Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How to Buy Coffee

Coffee is one of our favorite legal addictions-- the rich scent, fullbodied flavor and jolt of caffeine that everyone from paralegals to poets relies on to kick start their morning. Follow this guide to find a daily grind that suits you best.

Select a grind that is suitable for your brewing method or coffee maker (See How to Buy a Coffeemaker or Espresso Machine). Whole beans retain their flavor better during storage but you will need to have a coffee grinder in your home.

Experiment with different roasting techniques. Coffee beans are roasted to remove moisture and add flavor, and different roasts produce different flavors. French roast results in a full-flavored, dark bean. Italian roast is usually medium dark. Anything lighter is usually identified simply as medium or light roast.

Decipher labels. Estate beans are grown and processed on a single farm. Some brands achieve a consistent flavor by blending beans from various sources. Flavored coffees are infused with liquid agents, such as chocolate, vanilla or nuts, but typically don't start with the highest-quality beans. Look for 100 percent Colombian or Hawaiian-blend beans for the best quality if you're buying canned coffee in a grocery store.

Buy coffee from a knowledgeable source. Premium roasters, like winemakers, are very proud of their blends. A pound of beans from a gourmet shop ranges from $8 to $30 but is of unbeatable quality. Peet's Coffee and Tea (, Tully's ( and Starbucks ( are all good sources, as are countless local businesses.

Turn your coffee drinking into an entertaining research project by studying the general characteristics of different coffee producing regions. Coffee comes from many countries and coffee-growing regions. While it's true that soil and geography matters, any bean can be roasted in different ways, resulting in many possible flavor and blend combinations. Also, pay attention to prices, which are subject to fluctuation. For example, strong demand for Hawaiian beans may drive the price up while similar beans from another region may be available for much less.

Arabian: Often called mocha, this coffee is one of the most ancient, with a medium to full body, rich flavor and dry aftertaste, and chocolate tones.

Brazilian: A medium to moderately dark roast that goes down sweet and smooth.

Colombian: Full-bodied, fruity and acidic, with a dark roast.

Costa Rican: Dry and medium-bodied, with a dark roast.

Ethiopian: Sweet, medium-bodied and fruity, with a dark roast.

Hawaiian: Delicate, dry, slightly sweet and subtle, with a medium to moderately dark roast.

Kenyan: Dry and acidic, with a moderately dark to dark roast.

Sumatran: Full-bodied and slightly fermented, with a dark roast.

Light roast: Many areas produce beans suitable for light roasting, although Central American coffees frequently show up in light roasts.

No comments: