At Alakef Coffee Roasters, it is our goal to source not only the highest quality products possible, but also to provide an unsurpassed level of customer service. In addition to providing many of the finest specialty grade Arabica beans available in the world, we also proudly promote exceptional quality teas, flavored syrups and sauces, blended drink mixes, chai tea, and our own exclusive chocolate covered coffee beans.
There are two major types of coffee produced in the world. These are Arabica and Robusta.
The more common Robusta coffee beans come from hardier plants and are grown at a lower altitude than Arabica beans. They produce a smaller bean and have higher caffeine content than the Arabica bean. Robustas are used predominately in commercial and instant coffees.
Arabica coffee, on the other hand, is grown at high altitudes (4000-6000 feet above sea level) and will only yield approximately ½ pound to 2 pounds of coffee per bush per year. Arabicas need moderate to abundant rainfall, warm temperatures and fertile soil.
Arabica coffee is graded according to the number of defects (or bad beans), the bean size, and the condition of the beans. Based on this grading system, only 5 – 10% of all Arabica beans are considered “specialty grade”.
Every bean that Alakef Coffee purchases are the specialty grade that comes from this top 5-10% of Arabicas.
The first type of process is called the “washed” process. The coffee is picked at the peak of ripeness, and then the beans are squeezed out of their skin (called the cherry) by a pulper with the aid of water. The beans are then fermented for two to three days in order to remove the mucilage or fruity part. After the washing process is finished, the beans are dried in the sun for about three weeks. They are turned several times each day to ensure that all of the beans dry evenly.
The other process used for specialty coffees is sun drying. The coffees are labeled “naturals” or “sun-dried”. After picking, the fruit (cherries) are placed on concrete slabs or tarps and allowed to dry in the sun. After drying, the coffee is transported to mills to remove the dry hulls.
Originating in Italy, espresso is the heart of the European-style café. The popularity of espresso has spread around the world. This drink is created by forcing hot water through tightly packed, finely ground coffee at high pressure that extracts a thick, flavorful essence in a concentrated form. This “espresso” (quick) method of brewing can produce a shot between 18-25 seconds.
When serving espresso, each cup is prepared fresh to each individual order. The best straight espresso is no more than 1 fluid ounce of coffee, brewed into a warm demitasse (small cup). A cup filled with more than one fluid ounce produces an over-extracted brew that is thin and bitter.
The type of coffee used can change the espresso dramatically. Some single origin coffees contain enough character to make a well-balanced espresso, but blends are more commonly used. When creating the espresso blend, several factors determine the desired flavor including – acidity, body, aroma, and taste. Blending coffee is an art form and creating a combination of beans that enhances the coffee’s best desirable flavor characteristics takes skill and patience. It really does not matter whether a single origin type of coffee or a blend is used in the making of the espresso as long as the flavor profile pleases the drinker’s palate.
The correct particle size is critical to espresso flavor. When the coffee is correctly ground and packed into the espresso machine filter basket, the resulting essence will trickle out like honey dripping off a spoon. Too coarse a grind will result in “instant” espresso (watery but bitter) and too fine a grind may result in a bitter brew, clog a filter, or result in no coffee at all.
Because of the critical importance of correct temperature and pressure, the quality of the machinery plays a much more important role in espresso than in any other method of coffee brewing. High quality espresso machines need to consistently deliver water at the proper temperature (192-198 degrees Fahrenheit) and pressure (9 atmospheres).
Espresso is truly a hand-made coffee, and the skill of the barista plays a decisive role in determining cup quality. He or she must choose the right blend and grind of coffee, determine the correct amount of coffee to be dispensed, make sure the espresso machine is working properly, and keep it clean. Our role at Alakef is to supply the finest espresso, but making a quality beverage is in the hands of the barista.
All decaffeination methods must remove 97-99% of the caffeine present in order to be sold as decaffeinated. This means that decaffeinated coffees are, for all practical purposes, caffeine-free.
The beans at Alakef come decaffeinated in a variety of ways. One of the common methods is the use of a solvent called dichloromethane. Also known as methylene chloride, this solvent is considered very safe. Most of the solvent comes off in the decaffeination process, and the rest burns off during the roasting process. In fact, according to Dr. Terry Mabbett, a contributor to Coffee and Cocoa International magazine, “anything more than a trace amount of this solvent in a decaffeinated roast and the cupped infusion would defy the laws of physical chemistry” (Coffee and Cocoa International, 20-21 May/June 1999).
For our Certified Organic offerings, another method is a Water process, where the green beans are immersed in water in order to extract the caffeine. The water contains the soluble components of the coffee beans which hold the elements of the flavor, so that, during the extraction of the caffeine, the beans maintain their original components. To separate the caffeine from the water containing the soluble components, the water passes through a special filter which removes the caffeine. This results in “coffee solid solubles charged water” saturated with flavor components but free of caffeine, which is used again the in the extraction process.
At Alakef Coffee Roasters, we use both processes.
Surprisingly, the strength of coffee taste has nothing to do with the amount of caffeine coffee contains. Rather, caffeine content depends on the type of coffee, the degree of roast and the ratio of coffee to water used during the brewing process.
- Caffeine content of a 5 fluid oz. cup of regular coffee ranges from 60 milligrams to 180 milligrams, depending on the type and the roast of coffee.
- Caffeine content of 1 ½ fluid ounces of espresso ranges from 90 milligrams to 120 milligrams, also depending on the type of coffee used and the style of roast.
- A complext topic, but recent industry studies show there are negligible differences in caffeine content between light and dark roasts.
Caffeine varies between species of coffee trees. Arabica coffees contain about 1% caffeine by weight in green form, while Robusta beans contain about 2% by weight in green form.