Black coffee contains only negligible calories, protein and fat. Depending on the preparation method, it can provide some minerals such as magnesium and potassium (144 mg and 207 mg, respectively in 6 ounces of restaurant-prepared brewed espresso).
The component of most interest in coffee is of course caffeine. The amount of caffeine in your cup of joe will vary according to the beans used (their origin or the composition of the blend), the strength of the brew (its roast), and the method of brewing. Caffeine is a stimulant with diuretic properties. It affects the nervous system, kidneys, heart and gastric secretions, among other parts of the body. Research has shown that some sensitive individuals experience side effects including insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness.
Health Canada recommends limiting caffeine intake. For the average adult, studies show that moderate daily intake of 400-450 mg/day of caffeine is not associated with adverse health effects. However, women of childbearing age and children may be at greater risk from caffeine. Based on the most current research, Health Canada advises the following maximum caffeine intakes:
Women who are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant, or who are breast feeding: 300 mg/day
- A 6-ounce cup of coffee, brewed from grounds, prepared with water contains 71 mg caffeine.
- A 6-ounce cup of instant coffee, prepared with water contains 47 mg caffeine.
- 6 ounces of restaurant-prepared brewed espresso contains 382 mg caffeine - but most servings of espresso are only 1 to 2 ounces. 1 ounce contains 64 mg caffeine.
- Contrary to what you may have heard, coffee does count towards your daily fluid intake. Women should aim to consume 2.2 litres (9 cups) of water per day and men 3 litres (13 cups) to meet their needs. This water includes the water that you consume directly (ie. tap water, bottled water, etc), as well as the water you consume from other beverages and foods. This includes juice, milk, soft drinks, tea and coffee.
Fluid recommendations from 2004 noted that caffeinated beverages contribute to dehydration. If you're not used to caffeine, drinking a cup of coffee can increase urine output for a brief period following your beverage. But it has been found that people quickly build up a tolerance to the effects of caffeine and that habitual coffee drinkers do not experience increased urination or other signs of dehydration. The bottom line - coffee does count towards your daily water intake.
Coffee plants are actually small trees that bear fruits called "coffee cherries". Growing and tending coffee trees is a labour-intensive process, since a tree can be in several stages of maturity at once: with blossoms, unripe (green) and ripe red cherries. This necessitates hand-picking the coffee cherries.
The unground beans that we are familiar with are at the centre of the coffee cherry: two beans are enclosed in a covering that is thin like parchment, which is surrounded by skin and pulp. All layers but the beans are discarded, at which point the beans are cleaned, dried, graded and hand-inspected for colour and quality. These are the "green" beans: the unroasted beans that are exported for roasting, blending and grinding. Green beans can actually range in colour from pale green to muddy yellow.
The coffee you purchase at cafes, grocers and specialty shops can be composed of either a single type of coffee or a blend; blends tend to be richer and more complex in flavour. Flavour and colour are also affected by the length of time the coffee beans are roasted.
There are hundreds of different coffee species; the two most commercially viable are coffea robusta and coffea arabica.
Coffea robusta is sturdy and disease-resistant, and thrives at lower altitudes, but the beans are harsher and have a more single-dimensional flavour than coffea arabica.
Coffea arabica grows at high altitudes (3,000 to 6,500 feet) and the beans have elegant, complex flavours.
Mascarocoffea vianneyi is a species that actually grows beans that are caffeine-free.
American or Regular Roast beans are medium roasted, resulting in a brew that is not too light or too heavy in flavour.
French and Dark French Roasts are heavily roasted beans. They are deep chocolate brown in colour and produce a stronger coffee.
Italian Roast beans are also heavily roasted. These beans, which are used for espresso, are glossy and brown-black in colour, with a strong flavour.
European Roast is actually a blend: two-thirds heavy-roast and one-third regular-roast.
Viennese Roast is also a blend: one-third regular-roast and two-thirds heavy-roast.
Decaffeinated Coffee is made by removing the caffeine from coffee beans before they are roasted. One method for removing caffeine is to chemically extract it with the use of a solvent. The chemical solvent must then be completely washed out before the beans are dried. Concerns over solvent residues in chemically processed decaffeinated coffee are apparently unwarranted, as research has shown that the volatile solvents disappear entirely when the beans are roasted. Swiss water processing the beans removes the caffeine without the use of chemicals. The beans are first steamed, then the caffeine-rich outer layers are scraped away.
Instant Coffee Powder is made by heat-drying freshly brewed coffee.
Freeze-Dried Coffee Granules/Crystals are also made from freshly brewed coffee, but in this case, the coffee is frozen into a slush before the water is evaporated. Freeze-dried coffee is touted as being of superior flavour than instant coffee powder, and is slightly more expensive.
