The coffee bean is the roasted fruit of a shrub of the genus Criffea.
After being separated from the pods by maceration, the beans are allowed to undergo a spontaneous fermentation in tanks, and then washed and dried either in the sun or in hot air rotary machines.
The chief coffee producing areas are: South America (Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador); West Indies (St. Domingo and Haiti); East Indies (Ceylon, Java, Mysore); Mexico; Arabia.
The coffee from each of these countries possesses individual characteristics in addition to the general dietetic and physiological properties that are common to all coffees.
The South American coffees are somewhat lacking in the volatile oils that give rise to aroma and flavor, but contain a full content of the stimulating principle caffeine and a high percentage of the soluble organic constituents giving body.
Arabian coffee (Mocha) is very rich in the aromatic oils, and produces the best infusion for flavor and aroma. In the same way that different teas are blended to give specific gustatory characteristics, so coffees from different areas are mixed to secure the same result.
The coffee beans are prepared for infusion by roasting and grinding. The roasting operation has a most important influence on the quality of the coffee, especially in relation to aroma and flavor. If the chemical action is carried too far the resulting coffee Jacks flavor by loss of the volatile constituents. Under-roasted coffee also lacks flavor on account of restriction in the development of the aromatic oils.
The proportion of caffeine in coffee is less than that found in tea, but the infusion contains usually more on account of the greater weight used in proportion to water.
The best infusion is prepared from freshly roasted and ground coffee, as the aromatic and flavoring bodies are then fresh and at their maximum. Failing freshly roasted coffee, the next best is freshly ground coffee from the coffee nibs.
This operation may be easily carried out in the home by the use of an ordinary hand coffee grinding machine.
The infusion of coffee contains the following constituents in solution:
- Caffeine, to which the stimulating qualities are due.
- Caffeic acid-also designated caffeo-tannic acid-comparable to the tannic acid of tea.
- Fat and volatile oils.
- Caffeol, giving flavor and aroma.
- Sugar, dextrin and other soluble substances, giving "body" to the liquor.
- Caramel, giving color.
Chicory is the ground, dried, roasted root of a species of endive and is largely used in combination with genuine coffee to form blends. Roasted chicory yields among other constituents, caramel, inulin and invert sugar. Caffeine, fat, aromatic oils and caffeo-tannic acid are absent, so that it has no stimulating properties and does not give the aroma or flavor which characterizes pure coffee. The addition of chicory to coffees lowers the value of the beverage as a nervine stimulant, reduces the aroma and masks the flavor. It, however, adds color, body and sweetness to the infusion and cheapens the product.
Coffee, when properly made and taken at suitable times in moderation, is a valuable and exhilarating, harmless beverage, fragrant, and most welcome to the palate. It is best taken with milk or cream, black coffee being reserved for after dinner. It is suitable for breakfast, and as an after meal stimulant, and at those times when a fillip is needed for the nervous system after strenuous mental effort.