have been books written about the history of coffee. It
has a long and somewhat interesting history. Here's our
is a legend that a long time ago (some have it around the
year 800 BC, others around 500 AD), an Ethiopian goat
herder by the name of Kaldi, noticed that some of his
goats were frolicking about much more than they normally
did. He saw that they had been eating something from a
bush with dark shiny leaves. Upon closer inspection, he
saw that they had been eating the red berries from the
ate some of the coffee cherries himself, and, being amazed
at the stimulating effect that they had, brought some to
the local monk.
monk boiled the cherries and made a beverage that was
strong and bitter. Like Kaldi, the monk felt the effect of
the caffeine in the drink and liked it very much.
beverage soon became popular as the monks found that it
helped keep them awake during long hours of prayer.
Short Coffee History
coffee's early history, it was not consumed in the same
way that we do today. Since the pulp of the coffee cherry
was sweet, it was first eaten alone or with the seeds
(beans). In some places, the green unroasted coffee beans
were ground up and mixed with animal fat.
mixture was then pressed into small lumps and was used by
travelers for energy.
Arabs were the first to use the green coffee beans alone.
After removing the pulp and skin, they would crush the
green beans and mix them with water to make their coffee
not until the 14th century that the current method of
roasting coffee became popular. And even then, for many
years, the drink and the grounds were consumed together.
Today, coffee is enjoyed in
every country in the world. In terms of trade, coffee is
second only to oil in dollars traded.
It is grown in more than 50 countries world wide with
about 30 of those countries producing more than 5,000,000
tons of coffee each year. For many of these countries,
their economic success pivots on the success of their
Brazil is by far the largest supplier of coffee today.
Columbia is second with about 2/3rds of Brazil's
Americans consume more than 1/3rd of the total coffee
grown in the world. The green coffee beans come in to our
country through New York, New Orleans and San Francisco
and from there are shipped to coffee roasters around the
Hawaii is the only place in the USA where coffee is grown.
Where Coffee is Grown
All coffee is grown between
the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. These
names represent two imaginary "lines" that circle our
globe approximately 23 degrees north and south of the
equator. Here in the "middle of the world", the climate is
warm and humid - necessary conditions for growing the
sensitive coffee plant.
Although there are more than 60 varieties of coffee that
grow in the world, only two are commercially cultivated.
These are Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica coffee is a higher quality coffee. It is naturally
lower in caffeine than Robusta and grows at elevations of
3000 to 6000 feet and above, where frost is rare. The
Arabica tree is not as hardy as the Robusta, and a single
Arabica tree typically yields only 1 - 1 ½ pounds of green
coffee beans per season. Gourmet coffee companies purchase
the highest grades of Arabica beans.
Robusta coffee plants are more resistant to disease and
drought than the Arabica and are grown from sea level up
to 2000 feet. Robusta trees yield twice as many beans per
tree per season, but produce a coffee that is of lower
quality. Most Robusta beans are blended with Arabica
coffees and used by large commercial coffee companies for
canned and instant coffees.
How Coffee is Harvested
Coffee is really a fruit.
Coffee branches form delicate white, jasmine-like blossoms
that last for a little more than a day. These blossoms
give way to coffee "cherries" that are red and round and
very much resemble our own native cherries. It takes 3 to
5 years for the plants to begin producing and that is
possible only with the proper combination of climate,
rain, sunshine and shade.
Arabica coffee plants do best in rich, volcanic mountain
soil. The higher elevations cause the coffee bean to grow
more slowly, which in turn leads to a more aromatic and
Harvesting is done either by handpicking or by machine
stripping. When done by hand, cherries are picked off the
tree or from the ground. Since only the ripe coffee
cherries are picked, each tree can be picked numerous
times during a season. The stripping method strips the
tree of all its cherries at once and is done when most of
its cherries are ripe. Most coffee is still picked by
But the cherries are not what the coffee farmers are
seeking. Rather, the prize is the twin coffee beans inside
the coffee cherry.
How Coffee is Processed
Coffee cherries must be
processed soon after harvesting to prevent the pulp from
fermenting around the bean. There are two types of
processing known as dry and wet processing.
Dry processing is sometimes called "unwashed" or "natural"
processing. Cherries are spread outside for 15 to 20 days.
The cherries are exposed to the sun and stirred regularly
to help them dry evenly. The dried cherries are then
hulled by hand or by machine, removing the dried out pulp
and parchment. This is the way coffee has been processed
The other type of processing is known as wet or "washed"
processing. A few hours after the cherries are harvested,
the pulp is removed from the cherries. The beans are then
washed in a process that involves cycles of fermentation
and rinsing. Small amounts of fermentation don't hurt the
bean but softens the remaining pulp and skin, making them
able to be easily rinsed off. This is a better type of
processing because it causes less damage to the bean than
Once the coffee beans have been processed, they are sorted
by size and looks, then bagged ready for shipment. Coffee
beans that don't make the "grade" for export are normally
used on a local basis.
How Coffee is
The most important step in
getting coffee into your cup is the roasting. Roasting
coffee is both an art and a science, requiring years of
experience and the right type of roasting equipment.
Green coffee beans are roasted at temperatures ranging
from 370 to 450 degrees for up to 20 minutes. During this
time they lose 18 to 23% of their weight and increase in
size by 35 to 60%. They change color from a light straw
green color to medium brown or dark brown, depending upon
the degree of roast. The bean splits open and brings out
the rich aroma of the coffee.
