Coffee is produced with caffeine (caffeinated) or without caffeine (decaffeinated), which takes the bean through a process to remove the caffeine. In addition to caffeine selections, coffee may be purchased in any of three forms: 1) coffee beans that are to be ground into particles for preparation of water to be passed over the grounds; 2) ground coffee that consists of pre-ground particles ready for water to be passed over the grounds; 3) instant coffee granules that are ready to be mixed with and dissolved into hot or cold water.
When selecting coffee beans, there are basically only three main categories grown which consist of mild coffees known as high-grown milds, Brazilian coffees and robusta coffees. The high-grown varieties are generally grown in altitudes of 2,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. Brazilian coffees refer to beans grown in South America at lower altitudes that may or may not be lower grade beans, picked and processed most often for mass produced coffees. Robusta coffee grades are generally the lowest of the coffee grades, lacking in flavor and aroma, but easily grown and harvested at lower altitudes. Many coffees may contain varying amounts of other coffees such as robusta to serve as lower cost alternatives for providing the total product.
Coffee flavors, roasts and aroma are all personal choices depending on many different variables. Regardless of type, coffee beans or ground coffee should always be kept stored in airtight containers, since coffee exposed to air looses some flavor. Many believe there is a notable value to placing coffee beans or ground coffee in a freezer to keep it fresher flavored, however storing ground coffee for a week or whole beans for two weeks at room temperature in a cool dark area, such as a cupboard will keep the coffee fresh and full flavored. For longer periods of storage, freeze whole beans in an airtight container for up to 3 months and ground coffee for up to 2 weeks. The belief is that the longer the beans or grounds are kept at room temperature, the more harsh or bitter the flavor becomes. Therefore, the freezer helps to retain the freshness of the oils and flavors within the coffee. However, coffee stored in the freezer will require that it is thawed prior to use to achieve the best flavor. Use caution when storing coffee in the refrigerator because there will be a potential that the coffee will absorb other flavors and food odors present.
When making coffee, a typical automatic coffee maker will use a filter that retains some of the flavor and natural oils of the bean. Therefore, if the true flavor is desired, make coffee with utensils such as the French Press, which do not use filters for holding the grounds, but instead forces the grounds through water to create the brewed beverage. Always use fresh, cold water when making coffee.