Self Help

Coffee Isn’t Rocket Science A Quick And Easy Guide To Buying, Brewing, Serving, Roasting, Chung-Leng Tran, Yannis Varoutsikos & Jackie Smith & Chung-Leng Tran & Yannis Varoutsikos

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 16 min read

“If you liked the book, you can purchase it using the links in the description below. By buying through these links, you contribute to the blog without paying any extra, as we receive a small commission. This helps us bring more quality content to you!”



Here is a summary of the key points about coffee drinking habits around the world:

  • In the US and other English-speaking countries, coffee is usually drunk with milk and on the go from chains like Starbucks. Diner coffee is often low quality.

  • In Italy, espresso is strong and drunk fast standing at cafes. At home they use the moka pot.

  • Scandinavians are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers, favoring filter coffee. It replaced alcohol promoted by the church.

  • Turkish coffee is traditionally simmered finely ground coffee in a pot. It’s served sweetened and time is spent socializing.

  • The Japanese developed coffee culture and favor slow methods like V60 and siphon. They’re big specialty coffee buyers.

  • In Ethiopia, women traditionally roast, grind and brew coffee using a ceramic pot for social coffee ceremonies, accompanied by popcorn.

Coffee traditions vary widely around the world based on culture and taste preferences.

  • NS and independent coffee shops are springing up all over the place, providing alternatives to large chains.

  • The coffee shop is focused on coffee drinks and snacks, with customers working or socializing there for long periods. Baristas specialize in coffee brewing.

  • The café is more of a European concept where people socialize over drinks including coffee, wine or beer. Meals may also be served. Coffee is consumed at the counter or table.

  • The two main coffee plant species are Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora (robusta). Arabica is higher quality but more delicate, while robusta is more caffeinated and hardy.

  • Specialty coffee, about 1% of global production, is higher quality coffee graded at least 80/100 based on taste rather than commodity prices.

  • Fair trade certification guarantees coffee farmers a minimum viable price to encourage sustainability and living wages.

  • The coffee production process involves farmers, buyers, roasters, and baristas who transform beans into specialty drinks through brewing techniques.

  • Understanding coffee terminology helps appreciate its complex flavor profiles and craft. Myths about its health effects require nuanced scientific evidence.

Here is a summary of the key points about different types of cancer and their relationship to coffee:

  • Oesophageal cancer: Some studies have found a reduced risk of oesophageal cancer from drinking coffee, though the evidence is limited.

  • Uterine cancer: Most studies have found no significant association between coffee intake and uterine cancer risk. Some studies have even found a slightly reduced risk.

  • Brain cancer: Most research finds no significant association between coffee drinking and brain cancer risk. Some studies have found a possible reduced risk.

  • Skin cancer: Some studies have found that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer, like melanoma, though research is still limited. Caffeine and polyphenols in coffee may provide protective effects.

  • Liver cancer: Most research finds no significant association between coffee drinking and liver cancer risk. Some studies have even found a possible reduced risk.

  • Breast cancer: Most large studies and reviews find no significant association between coffee drinking and breast cancer risk overall. Some studies have found a possible reduced risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer from drinking coffee.

In summary, while the evidence is still limited and mixed for some cancers, regular coffee intake appears to either reduce or have no significant impact on the risk of many common cancers. More research is still needed.

Here is a summary of the key points about how the roast level of coffee beans affects the taste of espresso:

  • Lighter roasts retain more of the natural flavors in the coffee beans like citrus, floral and herbal notes. They produce espressos with brighter, more acidic flavors.

  • Medium roasts start to develop deeper, richer flavors like brown sugar and molasses while still retaining some of the natural flavors. Espressos from medium roasts have a more balanced flavor profile.

  • Darker roasts push the development of flavor further, creating robust notes of chocolate and roasted nuts. They produce espressos with deeper, darker, and less acidic flavors than lighter roasts. The natural flavors are less pronounced.

  • Very dark roasts can taste intensely roasted, almost burnt. They make espressos with very low acidity and strong roasted flavors bordering on bitter. The natural flavors of the bean are barely detectable.

So in summary, the roast level determines how much the natural flavors of the coffee bean are retained or developed into deeper roasted flavors, and consequently impacts the brightness, balance, and acidity of the espresso taste. Lighter roasts make for a brighter espresso while darker roasts produce a richer, fuller-bodied shot.

  • The term “espresso” refers specifically to a short (1 fl oz), high-pressure coffee beverage prepared by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee.

  • Espresso was developed in Italy to save time during coffee breaks, as it is quick to prepare and consume. An espresso should ideally be drunk within 4 minutes of brewing.

  • The crema, or foam on top of an espresso, is an indicator of quality but not determinative. Attributes like color, thickness and streakiness provide clues about freshness and roast level.

