Coffee 101 – Updated 5-04-10

Intro/About coffee 101 – This is where you start your coffee education it is the jumping off point. We start with a brief historical overview, move to coffee origins, roasting and brewing. Each topic is covered just enough to help you make the decisions that lead to brewing great coffee at home.

Coffee history – part 1

Coffee was first consumed where it grew wild in the Abassinian region of Kaffa in Ethiopia, where the leaves and berries were ground into a paste with animal fat.

TheArabs were credited with preparing what we would consider a real coffee beverage by roasting the coffee beans, grinding them and then boiling them to make something that resembles what we drink today.

The first coffee houses sprang up in what was then Constantinople in the 16th century, and with the spread of the Arab Empire it quickly made its way through the Islamic world.

Travelers discovered the beverage in Turkey and brought it to Europe.

It was the siege of Vienna by the Turks and their hasty retreat that left sacks of green coffee waiting to be claimed. This led to the opening in 1683 of the Blue Bottle, the first Viennese cafe.

Next the cafes of France opened, followed by London, Germany and Holland.

The Dutch planted coffee in Java after a successful raid on Moka in Yemen yielded a fertile coffee plant. This plant was the beginning of the prolific spread of coffee plantations in the Dutch East Indies. Soon the Dutch had such a hold on the world market that they would control the price of coffee. End of part 1 of Coffee History. Stay Tuned for Part 2.

Rules to Brew By

Buy only enough coffee to last a week.

Never freeze your coffee or put it in the fridge.

Grind it just before brewing,

Use cold filtered water

Use 2 rounded tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 oz of water, every time.

Clean your drip equipment weekly with URNEX and descale every 6 months with CLR

We prefer a flat bottom brewer that brews into an insulated carafe, not one with a heating element under a glass carafe. This not only burns your coffee, but the wattage used to power the heating element could be used where it is needed, for brew temperature control.


Do not freeze or refrigerate your coffee, ever. Buy what you need for a week, use it and buy more. You cannot extend the length of time coffee is at its best. We believe that coffee stored in an air-tight container on the counter or in the pantry will be fresh for 7 days.. Forget the cans of coffee in the supermarket, it is a commercial/commodity grade product that was stale when it was put into the can and even worse when you open it.


Each brew method requires a different grind, and they are not interchangeable. Grind your coffee within 2 minutes of brewing it. If you have a grinder use it. If not talk to us, we can point you in the right direction.


Each method has its devotees. If you currently brew coffee in an automatic coffemaker with flat bottom or cone shaped filter, I will gently suggest you try a French Press, it is harder to clean but well worth the effort. The list below is my order of preference.

French Press

By controlling the grind, the brew temp and brew time, it is the perfect method to make coffee at home.

Take 2 rounded tablespoons of corsely ground coffee for each cup and add it to your press

Put the appropriate amount of clean cold filtered water into a kettle and boil it

Take the water off the heat after it boils, and let it stand for about 1:30 – 2:00, the target temp

is 200 degrees.

Once the water is at 200 degrees, pour it over the coffee in the carafe and stir gently.

Wait 4 minutes, stir the coffee again, place the plunger in the carafe and push down slowly and gently. If your grind is correct, this should take very little effort. If you need to push down with any force, your grind is too fine.

By forcing the grounds to the bottom of the carafe, you have stopped the brewing process. Just line up the strainer on the bottom lip of the presses lid so it is aligned with the spout on the carafe and pour.

If you are making more coffee than you will drink immediately, pour the remaining coffee into a pre-warmed carafe.

The down side of French Press brewing is the cleanup, but do it immediately. Use lots of soapy hot water, dry it completely.

Flat bottom drip

Flat bottom basket is preferred over cone filter. The problem with auto drip machines (both flat bottom and cone shaped filter models) is the size of the filter basket. Using the correct measure of 2 rounded tablespoons of coffee per cup, the small size of the basket will not allow you to brew a full pot of coffee. Because you never veer from the 2 rounded tablespoon/6 oz of water rule, try 8 cups (48 oz) of water and 16 rounded tablespoons of coffee.

Place 16 rounded tablespoons of medium grind coffee (which should feel like beach sand) into the filter basket. Paper filter or gold filter is a personal preference. I personally don’t like the gold filter, I would rather use a French Press than try to emulate it with a gold filter in an auto drip machine.

Fill the water compartment with 48 oz of cold filtered water (6 ox per cup x 8 cups).

Start the machine. When brewing is complete, remove the coffee to an insulated carafe.

Cone Drip

Same method as above. Grind is slightly finer than flat bottom drip.

Moka Pot

Moka pot coffee can either be quite good when used to make an Americano or a heavy bodied drip coffee alternative, or bitter and dreadful when it is used to mimic espresso.

If you are going to brew using this method, use only stainless steel pots. Unless marked as stainless steel they are made of cheap metals that have a large percentage of aluminum that is easily leeched out by the acids in the coffee.

Our advice is not to try to duplicate espresso, but to use it to produce a full bodied coffee experience. This is not easy to do, but with practice you can produce decent results.

Begin by pre-heating your brewing water in a kettle. Part of the problem is that this method relies on steam pressure which is created by boiling water, which is too hot and burns the coffee. Pre-heating the water minimizes the effects of steam pressure by getting the pot on and off the heat quickly.

Grind the coffee courser than espresso and finer than cone drip to allow quick passage of the water through the coffee, and NEVER pack the coffee basket tightly, just spoon the coffee in and level it off with your finger.

Fill the bottom with the very hot, almost boiling water from the kettle and screw the two halves of the pot back together. You will most likely abandon this method after burning your hands with the hot water.

Put the pot on a low/medium flame with the top open so you can see when the coffee starts to bubble up through the tube into the top chamber. When it does, remove the pot from the heat and let it finish.

When it is done, pour it out quickly into your cup to enjoy it as-is, or float it on top of hot water to make an Americano. The Americano will be your best bet for this brewing method.

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