Coffee that fits in no other category...
Kopi Luwak or Civit Cat Coffee: Kopi Luwak coffee comes from the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia, a place that small animals similar to civit-cats, called luwaks (or paradoxurus) also call home. Ripe red coffee cherries are favoured by these little tree-dwelling mammals. Luwaks eat the cherries, bean and all, which then ferments in the animal's digestive system and is excreted as waste. The still-intact beans are collected from the forest floor, cleaned, roasted and ground just like any other coffee. The resulting coffee is a delicacy.
Kopi Luwak coffee has a rich, heavy flavour which some describe as having hints of caramel or chocolate, being earthy, musty and exotic. The body is almost syrupy and it's very smooth.
Due to the necessity of collecting these beans from the animal's feces, there isn't much Kopi Luwak produced in the world. The average total annual production is only around 500 pounds of beans. Its rarity makes it highly expensive, reportedly around $300 or more per pound.
Coffee loses it flavour quickly, whether it is in whole bean form or already ground. For the freshest and most flavourful brew, purchase fresh beans from a reputable supplier with fast turn-over and grind only as much as you need at one time.
Whole roasted beans should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. In the freezer, whole beans can be stored for up to 3 months - they should be freezer-wrapped.
Ground coffee begins to go stale within a matter of days at room temperature, so it should be refrigerated in an airtight container and used within 2 weeks.
Coffee can be prepared in several different ways, and the process you use will depend on personal preference and the equipment you have. Some of the more common methods include drip, percolated and bodum coffee.
Coffee is most popular for drinking on its own, with a little sweetener and dairy, or in fancy (and sometimes alcoholic) barista-style beverages. Coffee is also a popular flavouring in dessert recipes, but it can also be used in meat dishes, where it tends to bring out the meat flavour without an overpowering coffee flavour. Van Houtte has several creative coffee recipes, including Coffee Burgers, Coffee Galzed Ham , Coffee Spaghetti and more.
Ways to Enjoy Coffee:
Café au Lait - French for "coffee with milk", usually consisting of equal portions of scalded milk and coffee.
Café Brûlot - Traditional to New Orleans, this flaming brew consists of coffee blended with spices, orange and lemon peel, and brandy, made in a flameproof bowl and then ladled into cups. Brulot is French for "burnt brandy."
Café Filtré - French for "filtered coffee," this brew is made by pouring very hot water through a filter holding ground coffee, then served black (traditionally), in demitasse cups.
Café Latte - This beverage consists of espresso combined with plenty of foamy steamed milk, usually served in a tall glass mug.
Café Macchiato - This is espresso, served with a dollop of steamed-milk foam in an espresso cup.
Café Mocha - This espresso beverage is made with chocolate syrup and plenty of foamy steamed milk, usually served in a tall glass mug.
Cappuccino - This Italian coffee consists of espresso topped with the creamy foam from steamed milk, followed by some of the steamed milk. Often, the foam's surface is dusted with sweetened cocoa powder or cinnamon.
Espresso - Steam or hot water is forced through finely ground, Italian-roast coffee specially blended for making espresso, producing a dark and strong coffee that is served in a tiny espresso (or demitasse) cup. An espresso doppio is a double espresso.
Greek Coffee - This brew is rich and intensely strong. It is made by boiling finely ground coffee and water together in an ibrik: a long-handled, open brass or copper pot. Sugar and spices may be added to the grounds before brewing. Greek coffee is frequently brought to the boil 3 times before serving in demitasse cups, complete with fine coffee grounds. Allow the sediment of the grounds to settle before drinking.
Irish Coffee - This treat is a blend of strong coffee, Irish whiskey and a small amount of sugar, typically served in a glass mug and topped with whipped cream.
Thai Coffee - This coffee is mixed with sweetened condensed milk. See the recipe provided for iced Thai coffee.
Turkish Coffee - A very strong brew, Turkish coffee is made by bringing finely ground coffee and sometimes spices such as cardamom, cinnamon or nutmeg, sugar and water to a boil 3 times, with brief coolings between each boiling. This preparation is similar to that of Greek coffee, and it is also made in a long-handled, open brass or copper pot called a Jezve or ibrik and served immediately after the third boil, in tiny cups. A bubbly froth forms on the coffee's surface, and this is said to be a sign of good fortune for those who get some of this froth in their cup. As with Greek coffee, allow the grounds to settle before enjoying.
Viennese Coffee - Refers to strong, hot coffee, sweetened to taste and served in a tall glass, topped with whipped cream
Internation Coffee Organization
Health Canada Fact Sheet: Caffeine and Your Health