The Coffee Dictionary – Letter F
Coffee has proved to be endlessly fascinating, engaging, and rewarding. Coffee is many different things for different people. This amazing drink is full of flavour, intrigue, history, and countless stories. With this coffee dictionary, it is excited to explore and discover coffee with your beloved one.
12 Science Based Health Benefits of Drinking Black Coffee from The Coffee Dictionary – Letter F, source:timesofindia.indiatimes.com
Fair trade | CERTIFICATION
It is curious to note that the Fair trade certificate is barely seen in the speciality coffee sector and the “third wave” shops and roasters around the world. This is really because Fair trade was designed to safeguard growers against the whims of the commercial C market. In the speciality sector, where cup quality can offer prices over double that of the market price, Fair trade makes less sense. That said, the certificate has its pros and cons in the commercial sector. The main tenet works in as much as Fair trade producers will always get a price that at least meets the cost of production. The C market swings, so at certain times the market price can make coffee not worth growing at all. A study has shown that in certain areas Fair trade deals can be arranged when the market is low and the growers then miss out on the high prices when the market takes an upward turn. It is a complex issue, but the goals of Fair trade should be supported, as it is a programme capable of making a real difference in the sphere of commodity coffee. Interestingly, in 2011 there was a split between Fair Trade International and Fair Trade USA, stemming from a difference in belief about whether to work with larger organizations or to work only with smaller cooperative farming groups.
Fermentation | PROCESSING
Fermentation has been used by humans since the Neolithic age to produce all manner of boozy beverages and pickles. Fermentation is defined as a metabolic process that turns sugars into acids, gases, or alcohol. It is often used broadly to describe the growth of microorganisms. This is all extremely interesting because it can dramatically impact taste. Changes in temperature, time, sugar, and the type of bacteria will create different results. Coffee producers are always playing around with exactly how we ferment coffee during processing, as well as looking for a better understanding of existing processes and environments. Fermentation processes have the potential to have a positive impact on a cup, adding to its winey acidity and perceived body or sweetness. It also has the potential to detract from the coffee’s character and quality should fermentation go too far.
Fika | COFFEE CULTURE
This Swedish term for “coffee and cake” can be likened to the concept of a coffee break or afternoon tea, but is in fact rather unique to Swedish culture (though there is something similar in Finland, too). This daily ritual is often specifically important in the workplace where crucial social interaction takes place over a good cup of coffee and some form of baked goods. Cinnamon buns, sometimes even referred to as fikabröd (“fika bread”), are a particularly popular accompaniment. Although the origins of fika are rooted in coffee, today other beverages such as tea and juice have crept into the mix.
First crack | ROASTING
Roasting is full of interesting processes and sensory stimuli – the smells, the sounds, the tumbling visuals, the heat. One of the most notable experiences for the newly initiated is the audible cue of first crack. It is often likened to the popping of corn, although I would say that the first crack is more of a snapping sound than a pop. The name is linked to the physical process the bean is going through: it is cracking open and almost doubling in size as the moisture in the coffee bean makes its escape. At this point it is a light brown and is releasing energy rather than taking it on. There is also a second crack that signals the buildup of gases in the coffee; this is when the coffee bean begins to break down and gets oily and dark.
Flat burr | GRINDING
Grinding coffee from whole beans into ground coffee can be achieved in a number of ways with various pieces of equipment. The flat burr and conical designs are the two predominant. Both styles are based on a system of two parts that are moved closer together or further apart to alter the space through which the coffee beans pass, crushing them as they do so. In terms of the flat burr, grinds inevitably vary wildly across different manufacturers, based on an amazing variety of details such as rotations per minute (rpm), delivery of beans, and the material and diameter as well as the particular cut of the burr. All burr grinders are a massive improvement on the simple blade grinder, which hacks at the coffee like a juicing blender and gives a really inconsistent grind. Other grinding techniques are out there such as air grinding and roller grinding, but these involve expensive equipment. Grinding has an incredible impact on how good a cup of coffee is. More and more research is going into grinding in terms of our understanding of it and the equipment we use.
Flat white | DRINK TYPE
Who invented the flat white? We won’t ever get a clear answer to that, but it was definitely somewhere Down Under. Next question: what exactly is a flat white? Well, it has espresso and steamed milk and is relatively strong. The specifics vary, a problem you will come across with all familiar drink types. They are interpreted in a variety of ways and these varying interpretations then become gospel, at least for a particular group of experts or aficionados. The definition of the flat white I am most familiar with is a double espresso shot with relatively flatly steamed milk poured into a 6oz cup. Traditionally, the cappuccino was a relatively small, strong, steamed milk drink, but over many years it has evolved to be larger and larger, so that in many countries it has become synonymous with a frothier latte. The flat white’s success relies on its strength, and it has become commonplace in many coffee shops around the globe, as drinkers rebel against the increasingly oversized drinks that dominate the market and take more interest in the coffee itself.
Flavour notes | TASTING
A list of descriptive flavour notes, whether on a label or spoken about during a discussion, can be a little bit scary. Firstly, tasting something and being able to describe it analytically is both difficult and requires specific experience. Secondly, there is no such thing as perfect flavour notes; even though they are often presented in a factual way, they are in reality highly subjective. Certain elements of a coffee are easier to spot objectively and agree on, such as body, mouthfeel, and overall style. We can, for example, quite easily concur whether a coffee is light and aromatic or full-bodied and sweet. Like all tastebased disciplines, experience is the real key. Tasting lots of coffee and beginning to grasp the range of flavours possible and to link words and language to those flavour experiences will increase your ability to notice and describe flavour notes. It is really useful to talk about flavour, to discuss it with others and to build reference points, and it can be really fun and interesting as well. There is a speciality coffee flavour wheel (updated in 2016) that outlines the industry language for both negative and positive coffee flavours. A preset language is very valuable for a global community so that it can find common ground.
