Coffee FAQs

Wet or Dry Processing

Once the berries are harvested, they must be processed. There are three different processes, wet or water, dry, and hybrid. The process type generally varies by region, but is also dependent on the type of bean, access to water, and the coffee infrastructure.

Wet processing means that the beans go into vats of water and are then left to ferment for between 12-36 hours before the beans are removed from the fruit. After the fermentation, the berries are pushed through a press that extracts them from the pulp and then washed. After washing, the beans are placed out on vast drying sheets and raked periodically to help the beans dry evenly. This technique adds another layer of complexity to the beans and creates a more acidic flavor profile.

Dry processing means that the beans are immediately set out to dry without removing the berries, on vast drying tables, and then the berries are shucked once dry. This process takes longer, often around a month to dry fully, but does not require electricity, so it is the oldest processing method, and is still used in areas lacking other options. This process generally leads to a more earthy flavor profile.

Hybrid, semi-washed, or semi-dried processing is a combination of the two techniques, where some of the berry is removed mechanically through the press, but then it is dried with the remainder of the fruit still attached, and then later removed.

Arabica vs. Robusta

No, it’s not a boxing match. It’s a difference in beans, specifically the quality of beans.

Arabica and Robusta are the two types of coffee around the world, each of which has a multitude of sub varieties. Arabica beans are higher quality beans. They only grow at high altitude, they are denser, they have less caffeine per bean, which makes them taste less bitter, and they require more attention to grow. Robusta beans contain much more caffeine, giving them a more bitter taste, they are hardier, and can grow at sea level with much less care.

What Does Shade Grown Mean

It doesn’t mean they are less than reputable.

Essentially, coffee can be grown in three ways. It can be grown on a monocultural, large open plantation where it is the only crop; it can be grown on a polycultural farm where it creates a symbiotic relationship with a variety of other plants and crops benefiting from the shade provided by the other plans; or it can be grown on small monocultural farms under the giant shade trees. Only certain varieties of coffee can be grown in the shade, and it is generally considered a good thing because it is the higher quality varieties that do well in shade. It is also considered a good thing because the shade grown farms, whether polycultural or not, do less damage to the environment since the coffee bushes are grown in and around other plants, rather than clear cutting forest land. This helps to protect animal habitats and preserve natural ecosystems.

Is it Wrong to Drink Cold Coffee

We used to think so. There was a time when we felt it went against the natural order of things. But that was before we discussed really good cold coffee. Even so, we still prefer a cup of hot coffee.

How is Coffee Roasted

Coffee berries and their seeds undergo multi-step processing before they become the roasted coffee with which most Western consumers are familiar. First, Green and red coffee berries before being harvested from the coffee bush and before the coffee beans are cleaned and then berries are picked, generally by hand. Then, the flesh of the berry is removed, usually by machine, and the seeds are fermented to remove the slimy layer of mucilage still present on the bean. When the fermentation is finished the beans are washed with large quantities of fresh water to remove the fermentation residue, generating massive amounts of highly polluted coffee wastewater. Finally the seeds are dried and sorted. The seeds are then labeled green coffee beans.

The next step in the process is the roasting of the green coffee. Coffee is usually sold in a roasted state, and all coffee is roasted before being consumed. Coffee can be sold roasted by the supplier or it can be home roasted. The roasting process has a considerable degree of influence on the taste of the final product, creating the distinctive flavor of coffee from a bland bean, by changing the coffee bean both physically and chemically.

Physically, tMonitoring the coffee roasting process is important to ensure the coffee is roasted to perfection. Depending on the coffee bean water content the coffee beans will roast at different rates.he bean decreases in weight as moisture is lost, but increases in volume, causing the bean to become less dense. When bean temperature reaches 200°C (392°F), the actual roasting begins. Different varieties and ages of beans differ in density and moisture content, causing them to roast at different rates. The density of the bean is important because it influences the strength of the coffee and requirements for packaging it.

During The intense heat carmelizes and breaks down coffee bean starches turning them into sugars turning the coffee bean from the “raw coffee bean” green color to the brown color we’re all used to seeing ina coffee bean.roasting, caramelization occurs as the intense heat breaks down starches in the bean, changing them to to simple sugars which begin to brown, adding color to the bean. Sucrose is lost rapidly during the roasting process; in darker roasts, it may disappear entirely. As the bean roasts, aromatic oils, acids and caffeine weaken, changing the flavor. When the internal temperature of the bean reaches 205°C (400°F), other oils will start to develop. One of these oils is caffeol, created at about 200°C (392°F), which is largely responsible for coffee’s aroma and flavor.

Grades of coffee roasting are unroasted (or “green”), light, cinnamon, medium, high, city, full city, French and Italian. Depending on the color of the roasted beans, they will be labeled as light, cinnamon, medium, high, city, full city, French or Italian roast. Darker roasts are generally smoother, because they have less fiber content and a more sugary flavor. Lighter roasts have more caffeine, resulting in a slight bitterness, and a stronger flavor from aromatic oils and acids which are destroyed by longer roasting times.

The end result of the coffee roasting process is perfectly roasted coffee beans waiting to be ground and turned into a delicious cup of coffee.

A small amount of chaff is produced during roasting from the skin left on the bean after processing. Chaff is usually removed from the beans by air movement, though a small amount is added to dark roast coffees to soak up oils on the beans. Decaffeination may also be part of the processing that coffee seeds undergo. Decaffeination is often done by processing companies, and the extracted caffeine is usually sold to the pharmaceutical industry.


How to Store Coffee

The number one thing to remember when storing your coffee is this: keep the beans airtight and cool.

To preserve your beans’ fresh roasted flavor as long as possible, store them in an opaque, air-tight container at room temperature. Coffee beans are decorative and beautiful, but avoid clear canisters which will allow light to compromise the taste of your coffee.

Keep your beans in a convenient, but dark and cool, location. Remember that a cabinet near the oven is often too warm, and so is a spot on the kitchen counter that gets strong afternoon sun.

The commercial coffee containers in which you purchased your coffee are generally not appropriate for long-term storage. Ideal coffee storage canisters with an airtight seal are a worthwhile investment.

The second most important tip: buy the right amount.

It’s tempting to want to stock up on your favorite beans. But it’s also important to remember that beans will begin to lose their freshness almost immediately after roasting. That’s why it is better to purchase it in smaller quantities. Buy only what you will use in the next one or two weeks. Since exposure to air is your coffee’s worst enemy, it’s a good idea to immediately divide your coffee supply into several smaller portions, keeping the larger, unused portion in an air-tight container.

Should I freeze my beans?

That very sentence sounds like a crime is being committed.

Freshness is critical to a quality cup of coffee. Experts agree that coffee should be consumed as quickly as possible after it is roasted, especially once the original packaging seal has been broken. Consumers who purchase whole bean coffee should grind immediately before brewing.

While there are different views on whether or not coffee should be frozen or refrigerated, the main consideration is that coffee absorbs moisture – and odors and tastes – from the air around it, since it is hygroscopic. As mentioned above, most home storage containers are not truly airtight, which is why food stored a long time in the freezer can suffer freezer burn. Therefore, if you do refrigerate or freeze your beans, it is critically important to use a truly airtight container.

If you choose to freeze your coffee, quickly remove as much as you need for no more than a week, and return the rest to the freezer before any condensation forms on the frozen coffee.

Learn more at the National Coffee Association.

How Much Caffeine is in My Coffee

That depends. But generally speaking, an 8 oz cup of brewed coffee has approximately 95 mg of caffeine. An 8 oz brewed cup of decaf has approximately 2 mg of caffeine.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, lighter roasts have more caffeine.


Don’t worry, this is the good acid.

Coffee beans contain varying amounts of acidity. How do you know when a coffee bean has acidity? You can taste it. When a coffee is described as “bright,” that is a sign of acidity.

Too much acid in the coffee can create a bitter, even sour taste. Not enough acidity is bland and boring. Dark roasting your beans decreases the amount of acidity in a coffee but can also decrease the sweetness and aroma. Typically, Central American and East African coffees are better with a little more acidity.

Acidity is usually higher in coffees grown at higher altitudes and in mineral rich volcanic soils. Washed coffees appear to have more acidity than naturally, dry processed coffees.

Light, Medium, or Dark

Everyone has a preference. Coke or Pepsi, vanilla or chocolate. The same is true when it comes to different types of coffee roasts. Here’s the difference between light, medium, and dark.

Light Roast: Retains Most of the Original Coffee Characteristics

Light roasts have a light brown, tan, color and do not have oil on the surface of the roasted beans. They have the highest acidity and are the brightest of the three roast levels.

The characteristics of different origins are most pronounced in light roasts, as are the qualities of the individual coffee. Much of the taste comes from the original coffee, which is why light roasts are often used for cuppings.

Light roasts are sometimes called Half City, Light City, New England, or Cinnamon roasts.

Medium Roasts Balance Acidity and Body

A medium roast will have a darker brown color than a light roast and will look richer. Some of the coffee’s oils may be visible on the beans, as well.

At this roast level, the coffee’s qualities begin to give way to the roast’s flavors and aromas, creating a balance between acidity and body. You’ll still be able to taste the original coffee, but the beans’ brightness will be complemented with the fuller body that is introduced by the roasting process.

Medium roasts go by City, Breakfast, Regular, and American roasts.

Dark Roasts Showcase Bold Bodies and a Richer Taste

Dark roasts are dark brown, sometimes almost black, in color. They resemble chocolate, if it was shaped like a coffee bean. Oils can be seen on the beans at this point.

Oils can be seen on dark roasted beans.

When drinking a dark roast, you’re almost exclusively tasting notes from the roast. The brightness of light roasts is replaced with body in dark roasts. Because the original coffee’s qualities are mostly lost at this roast level, it’s difficult to pick out the characteristics of a specific coffee’s origin or lot.

Historically, dark roasts have been popular in Europe, giving rise to terms such as Continental, Italian, French, and Spanish roasts. Espresso roasts are also usually dark roasts, which is partly why espresso can stand up to lots of milk and sugar.

Roast level is largely a personal preference, as each level produces different qualities in the coffee. Knowing whether you prefer light, medium or dark roasts, though, can help you identify new coffees that you might like.

Learn more at Drift Away Coffee.