Ahh, the humble coffee bean. Never has a more loved, complex, controversial, and historical ingredient.
Growing up, I didn't like coffee. It didn't interest me, and I didn't understand why so many people enjoyed the bitter black water.
But then I started drinking coffee. Why not? Everyone was doing it, and so I jumped on the bandwagon.
If only I knew where it would take me.
And then I drank some more coffee. And some more. Finally, I fell in love. This love turned to obsession, and I dove into everything about coffee; how it's made, where it came from, and what makes good and lousy coffee terrible. I purchased expensive brew equipment that I didn't know how to use. I went on the hunt for the highest quality beans I could find.
This time, I didn't know how far down the rabbit hole I would go.
As I look back, I trace my path in life to my love affair with the humble bean. And I'm excited to find out where else this tiny seed of fruit will take me into the future.
At Wild Foods, we are passionate about many food ingredients, not just coffee. Of course, coffee always seems to be smack dab in the middle.
To say the least, coffee is a big deal to us.
And that's why I felt it was time to write an epic guide on coffee.
As you read this guide, there's a fundamental truism that I hope you'll takeaway.
It's this: Bad coffee sucks, don’t drink it. And: Great coffee is Awesome and good for you, the environment and the millions of people around the world that rely on coffee for their livelihoods.
Say "NO" to bad coffee. And a giddy, "yes please," to good coffee.
Part of our mission at Wild Foods is sharing our passion for the wonderful gifts of nature, like coffee, as well as the importance of quality in growing, processing and transporting ingredients.
Coffee is a prime example of this mission.
Drinking great coffee can take you around the world. It connects people and ideas (one of its great contributions to human society).
Coffee makes you feel good and brings you back to the moment.
It’s a celebration of many things; ingredients, nature, science, flavor, biology.
And with the plethora of ways you can enjoy coffee, there’s a concoction for everyone. Enjoy it hot, cold, with cream, milk, sweetener or black, or our favorite, with butter. (These are still only a few of the many ways you can enjoy coffee.)
We are going to cover as many aspects of coffee in this guide, from bean to cup and everything in between. But before we get to all that, I want to reiterate our beliefs about coffee one more time: drink great coffee and shun the rest.
Respect the coffee bean--how it’s made, roasted and grown--and most important of all, make sure you take your time and enjoy your brew!
My last bit of advice on coffee is this: embrace the learning experience that is coffee. Even the worst cup of coffee has a story to tell. Learn from each cup and every bean.
Without further ado, enjoy the Wild Foods Guide to Coffee!
"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."
-T. S. Eliot
There is a legend surrounding the origin of coffee.
It goes something like this: A goat herder in Ethiopia named Kaldi noticed that some of his goats were acting erratic after eating berries from a nearby bush. After trying a berry, he began dancing around with his goats, excited by the apparent caffeine rush. Kaldi soon turned his newfound cherry-eating into a daily ritual.
A local monk noticed Kaldi's new habit and tried some of the berries himself. After feeling the effects, he thought of boiling the berries to make a drink that monks could sip during long meditations and prayers. News quickly spread to neighboring monasteries, and, as they say, the rest is history.
Before coffee was a drink, coffee beans were crushed and rolled into balls of animal fat and eaten by nomadic warriors in Ethiopia. There is debate among historians on the exact date of coffee cultivation. The first recorded mention of coffee was by a philosopher and astronomer named Rhazes (850-922 A.D.), who referred to coffee as “bunchum” and promoted its medicinal use when he said, "bunchum is hot and dry and very good for the stomach.” Soon after, Europeans traveling to the Middle East during the sixteenth century recorded coffee in travel journals.
Due to the prohibition of alcohol in Islamic countries, coffee has become a popular substitute, especially in Turkey. Most coffee beans during the sixteenth century came from Yemen. As the Ottoman Empire grew throughout the Middle Ages, coffee continued to grow in popularity to the point that it was considered as important as bread in everyday Islamic life. Even a Turkish law passed that allowed a wife to divorce her husband if he refused her coffee.
As coffee’s popularity grew, the Arab world became protective of the crop, forbidding foreigners from visiting coffee farms and allowing beans to be exported only after they were boiled to destroy any germinating potential. Eventually, in the early 1600s, Dutch spies were able to smuggle out a coffee plant, which finally brought coffee to the colonies in Java.
As coffee spread throughout Europe, it became so popular that people started meeting to drink it together, which led to the creation of the coffee house. Coffee houses became known as “schools of the cultured,” where patrons played games, discussed ideas and played music. The first English coffee house was opened in 1650 in Oxford, England.
During the same time, many doctors became the first champions of coffee in England, praising the liquid for its health benefits. The public perception of coffee, and coffeehouses, became a public meeting place that was the counterpoint to the most popular social place of the time, the tavern. Some even viewed coffee as a solution to the problem of public drunkenness.
In 18th century, coffeehouses became known as "penny universities" because patrons were charged a penny for a cup of coffee and entry. Once inside, patrons had access to other patrons, games, books and news. Coffee houses became a place for spreading news and ideas, and were open to any individual regardless of social or economic class.
Coffee house topics of discussion included politics, gossip, business ideas, current events and debate. In fact, historians often associate the Age of Enlightenment with the widespread popularity of coffeehouses in English society.
But not all was always peachy keen for the coffee bean. Many a revolution can be traced back to coffee house gatherings where ideas spread and convictions hardened into action. The connection between the coffee house and the spread of ideas made coffee a risk to political and religious establishments.
This made coffee a target.
