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The Journey Of Coffee: From The Seed To The Cup

Have you ever wondered how coffee gets its roasted, toasty goodness? It doesn’t naturally grow as flavorful as it ends up in your cup, and has to go through a careful process to become the drink that we know and love. Here’s how coffee beans are processed from seed to cup.

Coffee beans are essentially seeds. Like most plants, once placed into the ground the seedlings have to be nurtured, watered appropriately, and given enough sunlight to thrive. Coffee seeds are usually planted during wet seasons, because that’s when the roots are best able to establish themselves. It takes between 3 and 4 years for coffee seeds to grow into trees and produce fruit, which is called coffee cherries. This fruit looks like a cross between a cherry and a cranberry, and is deep red when it’s ripe and ready for harvesting, which typically occurs once or twice per year.

Coffee is mainly harvested in one of two ways: strip picked, with all of the coffee cherries being taken off the branches at once by machine or by hand, or selectively picked, where only the ripe cherries are picked off the branches. Selective picking is more labor intensive, takes longer, and is usually reserved for Arabica coffee beans. More often than not, Robusta coffee is strip picked.

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Coffee cherries have to be processed quickly after being picked because they easily spoil. The beans are either processed by a wet or dry method. The skin and pulp are separated, and then the beans are fermented and allowed to dry. Coffee beans in their dried state are called parchment coffee beans. After the parchment coffee is hulled, polished, and sorted, it’s called green coffee. This is what’s exported for roasting and further processing, as green coffee has very little flavor.

Once green coffee beans arrive to processors and coffee shops, it is then roasted, which is when it becomes coffee that’s ready to be ground and enjoyed. Some processors add various flavors while roasting, which is how varieties such as French vanilla, hazelnut, and the like are produced. Once it has been roasted, the coffee can be ground, brewed, and savored.

Best Coffee Makers for Travel Around The World

Coffee lovers know that traveling often means having to leave your excellent morning cup of coffee behind and temporarily trading it in for bitter brew made with the hotel’s drip machine. Good quality beans are just the start of a nice coffee drinking experience, the brewing method is the other key part of the equation. The problem: it’s difficult to lug a full size, high quality electric machine along when you’re traveling. Fortunately, people on the go who don’t want to sacrifice the taste of their coffee have several portable coffee making options.

French Press

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The French press is a classic piece of coffee making equipment that’s great for taking along with you since it doesn’t need any electricity. A French press is comprised of a carafe that holds the coffee and water, a lid, plunger and filter mechanism that extracts flavor from coffee while keeping the grounds out of the resulting brew. The Carafe can be made of various different materials. The classic french press is made out of glass, but the sturdiest, most protective is the stainless steel french press. Stainless steel eliminates the worry about the carafe breaking. You want to avoid glass as much as possible when you are traveling.

To use a French press, you put ground coffee — coarse grind is best, but you can use an all purpose grind if you decrease the brew time — into the carafe, followed by hot water. It’s best to let this mixture soak for about 30 seconds and then stir for 10 seconds, but you can skip straight to the brewing countdown if you prefer. Place the lid on the French press and set your phone’s timer for 6 to 8 minutes (3 to 4 if you used an all purpose grind). The longer the coffee brews, the stronger it will taste. Once the brewing time is over, gently push down the plunger on the French press, pour the extracted coffee into your cup — or simply start sipping if you’re using a stainless steel French press travel mug — and enjoy.

AeroPress

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The AeroPress is a small, lightweight device that you can store practically anywhere, from your briefcase to a carry on bag. Its brewing process keeps messes to a minimum, so you could even use the AeroPress in your car if needed. Here’s how it works: place the AeroPress over your coffee mug and insert a filter. Put in your ground coffee, pour hot water over it, and then push down the plunger. A wonderfully flavored brew will drip from the bottom of the AeroPress and into your cup, perfectly satisfying your craving for delicious coffee while you’re on the move.

You can try the inverted method too.

Pour Over

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Pour over coffee makers are great because they’re light, highly portable, and very affordable, with most costing less than $15 for the pour over brewer and filters. It sits on top of your coffee cup and the brew drips into the bottom. If you have access to hot water, ground coffee, and a pour over maker with a filter, you can make a great cup of coffee literally anywhere. As the water runs through the grounds and into your cup, the flavor is extracted from the coffee without staying in contact too long and resulting in a bitter brew. Pour over coffee makers are made from a wide range of materials, but if you’re planning to use one while traveling stick to a sturdy plastic, metal, or silicone model. Some pour over brewers are made of collapsible silicone, which is perfect when you have little space for packing.