First, and most obvious, start with good quality coffee. Coffee beans are defined by two general botanical types: Arabica, being the older and premium type, and Robusta, generally a lesser bean frequently used in commercial blends and for manufacturing instant coffees. It's the Arabicas that will consistently give you the best cup.
Several growing factors affect the flavor of the beans, producing distinctive properties, but the way in which they are roasted can have an even greater effect on their flavor. For the most part, lightly roasted coffees are lighter tasting and darker roasts are stronger, richer and more full flavored. Some coffees taste better when lightly roasted and others when they are more darkly roasted, and an experienced coffee supplier can take full advantage of the beans' traits in the roasting process.
Though not yet standardized, the following is the basic Roast
Cinnamon - A relatively light roast, resulting in a light-tasting cup.
City or Full - America's favorite roast, a nice brown color.
Viennese - Long a favorite in Western US, it's the up and coming favorite in the rest of the country. Some oil will show on the beans. The result is a fuller flavor in the cup.
Italian - A nice dark, oily brown, usually used in making American espresso drinks. Somewhat bitter for most regular coffee drinkers.
French - The darkest roast, a very dark, oily brown, favored in espresso drinks.
During the roasting process, fine coffees can be enhanced with nuts, chocolates, cinnamon and other exciting flavors to provide you with unique combinations. Look for all-natural ingredients; many imitators do use chemical flavorings, but once you have tasted natural flavors, you will easily distinguish the difference. Flavored coffees are especially good following dinner for a rich, flavorful and low-cal dessert.
Roasting at home certainly guarantees that you'll have the freshest possible coffee. Some do it in a frying pan on the stove, others in the oven, and still others use special roasting kits and machines. For best flavor, freshly roasted beans should sit for a day before grinding and brewing. Green (unroasted) coffee beans last a few years if kept in a dark, dry place. And they can be roasted to any degree of darkness desired. Although results from home roasting are generally not as uniform as those from professional roasters, nevertheless many find the process a rewarding one for their taste buds and their olfactory senses.
Blends are very important in gratifying specific tastes and in balancing qualities inherent in different beans. The most popular marriage, Mocha-Java, combines sharp, distinctive Yemen Mocha with smooth, rich Indonesian Java, providing the best of two worlds. Feel free to ask for a custom blend or to make a special mix to your taste and we'll maintain a record of your choice; how about trying a blend that encompasses the aroma of Kona with the full-bodied taste of Sumatra Mandheling?
If you need or prefer to limit your caffeine intake, or when it comes to drinking coffee later in the day, you might consider decaffeinated coffees. A good decaf will taste as good as the real thing. Because of our interest in quality foods, we pioneered the sale of Swiss Water Processed decafs in our area. There are other effective decaffeination methods, but health concerns over minute chemical traces lead us to select the Swiss health-conscious process for virtually all our decaffeinated coffee selections. Don't confuse it with chemical processes that add water and call themselves water process.
The regular process of decaffeination leaves only the most minute traces of carcinogenic chemicals. Though these traces have been deemed safe, nevertheless we still prefer the added safety of the Swiss Water Process.
The studies that have been surfacing on the health characteristics of coffee have been many and frequently contradictory. Generally, there is much to be said about moderation in how well your body and mind will react to the coffee you consume. And if you're at all worried about agricultural pesticides and chemicals that may be used in growing coffee, look for certified organically grown varieties.
We do not recommend the consumption of regular coffee when pregnancy or heart disease might be present. Consult with your doctor to determine the right levels of coffee consumption for you.
What about descriptive coffee terminology?
Flavor refers to your sensory experience and includes terms such as winey, spicy, floral, nutty, smoky, etc.
Acidity refers to sharp taste of the coffee; less acidity means more mildness, and lack of acidity results in a cup that tastes flat.
Body refers to the coffee's texture, such as syrupy, heavy, light, etc. Labels describing coffees should contain all these terms, but remember that individual tastes do vary, so let your experience be the best judge.
Coffee begins to deteriorate right after the roasting process, so you may want to examine and smell the coffee beans before you decide on your purchase. Look for some oil on the surface of the more darkly roasted beans, and check for steady customer traffic to ensure quick turnover and thus fresher beans.
For maximum freshness, buy only the amount of fresh roasted coffee beans that you will be using within 2 to 4 weeks; the shorter the storage time, the fresher the coffee.
