffee is distributed and sold to the consumer. It is ground into a powder and brewed with hot water to release the delicious aromas and flavors of the bean. Many of us are familiar with this step, but it is easy to forget where our coffee came from, and just how much work went into producing it.

High quality coffee may seem expensive at times, but just look back on the long journey those beans took to get to you. It’s amazing how much work goes into producing such a common commodity, and that realization makes a good cup of coffee all the better.