  • Properly tasting an espresso involves evaluating aspects like aroma, body, taste, texture/mouthfeel, and finish/aftertaste. A balanced espresso balances sour and bitter tastes.

  • Home espresso machines use pressurized portafilters that can mask grind quality, while commercial machines provide better extraction control. Traditional lever machines are most widely used professionally.

Here is a summary of the key points about espresso machines:

  • The E 61 machine from 1961 set the standard for decades, using a heat exchanger to produce hot water and steam from a single boiler.

  • Traditional machines use an electric pump to inject water under pressure for extraction. They require skill but produce good quality espresso.

  • Automatic machines have a built-in grinder and presets but coffee quality is sometimes lacking.

  • Lever machines use a lever to pressurize water similar to a bike pump. They produce flavorful ristretto shots but are less convenient.

  • Capsule machines are simple to use but offer limited choices and the pods can be expensive and wasteful.

  • Choosing a machine depends on daily coffee needs - from single to multi-group machines for home to commercial.

  • Prosumer machines combine pro features in small home units.

  • Maintenance like backflushing is important to keep machines clean.

  • Temperature needs to be stable at 198°F for good extraction, while pressure of 8-10 bars is optimal.

  • Heat exchanger, single, and double boiler designs aim to maintain consistent temperature for shots.

  • Thermoblock machines heat water quickly through a narrow coil but lack thermal stability, only suitable for entry-level machines.

  • Single boiler machines are best for home use, allow brewing only or steaming only at a time.

  • Heat exchanger machines can brew and steam simultaneously but temperature varies, used in most prosumer/pro machines.

  • Dual boiler machines have separate boilers for brewing and steaming, providing best temperature stability, used in top prosumer/pro machines.

  • PID temperature controllers provide better thermal stability and accuracy of extraction temperature control.

  • Barista routine includes warming machine, dosing/distributing grounds, tamping, purging, extracting shot, emptying portafilter.

  • Grind directly into portafilter for freshness. Tamp evenly at 30 lbs pressure.

  • Espresso strength is determined by extraction level/TDS. Underextraction is sour, overextraction is bitter.

  • Espresso styles include ristretto, short shot, lungo/long black, americano depending on water addition and extraction time.

  • Key extraction parameters are dose (typically 16-20g), shot volume (25-35g typically over 25-30 seconds), grind size, and temperature. Accuracy to 0.1g is important for dose.

Here is a summary of the key points about making the perfect espresso:

  • There are ideal ratios between coffee dose and espresso yield for different styles like ristretto, espresso, lungo.

  • Extraction time should be 20-30 seconds to balance flavors. Grind size affects flow rate.

  • Temperature influences extraction rate and sour/bitter flavors. Ideal temperature depends on variables like roast level and bean density.

  • Temperature stability is important to produce consistent shots.

  • Learning through trial and error combined with experience helps master temperature control.

  • An espresso “map” shows how parameters like dose, yield, time, temperature affect strength and balance.

  • Common issues include machine maintenance, unsuitable cups, lack of fresh grinding, faulty grinders, incorrect extraction parameters, roasting problems, low quality beans, and stale/overfresh coffee.

  • Proper storage is needed as coffee freshness declines over time after roasting.

The summary focuses on the key learnings around ratios, extraction, temperature control and common issues that can impact espresso quality. Let me know if you need any part expanded on further.

Here is a summary of the key points about foaming milk and the visual appeal of milk-based coffee drinks:

  • Whole milk or unpasteurized milk works best for foaming, as skim and semi-skimmed milk do not produce a creamy enough foam.

  • Stainless steel pitchers are used for their heat-conducting properties. Smaller pitchers are used for individual drinks, larger pitchers for multiple drinks.

  • The steaming technique involves two phases - incorporating air in phase 1, then homogenizing the milk in phase 2 until it reaches 140-149°F.

  • A good foam is at least 1/2 inch thick and has a flexible, creamy texture.

  • Various patterns like the heart, tulip and rosetta can be made by skillfully pouring the milk into the espresso drinks.

  • Drinks like cappuccinos, lattes and macchiatos have standards for ratios of espresso to steamed milk and foam thickness that impact flavor and appearance.

  • The layered appearance of drinks like latte macchiatos provides visual appeal from separating the espresso and foamed milk.

  • It is important for filter coffee brewing methods like the V60, Chemex, etc. that the grounds are uniformly wetted throughout the brewing process. This ensures an even extraction and the desired flavors are extracted from all the coffee grounds.

  • A gooseneck kettle is recommended as it allows for a slow, controlled pouring action over the coffee grounds which helps achieve uniform wetting. Some methods also recommend using a flow restrictor for an even slower pouring rate.

