The Webtender
Bartender's Handbook

Coffee and caffeine

Coffee Introduction

Coffee should never be merely the beverage at a meal. Coffee should be the center of any sit-down, if not the ONLY thing consumed. The odd doughnut or slice of cheesecake is allowed, though not preferred.

Coffee must be drank from a porcelain mug, that must be larger than a dixie cup. The main reason that styrofoam and plastic just don't feel right, and more importantly, your spoon (which must be metal) will not "clink" properly through the various stages of stirring unless porcelain is used. The mug must be large so that you do not need to refill it too frequently, and so that stirring may properly take place without spillage.

Stirring occurs in very distinct stages. First a rotary swirling which makes the coffee form a small whirlpool and dip slightly in the center. Over ambition at this stage will cause spillage over the side-- something to avoid and to caution beginners of. Next, the cross-stroke, with follows a chord form one side of the mug to the other, passing roughly through the mug's geometric center, and which is generally made towards you so that over-ambition at this stage will slop coffee on you and not your companion. That cross-stroke creates random eddies in the coffee and effect proper mixing of the cream or sugar, or at least stirs up the sediments. Finally the removal. The spoon should be tapped lightly on the rim of the mug, two or three times to knock off any large drops. DO NOT lick spoon to remove final drops. Spoon will leave a stain where ever you place it, so place it accordingly.

Companionship is the most overlooked part of drinking coffee. At its finest coffee is never consumed alone. However the proper companion is important. They should not talk too much, nor require that you talk too much. Talking limits one's ability to savor the moment and the brew. If silences are embarrassing between you and someone, do not drink coffee with them. If looking blankly at someone, or if being looked blankly over a mug bothers either of you, do not drink coffee together. Never drink coffee with someone drinking tea -- they are COMPLETELY INCOMPATIBLE experiences.

Coffee should be strong. Hot, brown colored water does not coffee make. But this does not mean it should taste like kerosene -- coffee should be smooth, almost like melted, unsweetened chocolate. There is no such thing as good instant coffee. Nor will decaffeinated coffee ever hack it. Also, sugar should always be used to sweeten -- never some artificial placebo. How much fat can one lump of sugar slap on your thighs? -- use the real stuff, because deep down you know nothing tastes the same.

And finally where to go with the perfect companion to drink this, hopefully, not completely repulsive cup of something they're calling coffee. The place must exist cafe style. Lots of small tables. Little organization. There should be a light buzz of conversation around you. Enough indistinct noise to cover the sound of you breathing, but not enough to cover the "clinks" of the removal stage of stirring. Well lit. Airy. Coffee is a private experience that can only be properly appreciated in a public place. If there aren't other people around who are screwing their coffee experience up completely you do not realize how wonderful yours is.

Always exhale after finishing a cup and enjoy the heat and flavor of your breath.

Lastly, if you are a man, then remember that just because your well- sized, porcelain mug has a handle doesn't mean you have to use it. Assuming you have fairly large hands you can merely grip the mug near the top with the tips of your thumb and fore- and middlefinger, with the ringfinger draped around the handle so that you know where it is and don't bop yourself in the nose with it, and drink from the mug that way. Women must always use the handle, and putting two fingers through the hole is allowed. Sexist as it may sound, women and men approach coffee and food in general in different manners, ie, civilized versus "what's the extra fork for?".

Coffee tasting

Coffee tasting terminology ranges from easily understandable to highly technical, and some of the more esoteric terms may be a little difficult to decipher.

This short vocabulary list explains some basic phrases that will help increase your understanding of fine coffees.

The basics

Flavor, acidity, and body are the three fundamental tasting terms.

Flavor is the total impression of aroma, acidity and body. It can be used in a general sense ("this coffee is flavorful"), or with specific attributes in mind ("this coffee has a flavor reminiscent of chocolate").

Acidity is the sharp, lively quality of all high-grown coffees. Acid is not the same as bitter or sour, and has nothing to do with objective pH factors. Acidity is the brisk, snappy quality which makes coffee refreshing and palate cleansing.

