Coffee is a plant (Coffea) and the name of the drink that is made from this plant. The coffee plant is a bush or tree that can grow up to ten meters (about 32 feet) high, but is usually cut shorter. Coffee plants originally grew in Africa, and now also grow in South America, Central America and Southeast Asia. They are an important crop for the economies of many countries.
The drink is made from the seeds of the coffee plant, called coffee beans. Coffee is usually served hot, and is a popular drink in many countries. Coffee contains a chemical called caffeine, a mild drug that keeps people awake.
To make a drink from coffee beans, the beans must first be specially prepared by drying the beans and then roasting. The beans are dried a short time after they are picked. This preserves them and makes them ready to be packed or roasted. Before the beans are made into a drink, they must roasted are ground (crushed into tiny pieces in a coffee mill). When the ground coffee is placed into boiling water, the flavour and dark brown colour of the beans goes into the water. Making coffee is called brewing coffee. There are several different ways that coffee can be brewed.
There are two main types of coffee plants. The Coffea Arabica, the most common. Most of the world's coffee is made from Arabica beans, and the Coffea Robusta, which is easier to grow in places where Arabica will not grow.
Robusta is cheaper and has more caffeine than Arabica and it is used in many commercial coffee products. But Robusta tastes bitter and acidic, so people only drink it with other things. Better quality Robustas are in some espresso blends.
In the past, people gave names to new Arabica coffees from the port they came from. The two oldest Arabica coffees are "Mocha" and "Java". Today, names are more specific. They tell us the country, region, and sometimes even the property where they come from.
Some sorts of coffee taste better if the beans are "aged". This means that after they are picked, the beans are dried and then kept from three to eight years. This "aging" gives the coffee a less acidic taste. Coffee that has been aged is often mixed or "blended" with other coffee that is not aged.
"Roasting" is one of the important stages in making coffee beans into coffee. When a coffee bean is roasted, it grows nearly two times bigger and changes from green to yellow to brown.
The length of time that the coffee beans are roasted makes the coffee taste different. Some types of coffee, such as Mocha and Java, are roasted for a short time. It is easy to tell from the flavour where the coffee is from. When coffee is roasted for a long time, it is harder to tell the different types apart. Green coffee beans can be bought and roasted at home in the oven.
Before the coffee is made into a drink, it is "ground" in a small grinding machine called a "coffee mill". The coffee mill breaks the beans into very small pieces. Coffee is turned into a drink in several different ways. For some ways of making coffee, such as "espresso" it is best to have the coffee ground into fine powder but for other types of coffee-making, such as "filtered coffee", the coffee is in larger pieces to stop it going through the filter. Finely ground coffee makes a stronger taste.
Coffee is made into a drink by putting the coffee into boiling water. This is called "brewing" coffee. There are many ways to brew coffee. Four of the most popular are:
- Boiling: The coffee and the water are put into a pot on top of the stove and boiled slowly together. This way of making coffee has been used for hundreds of years. It is the way that coffee is usually made in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Greece.
- Pressure: The boiling water is forced through the ground coffee by a machine. This type of coffee is called Espresso and the machine is called an "Espresso machine" or "Coffee system". Espresso machines are often found in cafes and restaurants. Espresso is a very strong coffee that can be used to make other coffee drinks.
- Gravity: Filtered coffee is made by gravity because the boiling water falls from a machine onto the coffee. The coffee grounds are held in a paper or metal "filter" that the water can run through, but the little coffee pieces cannot. The water becomes coloured and flavoured as it runs through the coffee and into a coffee pot.
- Steeping: Boiling water is poured onto the coffee and it is allowed to stand for a little while, until the water has taken the colour and flavour. This is often done in a cafetière, which is a tall glass or coffee pot which has a special filter inside that can be pushed down when the coffee is ready so that the person does not drink the coffee grounds. Another way of steeping coffee is to have coffee grounds in a small packet, the right size to make one cup of coffee. The packet is placed in the cup and water poured over it. Then the packet is removed.
How people drink their coffee
- Black coffee is coffee with no milk in it.
- White coffee is coffee with milk in it.
- Café au lait is coffee made with a lot of hot milk. It is often sweet.
- Espresso is very strong coffee. In Australia, it is often called a "short black".
- Cappuccino is espresso with frothed milk (milk mixed with air). A well-made cappuccino should be made of strong coffee. When the frothy milk is poured gently into the coffee cup, it should be white on top and have a ring of darker coffee around the edge. Cappuccino coffee sometimes has cocoa sprinkled on top.
- Latte is made like a cappuccino but with added milk and a very thin layer of foam.
- "Flat white" is a double espresso where milk micro foam is added to the crema (an emulsion of the oils in the coffee beans when combined with hot water that floats) on the double espresso.
- Americano is espresso with a lot of hot water.
- Irish coffee is coffee with whiskey and with cream on the top.
- Iced coffee is espresso in a tall glass with crushed ice, cold milk and ice cream.
- Vietnamese style coffee (Cafe Sua Da) is filtered coffee poured over ice into a glass with sweet condensed milk (thick milk which has had the water removed).
- Baby-cino is a small hot milk drink suitable for children.
"Instant coffee" is a very quick way to make a cup of coffee to drink. It is made in a factory and sold in jars or packets. First, strong coffee is made using ground coffee and boiling water. Then, the coffee grounds are filtered out. The coffee liquid is dried out until nothing is left except granules (little crunchy pieces), or fine powder. This is then put into jars or packets. As soon as a spoonful of "instant coffee" is added to boiling water, it dissolves in the water to make coffee to drink. The taste can be very different from fresh coffee. Part of the reason for the different taste is that Robusta coffee beans are usually used for making instant coffee. Robusta coffee beans do not cost as much as Arabica.
When people drink coffee
The United States buys the most coffee; Germany is next. People in Finland drink the most coffee for each person. In Canada, the United States and Europe, some restaurants sell mainly coffee; they are referred to as "cafés" or "coffeehouses". Cafés often sell food, but the type of food is different from one country to another.
In some countries, for example, those in northern Europe, people like having coffee parties. At these parties, people have coffee and cake.
In many countries, people drink coffee at work; in the United States and England, for example, people drink it in the morning. In other countries, such as Mexico, people drink it in the evening to help them stay awake.
Some studies have looked at the health risks of coffee. In February 2003, there was a study in Denmark of 18,478 women to find out if coffee had an effect on pregnancy and birth. It was found that if a woman drank between four and seven cups of coffee a day, it did not seem to make a big change to the number of babies that were born dead, (stillborn). But the women in the study who drank eight or more cups of coffee a day had three times as much chance of having a stillborn baby.
For this, and other reasons, some people drink coffee substitutes instead or decaffeinated coffee .
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Coffee Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.