A coffee prohibition in Turkey resulted in any second-time offender being sewn up in a leather bag and thrown into the river. In other parts of the Arab world, coffee was suppressed by authorities in an effort to stifle it's spread, although these bans were usually short lived. Like alcohol, coffee served too powerful a tonic to ban without stirring public unrest.
Finally, in the early 1700s, coffee growing spread rapidly throughout the tropics, becoming a perfect crop (addicting and grown cheaply) for the European empires to trade.
The first license to sell coffee in the American colonies was issued in 1670 to an individual in Boston. It wasn't long before the big London coffeehouses established coffee houses in America. After the Boston Tea Party of 1765, drinking coffee, which could be imported directly from French and Dutch colonies, became an act of patriotism. By choosing coffee over the British taxed, and favorite, tea, Americans found a way to circumvent paying unjust taxes. This helped fuel coffee's popularity in American culture and may be why coffee is a more popular drink than tea nowadays.
Coffee still had its ups and downs in America, initially too expensive for most. But coffee's popularity grew when the taverns near popular ports started buying beans. It wasn't until the advent of steam-powered ships and advancements in roasting and packaging—which helped improve the quality and flavor of coffee while reducing cost—that coffee became accessible to the lower classes.
Then World War 2 happened. Companies started marketing cheap robusta beans as "instant coffee" in conjunction with prompting coffee as a drink for convenience rather than enjoyment. Unfortunately, these campaigns worked, and the American public developed the habit and perception that coffee should be cheap, fast, and not flavorful. Because these instant coffees were barely drinkable without adding more sugar and cream, Americans got used to drinking coffee this way.
The instant coffee revolution is known as the first of three “Waves” of coffee. The coffee waves go like this:
First Wave: Mass-produced coffee meant to reach as many people as possible. Instant coffee. Not fresh. Cheap beans. No flavor.
Second Wave: Promotion of “specialty coffee,” in which consumers become more interested in the coffee, paying special attention to the roast, while viewing coffee as an enjoyable experience. Starbucks, and the growth of other independent coffee shops around the country, are largely attributed to having the most influence on this wave. Espresso was a big part of this wave, which included flavored espresso beverages popularized by Starbucks that, nowadays, seem to be more of a “coffee-flavored” drink than anything.
Third Wave: The current wave of coffee is the wave we are in now (and one we embrace here at Wild Foods): An interest to know everything there is to know about coffee, from bean to cup. And the importance on quality.
The newest wave of coffee is back-to-basics; celebrating quality coffee, how it's produced, and where it's from, and often enjoyed straight—espresso, cold brew, black, hot—or in simple concoctions—latte, macchiato, cappuccino, Americano—all of which allow you to experience more of the coffee itself.
Compare this to the second wave in which coffee was "masked" with more elaborate flavorings and mixes (undoubtedly a means to appeal to the milder American coffee palate).
We are all about the Third Wave of coffee here at Wild Foods.
By focusing on the quality of the coffee beans themselves, the entire chain of supply is improved down to the coffee plant itself. Farmers get better wages for their crops, which allows them to invest in even better yields. Better crops result in better working conditions, laborers' pay, and a better local environment. Supporting better crops ensures a more sustainable and fair trade, import, and export system.
When farmers are paid a fair wage for their crops, they are less likely to fall into debt peonage in which exporters batter down prices while holding the farmers a "hostage" due to farmers having no alternatives.
Think of this anytime you buy cheap coffee; you are supporting a modern-day form of slavery—maybe even actual slavery in some cases—while lining the pockets of those who thrive by taking advantage of others and the environment.
Of course, the quality of coffee isn't merely a moral argument. It's also a matter of taste. Quality coffee tastes better.
In some cases, good coffee isn't in the same realm as cheap coffee; it's like comparing apples to oranges. Combine this with the moldy coffee issue, which is a health implication, and you have a strong case for quality coffee.
*Personally, this is the same way I feel about cheap, factory farmed meat. I won’t support it. I won’t eat it. I can hardly even look at it. And that is as much a moral stance as it is a health and palate decision.
As I said in the introduction, if there’s at least one thing you take away from this guide it is this: BUY GREAT COFFEE AND SHUN THE REST!
“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.”
The word “coffee” is thought to be derived from the word “Qahwah,” Arabic for the coffee drink. Scholars tend to agree that the word found its way into European languages through the Italian word “caffe” derived from the Turkish pronunciation “kahveh.”
How the world refers to coffee:
The two main types of coffee plants are the species arabica and robusta. While over a hundred species of the Coffea plant, these two represent the bulk of the world’s coffee market.
As a general rule, you want arabica. Arabica is considered the better-tasting coffee plant and accounts for the bulk of the specialty coffee industry. Arabica usually contains 60% or more coffee oils and double the amount of sugar compared to robusta, contributing to a better brew.
When it comes to the quality of coffee, how it is grown and processed play a paramount role in the final product. Because arabica is a more fickle plant and requires more growing attention than robusta—e.g., arabica does not tolerate frost, low altitude climates and is susceptible to pests—most arabicas are grown with care, resulting in an overall better product.
Because robusta is cheaper to grow, it became the bean of choice for the mass-produced, “technified” coffee you find on supermarket shelves. Conversely, higher quality coffees known as “specialty coffee,” often organic and single-origin and sold as whole beans, are almost always 100% arabica beans.
A Few Differences Between Arabica And Robusta:
Of course, not all robusta is “bad” coffee. Some robusta beans are prized for espresso due to the thick crema they produce, which is why you find robusta often in espresso blends. Our advice is to stick with 100% arabica unless you know what you are looking for in a robusta.
