Coffee is one of the world’s most widely consumed beverages, valued for both its taste and the stimulating effect the caffeine content in the coffee has on most coffee drinkers. While commonly referred to as a bean, the coffee used to create the drink is actually the seed of the coffee plant. Coffee beans are a major cash crop and the leading export product for many equatorial-region nations. Approximately half of the coffee harvested in these countries ends up in the United States, which is the largest importer of coffee in the world. While an exact measure is nearly impossible, an estimated 150 million adults in the United States drink coffee, for an average of 400 million cups per day.1
There are two predominate types of coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta. Each contains distinctive oils and fats that determine the bean aroma and taste of the coffee beverage. The use of Arabica coffee beans results in a drink that is aromatic, light-bodied and more acidic than Robusta-based coffee. The Robusta coffee beans, which have a woody texture, generally produce a coffee that is stronger in flavor, sometimes having a chocolaty taste, with higher caffeine content than Arabica beans.
Coffee berries are still commonly picked by hand and allowed to dry. Machine washing removes the flesh of the coffee berry, leaving the coffee bean. At this stage, the coffee is referred to as “green coffee.” After further drying, the next step in the process is the roasting of beans, usually at temperatures specified by the coffee manufacturer. This usual proprietary roasting process influences the taste of the coffee beverage by changing the physical and chemical characteristics of the coffee bean. The roasting also results in a decrease in density, as moisture is lost and volume increases. The density of the coffee bean also influences the strength of the coffee and its requirements for packaging.