Coffee is a popular beverage brewed from ground coffee beans and water. It can be served hot or cold and comes in many flavors, depending on the type of coffee bean, the method of roasting the beans, and the flavorings that may be added. Coffee is available as either a commercial coffee or a specialty coffee. Commercial coffees are produced by large companies that limit the selection to several varieties of blends and roasts, most often always in a ground form. Specialty coffees are those that are produced by smaller companies and are packaged as whole beans ready to be ground. The specialty coffee producer may be selling a selection of beans from well known regions of the world or they may offer different types of bean roasts signifying the darkness of the roast which determines the flavor, such as French Roast, Medium Roast, Dark Roast, Italian Roast, and others. Specialty coffees also offer selections of blends, which are coffees made from several different beans or flavors combined. Blends are made in an attempt to enhance the flavor and/or aroma of coffees, possibly producing a sweeter, less acidic, or more aromatic beverage.
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 loses 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 harsher or bitterer 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 for the coffee to absorb other flavors and food odors that may be present.
When making coffee, a typical automatic coffeemaker 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 a French press, which does 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.