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Coffee

Coffee is a plant (Coffea) and the name of the drink that is made from this plant. The coffee plant is a bush or tree that can grow up to ten meters (about 32 feet) high, but is usually cut shorter. Coffee plants originally grew in Africa, and now also grow in South America, Central America and Southeast Asia. They are an important crop for the economies of many countries.

The drink is made from the seeds of the coffee plant, called coffee beans. Coffee is usually served hot, and is a popular drink in many countries. Coffee contains a chemical called caffeine, a mild drug that keeps people awake.

To make a drink from coffee beans, the beans must first be specially prepared by drying the beans and then roasting. The beans are dried a short time after they are picked. This preserves them and makes them ready to be packed or roasted. Before the beans are made into a drink, they must roasted are ground (crushed into tiny pieces in a coffee mill). When the ground coffee is placed into boiling water, the flavour and dark brown colour of the beans goes into the water. Making coffee is called brewing coffee. There are several different ways that coffee can be brewed.

Coffee types

There are two main types of coffee plants. The Coffea Arabica, the most common. Most of the world’s coffee is made from Arabica beans, and the Coffea Robusta, which is easier to grow in places where Arabica will not grow.

Robusta is cheaper and has more caffeine than Arabica and it is used in many commercial coffee products. But Robusta tastes bitter and acidic, so people only drink it with other things. Better quality Robustas are in some espresso blends.

In the past, people gave names to new Arabica coffees from the port they came from. The two oldest Arabica coffees are “Mocha” and “Java”. Today, names are more specific. They tell us the country, region, and sometimes even the property where they come from.

Preparing coffee

Aging

Some sorts of coffee taste better if the beans are “aged”. This means that after they are picked, the beans are dried and then kept from three to eight years. This “aging” gives the coffee a less acidic taste. Coffee that has been aged is often mixed or “blended” with other coffee that is not aged.

Roasting

“Roasting” is one of the important stages in making coffee beans into coffee. When a coffee bean is roasted, it grows nearly two times bigger and changes from green to yellow to brown.

The length of time that the coffee beans are roasted makes the coffee taste different. Some types of coffee, such as Mocha and Java, are roasted for a short time. It is easy to tell from the flavour where the coffee is from. When coffee is roasted for a long time, it is harder to tell the different types apart. Green coffee beans can be bought and roasted at home in the oven.

Grinding

Before the coffee is made into a drink, it is “ground” in a small grinding machine called a “coffee mill”. The coffee mill breaks the beans into very small pieces. Coffee is turned into a drink in several different ways. For some ways of making coffee, such as “espresso” it is best to have the coffee ground into fine powder but for other types of coffee-making, such as “filtered coffee”, the coffee is in larger pieces to stop it going through the filter. Finely ground coffee makes a stronger taste.

Brewing

Coffee is made into a drink by putting the coffee into boiling water. This is called “brewing” coffee. There are many ways to brew coffee. Four of the most popular are:

  • Boiling: The coffee and the water are put into a pot on top of the stove and boiled slowly together. This way of making coffee has been used for hundreds of years. It is the way that coffee is usually made in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Greece.
  • Pressure: The boiling water is forced through the ground coffee by a machine. This type of coffee is called Espresso and the machine is called an “Espresso machine” or “Coffee system”. Espresso machines are often found in cafes and restaurants. Espresso is a very strong coffee that can be used to make other coffee drinks.
  • Gravity: Filtered coffee is made by gravity because the boiling water falls from a machine onto the coffee. The coffee grounds are held in a paper or metal “filter” that the water can run through, but the little coffee pieces cannot. The water becomes coloured and flavoured as it runs through the coffee and into a coffee pot.
  • Steeping: Boiling water is poured onto the coffee and it is allowed to stand for a little while, until the water has taken the colour and flavour. This is often done in a cafetière, which is a tall glass or coffee pot which has a special filter inside that can be pushed down when the coffee is ready so that the person does not drink the coffee grounds. Another way of steeping coffee is to have coffee grounds in a small packet, the right size to make one cup of coffee. The packet is placed in the cup and water poured over it. Then the packet is removed.