If you use the coffee within 2 weeks, you can store it in an airtight glass or ceramic jar, away from heat and sunlight. Otherwise, place the airtight container in the fridge.
You can store coffee in the freezer for a longer period of time, in airtight glass or ceramic jars. Separate larger quantities of coffee into multiple smaller jars, filled to the top. When you're ready to use a jar of frozen coffee, allow it to reach room temperature before opening to prevent condensation, then store in refrigerator or in a cool place in your kitchen, away from direct sunlight.
After you have selected the right fresh coffee, it must be ground to suit your coffeemaker. You can have it ground at the store or, better yet, grind your own in seconds at home as you need it, so that it is absolutely fresh and allows the wonderful aroma to contribute to your enjoyment of its taste. This is especially true with the volatile essences given to flavored coffees.
There are two basic types of home coffee grinders. One works with blades and is less expensive, but because it does not grind beans uniformly, it is generally best for use with manual and automatic drip coffeemakers with paper filters. The other type has burrs, like commercial grinders, that grind more uniformly and are thus suited for use with any type of coffeemaker. If, however, you need powder-fine coffee for use in making Turkish coffee, there is a grinder specifically for this purpose.
Next, you need to select a method of preparation, some of which we discuss here. Each has distinctive traits, which can make one or more of them best suited to your taste and lifestyle.
The Percolator is one of the most familiar methods of brewing coffee. It works by filtering boiling water through the coffee grounds over and over. Many people still enjoy this old favorite, especially when it is used with very mild coffees. Unfortunately, because of the prolonged over-boiling, this method tends to release bitterness in the coffee, masking the distinct flavors and tastier blends.
The convenient Automatic Drip brewing method is designed to take much of the guesswork out of making coffee. Simply by pouring cold water into a reservoir, the machine heats it to the correct temperature and pulses it through the ground coffee that rests in a filter. A valuable feature on some models is a switch that slows the pulsing of water to permit a rich brew even when you are only making a couple of cups.
In better-make coffeemakers, look for outstanding reliability, sensible features, good design and, most important, the proper brewing temperature, which very few brands achieve. Major consumer magazines bear out that many brands may be inexpensive, but the coffee they make is not likely to be as consistently hot or taste as rich.
Of the Manual Drip coffeemakers, the two most popular types are the Chemex and the Melitta. Both utilize a paper filter cone similar to that of Automatic Drip coffeemakers. Chemex paper filters are four times heavier and come to a point, making it more effective in that all the water is made to travel through all the grounds, rather than down the sides of the filter. Water is heated separately and is poured directly over the grounds, first only a small amount, to allow the coffee to "bloom" (that is, to open up and release its flavors), before pouring the balance of the water over it to drip through.
Coffee Filters keep grounds out of the brew. All Paper Filters keep some of the strong flavors from getting through and are ideal for those who desire a smooth, "clean-tasting" cup of coffee. Gold, Gold-Tone, Stainless and Nylon Filters allow more of the coffee's flavor and body to emerge because their porosity is much greater than that of paper filters. Expect some minute grounds to come through as well.
Plunger Pots, also popularly known as French Press coffeemakers, are the hottest growing method of brewing for several good reasons. These versatile brewers are frequently used at professional coffee tastings because they are as close to a perfect way of making coffee as there exists. Because the Plunger Pot, unlike other methods, allows full contact between coffee and water, it extracts more of the rich flavors. Another advantage is that you are in control in bringing the water to its proper temperature, just below boiling, for a hot cup and full extraction.
Plunger Pots come in a variety of sizes and styles with a wide range of prices. They utilize a tempered glass beaker or carafe and a stainless or nylon filter/plunger. Simply place ground coffee and hot water into the beaker, stir once and set aside to steep. You control the strength by controlling the steeping time, 3 to 5 minutes. When the optimal time has elapsed, the plunger is slowly pushed down, pressing the filter screen through the mixture and holding most of the grounds securely at the bottom of the beaker as you pour your fresh, hot coffee.
For those who might drink less coffee but definitely prefer a stronger, more flavorful and intense cup, there are Espresso and Cappuccino makers. The best cup is usually made with electric makers that utilize an internal pump, and that are plumbed to a water supply or that contain a cold water reservoir for unlimited coffee production.
For espresso, only a small amount of water is automatically drawn, heated, and pumped through the coffee grounds at very high pressure. This extracts the essence, richness and intensity of the coffee. When properly made, a cup of espresso actually has a golden foam, called crema, on top.
