Thursday, December 28, 2017

Brewing a perfect cup of coffee requires the right water

  • Water — the biggest ingredient in coffee by weight — can make or break the flavor of a freshly brewed cup, according to a chemist-barista research team.
  • Tap water brings out better flavor in coffee, though there are trade-offs between hard and soft water.
  • Some beans are better suited to being brewed in hard or soft water.

Making a truly great cup of coffee requires great beans, an expert roaster, the right grind, and proper technique.
But an often-overlooked element of brewing coffee at home is what constitutes perhaps 99% of the delicious drink's weight: Water.

To craft the tastiest cup o' joe, you shouldn't buy jugs of distilled or "pure" water, or spend money on expensive water-filtration devices.
In fact, in most parts of the country, the stuff out of our taps is probably the best kind of coffee-brewing H2O you could hope for.
In search of a better brew

Chemist Christopher H. Hendon (left) and barista Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood (right).
Christopher H. Hendon, a chemist at MIT, discovered the importance of water in coffee after overhearing a conversation between two frustrated baristas.
"They were having problems with coffee that tasted good one day and not another," Hendon previously told Business Insider. While that's a frustrating mystery for a coffee shop with exacting standards, but "from a chemistry point of view, that's an interesting problem," Hendon said.
Water can be "hard" (full of minerals like magnesium) or "soft" (most distilled water falls into this category).
Below is a map of the US that shows how water hardness varies from place to place. Dark-purple areas show where the softest water flows, red shows the hardest water, and white and blue are somewhere in between. Hardness can also vary over seasons, as the dissolved minerals can be diluted by a flood of spring rain or amplified by road salts and melting snow.

Hendon teamed up with baristas Lesley and Maxcell Colonna-Dashwood — who won the 2015 UK Barista Championship — and they found that different kinds of "hardness" in water bring out significantly different flavors in coffee. (Hendon ran the experiments using a computer, while the coffee shop owners actually brewed sample cups.)
Why water hardness matters so much for brewing coffee

Roasted coffee beans are packed with compounds that give coffee is distinct aroma, mouthfeel, and taste. Those include citric acid, lactic acid, and eugenol (a compound that adds a "woodsy" taste). The amounts vary from one roasted batch of beans to the next, giving you an enjoyably different sensory experience each time.
Water, meanwhile, has a complexity all its own — higher levels of ions like magnesium and calcium make it "harder."
Here's the key: Some of the compounds in hard water are "sticky" and preferentially grab certain compounds in coffee when they meet in your brewing device. The more eugenol the water hangs on to, for example, the woodsier the taste of your coffee will be.
Magnesium is particularly sticky, so water that's high in magnesium will make coffee with a stronger flavor (and higher levels of caffeine). Hard water can also have high levels of bicarbonate, which Hendon found could lead to more bitter flavors coming through.

But while hard water is a bit of a gamble, depending on which minerals are present in higher concentrations, soft water seems to have no benefits at all. Its chemical composition "results in very bad extraction power," Hendon explained.
Soft water often contains sodium, but that has no flavor stickiness (for good or bad flavors), Hendon found. That means that you'll get a much stronger flavor from the same beans if you use high-magnesium "hard water" in place of distilled or softened water.
Hendon and his barista colleagues published their research in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, and eventually wrote a book, "Water for Coffee," that explains why lovers of the drink should worry about more than just beans.
"Water can transform the character of a coffee," the team wrote. An updated second edition of the book hits shelves in early 2018, according to its website.
A chemically perfect cup

Unlike Hendon, the average coffee lover is not a chemist. You can't easily alter the composition of your water supply every time you want a delicious cup.
But you don't have to. Understanding that the kind of water you use matters will help you achieve the perfect brew — even if you're stuck with whatever comes out of your tap.
To start, you can look up the hardness of your water online (New Yorkers can call 311), and use that information to buy beans that are meant for "soft" or "hard" water. Hendon said that's the kind of thing upscale roasters will know.
Sure, you won't know the specific compounds in your water — that's the kind of rigorous coffee science Hendon and Colonna-Dashwood relied on to place fifth overall in the World Barista Championship. But you'll already be a step ahead if you buy from a local roaster.
When roasters test their beans, they do so using local water, so you can at least assume that locally-roasted coffee is optimized for the chemistry of your water. That's the opposite of a large chain like Starbucks, which, according to Hendon, uses totally pure water to ensure a completely uniform taste across the country.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Expert reveals how it can add years to your life, slash the risk of cancer and help you lose weight- The 10 reasons why everyone should drink coffee!

