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What every Coffee Drinker Should Know

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by ethics, Nov 20, 2002.

  1. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    If you are an avid drinker you would want to know what the hell has gotten so bad about coffee lately? I mean the prices for coffee is the lowest it has (ever?) been for years, but what's up with the quality?

    If you thought coffee taste has gotten to the dogs, you are not alone.

    This year, coffee makers are increasingly substituting low-quality beans in their ground coffee for high-quality beans, according to the International Coffee Organization, a global trade group and sort of an OPEC for coffee. In addition, the purity of the average cup of coffee -- the ratio of debris like twigs and rotten beans to actual fresh beans -- has shifted markedly in the unappetizing direction over the past two years.

    In fact, quality has gotten so poor that in recent weeks, the ICO issued new rules requiring coffee-exporting countries to improve their product -- or stop selling it. That is good news for us, because the new standards are significantly higher than the U.S. government's own rules: Currently, FDA rules essentially permit unripe or moldy beans, gravel and other junk to constitute as much as 30% of a cup of "pure" coffee.

    The falling prices on the global coffee market are having a direct impact on the coffee you drink. Kraft Foods (which makes Maxwell House) says its second-largest supplier of coffee is now Vietnam, which grows some of the cheapest -- and lowest-quality -- beans in the world. (Kraft's largest supplier is Brazil, and second-largest used to be Colombia.)

    The quality problem affects the vast majority of coffee sold in the U.S., because almost all coffee sold here is either preground or instant, the two types most likely to contain debris or bad beans. "Specialty" coffee -- the kind sold in whole beans or, say, skinny frappuccinos in cafes -- has only about 15% of the market, despite the increasing popularity of coffee bars. That is partly because many of the drinks sold in specialty shops contain very little actual coffee: They are mostly milk, sugar and flavorings.

    There is no end in sight, by the way, since the big coffee makers are not even disclosing what their internal monitoring and grade levels are, nor how they are determined.

    What are we to do? find a better bean.

    The Beans

    Don't be baffled by all the choices -- Sumatra, Kona, Jamaican Blue Mountain -- there are only two main bean types:

    Arabica: Generally, a better tasting bean. A lot of it comes from Latin America, and it's what most specialty coffee is made of. (FYI: It also has nearly 40% less caffeine than robusta.)

    Robusta: Cheaper to grow; hardier; less tasty. Vietnam is flooding the market. It's used in lots of blends but on its own (or when there's too much of it in the blend) it tastes bland or worse.

    The Roast

    Coffee tastes a lot better if it was roasted in the past two days. This can be tough to achieve -- not even all of the fanciest coffee emporiums post "roasted on" dates. But ask.

    The Color

    Very dark roasts can kill the flavor of beans. Thanks to the coffee-bar fad, dark roasts are trendy. But in fact much of what passes as "dark" roasted is in fact, burned, killing the subtle flavor of an otherwise delicious bean. "Look for beans roasted to a rich color between caramel and chocolate," says Mark Prince of coffeegeek.com.

    The Grind

    Want decent coffee? Grind it yourself. Sure it's a hassle, but consider: coffee can legally have up to 30% dead beans and other debris, such as gravel, industry experts say. If you buy it pre-ground, who knows what's in there? But if you buy whole beans you can see what you get. Plus, fresh ground coffee is more aromatic.

    The Brand

    Most packaged, preground brands won't tell you the coffee's origins unless they feel there's something to be proud of: Yuban boasts "100% Colombian." For one coffee connoisseur's taste tests of hundreds of brands see coffeereview.com.

    The Fine Print

    Watch for makes that specify "fair trade," "shade grown" or "single origin." These aren't strictly a guarantee of better coffee, but they provide useful information -- if you know the code:

    Fair trade: Means growers received a higher price for presumably more attentive production.

    Shade grown: Means what it sounds like: Beans are grown in the shade, which leads to tastier beans.

    Single origin: When it's from a more reputable country, like say Kenya, tells you you're not drinking a blend with questionable beans added in.
  2. FrankF

    FrankF #55170-054

    I don't give a rats ass about the flavor or aroma... as long as it is palatable and contains the right amount of caffiene.

