19 Things You Didn't Know About Coffee
Coffee is one of the most popular beverages on the planet (sorry, Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator) -- but despite its popularity, most people don't know very much about what they're drinking every morning.
To help remedy that, we've compiled 19 sugary lumps of coffee knowledge with which to sweeten your morning cup. Read on to learn where coffee originated, how much water it takes to grow a pound of it, and what the hell is going on with that cat poop coffee.
1. Legend has it that coffee was discovered by a goat herder
The most widely accepted myth is of an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi who noticed his animals acting jittery after eating ripe coffee beans.
2. Mocha was originally the name of a Yemen port
The city of Mocha was the first port to spread coffee beans to the rest of the world. It's said that the Yemeni beans had a chocolate quality to them, a characteristic that now leads chocolatey drinks to be labeled mocha.
3. The two coffee species are arabica and canephora (aka robusta)
Canephora (aka robusta) is more productive, disease resistant, and high in caffeine content. Arabica has 50% more lipids and nearly twice the sugars, which lead to higher acidity and more complex flavor aromatics.
Cheaper coffees tend to be canephora, whereas most specialty coffee is arabica. Each of these species is also further categorized into varietals, with bourbon and typica being the two most common of the arabica strain. The robusta varietal of canephora is so ubiquitous that most roasters will simply label their products as robusta and you'll rarely see the term canephora used outside of more scientific contexts.
4. Coffee plants require insane amounts of water
People always talk about how water-wasteful beef production is, but according to FoodBev.com, that pound of beef requires 1,800gal of water, while a pound of coffee requires 2,500.
5. Coffee beans can vary in color
They start green, and as they ripen, turn either yellow, orange, or red depending on the varietal.
6. There are thousands of heirloom varietals in Ethiopia alone
Most of what we drink is from a handful of different varietals, but the forests of Ethiopia hold a cache of thousands of different types of coffee that have yet to be cultivated.
7. A coffee plant can live up to 200 years
When they're sprouting, the top of the plant looks like an adorable little seed, which eventually grows into a bushy plant that can live for two centuries.
8. Roasters usually buy a year's worth of beans at a time
Coffee-growing countries generally just have one harvest a year (some have two), so roasters buy up a year's worth of product at a time that's kept fresh via special storage technology. Although the green beans may sit in a warehouse for some time, they're generally shipped out the same day they're roasted.
9. Coffee beans pooped out by cats are a thing
The Asian palm civet is a cat known to eat coffee cherries in the wild, which are fermented in their digestive tract and pooped out whole. It supposedly gives the beans an incredible flavor, but the limited availability makes them extremely expensive. If that wasn't rare enough for you, there's also a reserve in Thailand doing the same thing with elephants and calling it black ivory coffee.
10. The US consumes more coffee than any country in the world
USA! USA! Germany is next in line.
11. You can drink the world's best coffee for super cheap
Coffee is unique amongst commodities in that even the most expensive bags of coffee are still pretty cheap if you brew them at home. Bill Gates might be able to drink better wine than you, but when it comes to coffee, you can drink the same stuff as the richest men in the world.
12. When judges taste coffee, they slurp it violently
In order to get an accurate impression of all the aspects of a coffee's flavor, judges loudly slurp it across the entirety of their mouth because each part of your mouth is best in tune with different flavors (tongue for sweetness, back of throat for bitterness).
13. There are a ton of ways to spot bogus coffee
14. There's a specific coffee flavor language
The Specialty Coffee Association of America created a flavor wheel that roasters use when assessing the characteristics and defects of specific coffees, ranging from positive associations like apricot or baker's chocolate to negative ones like concrete or straw.
15. Coffee actually has more flavors than wine
Some sources put the number of coffee aromatic characteristics as high as 1,500, compared to the 200 found in wine.
16. Espresso doesn't mean fast
The term derives from the Latin verb meaning "to press out." Also, don't pronounce it with an "X" lest you want to seriously enrage a coffee snob.
17. Espresso has less caffeine than brewed coffee
The fine folks at Coffee Chemistry break down the numbers: an 8oz cup of coffee has approximately 2.3x as much caffeine as a 1oz shot of espresso. Espresso does have higher caffeine by volume, but the smaller serving size means you're getting much less of a buzz.
18. Coffee grinding is an essential part of the coffee-making process
Coffee stales much quicker once it's been ground, so if you're looking to make the best cup of coffee possible, buy whole beans and grind them at home. It's so important that coffee shops often spend thousands of dollars on a grinder in order to ensure an even, accurate, and highly adjustable grind size.
19. Coffee loses 70% of its flavor within two minutes
According to official coffee snob standards, it's stale after 15 minutes.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's National Food and Drink team. Learn 19 things you didn't know about house music, the NBA playoffs, and verbs that should be retired by following him at @Dannosphere.