Quick Recipes and Easy

Coffee Chemistry, Or Pour Me Another Cup Of That Sumatran Cheese Decaf

Scientists have identified more than 2,000 compounds that make up tastes and
smells. A whopping 400 of them – 20% – are found in coffee. That’s why coffee is so
fascinating to the palate. It’s complex!

Gas spectrographs – devices that measure flavor profiles – have identified an
unmatched range of flavors in coffee, from Darjeeling tea, chocolate, vanilla and
violets to truffles, soup and cheese!

You may be surprised to learn that such a powerful flavor as coffee could be
described as “delicate.” But that’s the case with properly roasted Arabica bean
coffees.

Two beans, or not two beans

Coffee beans come in two varieties, hardy Robustas and lighter Arabicas. Arabica
beans are harder to grow, and hence more expensive to buy, but they yield less
acidic, more aromatic beverages. And they have nearly half the caffeine and
stomach-upsetting oils of Robustas.

Different coffee beans want to be roasted differently. Delicate Arabica beans
may be used to produce an extremely dark, nearly burnt French roast, but
the longer roasting period destroys the delicate compounds that give the beans
their intricate flavor notes of flowers, fruit and honey.

In the end, coffee is certainly demonstrating its chemistry with consumers. The
world’s leading coffee retailer reports that 35 million customers plunked down US
$6.4 billion in the fiscal year ending October 2, 2005. If you’re in the restaurant
business, those are numbers that are sure to quicken your pulse.

The author has been known to negotiate payment in dark chocolate. See more

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