  • Drinking 3 coffees a day could help extend your life, British research has found
  • Research also shows the benefits of a cup of coffee one hour before a work-out
  • Drinking 4 cups of coffee a day almost halves the risk of deadly mouth cancer
  • And coffee contains several substances that can affect metabolism, experts say

For years, we were told that caffeine was bad for us - and in the battle of the hot drinks, coffee always came off worse.

But today, barely a week goes by without the health benefits of the beverage being extolled.

Indeed just last week, Portuguese researchers declared that three cups of coffee a day may help people with chronic kidney disease live longer.

The research adds to the growing body of evidence that the drink has a host of health benefits – and that commonly held beliefs that coffee dehydrates you are just a myth.

So, what is the truth about coffee?


Simply drinking three coffees a day could help extend your life, British research has found.

Two major studies independently found consuming up to three cups a day reduces the risk of an early death.

The papers, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found links between coffee and reduced risks of liver disease, circulatory problems and diseases linked to the digestive tract.

The drink also seems to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system, researchers discovered.

Rather than caffeine, it's thought the antioxidant plant compounds in coffee are responsible for the longevity benefit.

As a result, people who drink decaffeinated coffee are also protected, the researchers found.


Research has shown that people who had a cup of coffee one hour before a work-out could exercise for longer.

'It's thought that caffeine may block chemicals that cause the muscles of become tired and uncomfortable during exercise,' explains Fiona Hunter, a nutritionist for Healthspan.

Caffeine works on a system in the brain and spinal cord (the adenosine neuromodulatory system) that's involved in pain processing.

And because caffeine blocks adenosine, a biochemical that plays an important role in energy transfer and therefore exercise, lead researcher Professor Robert Motl, from the University of Illinois, wanted to see if it could also reduce the pain that comes when we work out.

He found it did – regardless of whether people consumed caffeine regularly or not.

There were two groups: people who consumed very little, if any caffeine, and those who had around 400 milligrams a day, the equivalent of three to four cups of coffee.

Both groups saw the same reduction in pain during exercise after caffeine consumption.

Professor Motl believes the finding could help us battle through the workout for longer.

'If we could give people a little caffeine and reduce the amount of pain they're experiencing, maybe that would help them stick with that exercise,' he said.


Drinking four cups of coffee a day almost halves the risk of deadly mouth cancer – regardless of whether a person drinks or smokes.

Researchers at the American Cancer Society found that sipping the beverage every day has a powerful protective effect against tumours that form in the mouth and throat.

Scientists found decaffeinated coffee also reduced the risk, although to a lesser extent, while drinking tea did nothing to prevent the disease.


The idea that drinking coffee dehydrates us is a myth.

In fact, a few cups of coffee a day is as hydrating as water, Birmingham University researchers claimed in a 2014 study.

Their industry-funded study argues the idea that coffee dehydrates us is based on research done on samples of caffeine more 80 years ago – and this research is not relevant to modern life.

To find out, the researchers asked 50 healthy men to drink either four mugs of water or coffee a day for three days and then switch.

The men ate the same food during the two parts of the study and were banned from vigorous exercise and alcohol.

Tests of blood and urine samples showed the men were just as well hydrated when they drank coffee and when they had water.

They also passed the same amount of urine, the journal PLOS ONE reports.


A wealth of evidence has found no link between the two.

Indeed, the British Heart Foundation states: 'studies which have investigated the link between caffeine and abnormal heart rhythms, or cardiac arrhythmias, have found that moderate amounts of caffeine do not necessarily lead to life threatening arrhythmias.