Coffee Arabica and the Coffee Cherry
Coffea Arabica is the the species of coffea plant responsible for about 70% of the world’s coffee production. Arabica is more a shrub than a tree, and while it can grow taller than 10 feet, it is usually trimmed down to allow pickers better access to cherries.
The coffee cherry is said to taste like a combination of watermelon and hibiscus. Unlike actual cherries, coffee cherries have little flesh between the outer skin and the coffee seeds inside, which are not edible until roasted. So be careful should you find yourself biting into a coffee cherry.
Coffee cherries start out green then turn cranberry red when they are ready for harvest. The main coffee harvest usually takes place once a year and is done by hand—in the case of quality coffee that is. It takes a single coffee plant an entire year to produce about two pounds of green coffee beans. Remember that the next time you buy your supply of coffee beans! (And don’t ever ever waste good coffee!)
Did you know?
Here's a fun coffee fact you can use to impress friends: Coffee is the seed of the coffee plant and not actually a "bean." A single coffee seed contains two “beans” when separated. A small percentage of coffee cherries contain a single bean called a “peaberry.”
"Coffee is a language in itself."
The best coffee grows at higher altitudes, 3,000 - 6,000 feet above sea level, in a climate with a consistent temperature. Typically, the higher a coffee farm, the slower it develops, which lends to more intense flavor development.
In areas where the climate may be too warm to grow the fickle arabica plant, shade helps reduce the temperature. The shade also provides a natural habitat for birds (with "bird-friendly" certifications showing up on some coffee labels) which act as a natural "pesticide" by eating insects that would otherwise damage the coffee trees. Shade also improves the soil and local ecosystem. Finally, many link "shade-grown" coffee to an improvement in coffee flavor.
Coffee is unique compared to other crops in that it produces new flowers and varying stages of ripe cherries throughout the fruiting season. This results in ripe cherries needing to be harvested throughout the year. For farmers, skilled pickers that can pick ripe cherries among unripe cherries are a valuable asset and worth paying a premium for.
After harvesting, ripe coffee cherries are transported to a mill or moved to the milling process immediately if the farm does its milling. This is the “processing” stage.
The two main methods of processing the cherries are wet/washed and natural/dry. Within each of these main categories, there are many variations.
Beans are shaken and washed through a screen to separate the larger ripe cherries from the unripe cherries. The ripe cherries will sink to the bottom and the unripe, or “bad,” cherries will float to the top.
The next stage is pulping. After sorting, the cherries are pushed through a screen by machine. The leftover pulp is used as fertilizer. Cherries that fail to pulp are not ripe enough and will be sorted by hand and used for lower quality coffees.
Next the coffee will ferment, which removes the rest of the pulp, mucilage and parchment surrounding the green coffee seeds.
The last stage is a final washing.
The wet process method is said to be less susceptible to mold (see article here), as well as better at preserving the flavor of each bean. It is also the most labor intensive compared to the other methods of processing coffee, and thus demands a higher price.
The first step of the process is to clean and sort the cherries, removing twigs and leaves before being spread out on patios or tables to dry in the sun. After coffee is spread in a thin layer to dry, it is raked regularly to ensure even drying (a step where mold can be an issue).
The drying process can take up to four weeks and must be carefully monitored. Too dry and the beans will break during hulling. If the beans are not dry enough, they can become moldy.
Natural Process Coffee Fact: Because the beans dry while still in the cherry, natural process coffee develops a unique aroma and flavor—typically fruity with less acidity.
Finally, after the processing stage, coffee beans are stored for a few months to further dry before the final sorting, cupping and grading. The three ways of sorting green coffee beans are:
Machine: A sensor detects imperfect beans and routes them out.
Hand: Sorted by hand. Can you imagine?
Hand on conveyor belt: Sorted by hand on a moving belt. Crazy!
"What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup."
Coffee is tasted multiple times throughout the growing and processing stages. This is called “cupping.”
To prepare coffee for cupping it is roasted in small batches, immediately ground and then infused in hot water. During the entire process, the cupper is evaluating the look, smell, texture, and finally, taste of the beans.
(As Recommended By The Specialty Coffee Association Of America)
Step #1 - Remove lid and sniff grounds.
Step #2 - After 3-5 minutes, sniff crust before breaking it and stirring 3 times. Lift spoon and sniff dripping grounds.
Step #3 - Skim off grounds, leaving as much liquid in cup as possible.
Step #4 - Hunch close to the cup with a clean spoon. Take a spoonful and “slurp” it into your mouth while inhaling. This slurping helps the aromatics to work while also coating your tongue with as much coffee as possible.
Step #5 - Rinse your spoon in a glass of clean water between each taste.
The aromas of coffee are distinct from flavors, although sometimes they are found together. Example, say you smell cherry when sniffing your brew but don’t taste it when you drink. This is common. On the other hand, for example, you might smell and taste caramel.
Here are some of the most common aromas you can find in coffee:
"Caffeine. The gateway drug."
Caffeine is the beloved, controversial ingredient in coffee that gets plenty of attention. And usually, it's not good attention. Even those who willingly ingest it often think of it as a vice.
The health establishment loves to quote whatever new study that has recently come out, usually cautioning us ignorant caffeine addicts of the perils of our daily addiction.
Why, thank you for saving us from ourselves...
The fact is, caffeine is good for you. And just like fruit can be good for you until you overeat it, it goes for caffeine.
It's all in the dose.