    I never drink at Starbucks. Just give me my caffiene for $9.00 per large can. And quit shrinking the size of the can! (Anybody remember when they were a full 3 pounds... not 39 ounces)?
  3. bruzzes

    bruzzes Truthslayer

    Remember the older cans that when you opened them up a huge blast of aroma hissed out?

  4. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned

    Very informative post Leon :)

    I dunno what is in Dunkin Doughnuts coffee but I painted the living room last time I bought a bag of that stuff !
  5. Techie2000

    Techie2000 The crowd would sing:

    I tried coffee once, it tasted awful. I don't see how people can drink the stuff...
  6. Aria

    Aria All shall love me&despair

    I think that's probably why the growers are able to get away with selling a lower quality product. People are more concerned today with cost rather than quality. As long as there's a good product still available though, everyone else can have their cheap caffeine fix :)
  7. Techie2000

    Techie2000 The crowd would sing:

    Caffeine fix? Go here. They got all you ever wanted to get your caffeine fix. Add this stuff to any drink and your all set. You can make your own vanilla coke...
  8. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned


    In most cases it is an acquired taste.

    I actually didn't start drinking coffee until I was about 30 or so.

    I worked nights for years without drinking a drop of it. When I went to daywork I had little alternative but to drink it to stay awake.

    It wasn't long before I was addicted after that. Now I rarely miss my morning cup of coffee. The only reason I will miss it is if I walk into a shitstorm at work and literally forget to grab it :)
  9. Pyrion

    Pyrion Liquid Metal Nanomorph

    I used to drink coffee on a daily basis. That went on for about five years or so, until my body finally got tired of all the malic acid.

    Now all I drink is tea, preferably caffeine-free. :)
  10. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    The cheap SOB's i worked for, GE, quit giving us coffee about a year before my departure. I always thought it ironic that they would ask you to work 80 hours and not give you coffee to keep you awake.
  11. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned


    They tried that shit at my workplace....ONCE.

    Their was damn near a riot and the coffee was back the next morning.

    Talk about effecting employee productivity in a negative way, just take away the coffee.
  12. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    LOL GE would just close the office. Never worked for anybody who cared less for the employees. Oughta shut up. Might talk myself out of contract work.
  13. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned


    Hey...tell them as a term of your contract they have to supply you with fresh coffee EVERY day :)
  14. drslash

    drslash It's all about the beer

    I had a 2 year contract out of town and I got addicted to this little coffee shop down the street. I estimated that I spent over $3000 dollars there in 2 years.

    Now with my work out schedule I can't drink coffee until after I exercise and then that gets too late in the day. I still try to drink the best coffee that money will buy but I drink it very seldom. I enjoy it very much in the morning if I get the work out in early.
  15. jamming

    jamming Banned

    The US Navy's shipboard coffee is a paste like gel, that water is added to then heated. It must of been a cost cutting solution as what the heck is a Navy Chief, without a Chief's Hook. Which for the uninitiated is the shape the hand makes when relaxed, from nursing a cup of coffee after 20 years at sea. Luckily they can still buy their own coffee supplies or have family send it to them when they are at sea.
  16. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    I did not drink coffee until I was 35. So when I took command of a company in the army the cooks wanted to mutiny when I required hot chocolate in the mess hall. Was in VN so hot chocolate was not common. But what the hell, when they had the battalion party I won the chug a lug contest for my company!
  17. RRedline

    RRedline Veteran MMember

    I can honestly say that I have never tasted even the slightest sip of coffee. Weird, huh?
  18. Jedi Writer

    Jedi Writer Guest

    Ignorance is bliss. Ah, in life in general that is as often as not true. But when it comes to buying coffee its bullshit.

    I almost always buy 100 percent Columbian. Yuban is just one particular store brand that is excellent. About 50 percent of the time it is my brand of choice.

    Its only complicated for those who make it so.

    PS. Here is another hot scoop: Half and half tastes better than straight non-diary creamer!

    Bottom line: If you like it who cares what is in it?
  19. Pyrion

    Pyrion Liquid Metal Nanomorph

    My stomach cares, unfortunately...
  20. Jedi Writer

    Jedi Writer Guest

    Its just the acid. R-O-L-A-I-D-S or Tums after you've finished your cup. Plus you get you daily supply of calcium! Both now in a variety of fruit flavored tablets!

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