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How Coffee Is Made: The Complete Guide to a Coffee Bean's Life

How Coffee Is Made: The Complete Guide to a Coffee Bean's Life

Coffee is the world's most popular drink. And it is the second most traded commodity right after oil. And even though billions of people drink coffee in unison every morning, not everyone knows exactly how much work there is involved in getting that coffee to their cup.

In this article, we will cover every step of the journey into how coffee is made.

Growing Coffee

Let’s talk about coffee beans. Everyone knows coffee’s made from beans—and they are brown, perfect little beans; anyone could picture them. The thing is that they aren’t really beans, but seeds.

Because they’re so big, people called them “beans”. And it just stuck. But these are actually seeds. And those seeds are found inside a fruit: the coffee fruit—also called the coffee cherry. These cherries are round and rather small in size.

In order to get coffee seeds, farmers must plant coffee bushes. These bushes are native to Ethiopia. They have been growing here for at least thousands of years and it is first recorded being drunk in the 10th century when a goat herder stumbled upon the cherries that gave his goats an extra pep in their step.

Coffee bushes only grow in very particular climates: between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. That rules everything north of Africa: Europe, North America, Japan…

In short, it rules out most of the avid coffee drinkers in the world. Ironic.

Most coffee is grown in Latin America. For example, Brazil produces almost 50% of all coffee consumed globally, and most countries in Central and South America grow coffee. Other significant producers are Ethiopia, Kenya, and Vietnam. (Statista, n.d.)

Once the cherries are ripe, harvesting occurs. They are then left in beds to dry under the sun. This helps a lot of the liquid drain out, making it easier to get to the seeds inside. It also helps soak the beans in the fruit’s juices, giving them flavor.

Once they are dry, they are hulled, and the green coffee beans must now be processed. They are cleaned to get rid of all fruit that may be sticking to it (which is usually a lot) and after that they are dried and sent off.

And with that, we have a prime material: the green coffee bean. These beans are sent from the farm to ample facilities (in most cases) for them to be roasted.

How Coffee is Made - Cambio Roasters

Roasting K-Cup Coffee

The next step into how coffee is made is, of course, roasting it. Did you know that roasting is where coffee gets most of its flavor? And here is where humanity’s creativity and innovation really shines.

Roasting is serious business, too. Not anybody can roast coffee. You have to go through until you truly roast something decent. Those who can achieve consistent roasting quality are cold Master roasters

But let's get to know more about roasting. There's actually an old legend about this: When coffee was discovered people would just eat the fruit, the same fruit that made its way to the hands of a monk who thought the fruit had devil-like properties, so he threw it into the fire. As the fire reached the seeds, the smell of freshly roasted coffee filled the room, changing the opinion of the monk.

The roasting process brings out the unique flavor that lies dormant within each coffee bean. The roasting is done using a special machine that can roast hundreds of pounds of coffee beans at the same time while achieving an even roast level. 

These machines are incredibly precise, too. Because depending on the bean, the master roaster will have to roast to a different level each time. There are many roast levels, but let's cover the three basic ones. 

Dark roast

The most traditional of all roasts. This roast looks very different from the other roasts. These beans are small because they have lost all the humidity inside them. One of the most particular things about dark roasts is that the beans are shiny. Coffee oils, which are usually contained within the bean, come to the outer layer because of the heat, creating a shiny layer.

When it comes to flavor, dark roasts k cups offer the strongest flavor of all, but this also means it is the most bitter of all roasts. Italian is another name given to this roast; this is mostly in part because it was in Italy where this roast was popularized, but there are accounts of this roast being widespread in other countries.

Because of its bitterness, dark roasts are usually more of an acquired taste and aren’t as in vogue as they once were.

Medium roast

Similar to what happened to the dark roast, the medium roast also goes by another name: the French roast. This is mainly partly because the French coffee culture usually favored a more subtle, lighter flavor incompatible with bitter, dark roasts.

In terms of flavor, the medium roast is quite balanced. There is a lot of flavor and aroma, and there is just enough bitterness for it to be pleasant to the taste. Medium roasts are, after all, the most popular roasts all over the world.

Light roast

While light roasts have always existed, only recently have they become more popular. Because of the new surge of coffee drinkers in recent decades, the light roast—typically a niche flavor—has newfound popularity among newer audiences.

Also called a blonde roast, the light roast is low in bitterness and isn’t as intense in flavor as other roasts, but because it isn’t roasted for as long as the others, it also unlocks unique flavors full of natural sweetness and fruit-like tasting notes.

Source: Coffee Isn’t Rocket Science

As you may have noticed by now, the only real difference when making each roast is simply the amount of time they spend in the roasting machine. This can be as little as three minutes and as long as nine minutes—and the process which is monitored with temperature and humidity readings. Psst… you can learn more about the coffee roasting process and differences in the roasts here.

Before roasting machines, this was done at home. Italians are famous for roasting their coffee beans in the oven, which results in a medium-dark roast that is actually quite tasty. There is also the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, during which coffee beans roast on a big pan. It may sound a bit low-tech, but it yields some of the best-tasting coffee in the world.

And now that our coffee is roasted, there is only one step to go: brewing it.

Brewing K-Cup Coffee 

The last step, but certainly not least, into how coffee is made is how it ends up in your cup or mug: brewing! In order to get them into brewing shape, you’ll have to grind the roasted beans. There are three basic grind sizes:

Fine

This grind size is the finest of all and is only really used for espresso and espresso-like brewing methods, like the Aeropress.

Medium

One of the most widely used, the medium size goes with almost all types of brewing methods, like the drip machine, all pour over methods, and so on.

Coarse

The coarse grind is a very particular size that only really works with a couple of brewing methods—like cold brew, French press, and cowboy coffee.

Now that you’ve ground your coffee according to your brewing method, it’s time to brew coffee.  

The amount of ways for brewing coffee has skyrocketed in the past century. Before the 20th century, there were really only a couple different ways people used to brew coffee and then, just as the 19th century was ending, the espresso machine was invented.  

Of course, the espresso machine of old was very different to what it is now, but it still revolutionized the way people even thought about coffee.

After the espresso machine, the French press, moka pot, Hario V60 and Chemex were invented within a few decades and, by the 1930s, there were many new ways to brew your coffee. Egger, Simone, and Ruby Ashby Orr. The Home Barista: How to Bring Out the Best in Every Coffee Bean. The Experiment, 2016.

The principle behind brewing coffee is simple: hot water + coffee grounds + time = brewed coffee. Then you can adjust depending on the brewing method you use. The French press, for example, can take about three minutes to brew your coffee. An espresso machine, though, takes only between ten and twenty seconds!

Keurig’s at-home brewers are focused on brewing for the individual person based on likes and preferences with single pods called K-Cups for those who want their drip coffee quick, convenient, and delicious.

There is only one instance in which this formula isn’t used: cold brew. Cold brew works by soaking the ground in water, which may be either cold or room temperature. And because the water isn’t hot, it takes considerably longer for the coffee to brew: 8 hours minimum and 24 hours maximum. The result is a very unique-tasting coffee.

And with that, you know all about how coffee is made: from cherry to mug. It’s a long journey, but it’s all worth it for that glorious flavor.  

Whether you like to drink coffee to relax and ground yourself in the morning, or if you drink it throughout the day in various forms to stay productive, we all love to have that delicious brew on hand!

Cambio Roasters makes small-batch roasts (dark, medium, and light, as well as a decaffeinated version) in California and ships them nationwide. Explore Cambio’s K-cup coffee blends.