Some drink coffee exclusively for the caffeine kick. Others drink it because they like the flavor; the buzz is a welcome bonus. Most of us drink it for a combination of the two. If you are like me, you drink it for all the reasons: the flavor, the enjoyment, and most definitely, the stimulation.
I suspect the latter reason is why so many are embracing specialty coffees at a premium price.
Caffeine, in pure form, is a white odorless powder that belongs to a class of organic chemicals called purine alkaloids. This mechanism acts as a pesticide against certain insects and to increase the memory of others (cooolio).
A study (1) titled "Caffeine in Floral Nectar Enhances a Pollinator's Memory of Reward," concluded that honeybees were as much as three times more likely to remember a scent after ingesting coffee. This encouraged the bees to return to the plant to pollinate again, increasing the plant's reproductive success.
It could be argued that caffeine has a similar effect on humans; it keeps us coming back for more!
Once caffeine passes through the gastrointestinal tract, it can remain in your body for three to six hours. Upon reaching the liver, caffeine is metabolized into three compounds; paraxanthine, theobromine and theophylline.
Caffeine is considered as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. 10 grams of caffeine a day is considered toxic, but this would take 50-100 cups of coffee to reach.
Caffeine is known to block adenosine, which reduces drowsiness. It also stimulates the autonomic nervous system. The promotion of "alertness" is often associated with combating fatigue and the ability to better focus. These are subjective, different from individual. That said, as a general rule, the more you ingest caffeine, the less you will notice these effects while the less caffeine you ingest, the more you will notice them when ingesting caffeine.
Like I said before, "It depends."
As most know, caffeine can be overdone. Many studies on caffeine consumption have been done, but they seem to be across the board in their conclusions. You can find just as many studies that assert caffeine is “good” for you and plenty that say it's not. (I think there are more that assert it as good, though.)
When it comes to caffeine intake, like most things in life: It depends.
Here is the Wild Foods’ stance on caffeine: It’s hella good for you in the proper amount… and… like any ingestible ingredient, you should cycle it at times to increase your body’s sensitivity.
So, what’s the right amount of caffeine?
Again: It depends.
It depends on bodyweight and lifestyle factors such as sleep and diet. The Mayo Clinic recommends less than 500 milligrams (mg) a day.
Let’s look at our caffeine chart to see how many cups of coffee this equals (reference: Mayo Clinic):
As you can see, since a strong cup of coffee averages 150mg of caffeine, you could consume three-ish cups of coffee a day and stay within the Mayo Clinics’ recommendation of less than 500 mg a day.
As far as intake goes, I think the Mayo Clinic’s recommendation is a safe place for most people.
When I’m hovering around this much caffeine intake for an extended period of time, I start running into issues with fatigue and the feeling that I need to drink coffee to help me wake up each morning.
And I don't like either of these.
This is how I know it’s time to wane my intake down over the next few days to a lower daily baseline. After that, I might even go a day or two with no caffeine. Finally, after this down regulation, I’ll start gradually increasing my daily intake until I find myself reaching too much again. And then the cycle repeats itself.
Of course, you should find what works best for you. As with most things relating to the body, pay close attention to how you feel and always be tweaking and gauging. The more you pay attention to what your body is telling you, the better you’ll understand what works best for you.
Here are a list of studies relating to caffeine and coffee intake if you want to do some further study.
Coffee helps keep you alert and focused.
Coffee is caffeine, and like all caffeine-based products, it can help you stay alert and focused. It's been shown to boost cognitive performance and improve mental clarity. Some studies even show that coffee can help protect your brain from age-related decline.
Coffee can help reduce anxiety and stress.
Again, coffee is caffeine - like all caffeine-based products, it can help reduce anxiety and stress. It does this by activating your pleasure centers in the brain, which helps to regulate moods and emotions. Additionally, coffee has been shown to have anti-anxiety effects when consumed in moderation.
Coffee can help improve your sleep quality
One of the significant benefits of coffee is that it can help improve your sleep quality. Coffee contains histamine, which has been shown to promote relaxation and improved sleep
Coffee May Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Several studies show a correlation between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of various cancers, including liver, breast, and prostate cancer. Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants, which can help prevent cell damage that can lead to cancer.
Coffee Can Improve Mental Function
Coffee is also known to improve mental function. Studies have found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's. Coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that can improve brain function.
Coffee Can Help You Lose Weight
Coffee has been shown to help you lose weight. In one study, overweight women who drank three cups of coffee each day lost more weight than women who didn't drink coffee. Coffee contains caffeine and other ingredients that help you burn calories.
Coffee can help improve mental clarity
Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that can help improve mental clarity and focus. Caffeine also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
Coffee may help lower blood pressure
According to a study published in the journal Hypertension, coffee consumption has been shown to lower blood pressure in adults by as much as five mmHg systolic and two mmHg diastolic. Another study found that women who drank three cups of coffee per day had a 29 percent lower risk of developing hypertension than those who didn't drink coffee.
Coffee and Parkinson's Disease
Several studies suggest that caffeine, found in coffee and other beverages, can aid in the protection against Parkinson's. In addition, the caffeine in coffee may help control movements in those with Parkinson's, according to one study from 2012. It might support brain health. Although studies have found conflicting results, some studies have suggested coffee might help protect against neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Coffee and depression
Studies show coffee can help lower the risk of depression, mainly if you consume four or more daily cups. Studies have shown that those who drink up to eight cups per day are associated with a 14% lower risk of dying young than those who drink no coffee. Many factors go into this, but drinking coffee has generally been linked with lower risks of colon and liver cancers, respiratory diseases, stroke, and diabetes.
