How coffee beans grow
You might think of coffee beans as dark brown things that grow from the ground. Nope! They actually come from plants between 5-7 feet off the ground, although they can grow much higher. The beans are the bit inside the red fruit (known as the cherry) of the coffee plant. They’re not really beans – they’re seeds.
What are the varieties of the coffee plant?
The two main types are Arabica (coffea arabica) and Robusta (coffea canephora). These are divided into many different species of Arabica and Robusta plant.
In general, Robusta beans are less acidic, with paler beans, stronger caffeine content, and can grow in more extreme environments. They make up around 25% of global coffee production. They’re commonly viewed as the inferior coffee.Arabica makes up the other 75%, and are usually responsible for sweeter beans, with more delicate flavour notes like citrus, florals, and chocolates. They’re a bit lower in caffeine and slightly more expensive to produce as they need high altitudes to grow. We only use arabica at Neighbourhood.
How coffee beans are harvested
When the fruit is ripe, it’s usually picked by hand, either cherry-by-cherry, or all at once from a single limb of the plant.
This is usually done by people, although in some regions it’s delegated to the palm civet, a furry mammal from Southeast Asia (it eats and excretes the beans, producing kopi luwak coffee, which some pay top dollar for, but it really disgusting, in all aspects). Our coffee is human-harvested!
How coffee beans are prepared for roasting
After harvesting, there are three main types of preparation: fully washed, natural, and honey, although more and more methods and variations are being invented all the time.
The fully washed process involves washing the beans to remove debris, and the pulp of the cherry is removed too. The beans are then dried, often in the sunshine, and then processed. Various methods are used (by machine and hand) to sort them into different sizes and filter out the imperfect beans, and they’re packed for transport. The next step, after exporting to their destination, is roasting.
The natural process sees the beans, cherry-and-all, cleaned and then dried in the sun. The cherries are then stored and hulled when ready for sorting.
There’s also a halfway-house method called honey processing, where the skin and some of the fruity layer is removed, and then the beans, surrounded by some of the fruity layer are left to dry in the sun. They go sticky, hence the name. Various degrees of honey processing exist, so you may see red honey, yellow honey, white honey, black honey etc.
When roasted, coffee beans go from a bright green colours to dark brown. The longer they’re roasted, the darker they’ll be.
Should coffee beans be shiny or oily after roasting?
No, they shouldn’t. Although some think that dark espresso roasts go hand-in-hand with shiny beans, that’s not quite the case.
If a bean is roasted too long, the internal shell will crack and cause the oil to be released from within. It’s best to avoid this as it involves losing some of the flavour, as it’ll be in the oils left in the roaster, in the packet, and in the brewing device. This reaction can also happen if the beans are left for a long time unroasted, as the green beans dry out.
The different types of coffee grind
It’s subject to opinion, but you’ll generally find 4 or 5 different types of grind available, which differ depending on the brewing method you want to use.
We offer pre-ground for the following brew methods:
- Whole bean – ready for you to grind at home; the ultimate freshness experience. Buy a grinder!
- Cafetière grind
- Aeropress grind
- Filter grind
- Espresso grind
How long after roasting is coffee good to use?
Wondering how long coffee will last after it’s been roasted? There are differing opinions out there on this one, so it’s up to you, but use it too soon after roasting and it’ll taste bitter as it needs some time to degas (release carbon dioxide), so leave it a couple of days first.
We recommend using your coffee from 3-5 days days after roasting – from then on it’ll be at its best. But not forever. Your coffee will last, of course it will, but we think it’s at its best from around 3-5 days to a couple of months after roasting.
If you’ve let it sit for too long, don’t put yourself through the ordeal of drinking bad coffee – put the old stuff in the garden to help fertilise your compost heap. (Blueberries love coffee, tomatoes don’t!)
Can you store coffee in the fridge or freezer?
No. Just don’t. It can take on aromas from anything smelly nearby, so it’s way better to keep it in a cool dark place, away from moisture or smelly things.
If you do though it won’t do it any good. Coffee goes stale as it slowly releases gases containing the compounds that give it flavour, regardless of temperature. The sudden temperature change when putting it in a fridge can cause condensation to form inside the bag, spoiling the goodness that needs to be kept dry.
Is coffee a laxative? Wow!
Yes, sort of. It has different effects on different people. It’s not been studied enough to discern whether it’s the caffeine or the coffee that causes increased bathroom visits – decaf can often have the same effect. The true answer concerns the complex workings of the nervous system and how it’s stimulated, which is too much to go into here. We wouldn’t recommend using coffee specifically to solve a digestion problem, but also wouldn’t say to avoid it, unless you’ve got a medical condition – in which case, consult a doctor.
Does coffee dehydrate you?
Despite common beliefs, a moderate amount of coffee won’t dehydrate you. It’s a mild diuretic at worst, and for most people, doesn’t make them excrete more liquid. Some think they need the loo more after coffee – but it’s likely they’d see the same effect if they swapped it for water instead.
Is coffee good for you?
Yes! It’s been proven to help lower blood pressure and is packed full of vitamins and antioxidants, which fight free radicals and help protect against all sorts of diseases.
The caffeine in coffee is a mild psychoactive stimulant – the most widely consumed in the world. It provides temporary wakefulness and alertness. Some people reckon they have their most creative and insightful ideas after a cup or two. It’s also proven to increase athletic performance and fat burning.
Is coffee bad for you?
Certainly not! A few cups per day (1 – 4) is fine for any adult human. (Children given caffeine become approximately 500% more annoying.) If you knock back eight espressos in a row, you might feel anxiety, sweaty palms, and heart palpitations. Please don’t do that.
If you’re drinking in the evening, it might be worth switching to decaf, as the caffeine can keep you awake longer than usual.