Flow rate | BREWING
Flow rate is often discussed in relation to time – quite simply, the time it takes for the water to pass through the coffee and into the cup. The only method of brewing coffee when you would not reference flow rate would be a full-immersion method. In these instances we would still be interested in measuring time, but it would be in terms of “steep time” – how long the coffee and water sit together before the brew is finished. It is arguable that flow rate has the most impact with espresso. This is because flow in espresso is directly linked to grind. If the coffee is ground finer, it will be trickier for the water to pass through it and the flow rate will slow down. Conversely, as the grind gets coarser, there is more room between the particles and the flow rate will speed up. Grind also affects flow rate in pour-over filter methods. Like all the variables in brewing coffee, we have to consider flow rate as part of a bigger equation and it is difficult to offer up hard-and-fast rules. You may hear that a perfect espresso has a flow rate of 25 seconds. This just does not hold up: depending on the coffee and the grinder, as well as the recipe, flow rate can range dramatically if optimal results are to be achieved.
Freezing | STOR AGE
“Stick your coffee in the freezer” is a common bit of kitchen advice offered to prolong the quality of your coffee for as long as possible. It turns out that this advice has legs. Freezing is used to preserve many different food types. There is a question over whether the freezing and expansion of water content in the coffee can damage it. The answer is “possibly”. As the water in any foodstuff freezes, cell walls get ruptured; you see this most dramatically in fruits and vegetables with high water content, like tomatoes, which defrost into a mushy state. Green coffee has around an 11 percent moisture content, which makes this less of an issue. (Compare that to the 94 percent water content in the tomato.) Roasted coffee has even less moisture and there would be almost no difficulty with frozen water content. Storing green coffee frozen has proved very successful in preventing it from tasting at all “agey”, and it also introduces the idea of vintages, which up until now has been nonexistent in coffee due to its perishability. A recent academic study also showed that frozen roasted coffee beans are more brittle and that beans grind differently depending on their temperature. This solves the mystery of why coffee flows differently throughout the day in coffee shops as they get busier and equipment changes temperature. Frozen beans also retain more volatile aromatics, which can lead to a better-tasting coffee. The key, however, is to freeze the coffee in a sealed bag with as little oxygen as possible and to grind immediately (while still frozen) before the beans attract moisture.
French press | BREWING
The French press, also known as a cafetière or plunger, is a classic and widely used brewer. In essence, the method is a jug in which you steep the coffee in the water before pressing down a metal-mesh filter that pushes much of the crust and sediment to the bottom of the jug before decanting. The mesh filter is pretty coarse and this means that the resulting coffee often contains a fair amount of sediment, so a bold, full-flavoured cup is produced. A hot tip if you are less keen on sediment is to scoop the crust off the surface of the coffee just before you plunge. Another thing to be aware of is the coffee settling early in the brew, therefore not allowing the water to access it all. Simply give the solution a stir midway through the brew to avoid this. Though I always scoop off the crust, I am a big fan of the French press for its simplicity and the ease with which a great cup can be brewed.
Fresh crop | HARVESTING
Coffee harvesting is essentially a fruit harvest. And, like all fruit, there is a flowering phase followed by a fruiting phase, which means that harvests come and go depending on the climate and the time of the year. The plant flowers following the rainy season and then begins to produce fruit. In high-grade coffees, the fruit typically takes nine months to ripen before it is ready to pick. Harvesting time can be a brief, strictly demarcated time in some countries but can stretch out for months in others. Countries like Kenya and Colombia typically produce a main harvest and a smaller “fly” harvest that comes later. Most coffee is still handpicked, and farms need more workers at harvesting time. The different harvesting times that occur either side of the equator dictate speciality coffee consumption patterns, as roasters and drinkers move with the fresh harvests to get the best possible flavours.
Full immersion | BREWING
There are many different filter-brewing methods, enough to fill all the cupboards in your kitchen with equipment, and each has its own unique point of difference. Broadly, however, they can all be grouped under two headings: “full immersion” and “pour-over”. In the first, the water and the coffee sit together and “steep”; and in the second, the water passes through a bed of coffee. In the first, all the water and coffee are together for the duration of the brew, whereas in the second, the water is effectively split up, each bit spending time with the coffee during different parts of the extraction. It is a pet peeve of mine how often the varying filtration methods get focused on. I think that, if any method is managed well and understood, it can produce a wonderful cup, and that it is the origin, roast, and water that determine quality more than the method. Having said that, there are differences to be noted between the various methods. Aspects of the method’s design, such as the filtration barrier (paper or metal mesh) or the mechanics of decanting, will have an impact on the resulting cup of coffee. Take a French press, for example: there is a tendency for the ground coffee to settle at the bottom and not be used properly by the water. In the case of the Aeropress, the water has to pass through the coffee to exit, so this is not a problem. It is also worth noting that full-immersion methods, although arguably more consistent than pour-overs, produce slightly less coffee, as you lose a small amount of the brew in the grounds at the end.