Coffee and diabetes
In 2014, researchers collecting data from more than 48,000 people found that those who increased their coffee intake by at least a cup a day for four years had an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who did not increase their consumption. It may Be linked to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. Some studies have suggested that regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the long run.
Another study, published in the June 17, 2008, issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that women who consumed coffee had lower risks of dying of cancer, heart disease, and other factors, thus contributing to longer lives. The large 37,514-woman cohort concluded that moderate consumption of 2 to 3 cups per day was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of heart disease. Comparing higher intakes of coffee (up to 10 cups per day) to lower ones (1 cup), the higher consumption and the lower consumption (1 cup) resulted in a 30 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes for those who consumed higher amounts of coffee and caffeine, and a 20 percent reduced risk for decaffeinated coffee.
Those who increased coffee consumption above a cup a day for four years had an 11 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes; those who decreased consumption by a cup a day had a 17 percent higher risk of developing the disease. Data from 36 different studies show that those who drank between three and five cups of coffee per day had a lower risk of developing heart disease compared with those who did not or more than five cups a day.
Another meta-analysis, which included studies involving men and women, examined coffee consumption and the risk of cardiovascular diseases (including heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and deaths from those conditions). In addition, a meta-analysis of 21 prospective studies including men and women that examined coffee consumption and deaths from chronic diseases found a relationship between moderate consumption (3 cups/day) of coffee and a 21% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases than those who did not drink.
A more extensive study, including half a million participants, found that 1-3 cups of coffee reduced the risk for all types of chronic liver disease. Other studies have found that the more coffee people drink, the lower the chance they have of dying of chronic liver disease. Another review of 11 observational studies of over 29,000 individuals also found that the more coffee people consumed, the lower their risk of developing Alzheimer's (10). Another study from Harvard of over 50,000 women found a reduced risk of depression with increased caffeinated coffee intake.
For instance, a 40-study review concluded that drinking two to four cups of coffee daily was associated with lower mortality risk, independent of factors such as age, body mass, and alcohol intake (27). Indeed, consumption of four to five eight-ounce cups of coffee per day (or approximately 400 milligrams of caffeine) was associated with decreased mortality rates in several studies conducted worldwide. Lifelong consumption of coffee/caffeine is also associated with preventing cognitive decline and reducing stroke risk.
In terms of brain health, caffeinated coffee boosts alertness and can even enhance memory up to 24 hours after drinking. A 2007 study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology found that drinking coffee long-term can help reduce the risk of developing gout due to its ability to reduce uric acid levels. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Periodontology found that coffee consumption regularly may also be beneficial for your gums, helping to prevent severe infection Periodontitis -- aka gum disease -- can cause, among other health problems, the loss of teeth. According to some studies, coffee may also provide significant health benefits, like lower liver cancer risk, type-2 diabetes, and heart failure.
Another thing to remember is that while some studies suggest coffee can aid in fat loss and weight control, some people may find it has the opposite effect. Evidence from the American Institute of Cancer Research concluded that drinking coffee can lower your risk for endometrial and liver cancer. Still, according to the systematic review of the larger research pool, there is no risk of either of these types of cancers being studied. When meta-analyses suggest associations between coffee drinking and higher risks for other diseases, such as lung cancer, it may largely be explained by inappropriate adjustments for smoking.
Scientists estimate the risk is 16% lower in people who drink coffee than those who do not, but further studies are needed to support this link.
Yet another study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests coffee drinkers are at lower risk for dying prematurely of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and forms of cancer. In the study, which included more than 185,000 people, scientists found all race groups--whites, Asians, African-Americans, and Latinos--had 12 percent lower rates of dying of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, respiratory problems, or kidney disease if they drank a cup of coffee daily.
A raft of studies has suggested that caffeine consumption may lower the risk of developing Parkinson's disease -- and a 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology found that a daily dose of caffeine equal to the amount found in two eight-ounce cups of black coffee may help to keep the unintentional movements in people who already have the disease at bay.
Coffee is known to promote cognitive function because it has been found to improve memory and focus. People who drink coffee regularly have been found to have improved scores on attention and cognition tests.
It is believed that coffee promotes cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain. This is in addition to the fact that coffee also contains caffeine, which supports cognitive function.
Coffee has also been shown to enhance mood, which is another factor that contributes to improved cognition.
I recently received a question via email about our coffee. It went like this:
Is your coffee tested for mold?
Instead of just posting my reply, I felt this topic needed an expanded treatment.
First, I should explain why lab testing coffee is a thing nowadays. After all, until a few years ago, no one in the coffee world would have considered testing coffee beans for mold.
But then Dave Asprey came along and prompted that sure coffee beans would make him feel like crap. (Which I completely agree with, btw.)
To identify and solve this problem, Dave sought a coffee bean that would make him feel good. To make a long story short, he eventually concluded that mold contamination of the beans was the culprit for why he didn't feel so hot after drinking some coffee. So he started lab testing beans to ensure they weren't mold-ridden; Bulletproof Coffee was born.
Dave then popularized his (supposed) "mold-free" coffee in conjunction with butter coffee, a brew using blended butter to make a deliciously frothy beverage full of energy.
People now (mistakenly) refer to butter coffee as Bulletproof Coffee. Of course, blending butter info coffee, and tea has been around for a long time. I might add that Dave positioned his product (the lab-tested coffee beans) in people's minds with butter coffee as "Bulletproof Coffee," a genius marketing tactic.
