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Team Ground or Team Bean?

Coffee beans closeupMore than half of all people in the United States drink coffee and on average they drink one to two cups a day. Modern technology has drastically enhanced the way a cup of coffee can be prepared and brewed.  But one thing that remains constant is the age-old debate surrounding what makes the best cup of coffee: ground vs. whole bean. Many swear they can taste the difference and they may actually be right.  Let’s take a look at why you might be able to tell the difference.

Ground coffee is the most widely used form of coffee as it is fast, convenient, and evenly ground. You often see coffee grounds in brick-like vacuum sealed bags and also more recently in the growing popularity of K-Cups , Fresh Packs and Pods. But why are coffee grounds always in vacuum sealed or air tight packages (also known as bricks)? This is to prevent the scientific process of oxidation. The same process that causes iron to rust also causes ground coffee to quickly turn stale. Next time you open up your ground coffee make sure to seal it as best you can or if you are using K-Cups, you don’t need to worry as each cup is individually sealed for freshness.

Coffee Beans hands down are the freshest way to prepare your coffee. While it may take more time, it is well worth it if ground and brewed correctly. Some coffee shops offer the freshest coffee by grinding it just before brewing in order to eliminate any oxidation of the coffee. In many grocery stores you’ll find a grinder right in the coffee isle so you can purchase freshly ground coffee.

If you are going to try to grind your own coffee beans there are a few things to keep in mind to get the best flavor out of your beans. Evenly ground coffee beans are extremely important to extract the flavor. If the grounds are uneven, the smaller grounds could be too small to contribute any flavor while the large ones might not release the flavors. Secondly you need to take into consideration is what you are using to grind the coffee. If you have a blade grinder, be careful that all the grounds may not be even and the blade could creates some heat or friction that starts breaking down the coffee and releasing the flavors before the coffee has even been brewed.

I myself, stock both in my home and which one I use depends on the situation.  When I am short on time I whip up one of my favorite ground coffee flavors like hazelnut {YUM!}.  When I have more time on my hands to properly prepare a whole bean coffee, I am never disappointed by it. Do you think that you could tell the difference between a cup o’joe that was made from pre-packaged coffee grounds or from freshly ground beans? Are you #TeamGround or #TeamBean? :-)

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Coffee 101 – Food and Coffee Complements

Coffee & Food PairingsIt’s more popular to have a discussion on food and wine pairings, but not so common to think of food and coffee parings! I’m not merely saying what foods coffee tastes good with, I’m talking about getting into the nitty-gritty of what specific coffee is good with what specific foods.  In the end, everyone has their own favorite coffee & food combos but here is a basic guide of coffee to food pairings based on the way they complement one another.

Let’s start with one of my favorite meals of the day – breakfast.  Depending on how much time I have in the morning often guides what I am going to have for breakfast. Luckily I can save loads of time when it comes to my coffee decision thanks to the ease and speed of k-cups, pods and freshpacks. I just need to decide what I am going to eat so I can pop the right pairing in my single-serve brewer. For example, simple breakfasts like toast or cereal are a good pair with a light or medium roast Colombian coffee because of their grains. Pancakes and syrup pair up nice with a Kona coffee to help supplement the sweet flavors. Eggs and bacon go nicely with a medium roast but if you got creative and made an omelet, then you may have to think twice. Omelets typically need a coffee that can handle all of the full flavors like a Sumatra coffee can. Or, you can just skip the food entirely and enjoy a nice breakfast blend or even coffees that have a glazed donut or cinnamon roll flavor.

A good pairing of food and coffee doesn’t have to stop at breakfast. There are plenty of other pairings throughout the day. A Kenyan coffee is a good pair for things that are fruity, such as most berries, fruity scones, or banana bread. There is one fruit in particular that really brings out a great pair with Jamaican coffee…blueberries! Just like at breakfast time, a Kona coffee with a maple or raisin scone or oatmeal raisin cookies pairs nicely.  You can begin to see a theme between flavors and coffees no matter what time of day.

Now to the most important food – chocolate!  :-)  Everything goes great with chocolate, including coffee. If we’re talking about dessert after dinner, just be careful with that late night caffeine. Brownies, chocolate cake, chocolate dipped fruit, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate all have a great coffee pair for your after meal sweet tooth. Much of the chocolate scale is covered by a nice dark roast Guatemalan coffee, this includes brownies, chocolate cake, and dark chocolate. These usually have a very chocolatey flavor and go well with a coffee that can back that up. White chocolate, on the other hand, is a lighter on the chocolate flavor so a Colombian coffee is a good match. For the fruity flavors of chocolate covered strawberries, similar rules apply as regular fruit. The Kenyan and African coffees are a great compliment to this dish because of their winey (find this term in the next Coffee 101 Series) and fruit like flavors. And then comes my simple favorite, milk chocolate. The easiest of all to pair a coffee to as nearly any coffee will do.

This basic guide is a great start but there is so much room to be creative!  Have a pair that I didn’t mention? I am always looking to try more, so please share! I look forward to hearing what you have in mind.