Coffee culture: from bean to caffeine and everything in between

Many students cannot live or breathe without it: coffee. It’s your best friend when having to get up for that 8 am lecture or during those late night sprints towards a deadline. Often said ‘the stronger the better’ or ‘I like my coffee as black as my soul’. But did you know what goes beyond your daily shot of caffeine, and how it could be so much more than ‘just that’? Let me introduce you to speciality coffee.

Speciality coffee, or slow coffee, is a trend that has grown massively over the last couple of years. First introduced in the hipster scene, but it has now worked its way up to mainstream coffee bars and shops. Terms like ‘Chemex’ and ‘cold brew’ begin to sound more familiar, to more people, every day.


Choosing the right bean

The first step to any good cup of coffee are the beans you choose and how they are roasted, next is if they are pre-grinded, or you mill them fresh, right before putting the kettle on. The best known, and most used in ‘regular’ coffee, is the arabica bean, making up for about 70 percent of coffee consumption. Second place goes to the robusta kind, with one very important aspect: more caffeine than arabica. The next level on which a choice can be made, is if you go for a light, medium or dark roasted bean, or a blend of multiple.

A light roast will provide you with a delicate, more acidic flavour, often with notes of cinnamon. Medium roasted beans, chocolate brown of colour, will give your coffee a slightly sweet, toasty taste. This option is also the most popular one on the market. Dark roasted beans however, roasted until the sugars in the bean start to caramelize, is more strong, smokey, and sometimes spicy in flavour. Lastly, is a blend of two or more different roasts, enabling you to create unique flavour profiles.

The coffee flavour wheel, showing how complex coffee flavours can be (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Brewing methods

While I could go on and on about the different kinds of coffee and their methods of creation (there are 43, as far as I could keep count), I will provide you with my personal favourites and those that are more ‘unique’ to the unknowing, caffeinated public.


Slow drip – filter

A method of brewing where coffee is placed into a paper filter and hot water is poured onto it letting the liquid to drip into the carafe below. When making filter coffee, the way your beans are grinded and the amount of time you let your coffee drip, are most crucial to the outcome of your coffee.

The taste of filter coffee is characterised as clean, sweet and delicate. If a more special bean is used, filter coffee will do it justice by allowing more complex flavours to surface.

Examples: Hario V60, Chemex, Kalita Wave, beehouse


Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee served in the traditional manner: a ceramic cup in an extra copper cup (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A traditional coffee drink served in the Middle East, fine ground coffee is immersed in water allowing maximum foam to form. Usually consumed by placing a sugar cube in the month, followed by drinking the coffee. Great if you love your coffee very sweet.


Cold brew

Cold brew is often a favourite of many during the warmer days of the year. Much like ice tea, it is basically the cold version of your favourite hot drink. Finely ground coffee is added to cold water, then is sealed in a container to steep for 12 to 24 hours to be filtered afterwards.

Example: Filtron, Toddy Cold Brewer


Pressed coffee

The best known version of pressed coffee, is the classic espresso. But there is more. With this method, water is pressed through the finely ground beans to create a more acidic taste with a crema layer on top. Many coffees on the coffee shop menu are based upon this type of coffee, such as cappuccino and latte macchiato.

Example: Aeropress, French press


Vacuum Coffee

A brew method using two chambers where vapor pressure and vacuum produce the final cup of coffee. It is mainly the aesthetic of this type of coffee that is appealing, as the process is very special to watch.

Example: Siphon, vacuum pot

So next time you go to your favourite coffee bar to order your morning shot, try something new or ask your barista about what beans they use.


Text: Sanne Moonemans

Lead image
Coffee tasters flavour wheel (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Turkish coffee (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Videos: Stumptown Coffee


Tags : coffee