Of course, not everyone buys the whole moldy coffee argument, especially considering the roasting process destroys the majority of mold in coffee beans. Dave counters this by suggesting mold can grow inside the beans and thus survive the roasting process.
I'm not so sure. But that's ok because there's a way to reduce mold risk on top of roasting.
It's this: buy excellent quality (organic, fair trade) coffee beans from small farms that use the wet/wash method for processing coffee beans (or that, at least, dry on raised beds).
When you buy from small farms that grow coffee the right way--in the shade among natural forest canopy, without pesticides, utilizing compost, and processed using the wet/wash method--you reduce the instances in which mold can grow.
Smaller coffee producers produce less coffee, so shipping and storage tend to be more considered when every last bean is considered a valuable asset. Compare this to the mass-produced, technified coffee that is grown similar to how big agriculture might grow soybean or corn in the US--as cheap and fast as possible.
Mass-produced coffee brings with it many problems that can lead to mold growth. You also get a crappier-tasting product.
On this topic, I agree with Dave; good coffee matters.
Whether or not coffee needs to be tested in a lab, and whether that is even viable considering you have to roast coffee and get it into the consumer's hands as fast as possible, I'm not so sure.
Back to the question above. Here was my reply:
Our coffee is not "lab tested," but it has been put through extensive human trial testing via plenty of cupping, roasting and deciding before coming to the Wild Coffee line.
Our coffees are also all organic, single-origin, fair trade and insanely fresh roasted in Austin, Texas! We use wet process beans which has been shown to reduce mold risk tremendously.
We also purchase from small co-ops that do things by hand and with respect to the coffee beans, which contributes greatly to cutting down on the kind of mold contamination you get from huge lots of mass produced conventional coffee beans.
The roasting process itself also destroys nearly all of the mold, especially for beans that are treated well in which mold hasn't had a chance to seep into the middle of the beans (which, even then, there is much speculation as to whether mold can even survive the roasting process if on the inside).
What it comes down to is this: you don't have to test coffee for mold, but you do need to buy the best coffee you can find. Then you get great tasting coffee that's good for you and statistically unlikely to be contaminated with mold.
And if you don't care about mold contamination, you at least want the best tasting coffee you can get, right?
Here are some guidelines to abide by to ensure you are getting low-mold to mold-free coffee beans that taste fantastic:
How To Buy Mold-Free Coffee Beans:
How To Use Quality Coffee Beans:
Have you ever put butter in your coffee?
Serious question. (Trust me, it's delicious.)
Butter in coffee is great.
And it's growing in popularity, so much so that you can find butter coffee on the menu in many Whole Foods now.
Part of the reason it is growing in popularity in the states is the connection between drinking a butter coffee and fasting (skipping breakfast).
Adding butter to your coffee (and MCT oil) is a great way to skip breakfast in the mornings while still getting a boost in energy from fat calories while still getting the effects of fasting.
Without going deep into intermittent fasting, try the following: skip eating whole food and try coffee and/or butter coffee instead. Then eat later in the day whenever you feel hungry, ideally 4-8 hours after waking.
Below is our recipe—The Wild Butter Brew—but before we get to that, I want to talk about fat for a hot minute.
After all, the mass of people still believe that fat is unhealthy.
Fat is not bad for you. Fat is actually an essential nutrient for humans.
Essential nutrients means, if you don't eat it, you'll die.
How can something that we have to eat to live, be "bad" for us?
Well here's a perfect example of something that's counterintuitive for a reason: because it's counter to intuition... or in other words, it's wrong!
All that being said, the kind of fat matters. Fats that are highly processed and that come from seeds—canola, soy, etc.—are what you want to stay away from.
Fats that come from animals—grass-fed beef, fatty fish, wild game—are not only ideal, but the most nutritionally packed foods on the planet.
This article is supposed to be about butter coffee so I won't expand on the topic of fat anymore. Read the Wild Foods Guide To Fat for the full skinny on fat.
“Butter was demonized and replaced with margarine, one of the most supremely stupid nutritional swap-outs in recent memory. Only much later did we discover that the supposedly healthier margarine was laden with trans fats, a really bad kind of fat created by using a kind of turkey baster to inject hydrogen atoms into a liquid (unsaturated) fat, making it more solid and giving it a longer shelf life. (Any time you read “partially hydrogenated oil” or “hydrogenated oil” in a list of ingredients, that means the food in question contains trans fats.) Unlike saturated fats from whole foods such as butter, trans fats (at least the manmade kind) actually do increase the risk for heart disease and strokes!”
-Jonny Bowden, The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will
Butter coffee is a delicious and nutritious way to start your day. You can use it to fast in the morning and skip whole food or you can add it to whatever you already do in the mornings.
Personally, a mug of Wild Butter Coffee is all I have in the mornings. This keeps me going for 4-8 hours before my first meal. (To learn more about intermittent fasting, check out Leangains.com.)
Common errors making butter coffee:
Some tips for Butter Espresso:
Optional ingredients you can add to make your own butter espresso concoctions:
If you don't know how awesome cold brew coffee is, you are missing out.
(And a great place to get your first taste is with our Wild Cold Brew brew-at-home pouches.)
Cold Brew coffee is different than typical hot brewed coffee because it is brewed with cold water (duh). There are a few methods for doing this, but in our tests, we have found that using ice cold water and brewing for 24 hours in the fridge yields the best results.
When you brew coffee using hot water, you get a fast extraction but at the cost of a more acidic cup of coffee due to the hot water pulling out more of the harsh components of the grounds--oils, acids and aromatic molecules.
This results in a strong, acidic cup of coffee. For many, this acidic cup of coffee is too harsh to drink without sugar and/or cream.
Enter Cold Brew Iced Coffee.
For those who don't like black coffee, cold brew coffee might change your mind. The cold brew method produces a smooth, low acid and sweet cup of coffee. And when you pour it over ice, man-o-man, it is damn good!
Brewing cold brew coffee is easy if you have the right tools and great coffee.
What you'll need to cold brew coffee:
How to Cold Brew Coffee Method:
If you have yet to try cold brew coffee, I highly recommend you do. As with any cup of coffee, the better quality bean you use, the better cup of coffee you'll get.
You'll love our whole bean Wild Coffee.
No one wants the experience of preparing your cold brew, waiting in eager anticipation of that first delicious sip, only to discover the whole batch is...well, kind of awful. Here’s a few common mistakes – what went wrong and how to avoid a bad batch.
While the cold brew process can be more forgiving than say your typical drip brewed pot of coffee, good beans still matter. If you started with low quality, maybe even stale coffee beans, you’re most likely going to end up with a sub-par cup of joe.
Always choose a high-quality, organic bean to brew and you’ll be setting yourself up for a better result. Of course we go with fair trade, non-GMO, always organic, small batch, and fresh roasted beans.
And can you use decaf for cold brew? Absolutely!
If you’ve taken a taste and found your cold brew batch to be too bitter, consider the grind size you used. It’s too fine of a grind that leaves that extra bitter aftertaste in cold brew.
Since your coffee is going to be steeping for many hours, choose a courser grind, something resembling the texture of sugar or sea salt is typically a good size.
When It Comes To Water Temps - Just Chill
A lot of people find themselves somewhat freaking out about what water temperature you must use for cold brew.
Do I start with hot water or just go warm? Should I be adding ice before putting it in the fridge? And so on. Basically, it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Unless you’re the scientific type and want to do a taste-testing experiment, (since hot water can highlight different flavors in the coffee), just go with anything between room temp and fridge cold water for the best results.
If you soak the coffee grinds for just 12 hours, you'll probably find your cold brew is weak and even somewhat astringent. Ideally let the brew sit in the fridge for 18 to 24 hours before straining. Then get ready for a smooth taste that was worth the wait!
Don’t Be Too Strained About Straining
When you’re waiting in such mouthwatering suspense, it can be tempting to race through the straining process, but trust us, don’t rush it.
Unless you want bitter disappointment, do not poke, prod, or force your cold brew through the cheesecloth or strainer.
This is a process, savor the experience. Be patient and your reward will be smooth and sweet.
To Dilute Or Not To Dilute…?
DO NOT DILUTE is the answer to the question.
Your cold brew is meant to be stored in the refrigerator as a concentrate. Don’t water it down or it shortens its life (to a sad little 2-3 days). Note: If you’re not keeping your brew in the fridge, it can and most likely will mold.
If stored properly (refrigerated) as an undiluted concentrate, although flavor quality typically starts to degrade after a week, your cold brew should last for about two weeks.
It’s only when you’re pouring up a glass and ready to drink it should you be diluting your cold brew.
Love your beverages a little extra on the arctic side? Try freezing up some coffee cubes.
Just take an ice cube tray and pour in some leftover coffee. (And if leftover coffee is a foreign concept in your house, just brew an extra cup for this cool purpose.) Freeze those coffee cubes and use them in your next glass of extra-cold cold brew.
So cold brew is not only a fun way to brew, it's a taste of the bean any coffee connoisseur should give a try!
The pour over brewing method is our favorite way to hot brew Wild Coffee here at Wild Foods HQ. The pour over method produces a smooth and clean cup of coffee that helps bring out most coffee's best qualities.
There are a few methods for brewing pour over, but our favorites are the Chemex and the Hario V60.
You will need the following tools and ingredients to brew the perfect cup of coffee:
Contrary to what many think, espresso is not a drink or a bean, it is a method of coffee extraction as well as a coffee drink.
The method consists of forcing small amounts of water through compressed coffee grounds. This results in a concentrated cup of coffee. Contrary to what most people think, espresso has less caffeine than a regular cup of brewed coffee (typically 55mg compared to 155 in an 8oz of coffee) per shot.
Espresso shots form the base of popular beverages such as the latte, cappuccino, macchiato, cortado, piccolo latte, flat white, cafe breve, etc.
I've only recently learned how to make espresso, but I can say that it has opened a whole new world of coffee to me. I see how so many coffee nerds get so heavily into espresso. There's something about the method that is elusive and intriguing, like art.
You can pull one shot that tastes divine and immediately remove another shot that quickly ends up in the trash. There are many variables to control; the grind, the temperature, the beans, the speed, the weight, and the tamper. A slight temperature or tamper pressure skew can result in a completely different extraction. Not to mention the plethora of other variables you introduce when you get into the beans.
Recommended Espresso Weights For A Double Shot
What you need:
Shot extracts too fast - Try these:
Shot takes too long, slow drip extraction - Try these:
Watery shot - Try these:
No or little crema - Try these:
The French press is a popular and trusted method of brewing coffee. This is probably because it is so easy. But that doesn't mean you can't still screw a mug of French press up... because you can.
First, after you are done brewing--about 4-6 minutes total--pour all of the coffee out of the French press. If it sits, it will over-extract.
Second, let your grounds "bloom" a bit by pouring enough hot water over the grounds until all the grounds are wet and letting it sit for 60 seconds. This lets the coffee release various gasses, contributing to a better tasting brew.
