As a coffee enthusiast, I want to know everything about my passion. I put together this guide to help us learn all the basic information about coffee.
Here’s what you’ll find:
- What coffee is
- What it’s made from
- Possible health benefits & risks
- Brewing methods
- Processing methods
- Coffee roasting explained
This is where the fun begins.
- Coffee is a beverage made from roasted or unroasted beans
- There are 4 main types of coffee beans, Liberica, Arabica, Robusta, & Excelsia
- 3 different types of coffee processing methods include wet, dry, and semi-washed
- 3 different types of roasts (light, medium, & dark) affect coffee’s taste and caffeine levels
What is Coffee?
Coffee is a beverage brewed from roasted or unroasted coffee beans. These beans are a type of berry harvested from the coffee plant (genus Coffea).
It has a stimulating effect on humans thanks to its caffeine content. A chemical the Coffea plants use to protect themselves against pests.
Because caffeine is toxic to most of them. But it’s not harmful to humans. Unless you intake over 4 cups (32 ounces) of coffee. Then caffeine could lead to health issues
What Is Coffee Made From?
Coffee comes from the seeds of the Coffea plant, which are often called coffee beans. These plants grow berries, and inside the berries, you’ll find the seeds.
To make coffee, farmers harvest the berries, process the seeds to remove the fruit, and then dry them. They then roast the dried seeds to different degrees to bring out desired flavors.
Finally, baristas and folks at home ground and brew the beans and make their drink of choice.
Coffee plants need specific growing conditions, like:
- Warm climate
- High altitude (2,000–6,000 feet above sea level)
- Well-drained soil
- Sufficient rainfall or irrigation (40–100 inches per year)
- Shade or partial sunlight
We have a lot to cover. We’ll begin with coffee’s history.
History of Coffee
Coffee’s history began in Ethiopia, where locals discovered its energizing effects. They chewed on coffee berries and noticed increased energy levels.
People then experimented with the berries, creating various beverages. The beans traveled to the Arabian Peninsula, where coffee cultivation started.
Yemen became the leading producer. And the beans spread through trade networks.
The 15th century saw the rise of coffeehouses in Arabia. People gathered there for conversation, music, and coffee. These establishments became known as Schools of the Wise .
In the 17th century, coffee arrived in Europe.
Europeans embraced the beverage, which sparked the creation of coffeehouses. These spaces served as social and intellectual hubs.
The Dutch, realizing coffee’s potential, began cultivating it in their colonies.
They planted coffee on the island of Java, now part of Indonesia. This started a global coffee trade, with other European countries following suit.
Coffee spread to the Americas through colonization.
In the 18th century, Brazil entered the coffee trade. Eventually, becoming the world’s largest coffee producer.
In the 20th century, coffee consumption grew, leading to the development of instant coffee. The commercial espresso machine also came alive, giving rise to espresso-based drinks. Specialty coffee shops emerged, elevating coffee culture.
Today, coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide. Folks enjoy it in various forms.
Types of Coffee Beans
Here are all the main coffee bean types:
|Coffee Bean Type
|Bold & smoky with a woody aroma
|West & Central Africa, & Southeast Asia
|Sweet & nutty with a fruity acidity
|Ethiopia, Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, & Costa Rica
|Bitter & earthy with a grain-like taste
|Africa, Indonesia, & Vietnam
|Espresso & Turkish coffee
|Tart & fruity with a hint of cinnamon
Different types of coffee beans compared.
Robusta beans need more caffeine to defend themselves since they come from areas with more pests. Because of this addition, these berries lead to drinks with a more bitter taste.
Arabica beans otherwise have less caffeine than their counterparts. Partially due to them growing in higher-altitude regions where fewer pests live.
These beans have a sweeter and more complex flavor due to their lack of caffeine and bitterness.
Different Types of Coffee Drinks Compared
Let’s compare many types of popular coffee drinks:
|Espresso shots, hot water
|Espresso, steamed milk, milk foam
|Coffee, double shot of espresso
|Coffee, triple shot of espresso
|Coffee, quadruple shot of espresso
|Espresso, steamed milk, milk foam
|Manilo Long Black
|Espresso, hot water, lemon peel
|Espresso, microfoam (steamed milk with small, fine bubbles)
|Espresso, demerara sugar
|Espresso, hot water, crema (a layer of foam that forms on top of the espresso due to pressurized brewing)
|Doppio, hot water, steamed milk
|Espresso, steamed milk, small amount of milk foam
|Espresso, steamed half-and-half
|Espresso, lemon peel
|Mocha, orange peel
|Coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, heavy cream
|Espresso, whipped cream, chocolate shavings
|Espresso, steamed milk, foam
|Espresso, dollop of milk foam
|Double espresso, dollop of milk foam
|Espresso, chocolate syrup, steamed milk, milk foam
|Espresso, cocoa powder, steamed milk, milk foam
|Rápido y Sucio
|Espresso, Mexican coffee liqueur
|Espresso, cold milk, ice cubes, milk foam
|Affogato al Caffe
|Espresso, vanilla ice cream
|Double espresso, orange peel, chocolate syrup, whipped cream
|Dehydrated coffee beans
|Brewed coffee with condensed milk
|Brewed coffee that extracts flavors from coffee grounds
|Drinks brewed when boiling coffee grounds
|Cans of premade coffee
|Vacuum coffee drinks
|Coffee brewed in a sealed container
|Coffee with tea
|Brewed coffee mixed with tea
|When coffee beans undergo fermentation before roasting
Ingredients in popular espresso-based drinks compared.