'This implies that drinking a modest amount of coffee should not increase your risk.


Research published in the European Journal of Public Health states high blood pressure is mainly caused by factors such as obesity, lack of physical activity and a high salt intake – with the impact of coffee being quite small by comparison.

In fact, it states the slight increase in blood pressure level caused by coffee is the same that experienced while holding a conversation.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Latest Coffee at four dollars a Cup Revives African Industry Left Behind

Julien Ochala can’t live without his morning cup of Joe.

But not just any coffee will do. For the past five years, the 37-year-old physiology lecturer at King’s College London has visited the same store every week to grab a pack of his beloved Kenyan brew. And he’s not put off by the cost: at 37 pounds a kilogram ($22 a pound), it’s more than double a similar supermarket product.

"I take Kenyan coffee every morning," said Ochala, who buys his beans from Monmouth Coffee Company in Borough Market. "I love it because of the relatively higher acidity level. It keeps me active in the afternoons."

Customers willing to pay a premium for African brews, known for their floral, fruity flavors, are driving purchases of coffee from the continent where the drink is said to have originated. One legend has it that Ethiopian goat herders discovered the plant more than a thousand years ago. Today, a cup of Kenyan coffee at Monmouth costs roughly $4, compared with about $3 for a standard Americano from Starbucks Corp. in London.

The renewed interest may be a blessing for farmers in Africa, where output is about three-quarters of what it was four decades ago. Growers of robusta, the cheaper variety favored for instant drinks, have found it hard to compete as major producer Vietnam boosted output at much lower cost. Brazil also provided more competition for medium-quality arabica beans.

“Ethiopian beans have been known in the West for a long time, but now we are seeing more Rwandan, Kenyan and even beans coming from Burundi, Uganda and Congo,” said Karl Weyrauch, the founder of Seattle-based Coffee Rwanda, a suppli
er of Rwandan beans to the American market. “African beans may also seem exotic to some coffee drinkers and that piques their curiosity.”

But output isn’t what it once was. In 1975, four African nations were among the world’s 10 biggest producers. Now, only Ethiopia and Uganda make the list.

“African production is under threat,” said Keith Flury, head of coffee research at Volcafe Ltd., one of the world’s top coffee traders. "In countries like Kenya, Nairobi is urbanizing fast and expanding into areas that were previously used for coffee. In other countries such as Rwanda and Burundi, coffee is being replaced with subsistence crops as population grows."

Younger Africans are shunning coffee farming for more profitable careers, according to the International Coffee Organization. It pegs the average age of an African coffee grower at 60. Political conflicts have also made farming difficult. Nestle SA’s Nespresso brand last year halted operations in South Sudan due to the civil war.

In Nairobi, farmers can make more money selling their land for property development than working the coffee trees, said Martin Maraka, program manager at the African Fine Coffees Association. Population growth and urbanization show little signs of slowing - the continent will account for more than half of the world’s population growth by 2050, adding 1.3 billion people, according to the United Nations.

While demand is rising, Africa’s coffee exports have mostly been flat since the early 2000s. In comparison, global shipments jumped about 37 percent in the period as world consumption grew by a similar amount.

Demand for African beans used in blends -- the regular products sold in supermarkets that are a mix of supplies from anywhere in the world -- has largely been steady, and the prospects for growth lie in so-called single-origin coffees that only use beans from one specific place.

That potential for niche brews is attracting trading houses to African markets, where margins are much wider than in Brazil or Vietnam. Singapore’s Olam International Ltd., one of the largest food merchants, last year paid $7.5 million for East African coffee specialist Schluter S.A., which had been family-owned since the 19th century. Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, Volcafe, Louis Dreyfus Co. and Ecom Agroindustrial Corp. are present in Africa.

Higher demand from western consumers for some African products is evident to Lars Pilengrim, who buys coffee for Swedish roaster Johan & Nystrom.

“The African taste profiles are very popular in and around Scandinavia,” Pilengrim said. “We are seeing growing interests for coffee from Africa and not only the classic origins such as Ethiopia and Kenya. We are increasing our presence and buying in and from Burundi.”