Body is the tactile impression of the weight of the brewed beverage in the mouth. It may range from watery and thin, through light, medium and full, to buttery or even syrupy in the case of some Indonesian varieties.

Other useful terms

Aroma is the odor or fragrance of brewed coffee. Bouquet is a less frequently used term, and refers only to the smell of coffee grounds. Aroma is often distinctive and complex. Terms used to describe aroma include: caramelly (candy or syrup-like), carbony (for dark roasts), chocolaty, fruity, floral, herbal, malty (cereal-like), rich (over-used), rounded, spicy.

Bitter is a basic taste perceived primarily at the back of the tongue. Dark roasts are intentionally bitter, but bitterness is more commonly caused by overextraction (too little coffee at too fine a grind). Bitter is not a synonym for sour.

Bland is the pale, insipid flavor often found in low-grown coffees. Underextracted coffee (made with too little coffee or too coarse a grind) is also bland.

Briny is a salty sensation caused by application of excessive heat often brewing. You'll recognize it as the familiar smell of "truck stop" coffee.

Earthy is often used to describe the spicy, "of the earth" taste of Indonesian coffees. Carried to an extreme, as in the case of the cheap filler coffees used in commercial blends, earthy can become dirty, an obviously undesirable sensation caused by poor processing techniques like drying beans on the ground.

Exotic refers to a coffee with unusual aromatic and flavor notes, such as floral, berry, and sweet spice-like qualities. Coffees from East Africa and Indonesia often have such characteristics.

Mellow is a term for well balanced coffee of low-to-medium acidity.

Mild denotes a coffee with harmonious, delicate flavor. Fine, high- grown Latin American coffee is often described as mild. It is also a coffee trade term for any arabica coffee other than those from Brazil.

Soft describes low-acid coffees such as Indonesians, that may also be called mellow or sweet.

Sour is a primary taste perceived mainly on the posterior sides of the tongue, and is characteristic of light-roasted coffees.

Spicy refers to an aroma or flavor reminiscent of a particular spice. Some Indonesian arabicas, especially aged coffees, evoke an association with sweet spices like cardamom. Others, such as Guatemala Antigua, are almost peppery.

Strong technically refers to the degree of presence of various taste defects and virtues, or to the relative proportion of coffee solubles to water in a given brew. In popular use, it's often the assertive flavor of dark-roasted beans. It is also incorrectly associated with high caffeine content. In fact, caffeine is actually highest in bland canned coffees, due to the large percentage of high-caffeine robusta coffees they typically contain.

Sweet is used as a general term for smooth, palatable coffee, free from defects and harsh flavors.

Tangy is a darting sourness, almost fruit-like in nature, related to wininess. A fine high-grown Costa Rican coffee is frequently tangy.

Wild describes a coffee with extreme flavor characteristics. It can be a defect or a positive attribute, and denotes odd, racy nuances of flavor and aroma. The textbook example is Ethiopia Harrar, a coffee which nearly always exhibits such flavors.

Winy is a desirable flavor reminiscent of fine red wine. The contrast between fruit-like acidity and smooth body creates flavor interest. Kenyan coffees are a classic example of winy coffee flavor.

Coffee flavor and aroma may be classified according to geographic origin. Coffees, like wine grapes, get much of their flavor from the specific growing conditions and preparation methods of each producing region. Each region has common characteristics that you can learn to recognize.

Coffee families

Central and South American coffees are generally light-to-medium bodied, with clean lively flavors. These are the most popular varieties Starbucks sells, and their balance and consistency make them the foundation of good coffee blending an well. This category includes coffees like Colombia, Costa Rica Tres Rios, Guatemala Antigua and Mexico. Kona, though geographically a product of the Pacific islands, falls within this Latin American range of taste and aroma.