Coffee Growing Regions
Not every continent grows coffee. Coffee thrives in specific conditions found in the Bean Belt. This belt stretches between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
Africa, South America, Central America, and Asia are in this zone.
Antarctica, Europe, and North America are not in the Bean Belt. They don’t grow coffee on a large scale. Some places in North America, like Hawaii and parts of California, produce small amounts of coffee.
However, the following areas account for most of the world’s coffee production:
- South America
- Central America
I’ll talk about how much of the global coffee production each area makes up for, in addition to some beans they’re famous for.
Africa makes up around 13% of the world’s coffee production .
Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, has regions like Sidamo, Harrar, and Yirgacheffe. They produce beans with fruity flavors in Sidamo and Harrar, while Yirgacheffe beans have floral tastes.
Kenya is another top coffee country, with regions like Nyeri, Kirinyaga, and Kiambu. These areas grow beans that often boast bright and wine-like flavors, loved by many.
Tanzania has coffee farms on the northern part of Mount Kilimanjaro’s slopes. Here, they grow Kilimanjaro beans. Many know this coffee for its unique taste.
Rwanda and Burundi grow coffee too. Beans from these countries tend to have sweet and citrus flavors, making them a delightful choice.
South America makes up around 46% of the world’s coffee production .
Brazil is the world’s biggest coffee producer, making up about 37% of global coffee output. Minas Gerais, São Paulo, and Espírito Santo serve as some of the key growing regions. The famous Sul de Minas beans from Minas Gerais have a smooth and sweet taste.
Colombia, another top coffee country, contributes about 8% of global production. Coffee grown in Huila, Nariño, and Antioquia. Colombian Supremo beans have a mild flavor, while Caturra beans are fruity and bright.
With regions like Chanchamayo and Tarapoto, Peru has a smaller coffee output.
Bolivia’s Yungas region grows the Bolivian Colonial Caranavi bean. This bean has a nutty flavor and citrus undertones.
Central America accounts for around 10% of the world’s coffee production. Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras lead the way.
Guatemala has regions like Antigua, Huehuetenango, and Cobán. Antigua grows popular Bourbon beans with a wine-like taste.
Costa Rica has Tarrazú, Central Valley, and West Valley. Many know Tarrazú for its Costa Rican Strictly Hard Beans (SHB) beans, which have a bright and fruity flavor.
In Honduras, coffee grows in Copán, Montecillos, and Agalta. Copán is famous for its Lempira bean, which is well-balanced and mild.
Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama also grow coffee. They contribute to Central America’s diverse coffee culture.
Asia contributes about 30% of the world’s coffee production. Vietnam, Indonesia, and India are key players.
Vietnam has the Central Highlands, where they grow Robusta beans. These beans are strong and bold, with higher caffeine content.
Indonesia has regions like Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi. Sumatra is famous for its Mandheling beans, which taste earthy and spicy.
They grow coffee in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu in India. Karnataka produces Monsooned Malabar beans with a unique, mellow flavor.
Other Asian countries, like Thailand and the Philippines, also grow coffee. They add to the diverse flavors and styles of Asian coffee.
Possible Health Benefits & Risks of Drinking Coffee
|Improves cognitive function
|Insomnia & sleep disturbances
|Enhances physical performance
|Increased heart rate & palpitations
|Contains nutrients like B1, B2, B3, magnesium, & potassium *
|Acid reflux & heartburn
|May lower risk of Type 2 diabetes
|Anxiety & restlessness
|Reduces risk of Parkinson’s disease
|Potential dependence on caffeine
|Protects against Alzheimer’s disease
|Bone loss in postmenopausal women
|May lower risk of certain cancers
|Stained teeth & enamel erosion
|Supports liver health
|Possible negative interactions with medication
|Reduces risk of stroke
* Coffee contains trace amounts of these nutrients. Don’t use coffee as a means to supplement these nutrients.