The final tip for not screwing up a French press brew is to use a coffee to water ratio of about 1:10 or 1:12. If you are using 300 grams of water, use 30 grams of coffee.
The Aeropress is an invention by Alan Adler, inventor of the Aerobie Frisbee.
It's a fun way to brew and is great for traveling because it's small and light. (There's even an Aeropress World Championship.)
*Combine your freshly brewed coffee with some Wild MCT Oil, pastured butter and a dash of Wild Chocolate and Wild Vanilla and blend! Recipe here.
I didn’t learn about Turkish Coffee until I was a coffee fanatic.
At first glance, I thought this method was too archaic for my tastes and maybe even an affront to my beautiful, newly purchased Chemex.
Turkish coffee reminded me of something primitive, such as how people made coffee before the invention of the coffee maker. I figured it was too elementary for my tastes.
Then I learned a bit more about the technique, which intrigued me.
First, you need a unique coffee pot, called an “ibrik,” and an excellent grind of coffee (a powder). Then you use a unique technique consisting of cooking it over low heat and bringing it to a near boil multiple times before serving. Finally, you don’t strain it—this is the part that got me.
The idea of drinking this bold brew by letting the heavy grounds and coffee sediment sink to the bottom sounded pretty cool.
So, naturally, I bought an ibrik and started experimenting with some fresh Wild Coffee beans.
I made my first batch with sugar, following a typical Turkish coffee recipe. It came out pretty good but far too sweet even after using only half the sugar in the recipe.
Next, I tried it with no sugar at all, and while I did like it, I could see how it might be a bit much for all but the heaviest coffee drinkers—it was rich, bold, and robust.
Then I tried it with 1/2 tsp of sugar, which was just right. And now, we have the Turkish Coffee Recipe done the Wild Way. Enjoy!
The Moka pot is the closest thing to espresso you can get without an espresso machine.
It's also a fun and interesting way to brew.
Coffee grounds are placed in the middle of the pot in a screen just over the base that holds the water. The top part where the brewed coffee ends up has a long spout into a reservoir where the brewed coffee will be held and poured from.
Steam builds up in the closed base which forces the hot water through the compressed coffee in the middle of the pot. One of the most unique, yet simple compared to something like syphon coffee, ways of brewing I've ever seen.
What you need:
The Nel Drip is a special way to brew coffee.
Why is it special, you ask?
Well, it's special because it can produce a wonderful cup of coffee from "old" coffee beans!
"Holy Crap!" I know, right?!
Discovering the Nel Drip was not just a fascinating new discovery for my personal coffee journey, it was also an awesome business discovery.
Let me explain.
You see, at the time of writing this, we are shipping out about 150 pounds of Wild Coffee a week.
All this fresh roasted coffee is picked up by hand around the corner from where I live in Austin, Texas. Then we bag it all before shipping it out to customers.
As you might guess, we often have odd numbers of coffee left over that we can't use--example: having 5oz left and needing 6oz to make a full 6oz bag.
While this means I always have an ample personal supply of fresh beans, the fact is, I can't consume it all myself.
And I've tried... trust me... I've tried.
I often give away some to friends, family and employees, but it still seems I'm always stuck with more than I know what to do with.
Because I refuse to throw coffee beans away, I end up with batches of beans that range from a few days old to a few weeks.
That's not including that I often get orders of beans returned in the mail as "undeliverable" mail. And since I can't resell this coffee--because it's no longer fresh--I'm left with even more beans that desperately need a home.
That's why my first reaction was "holy crap!" when I read about this Japanese technique of using beans that have sat post-roasting.
Not only do I now have a way to use these older beans myself, but I now have a new market for selling these beans.
Both of these excited me, naturally, but not as you might suspect. You see, nel drip or not, there's never going to be a big market for "old" coffee. That's just a fact of life, so don't think I have any delusions about buying a jet with all my surplus Wild Coffee beans.
No, the actual reason I'm excited by the prospect of selling old coffee beans is based on the fact that I believe wasting coffee is a terrible thing.
Truly and utterly terrible.
The nutshell reason is this: it takes a humble coffee plant an entire year to produce about a pound of green coffee beans. Then after roasting, the yield may be even less, say 10-12 ounces.
That's insaneeeee if you consider how much coffee the world drinks, or myself.
This is not to mention that amount of hands and process and travel the beans go through before becoming the delicious black liquid in your mug.
Simply put, it's pure blasphemy to waste good coffee beans.
I was excited by the fact that I could now have an outlet for getting some of these not fresh coffee beans into the hands of those that either want to brew nel drip or that maybe don't mind slightly less fresh coffee beans.
(Plus, since Wild Coffee is already so fresh, I regularly brew beans that are 1-2 weeks old and can barely taste the difference. The cold brew method also works well for beans that have been sitting for awhile.)
To brew the Nel Drip, you need a nel brewer. Get one here. It's cheap and awesome. (If you already own a pour over method, like a Chemex or a Hario V60, you can mimic this technique with reasonable results.)
We are going to provide two versions for brewing nel drip. The first is going to be the "old" coffee method. The second is what you want to use for fresh coffee. I recommend trying both... especially the method for those older beans.
What you need:
The main difference for fresh coffee is the ratio of coffee to water and using hotter water. For brewing nel drip with fresh coffee, use a 10:1 water to coffee ratio and 195° water. For 250 ml (8.45 oz) water, use 25g coffee.
Use the method above, aiming for a total extraction weight equal to your brew ratio (250 ml equaling 250 grams in the above example) over a 2-3 minute total pour time.