East African coffees are unique and under-appreciated. They often combine the sparkling acidity of the best Central Americans with unique floral or winy notes, and typically are medium-to-full bodied. These coffees are found in the morning cup of nearly every professional coffee taster. The category includes Kenya, Ethiopia Sidamo and Yergacheffe and Ethiopia Harrar.

Indonesian coffees are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Latin American coffees. Usually full-bodied and smooth, low in acidity, and often possessing earthy and exotic taste elements. Their fullness and depth make them an important "anchor" component of choice blends like Gold Coast and Yukon Blend. This group includes Estate Java, Sumatra Boengie, Papua New Guinea and Sulawesi.

Dark Roasts use coffees of varying geographic origins to provide a specific range of flavors, from the caramel spice of Espresso, to the smoky tang of Italian Roast, to the pungent roastiness of French Roast. The difference at Starbucks is using specific, varietal-quality coffees in each dark roast blend.

Blends combine varietal tastes to create greater complexity and completeness. Typically, a blend might play off Central American acidity with Indonesian smoothness, or spice up a delicate varietal with the tang of a dark roast. Blending, at its best, is high art, offering a unity in diversity which few straight coffees can match.

Some roasters use the opportunity to dump low-grade filler coffees into the mix, to "extend" the blend along with their profit margins. At Starbucks, we blend according to taste, using premium quality beans to create a balanced brew, harmonious in body, acidity and aroma, seeking an overall flavor that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Decaffeinated coffees are growing in popularity and--we are pleased to note--in quality and availability, as well. Some find the effects of too much caffeine unpleasant; others are looking for a hot cup to enjoy before bedtime. Whatever the reason, Starbucks is here to ensure that these deserving souls are not condemned to drink the thin, flavorless decaffeinated blends sold in supermarkets. We are proud to offer a complete selection, both in water and traditional processes, in regular and dark roasts.

The coffee information is reproduced from a brochure available at Starbucks, US. Modulo typos, the information here is verbatim, except a long description of the >30 types of coffees you can buy from Starbucks is left out. If you want a copy of this brochure, or one of three others they have put out for coffee education, you can call them at 1-800-445-3428 (USA).

Caffeine in various beverages

                                           MILLIGRAMS CAFFEINE
BEVERAGE                                   Average     Range

Coffee (5-oz. cup)
  Brewed, drip method                      115         60-180
  Brewed, percolator                        80         40-170
  Instant                                   65         30-120
  Decaffeinated, brewed                      3          2-5
  Decaffeinated, instant                     2          1-5
 
Tea (5-oz. cup)
  Brewed, major U.S. brands                 40         20-90
  Brewed, imported brands                   60         25-110
  Instant                                   30         25-50
  Iced (12-oz. glass)                       70         67-76
 
Cocoa beverage (5-oz. cup)                   4          2-20
Chocolate milk beverage (8 oz.)              5          2-7
Milk chocolate (1 oz.)                       6          1-15
Dark chocolate, semi sweet (1 oz.)          20          5-35
Baker's chocolate (1 oz.)                   26            26
Chocolate-flavored syrup (1 oz.)             4             4
 

 
SOFT DRINKS

BRAND                                      MILLIGRAMS CAFFEINE
                                           (12-oz. serving)

Sugar-Free Mr. PIBB                        58.8
Mountain Dew                               54.0
Mello Yello                                52.8
TAB                                        46.8
Coca-Cola                                  45.6
Diet Coke                                  45.6
Shasta Cola                                44.4
Shasta Cherry Cola                         44.4
Shasta Diet Cola                           44.4
Mr. PIBB                                   40.8
Dr. Pepper                                 39.6
Diet Dr. Pepper                            39.6
Big Red                                    38.4
Sugar Free Big Red                         38.4
Pepsi-Cola                                 38.4
Aspen                                      36.0
Diet Pepsi                                 36.0
Pepsi Light                                36.0
RC Cola                                    36.0
Diet Rite                                  36.0
Kick                                       31.2
Canada Dry Jamaica Cola                    30.0
Canada Dry Diet Cola                        1.2


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