  • Other tools that help ensure uniform wetting are a scale to accurately measure the water amount, a timer to time the pouring intervals, and stirring/agitating the grounds with a spoon between pours.

  • The goal is to slowly and evenly saturate all the grounds with water in order to optimize flavor extraction from all areas and avoid over-extracting some grounds while under-extracting others. Uniform wetting is important for filter coffee quality.

The passage discusses different coffee brewing methods, including pouring techniques like the Chemex and Kalita Wave as well as pot methods like the Moka pot and electric coffee maker.

For each method, it provides details on how it works - for example, that the Chemex filter needs to be folded in a particular way and that it produces a coffee without much body but with excellent clarity of flavor. It also gives pointers on techniques for each method.

It then discusses filter coffee brewing parameters like grind size, water temperature, coffee to water ratio, and extraction time. It emphasizes the importance of adjusting these parameters to avoid under or over extraction.

Additional topics covered include cold brewing techniques, iced coffee variations, and roasting - focusing on the roles of the roaster and types of roasting machines in developing coffee flavors through managing heat transfer and bean rotation during the roasting process.

Here is a summary of the key points about convection in roasting coffee beans:

  • Convection is the transfer of heat through the movement of fluids like air or water. In roasting, convection occurs through hot air moving around and through the beans.

  • Proper convection is important for even roasting. Small home roasting machines use forced convection systems like fluidized bed or drum roasters to ensure continuous mixing and movement of beans through hot air.

  • Commercial flash roasting methods at high temperatures for short periods don’t allow for sufficient convection, preventing flavors from fully developing.

  • Convection helps transfer heat evenly throughout the beans during each stage of roasting as the coffee undergoes physical and chemical changes like cracking, losing moisture, and developing flavors through Maillard reactions and caramelization.

  • The movement of hot air through convection helps control temperature variations during roasting and is an important factor in achieving the desired roast profile, allowing the roaster to emphasize different flavors.

So in summary, convection through hot air is a key mechanism for transferring heat evenly throughout coffee beans during roasting to properly develop flavors at each stage.

  • A blend is a combination of coffees from different origins/regions that are mixed together. Blending allows companies to achieve consistency in taste and harmonize flavors. Well-done blends can be better than the individual coffees.

  • Blends are preferable for espresso as they maximize the chances of consistency and balance. Single origin coffees are better suited for slow brew methods which bring out their subtleties.

  • Homebrew blends can be created by determining the objective, choosing 2-4 coffee varieties, and experimenting with proportions. Equal proportions is a good starting point.

  • Cupping is a professional tasting technique where coffees are sampled individually to identify how they might complement each other in a blend. Attributes like acidity, sweetness, body are evaluated.

  • Specialty coffee is best purchased direct from a roaster for freshness and correct grinding. Good roasters carefully store and manage small selections of coffee.

  • Coffee should be stored away from light, heat, moisture and oxygen to maximize shelf life. Hermetic packaging with valves is best but most practical are resealable bags.

Here is a summary of the key points about coffee cupping technique and cultivation:

  • Cupping involves a standardized process of smelling and tasting dry and wet coffee grounds to evaluate attributes like aroma, flavor, acidity, body, and balance. It is important for green coffee buyers to effectively communicate about coffee quality.

  • The method involves smelling and analyzing the dry grounds, then wetting the grounds and allowing flavors to develop over 4 minutes. The crust is broken and aromas released before smelling, tasting, and evaluating attributes at different temperatures.

  • A cupping form and flavor wheel are used to systematically describe aromas, flavors, intensities, and other attributes.

  • Coffee is primarily cultivated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn where Coffea arabica grows best. Growing conditions vary depending on altitude and rainfall patterns which determine the number of harvests.

  • Coffee plants produce very small yields, with one plant typically yielding less than half a pound of roasted coffee per year. Shade is important for protection and may influence flavor development.

  • Coffee producers adopt agro-forestry practices which help biodiversity by preventing soil erosion and providing habitat for native bird and insect species.

  • It takes 3-5 years for a coffee plant to produce its first cherries after being planted from seed. Flowering occurs 6-9 months after rain, and the fruits take 6-9 months to mature and be ready for harvest.

  • Propagation can be done through cuttings or seeds. Cuttings are clones while seeds allow for genetic variation. Seedlings are grown in nurseries before being transplanted.

  • Pollination is mainly done by wind as coffee arabica is self-pollinating. Higher altitudes where it is cooler results in better flavor profiles in the coffee due to slower ripening of the cherries.

  • Organic farming is rare but small scale farmers may practice it by default due to costs. The main threats to coffee plants are coffee leaf rust fungus and the coffee borer beetle.

  • Varieties have developed over time through mutation or hybridization. Popular hybrid varieties include Catimor and Icatu. Hibrido de Timor is a commonly used hybrid cross.