Roasting is merely the "cooking" of the bean. How much the
bean is roasted is what is called the degree of roast. The
less it is cooked, the "lighter" or "milder" the roast.
There are different terms used for the degree of roast.
Some use the words Mild - Mild-Medium - Medium -
Medium-Dark - Dark.
Today, another common naming of roasting is after
countries -- American roast, French roast, Italian roast,
Turkish roast. These all go from light to dark, from mild
in taste to downright burnt tasting.
Grind Your Own Coffee
Although there are
differences of opinion as to how long it takes for coffee
to lose its flavor, everyone agrees that it does.
We believe that fresh beans, if properly stored, will last
up to 3 weeks and retain most of their fresh roasted
flavor. On the other hand, ground coffee, once open from a
can or vacuum pack, will last only about a week before it
losses its fresh flavor. It's just plain and simple, whole
beans stay fresher longer.
When you grind your own beans, you are treating yourself
to one of life's simple, little, inexpensive, and
Should You Grind Your Coffee
The type of coffee maker
you use should determine the length of time that the
coffee is in the grinder. Less time in the grinder means a
"coarser" ground coffee. If the grind isn't right for your
type of maker, it won't make coffee that tastes like it
should. In some cases, the maker may even become clogged.
For normal drip makers (the kind most people have), do a
medium grind of about 15 to 20 seconds. Gently shake the
grinder a few times to make sure all the beans get ground.
For espresso machines the grind should be between a medium
and fine grind, or 20 to 25 seconds in the grinder. Too
long and it may get clogged, to short and the espresso
will be watery and weak.
The best grind for coffee makers with a cone filter is a
fine grind. Grind the coffee for at least 25 to 30
seconds. A fine grind is also used on vacuum pot coffee
If you have a French Press, grind the coffee for
approximately 10 to 12 seconds for a coarse grind.
How Should You
Store Your Coffee
The question always comes
up - How do you store your coffee? In the freezer? In the
refrigerator? In the sock drawer?
We wish we could tell you, but no one seems to agree on
this one (although the fridges have the freezers out
numbered 2 to 1). Common sense tells us airtight and out
of the light is very important.
We suggest keeping your fresh North Coast Coffee beans in
the airtight, tin tie bag that they came in. After each
use, roll down the bag as much as possible to minimize the
amount of air in the bag and put it in the cupboard by the
Keep it simple!
How to Make
Great Cup of Coffee
coffee starts with great water. Use fresh, cold water. If
your tap water doesn't taste good, don't use it. Use
bottled or spring or filtered water (not distilled water).
important as the water is the coffee. It has to be fresh
and it has to be stored properly. Grind only what you need
for the coffee you are about to make. Make sure that the
coffee pot, filter holder or whatever it is you are using
to brew your coffee is clean and rinsed well.
much coffee is a matter of taste. Start with 2 level
tablespoons for each eight ounces of water and go from
there. (If you really like strong coffee, start with 2½
tablespoons). If you really don't want to mess with
measuring, you may want to try what we do. We simply fill
your coffee maker to the top of the metal basin and the
ground coffee that results is perfect for a 10 "cup" drip
brewing, always remove the grounds immediately to keep the
next pot from tasting bitter. Serve the coffee as soon as
it brews. If you plan on having more later, pour the
coffee into a vacuum bottle to keep the fresh taste.
Coffee that sits on a warmer will soon become stale and
Decaffeination Process of Coffee
Caffeine, which is found in coffee and other foods (cocoa,
tea), is that substance that keeps us awake, both when we
need it and when we don't want it. Unfortunately, to some
people this and other side effects of caffeine are not
Decaffeinated coffee or "decaf" is coffee that has had
most of the caffeine removed. By weight, the amount of
caffeine found naturally in coffee is only about 1% for
the Arabica and 2% for the Robusta coffee beans.
you read "97% Caffeine Free", 97% of that 1% or 2% has
are currently two methods used commercially that remove
caffeine from coffee, the European method and the Swiss
European Method of Decaffeination: Most decaf coffees
are made using a chemical process first used in Europe.
This process involves soaking the beans in water and then
"washing" them in ethylene chloride to absorb the caffeine
from the bean.
this, the beans are rinsed clean of the chemicals, dried
and shipped to the coffee roasters. The advantage of this
method is that it provides decaf coffee with more flavor
than the Swiss water processing.
Although there is virtually no trace of any chemicals left
in the bean after roasting, some people are uncomfortable
knowing that the coffee they are drinking was chemically
Swiss Water Method of Decaffeination: The second
method is known as "Swiss water processing". This process
uses no chemicals, but rather hot water and steam to
remove the caffeine from the coffee.
"life" of the bean is taken into the water, and then the
water solution put through activated charcoal filters to
remove the caffeine. Once the caffeine is removed, these
same beans are then put back into the decaffeinated
solution to reabsorb everything except the caffeine.
beans are then dried and shipped to the roasters. The
disadvantage is that the water processing removes more
than just the caffeine. Some of the oils from the coffee
bean are removed as well, making it less flavorful.
best thing to do for those who really want this kind of
decaf is to start out with a high quality, Arabica bean.
Even though some of the flavor will be lost, there will
still be a lot left to enjoy.
Be sure to visit our friends at
Coffee Facts for even more