These units also quickly produce cappuccino, cafe au lait, hot chocolate, tea and other hot beverages.
Cappuccino is espresso coffee topped with frothed milk. For best frothing results, use a small, cold stainless or ceramic pitcher containing only a small amount of milk. For the novice, skim milk will work best. Place the tip of the steaming tube just below the surface of the milk, turn on the steam, and allow the milk to aerate by swirling about the bottom of the pitcher. If you manage to at least double the volume of milk with froth, you did well.
The many stovetop units and inexpensive plastic plug-ins on the market are not, by their nature, true Espresso machines, but clever adaptations. This type is called Macchinetta (mah-key-net-tah), a relatively inexpensive, traditional coffeemaker that delivers coffee by boiling water and creating enough steam pressure to climb through the grounds. The higher water temperature causes the cup to be strong but somewhat thin and bitter, by comparison to espresso produced by the pump variety of machines.
The Cold Water Method of coffee preparation is preferred by drinkers who cannot normally tolerate the acidity in coffee. With the Toddy Coffeemaker, a pound of coarsely ground coffee is allowed to steep in water overnight, then is filtered into a carafe. The resulting concentrate is mixed with water to taste and heated when ready to serve. The lack of acidity makes its taste quite different from brewed coffee, and many have come to enjoy this method of preparation.
Turkish coffee refers to both the grind and preparation of this Middle Eastern favorite. Ground almost to a powder, and with equal parts of sugar, it is boiled in water several times, until it becomes almost syrupy in texture. The froth is served between boils. It is usually drunk in small cups that also contain some of the grounds, which, if drunk delicately, remain at the bottom of the cup. The coffee maker used is called an ibrik, or cezve, or jezve. (The popular, slender Turkish Coffee Mill is often used as a pepper mill.)
Vacuum coffeemakers are a delight to watch as they brew the most wonderful tasting coffee. Consisting of two carafes, the bottom one holds the water and the top one the coffee grounds. When the bottom is heated, the water is forced to the top, where it steeps with the coffee. Turning off the heat source after a couple minutes of steeping forces the "filtered" coffee back to the bottom, from whence it is served. A great show to watch.
The Neapolitan (Napoletana) coffeemaker is one of the more traditional drip coffeemakers. Water is placed in the part without a spout, and coffee in the special filter that fits in this part. When a bit of steam comes out of the spout, turn off the heat and turn the coffeemaker upside down. The hot water will slowly drip down to the part with the spout. Remove the top part that holds the coffee, and serve.
Microwave coffeemakers are not very popular, these days, but they are very cleverly made, so that the coffee does not cook separately from the water. Depending on the unit, either the coffee is held in an airtight part of the coffeemaker, or it is added to the water itself. For a small quantity of coffee, this is one of the quickest methods of brewing.
The Coffee Sock is usually made of cotton and looks like a sock. Simply put the coffee inside it and infuse in hot water. (In a pinch, you can even use your own socks.) This method seems to be preferred in South American countries.
Coffee Boilers are in just about every Western movie I've ever seen. Dump some coffee in with the water, cook it 'til it boils, then heat your innards with it. This simplest and fastest preparation, however, tends to be really bitter.
If you have trouble frothing milk for lattes and cappuccinos, try furiously whisking heated milk, or, better yet, use one of the new frothers now available. They are very similar to Plunger Pots and made of heatproof glass, so you can microwave the milk in it, then use the plunger to vigorously aerate the milk. Of course, there are other types of frothers available, too; some are electric, others look like a macchinetta with a steam wand, or a wand coming out of a cork made to plug the pourer on your water kettle, and still others that look as different as the imagination can conjure. But if you haven't mastered the wand from your espresso maker, the glass frother will be easiest to use.
One last bit of important information. If you like to use a large cup or mug, consider capacity when choosing the size of the coffeemaker you wish to purchase. You need to realize that most Percolators and Drip Coffeemakers generally measure each cup to contain only 5 to 6 ounces. Plunger Pot coffee and Espresso is generally is made in 1.5 to 3 ounces per serving because of its strength and richness; hence the small size of espresso cups, too. Cups for cappuccino or Caffe Latte are, of course, larger to accommodate the added ingredients.
We are happy to make recommendations that flatter your taste buds. If ever you are not happy with the taste, or any other quality, of our coffees, we guarantee a refund or replacement. Enjoy!
