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There is much debate over whether or not coffee consumption is beneficial to health. Whether or not you choose to consume coffee, you may be called upon to prepare it at some point. This article is about some of the benefits of its use and methods of preparation.

An article entitled Midlife Coffee and Tea Drinking and the Risk of Late-Life Dementia caught my eye. The article is the result of conclusions made based on a study in Finland and published in January 2009 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (Volume 16:1). Over 1,000 participants were followed over a a period of 21 years to determine a correlation between coffee and tea consumption and the risk for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease in late life. The study guidelines listed 0-2 cups per day as low consumption, 3-5 cups per day as moderate consumption and over 5 cups per day as high consumption.

Coffee drinkers were found to have a lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease, the lowest at-risk group was the moderate coffee consumers. I was surprised to see that they further concluded that there was likely a possibility that dietary interventions could affect the risk on an individual developing dementia or Alzheimer's. Such findings are obvious to some, but it is refreshing to see the results allowed to stand without disclaimers from pharmaceutical or medical commentators (so far).

Good to the last drop
New research suggests drinking coffee might actually be good for you
By Judy Foreman May 11, 2009
The heavenly brew, once deemed harmful to health, is turning out to be, if not quite a health food, at least a low-risk drink, and in many ways a beneficial one. It could protect against diabetes, liver cancer, cirrhosis, and Parkinson's disease. . . .

Foreman goes on to say that studies show that coffee consumption doesn't raise the risk of heart disease or stroke and that it may possibly reduce the risk for stroke. There was also seen a beneficial correlation between coffee consumption and lowered risk for liver and colon cancer.

During times of financial upheaval, coffee has been used as currency. In the 1860's Union soldiers were issued rations that included green (un-roasted) coffee beans. When possible, this was traded to Confederate soldiers for tobacco.

The easiest way to store coffee beans is raw, or green. Green coffee beans can be stored for years. Green coffee beans store best in cool, dry room temperatures away from direct sunlight. Refrigerating or freezing beans will place them in an environment that is either too dry or too moist for proper storage. Basement storage is recommended or someplace that is free from extremes in humidity or temperature. Extended storage is best in bags made of paper or fabric. Protect the bags from getting wet or mold will grow. Vacuum sealing the beans extends their flavor in storage, especially in humid areas. (http://www.sweetmarias.com/greenstorage.php)

Prior to roasting, have an enamel colander, large sieve or similar bowl ready to receive the hot roasted beans. You will need this to cool the beans quickly or they could burn in the pan. Use a cast iron or stainless steel pan. It is preferable to use a wooden spoon. (http://www.essortment.com/all/roastingcoffee_rycz.htm)

Place, dry, unroasted beans into the pan and heat to a medium high heat. Turn the beans frequently to avoid burning them. As the beans heat, chaff will be released from the bean. The chaff has no flavor and can be ground with the beans to no ill effect. The beans will change color from light green/brown to a darker brown. You should notice a coffee aroma. Turning the beans constantly keeps them from burning. They will become greasy as the natural oils are released. When you see the oils appear, the beans are roasted. This takes about 15 minutes. Additional roasting of 5-7 minutes will produce a stronger, harsh coffee.

Remove the roasted beans to a colander or sieve which is lined with a paper towel to soak up excess oils. When they are cooled to the touch, they are ready to be ground or can be moved to a storage container.

Another recommendation for roasting coffee is using a hot air popcorn popper that has side vents for the hot air and a solid bottom. (http://www.sweetmarias.com/airpop/airpopdesign.php) However, because of the oils released, this will likely shorten the life of your popper. It's unlikely you'd want to pop popcorn in it after roasting coffee beans. Be sure to cover the popper and leave a bowl near the chute as the chaff will fly out as it separates from the bean.

Here's a pictoral guide to how the beans should look as they roast: http://www.sweetmarias.com/roasting-VisualGuideV2.php

Coffee releases six times its volume in carbon dioxide within the first 48 hours of roasting. Once roasted, the flavor gets worse and fades over time. Your roasted beans should be kept above freezing in a dark airtight container. Keeping them in the freezer destroys the oils.


Avoid "city roast" coffees. These are often shipped by diesel truck. They are usually roasted darker to give them a stronger taste and flavored in order to cover the diesel fumes that infuse them during transit.


A mill-type grinder is recommended to process your beans. It is also best to grind only enough to make the amount of coffee that you intend to drink and to grind immediately before brewing. German manufactured mill type grinders have an excellent reputation as quality pieces of equipment. Electric swirling blade grinders are adequate and convenient. The idea is to break the bean into tiny multi-faceted bits. The more surface area you are able to expose, the more flavor you will release from the bean when you brew your coffee. Additionally, a finely ground coffee requires fewer grounds to yield a full flavored pot of coffee.

A standard measure for coffee is one level tablespoon of grounds per finished cup of coffee. This is true without respect for the type of coffee maker you use. Batches larger than 10 cups at a time run the risk of over-extraction. Over extraction is when too much water comes in contact with your grounds. This produces a very bad taste.

Using water from the tap (or unfiltered) can add a lot of things to your coffee that you may not wish to ingest. This includes traces of diesel, chlorine, minerals, salts, and heavy metals. Choose your water carefully.


An espresso machine uses powder fine grounds, tightly packed (you can tightly pack grounds in other makers as well) and forces a small amount of water through them. The idea is that the first flavors released in concentrated form are the best. An even grind is required to prevent the water from pouring through holes left by course bits of grounds.

A medium grind is best for a bucket styled filter as this will keep powdered grounds from falling into the carafe, creating a stewed, muddy sludge.

A very course grind is suitable for French Presses. These coffee makers allow the water to steep the grounds for several minutes. French Presses are down on the bottom end of the scale.

It is best not to store leftover brew or reheat it. The best method is to make no more coffee than will be drank in one serving. If this is not possible, consider storing leftovers in a thermal flask. Cold coffee should not be microwaved or re-heated on the stove.


This is a point where I differ with many when it comes to brewing coffee. With a nod to those who prefer their campfire coffee . . . shall we say . . . robust? I'll just quote Rosemary Furfaro:

If you are not the kind of person who thoroughly washes out their coffee urn and maker after use this step is for you. Without the proper cleaning, coffee sediment and oils will settle in your coffee making device that will grow stale as they are left exposed to the air. These build up producing an off, bitter taste in the cup-quite an unpleasant experience.


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