Different Methods of Brewing Coffee
Most of the different types of brewing methods include the following:
|Coffee Brewing Method
|Hot water drips through ground coffee held in a filter, extracting flavors into a carafe
|Coffee grounds steep in hot water, then a plunger separates the liquid from the grounds
|Hot water forces through finely ground coffee under high pressure, creating a concentrated shot
|Hot water pours over coffee grounds in a cone-shaped filter, allowing gravity to extract the coffee
|Coffee grounds & hot water mix, then push through a filter using air pressure from a plunger
|Water heats in a bottom chamber, creating pressure that pushes the water through coffee grounds into an upper chamber
|Coffee grounds steep in cold water for an extended period, then filtered
|A combination of vacuum & vapor pressure brews coffee by pulling water through coffee grounds into a separate chamber
|Finely ground coffee boils with water and sugar, creating a thick, strong brew that includes the grounds
|Water repeatedly cycles through coffee grounds using gravity or pressure
Coffee Processing Methods
Here are the differences among different coffee processing methods:
- Dry processing:
- Also called “natural” processing
- Beans dry in the sun with fruit still on
- Takes longer, usually several weeks
- Creates fruity, bold flavors
- Wet processing:
- Also called “washed” processing
- Fruit is removed before drying
- Beans soak in water, then are washed
- Results in clean, bright flavors
- Semi-washed processing:
- Mix of dry and wet methods
- Fruit partially removed before drying
- Known as “honey” or “pulped natural” process
- Offers a balance of fruity and clean flavors
I’ll cover details on these processing methods throughout the following sections.
In dry- or natural processing, producers lay ripe coffee cherries out in the sun. They turn the cherries frequently to ensure even drying. After drying, they hull the cherries, removing the outer layer and revealing the green coffee beans.
This technique gives the coffee a sweet, fruity flavor profile.
Wet processing, another coffee production method, removes the outer cherry skin. Then, producers ferment the remaining pulp-covered beans in water. This process loosens the pulp, making it easy to wash away. Finally, they dry the clean, green coffee beans.
Wet processing results in a brighter, cleaner flavor compared to dry processing.
Semi-washed processing, a hybrid coffee method, combines wet and dry techniques. Producers remove the outer cherry skin and then dry the beans, still covered in pulp. This process retains some fruitiness while adding a clean, bright flavor.
Semi-washed processing offers a unique taste profile, balancing the best of both wet and dry methods.
Coffee Bean Roasting Process Explained
The process starts by heating beans in a roaster. As the heat increases, beans crack, release moisture, and caramelize sugars.
Roasters monitor temperature and time closely, adjusting for desired roast level.
Light, medium, and dark roasts exhibit distinct flavors, highlighting the roaster’s artistry.
Coffee Roast Levels Compared
Let’s compare different roasting levels and how they impact coffee beans:
|Temperature Range (°F)
|Temperature Range (°C)
|Average Time to Roast
|350 °F–400 °F
|175 °C–205 °C
|Bright & fruity
|410 °F–430 °F
|210 °C–220 °C
|Balanced & smooth
|440 °F–480 °F
|225 °C–250 °C
|Bold & smoky
Coffee Roasting Effects on Flavor & Aroma
Let’s compare how different roasts affect a bean’s taste:
- Light roast: retains fruity, floral notes and bright acidity; has subtle complexity
- Medium roast: balances acidity and body; showcases origin flavors and roast character
- Dark roast: emphasizes roast flavors, like caramel, chocolate, and smoky notes; muted acidity
Roasting doesn’t affect caffeine levels much. Light and dark roasts have similar caffeine content. But with slight variations due to bean density changes during roasting.
Keep reading to find frequently asked questions about coffee.
How Many Milligrams of Caffeine Is in a Cup of Coffee?
An 8 ounce (237 milliliters) cup of coffee usually has 94-120 mg of caffeine. The actual amount of caffeine will vary by factors such as roast type, bean type, and more.
What Is Vietnamese Coffee?
Vietnamese coffee (cà phê sữa đá in Vietnamese) is a coffee drink that mixes brewed coffee and condensed milk. There’s also Vietnamese egg coffee. It’s identical to the former drink, but with egg yolk added.
What Is Instant Coffee?
Instant coffee is dehydrated coffee crystals or powder derived from ground coffee beans. To brew this coffee, mix it with hot water.
What Is Red Eye Coffee?
Red eye coffee is an express-based drink where you pour an espresso shot over brewed coffee.
How Does the Roast Level Affect the Taste of Coffee?
The darker the roast, the less acidic your coffee tastes . Darker roasts also have less complex flavors than light, since roasters roast the caffeine content out.
Why Does Coffee Make You Poop?
Coffee does make you poop because it may trigger contractions in your intestinal lining and colon.
How Is Coffee Decaffeinated?
Manufacturers warm and soak coffee beans in liquid to dissolve the caffeine coating the beans.
Learning the basics about coffee isn’t enough. If you’re on a journey to make the best-tasting coffee drinks like me, you’ll need to dive deeper into the rabbit hole.
I recommend talking about different types of coffee drinks.