Ethiopian "coffee ceremony" serving pot.
As the old legend goes, ever since a young Arabian herder took notice of his goats' frisky play after chewing on a strange-looking shrub, we have known about coffee.
Unfortunately, today many people make coffee that tastes about the same as what that goat herder probably tasted as he, too, chewed the berries of the wild coffee plant. At Fante's we have been striving to enlighten our customers since Domenico Fante opened the doors in 1906. And today our family business has developed into one of the most highly lauded gourmet stores in the world.
Since 1981, we are proud to sell our freshly roasted coffee in our nationally acclaimed retail stores and by telephone and mail order. And we are best noted for our exhaustive selection of coffee brewing products, our conscientious service and our friendly expertise.
There are several secrets to making a consistently good cup of coffee, and, unless you know them, you may truly be missing a satisfying experience. This brochure shares some of our secrets and experience, so that you, too, can enjoy the world's second most traded commodity: coffee.
You can read about Fante's coffees and coffee equipment in source books such as Kenneth David's Coffee (101 Productions, Publisher) and Corby Kummer's The Joy of Coffee (Chapters, Publisher). We heartily recommend these wonderful guides for greater enjoyment of this most popular beverage.
At Fante's we are happy to answer your questions and ready to provide you with everything you need to make the perfect cup of coffee.
And we absolutely guarantee your satisfaction!
The flavor of coffee comes from its volatile oils, so you may wish to heed these guidelines to guard against the enemies of coffee: air, light, heat and moisture.
1. Purchase only the quantity of coffee that you expect to use within 2 to 4 weeks. Keep in mind that coffee from mass merchants and many coffee shops may not have been freshly roasted and may already be that old.
2. For storage, we recommend airtight glass, ceramic or stainless jars or canisters, kept refrigerated for fresh results. On the counter, away from direct sunlight and heat, is ok for up to 2 weeks.
3. Longer storage, more than 4 weeks, is not recommended. If you must, however, we recommend you fill small airtight glass, ceramic or stainless jars with the beans, and store them in the freezer.
4. Grinding coffee beans yourself helps to preserve their freshness, and the aroma of freshly ground coffee contributes to your enjoyment of its taste. Be sure to always grind coffee beans to a consistent size.
5. Because brewed coffee is more than 95% water, be sure that the water you use tastes good to you. Filtered or bottled water may be better than your tap water.
6. Always start with fresh, cold water. And when heating it for use in manual coffeemakers, use it when the boil bubbles start to rise.
7. Measure water and coffee accurately and consistently. Experiment starting with 1 tablespoon of coffee for each cup of manual or auto drip coffee.
8. Keep coffee covered on a warming plate for serving within 20 minutes. Store coffee in a thermal carafe to keep it hot for a longer period of time. Thermal carafes are also useful when you need to make more than one pot of coffee and need to keep it fresh. Reheating breaks down coffee and makes it bitter.
9. To keep your coffeemaker in good condition and to obtain consistently good results from it, keep it clean following the manufacturer's instructions and using a recommended cleaner on a regular basis.
State of Sustainable Coffee: A study of twelve major markets
Executive Summary, 23 Pages, 2003
By Daniele Giovannucci (www.dgiovannucci.net)
PDF File - 168 KB
-What are sustainable coffees?
-The importance of sustainable coffee
-European and Japanese markets overview
-Trends in European and Japanese markets
State of Sustainable Coffee: A study of twelve major markets
Complete text, 198 Pages, Copyright 2003
By Daniele Giovannucci with Freek Jan Koekoek (www.dgiovannucci.net)
PDF File - 4809 KB
Sustainable Coffee Survey of the North American Specialty Coffee Industry
32 Pages, July 2001
By Daniele Giovannucci (www.dgiovannucci.net)
PDF File - 446 KB
Conducted for The Summit Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Specialty Coffee Association of America, and The World Bank
-Awareness of sustainable coffee
-Availability of sustainable coffee
-Important attributes for buying/selling sustainable coffee
-Which sustainable coffees firms sell
-U.S. and Canadian primary geographic markets for sustainable coffee
-Source countries for sustainable coffee
-Factors that make sustainable coffee valuable to business
-Sustainable coffee volume and sales
-Constraints and opportunities for sustainable coffees
Additional publications on coffee sustainability may be found at:
Daniele Giovannucci is the co-founder (2005) and Acting Executive Director of the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA)