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There are two main types of coffee plants, although variations even among these, the Robusta and the Arabica. Robusta is used more often in blends and has a less refined taste, and higher caffeine content. The Arabica, more sought after, is the basis of specialty coffees.
Coffee plants can grow as high as 33 feet but are usually pruned to heights that allow for easier harvesting. The Arabica species is self-pollinating while the Robusta relies on cross-pollination. The coffee tree flowers twice a year, and a quarter of the flowers turn into coffee cherries.
As the coffee cherries turn red, harvesting begins. On large plantations, strip picking by machinery is often used to pick all the beans, even if they are not fully ripe.
At Java Planet we source our beans from small family farms that handpick the cherries as they ripen, resulting in a better product.
After it is picked the coffee seed has to be extracted from the cherry by the wet method, semi-washed or dry (natural) method. Each method lends its own flavor to the coffee.
The wet processing method skips the sunbath, and goes straight to the mulching machine, pulp washed away, and then the bean sits in water for 24 to 48 hours to ferment. Any remaining pulp is washed off and the beans are either laid out to dry or put in a drying machine. This results in coffee that has a brighter, fruitier flavor.
A hybrid process “semi-washed”, "honey" or “Giling Basah” in Indonesian. In this method, the outer skin is removed using locally built pulping machines. Still coated with some of the inner fruit, it is stored for up to 24 hours. The remaining fruit is washed off and the beans are laid in the sun to partially dry, leaving 30% to 35% moisture.
Roasting turns the green coffee beans we import from small organic certified farms into the aromatic brown beans we ship to you. The degree of roasting varies, due to both the type of bean, and one's preference for the taste found in the brewed cup. Below are some of the names used to designate the degree of roast:
Light roast: half city, cinnamon, New England and light
Medium roast: American, medium/high, breakfast and regular
Full medium: light French, Viennese, city, full city
Dark/High Roast: New Orleans, European, French, after dinner
To get the best taste from your specialty coffees it is best to grind them just before brewing. When grinding the coffee you do not want to have it be too coarse as it will produce watery coffee and the finer you grind it (powdery) the more bitterness due to the essential oil of the bean vaporizing. When brewing the coffee the ideal proportion is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee to 6 oz of water. You will want to use hot, but not boiling water. The heat from the boiling water just as in over-grinding vaporizes the essential oil in the beans which gives such wonderful flavor. The ideal temperature for your water is 195 to 205 degrees.
Ground coffee starts to lose its flavor after about an hour, and brewed coffee left on a burner loses its freshness after about 20 minutes. To keep brewed coffee longer, place it in an air pot vacuum server.
You can experiment with different methods of brewing your coffee. A variation on the traditional open pot style of brewing is the coffee press. Hot water is poured over the grounds and allowed to steep for four to six minutes and then a mesh filter is pushed down, separating the grounds from the liquid. This has the advantage of not using paper filters which can remove subtle flavors of the bean.
Not much is to be said about drip coffee makers as they are by far the most popular method of brewing coffee, however, the use of a metal mesh filter will improve the taste of the coffee.
Espresso brewing has gained much popularity and is a method that uses pressure rather than gravity to have water pass through the grounds. This takes a specialty machine, of which types range for your countertop all the way to fantastical looking machines you will find in your finest coffee establishments.
There are several other methods such as Turkish or Arabic coffee, Italian stovetop coffee makers, French Press, and Pour Overs that can be experimented with.
We encourage you to experiment and find what you enjoy the most!