  • Coffee is a seasonal crop with harvest periods varying by country. Freshness is important for quality but green beans can be frozen to extend shelf life. Year of harvest is not always specified on packaging.

  • Een beans can decline in quality over time if not stored properly. The lipids break down, moisture levels fluctuate, and the coffee develops a woody or burlap-like flavor. This is called having an “old crop” flavor profile.

  • Coffee is harvested by hand, usually twice per year depending on the country. The ripe red or yellow cherries are picked while leaving unripe green ones.

  • For drying, there are traditional methods like the dry process (natural) where whole cherries are dried outdoors for 10-30 days, and the wet process where cherries are pulped, fermented, and dried for 4-10 days.

  • There are also hybrid methods that combine elements of wet and dry, like pulped natural (selective pulping with dry fermentation), honey process (some mucilage left during drying), and semiwashed/giling basah (partial wet processing then outdoor drying of hulled beans).

  • After drying, the coffee is cleaned, sorted by size and color, and packaged for shipping. Defective beans may be sold for uses like instant coffee instead of being discarded.

Low-grade coffee batches undergo a mechanical or manual separation process to sort the beans by density and size. They are then sorted by color on conveyor belts using color detectors to identify defective beans like unripe or fermented beans. The beans undergo a final manual color sorting before being packaged.

Once sorted, the coffee is bagged in various container types like jute bags, vacuum packs, or GrainPro bags and is ready for export and trading on the international commodity market. Lower quality beans and batches are typically sold at auction. This process allows low-grade coffees to be traded and sold commercially.

  • Brazil is the largest coffee producer in the world, producing over 2.9 million tons annually, mostly of the Arabica variety. Coffee growing areas are located in the southeast and benefit from suitable climate, topography, and altitude. Production ranges from large industrial estates to organic and biodynamic farms.

  • Colombia is the third largest producer and is known for high quality Arabica from small farms in the Andes mountains. The terrain makes machinery difficult so focus is on quality. Juan Valdez helped promote Colombian coffee.

  • Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia produce more modest amounts. Costa Rica and Panama have focused on specialty coffee production from small farms. Ecuador and Peru have potential but face challenges.

  • Coffee varieties discussed include Mundo Novo, Catuai, Bourbon, Typica and Caturra which are common in Latin American countries. Procession typically involves wet or dry methods.

  • Characteristics of coffees from different countries are discussed like low acidity and sweetness in Brazil, body and balance in Colombia, acidity and sweetness in Costa Rica, and complex flavors possible from Panamanian Geisha.

  • The passage discusses coffee production and flavor profiles in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

  • It provides details on when coffee was introduced, current production levels, farming practices like drying methods, popular varieties, and characteristics of coffee flavors from each country.

  • Varieties discussed include Bourbon, Catuai, Maragogype, Pacas, Pacamara, Villalobos, Caturra, and Geisha. Brief descriptions are given of each variety’s origins, characteristics, recommended brewing methods, and flavor profiles.

  • All five countries have varied topographies and microclimates that contribute to diverse coffee flavors. Small-to-medium farms are common. Efforts are being made to improve quality and traceability.

  • The passage aims to educate readers on the history and current state of coffee production across Central America and select details about flavor profiles tied to country of origin.

Here is a summary of the key details about drying processes and coffee characteristics for Jamaica, Hawaii, Indonesia, India, and information on monsooned coffee:

  • Jamaica: Wet process drying, characteristics include sweet, rich, and syrupy.

  • Hawaii: Both wet and dry process drying. Characteristics include medium body and low acidity. Kona coffee specifically noted as sweet and rich.

  • Indonesia: Uses semiwashed (giling basah), dry process, and wet process drying. Sumatran coffee characterized by wood, spice, body and low acidity. Sulawesi coffee has low acidity, rich texture, and herbal/spice notes. Javan coffee has body and low acidity with earthy notes.

  • India: Uses monsooned, semiwashed, wet process, and dry process drying. Monsooned coffee undergoes a unique process where the beans are exposed to sea winds and moisture during shipping, causing them to swell and age prematurely, giving a distinctive flavor.

  • Information on kopi luwak briefly discusses the practice of harvesting partially digested coffee beans from civet cat droppings and controversies around the product.

The chapter describes a unique type of coffee from India that is exposed to monsoon air during processing. Green coffee beans are stored in open warehouses, where they absorb moisture from the humid air. The swollen beans lose their natural acidity and pale in color. The resulting brew has an earthy flavor without acidity, but with a full body. Recipes are provided for popular coffee shop foods like carrot cake, financiers (almond cake), and chocolate cookies. Useful coffee event information and addresses of coffee shops around the world are also included. The chapter acknowledges contributors and provides brief biographies of the authors and illustrator.

Author Photo

About Matheus Puppe