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Barista Basics - Articles

The Starters Guide To Coffee, Bean Scene, Issue 9, 2005

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Appearing in Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 9, 2005




The Starters Guide

To Coffee






Don’t you just hate it when your friends are all talking about the latest episode of 24 or Lost and you’re completely out of it because you didn’t watch it from the beginning? Not knowing much about coffee can similarly put you on the outer. In this article, David Gee and Matthew Gee arm you with the essentials in understanding about the second most (legally) traded commodity in the world (there – bet we’ve taught you something new already!)

Coffee Grows on Trees




Some people think coffee is either a manufactured product or a product that grows in the ground. Most are surprised when they hear that coffee actually grows on a tree. The coffee bean is actually a seed that grows inside a cherry that grows as a fruit on the coffee tree. Most cherries usually have two of these seeds inside them lying face to face. They are green in colour. After the jasmine-like flowers on the coffee tree disappear, green cherries emerge and eventually turn red, indicating to the harvesters that they are ready to be picked and then processed.



Machines are not good at distinguishing between green and red cherries so to this day most of the world’s coffee is hand-picked. In most countries, after being picked the red cherries are soaked in an enzyme or bacteria over a thirty-six hour period, during which the flesh separates from the seeds. The seeds are then washed thoroughly with water and put out into the sun to dry. This usually takes from a couple of days to a week. When the seeds (let’s call them beans from here on in) are dry they are put into a machine which shakes them up vigorously so that a hull or husk that surrounds the bean is shaken off. Shiny green beans are left which are then hand sorted and graded according to their size and quality (yes, every single bean!). They are then packed in their characteristic 60kg hessian bags, ready to be shipped overseas. Coffee in its green form can be stored for up to two years before it degrades.



We’ve seen coffee roasting done in domestic ovens, popcorn makers, huge commercial roasting machines that need the expertise of a craftsman with years of experience to operate and mega roasters that are fully computer-driven. Interestingly, forty-five seconds either side of ideal will produce a batch of coffee that is either too light in colour if under-roasted (and hence milder than the target roast) or coffee that is too dark in colour if over-roasted (and hence stronger or more bitter than the target roast). Therefore the ideal coffee roaster isn’t going to be an old popcorn maker but to some people’s surprise nor is it the human-operated commercial roaster. It is actually the fully automated roaster that comes out on top as it virtually guarantees consistency. Its computer sensors know with precise accuracy the moisture content, density, average bean size and bean hardness that will all play in part in determining the optimum roasting time. Roasting times will therefore differ from batch to batch. There aren’t many of these roasters in Australia as they are incredibly expensive.

Generally speaking, the roasting process takes between fourteen and sixteen minutes to complete. During this time the beans expand and they lose weight as water is driven off. The surface temperature of the beans eventua


The Art of Roasting


It’s a Labour-Intensive Harvest


Effective Barista Training, Tea and Coffee Asia, first quarter 2006
Coffee The Australian Way, Tea and Coffee Asia, fourth quarter 2005
In the End, It's All in the Blend, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
Tools of the Trade, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
The Starters Guide To Coffee, Bean Scene, Issue 9, 2005
Cutting Edge Espresso - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Postcards from Seattle - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Making Great Coffee At Home - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 2, 2004
Buying a Home Espresso Machine - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 3, 2005
Australians v Italians: Who Makes Better Coffee? - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 6, 2004
The Decline of Tea and the Dethroning of the Flat White - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 7, 2005
Coffee Indulgence - Loreals' Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 4, 2005
Coffee Appreciation
How to be a Gun Barista - Bean Scene, Issue 5, 2004
Affogato with a twist of Mocha - Australian Table, May 2004
Hygiene in the Café Environment - Bean Scene, Issue 3, 2004
Grind It, Baby - Eat Drink Magazine, May 2004
Coffee Myths, Dispelled!, Bean Scene, Issue 4, 2004
Coffee Art - Eatdrink Magazine, June 2004
Questions: Hospitality Magazine, May 2004


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