The Coffee FAQ
A site dedicated to coffee obsession.

Coffee, coffee everywhere, and not a drop to drink... (apologies to Coleridge).

According to the International Coffee Organization, 116,428,000 sixty kilogram bags of coffee were produced by exporting countries in 2004, making coffee the second most widely traded commodity, behind only petroleum. Yet the vast majority of people have probably never had a good cup of coffee, let alone an excellent one. Even with the rise of "specialty coffee" over the last decade or two, the overall quality of brewed coffee is poor. There are many possible reasons for this: uncaring vendors, an attitude of convenience over quality, uninformed consumers... the list could go on. A great brew isn't a simple thing, but even simply realizing that your coffee should be better takes some initiative. Many people regularly drink weak, bitter, brownish hot water and accept it, thinking "that's what coffee is." It isn't.

But an excellent cup of coffee is worth it. If it isn't a simple thing, neither is it very difficult. Coffee need not taste bitter, nor must it taste like charcoal. It can taste chocolaty, without any chocolate having been added. It can have elements of citrus, without ever having come near an orange. You should be able to look forward to a morning cup for reasons beyond the caffeine rush.

This FAQ explores the how, what, where, and why of coffee. It will explain the elements involved in making a great cup of brewed coffee (espresso is a vast enough subject to deserve its own FAQ). The FAQ will be particularly helpful for those who have little or no knowledge about coffee, but even more experienced people should be able to glean new information.

As always, the danger with a site trying to be "all-inclusive" is that it rarely is. This site is regularly updated, but if you have any questions or suggestions, click here to email me. Do not change the default message subject, or the email will not make it past my spam filters. Go through the FAQ before asking questions; there's a good chance that the answer can be found below. Please don't ask for brand recommendations.

1 The basics
1.1 Overall factors
1.2 Temperature
1.3 Water quality
1.4 How much ground coffee should I use?
1.6.1 Are paper cups more environmentally friendly than foam?
1.5 How do I keep coffee hot?
1.6 Coffee cups
1.7 Why is coffee bitter?
1.8 What if my coffee is too strong or too weak?

2 Coffee beans
2.1 About coffee beans
2.1.1 What are coffee beans?
2.1.2 Arabica and robusta
2.1.3 How important is the beans' country of origin?
2.1.4 What's the difference between dry processing and wet processing?
2.1.5 Jamaican Blue Mountain
2.1.6 Kona
2.1.7 What is Mocha-Java? So why does "mocha" refer to coffee with chocolate?
2.1.8 Why are some coffees aged?
2.1.9 What's a monsooned coffee?
2.1.10 What is a "peaberry"?
2.1.11What are "espresso beans"?
2.2 What is the difference between the various decaffeination processes?
2.2.1 Solvent (European) process
2.2.2 Water Process
2.2.3 Carbon Dioxide Process, Sparkling Water Processes
2.3 Flavor terms
2.4 Roast names
2.5 Coffee bean size classifications
2.6 Cultivars

3 Brewing Techniques
3.1 Proper extraction times
3.2 A note on filtration versus percolation
3.3 Drip
3.3.1 Chemex brewers
3.3.2 One-cup brewers
3.3.3 Filtercone holders
3.3.4 Vietnamese coffee maker
3.3.5 Reversible coffee pot / flip pots / Napoletana
3.3.6 Auto-drip
3.4 Single-Serve Coffee Systems
3.5 Biggin
3.6 French Press / Press Pot / Cafetiere / Plunger Pot
3.7 Espresso
3.8 Vacuum pot
3.9 Percolator
3.10 Ibrik / cezve / briki / mbriki
3.11 Moka pot
3.12 Cold water process
3.13 Microwave brewing
3.14 Instant
3.15 Filters
3.15.1 Paper filters
3.15.2 Metal filters
3.15.3 Cloth filters
3.15.4 Plastic filters
3.15.5 Glass filters
3.16 A final note on brewing techniques

4 Storing, Grinding, and Cleaning Up
4.1 How to store coffee
4.2 Coffee grinders
4.2.1 Burr grinders versus blade grinders
4.2.2 Flat Plate Burr Grinders vs. Conical Burr Grinders
4.2.3 Manual Grinders
4.3 Cleaning coffee makers
4.3.1 Descaling
4.3.2 Removing coffee stains

5 Roasting Coffee at Home
5.1 Why roast at home?
5.2 What do I use to roast?
5.2.1 Commercially-made home coffee roasters
5.2.2 Notes about roasting
5.3 About green beans
5.3.1 Storing green beans
5.4 What is the process?
5.4.1 What's the Maillard reaction?
5.5 Degassing, resting, and storage

6 Growing your own coffee
6.1 Growing coffee trees
6.2 Processing coffee cherries

7 Coffee and health
7.1 Is coffee acidic?
7.2 How much caffeine is in decaf?
7.3 Is coffee harmful?

8 Miscellaneous
8.1 How and where was coffee discovered?
8.2 How do you pronounce…?
8.3 Where did the term "cup of joe" come from?
8.4 What is Kopi Luak (Kopi Luwak)?
8.4.1 Is the animal a cat or a monkey?
8.4.2 So what's "weasel coffee"?
8.5 Why do some people put eggshells in coffee grounds?
8.6 When did companies start to sell coffee in cans?
8.7 What is "white coffee"?
8.8 What is "fair trade" coffee?
8.9 What is "songbird friendly" coffee?
8.10 What is "cupping"?
8.10.1 Cupping technique
8.11 How did orange-handled carafes in restaurants come to indicate decaf coffee?

9 Coffee Recipes
9.1 Frozen drinks and ice cream
9.1.1 Iced Coffee
9.1.2 Coffee frappé
9.1.3 Coffee shake
9.1.4 Thai Iced Coffee
9.1.5 Vietnamese Iced Coffee
9.1.6 Coffee ice cream
9.2 Candies
9.2 Chocolate covered espresso beans
9.3 Coffee brittle
9.4 Mocha brittle

10 Flavorings
10.1 Generally
10.1.1 About cinnamon
10.1.2 About vanilla An important note about vanilla extract
10.3 Figs

11 Coffee soap
11.1 Melt and Pour coffee soap
11.2 Cold Process coffee soap

12 Resources
12.1 Books
12.2 Links

13 Contributors

©2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Scott Rothstein

May be quoted in part, with attribution and links to this site.

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