By William Taylor Hytinen

For younger generations, it is difficult to remember a time when there wasn’t a coffeehouse on every corner. A world without cappuccino machines in every convenience store seems unfathomable, and waiting in line at the grocery store would be a much greater imposition if it weren’t for the rack full of tabloids covered with photos of strung-out movie stars sucking down iced coffee-concoctions. But while coffee seems to have only become a national addiction in recent years, it has long been lurking in the shadows, waiting for Americans to recognize its delicious potential if selected and brewed correctly.

Coffee beans have a long journey from plantation to palate, but for the benefit of all you non-baristas and coffee-novices out there, we’ll keep this journey as straightforward as possible.

All coffee beans share a similar beginning because coffee only grows between 23.5° North and South latitudes, and at elevations between 1,500 and 5,000 feet. While there are over 900 species of coffee, the two that we most commonly encounter are Arabica and Robusta. Of these varieties, Arabica is by far the better-quality product. Independent coffeehouses and retailers usually use Arabica beans, while major corporations (you know—the coffee that comes in a big can?) use Robusta.

Now that we have established where coffee comes from geographically, we can take a closer look at th e coffee-plant itself. Many people are shocked to discover that coffee beans are actually the “pit” of the coffee berry which ripens to a vibrant red-color. These berries are harvested, and the beans are extracted from the pulp of the berries through one of two methods—wet processing and dry processing. In countries with high levels of humidity and rainfall, wet processing is preferable. It includes dumping the berries into huge vats of water. The ripe, good coffee sinks to the bottom of the vat, while the defective beans float to the top. The good beans are then stripped of their outer-layer of pulp and dried by the sun or in huge dryers. The dry-process method consists of laying the berries out in thin layers on large concrete slabs. They are frequently turned and separated with large rakes to aid in the drying process and separate the high-quality, big beans from the small beans. In either instance, when the drying process is complete, the beans emerge a dusty, white-green color with internal moisture content of 10%.

Ripe Coffee Berries

The dry beans are now ready for roasting. This is perhaps one of the most important parts of creating great, flavorful coffee because the heat causes the starches and amino acids in the bean to react and caramelize, adding nutty, chocolaty notes. The Maillard reaction takes over at the end of the roasting when the beans are hottest, imparting that full, distinct, bitter flavor that makes coffee—well—coffee.

Bean roasting is done by one of two main methods. These include drum-roasting and the fluid-bed roasting. Most local roasters are drum-roasters. In this method, the green coffee beans are dropped into the drum of the machine and roast for somewhere between 12 and 17 minutes at the preferred temperature of the roaster’s operator. In a fluid-bed roaster, the beans are heated and kept in constant motion by jets of air and pressure that “lift” or “float” the coffee. Fluid-bed roasters are preferred by some coffee-sellers because they decrease the roasting time of the coffee and may increase the rate that the finished beans are ready for market.

And now we have reached the final leg of our journey of the coffee-production process—brewing! There are a number of ways to make a cup of coffee and what you choose depends entirely on your personal taste. For simplicity’s sake, I will focus on the three most popular: Drip, Espresso, and French Press.

Drip coffee lets gravity do the work and if done properly, produces a ground-free clean brew. The general ratio of coffee grounds to water in this process is 2 level tablespoons of ground coffee to 8 oz of water. The water should be in contact with the coffee for about 5 minutes, though it varies depending on the fineness of the grind. Finer grinds require less contact time while larger grinds require more. Water temperature is also important. An ideal water temperature for brewed-coffee is 205 degrees, but you don’t need a thermometer! Just boil water in a kettle, take it off the heat, count to 5, and your water should ring in at just around 205 degrees.


Espresso shots with a perfect, foamy head

Espresso is a special treat most of us can only enjoy at a coffeehouse. It is a pressurized extraction in which water is forced through finely ground coffee at a specific rate and pressure to extract the yummy flavors and leave the acrid, bitter flavors behind. Espresso should only be served in a small demitasse, and have a nice thick, creamy head similar to a Guinness. 

Finally, my personal favorite, the French Press, is great for making top-notch coffee at home. The French press allows the coffee grounds to be submerged in water for a short time, and then when pressed, the grounds are pushed to the bottom of the pot, the finished product stays at the top, and the coffee is ready to serve. The press does not have a paper filter, but instead relies on a fine mesh screen to separate the water from the grounds. This method of straining leaves a considerable amount of total dissolved solids in the cup, but the coffee generally has a heavier or more robust mouth feel. The other perk of the French Press is that you make the call on the strength of your coffee because you control the water’s contact-time with the grounds. Is a stronger brew more to your liking? Let that puppy steep longer.

A French Press


So that’s coffee in a nutshell—ahem—berry (as you should have learned by now). There is plenty more to come on this subject, but we thought we’d provide you with some of the basics. Stay tuned to for more articles on coffee brought to you by Village Coffee Roastery in Scottsdale, or better yet, enjoy them with a cup o’ Joe in-store (they have Wi-Fi!).

For more information on Village Coffee Roastery, Go to the Website

Or just walk right in:

8120 N. Hayden Rd. #E104, Scottsdale, AZ 85258

Also, follow them on Twitter: @villagecoffee

And find them on Facebook!