Here is an excerpt from an ebook we wrote about coffee: its origins, how it is harvested, the impact of roasting on flavour and aroma, the best way to prepare it, and what is meant by "single estate," "fair trade," and other designations seen at the average coffee shop.
Chapter Four: Getting the Beans from Tree to Cup
How do the bright red cherries of the arabica tree become the small brown beans we grind for our morning brew? Here is a quick overview of a process that is, in reality, quite long and laborious.
Harvesting can be done by machine or by hand. Because coffee cherries ripen at different times, even on the same tree, machine harvesting can result in many unripe cherries being picked. The harvesting is faster, but the quality is poorer. For that reason--and the fact that many coffee trees grow at high altitudes on steep slopes where machines cannot be used-- hand-picking is the preferred method of harvesting. Pickers carefully select ripe cherries to ensure the best quality beans: too green and the beans may have a sour taste; too ripe and the bean may be past its prime and even close to rotting.
On average, a coffee tree produces about 2.2-4.4 kg (1-2 pounds) of roasted coffee beans annually. Kicking Horse Coffee presents the numbers in a more relatable way: a 2-cup-a-day coffee drinker consumes the annual harvest of 18 coffee trees.
Each coffee cherry contains only two beans. (The anomalies that contain only one bean are called “peaberries.”) According to Kicking Horse, it takes 2,000 cherries (11 kg/5 lbs) to make 2.2 kg (1 lb) of roasted coffee, and a “good” picker can between 220-880 kg (100 and 400 lbs) per day. After picking, beans must be sorted by hand or, if a grower’s budget allows, a flotation tank. (Ripe beans sink to the bottom making for faster sorting.)
The bottom line? Coffee harvesting is exacting and difficult work. (Labour is a big part of production costs. More on that in the Fair Trade section.)
Extracting the Bean
Coffee cherries consist of several layers: outer skin, mucilage, parchment skin, silver skin and, finally, the two beans. Getting to the beans is not exactly easy. Once the fruit is removed, the beans must be dried to a moisture content of about 11-12%. There are two main types of processing involved in removing the fruit from the bean: wet and dry.
When coffee beans leave the farm, they don’t have the rich, brown colour we all know and love. They are green, as shown here. Green coffee beans have virtually no aroma and a bitter taste.
Roasting transforms the green beans, infusing them with their highly recognizable aroma and various flavours. Generally, lighter roasts preserve the acidity along with the herb and fruit notes, while darker roasts have more smoky flavours and lower acidity. (Coffee & Health) Roasting also changes the colour of the beans and brings out some of the natural oils.
You can parse the list of roasts in many ways--Coffee Cuppers has nine categories on its site--but the basic divisions are light, medium, and dark. Each roast has typical characteristics:
As with any food that is cooked, the roasting process causes a number of chemical reactions in coffee beans. There are five main stages, outlined in The World Atlas of Coffee:
After roasting, the beans are quenched, or cooled, to ensure the roasting process is abruptly stopped. Without this step, the heat within the beans could continue to “cook” them, potentially changing the flavour and aroma and imbuing the coffee with an off-taste.
The roasting process can result in the creation of over 800 volatile aromatic compounds--more than are found in wine. Each cup of coffee will have only a small number of these compounds, but they still pack a punch. As James Hoffman notes, “...the smell of freshly roasted coffee is so complex that all attempts to manufacture a realistic, synthetic version of this smell have failed.”
Further Viewing. For an interesting view of the roasting process, watch Roasted, a short video that places a camera inside a coffee roaster. (FYI: The video also promotes GoPro cameras.)
We wrote this post for Spark Innovations, a Toronto-based industrial design firm. This is a post intended to draw people looking for industrial design services, so it is focused on certain keywords. We put a different spin on the topic of industrial design by talking about five key concepts. With that angle, the post answers readers' questions about industrial design and highlights Spark's expertise. It also gave us a chance to use the Milton Glaser quote about design--it's one of our favourites!
What is industrial design? Toronto’s Spark Innovations has the answer. We’ve been in this business since 1989 so we are experts. In this post, we’ll explain the five key concepts of industrial design, providing essential knowledge for inventors looking to transform an idea into a physical product.
You already have an idea, but we can refine it into a marketable product. Product development involves working closely with you to learn all we can about your invention. Then—to use a sports metaphor—we take the ball and run with it. We’ll conduct detailed research into the marketplace to ensure we create a usable product that appeals to the consumer you are hoping to reach. In this phase we use CAD modelling and sketches to create initial design drawings that allow us to fine tune the product concept.
Your product won’t sell if it’s hard to use. We examine the ergonomics of your invention to ensure it will be comfortable, safe, and functional for the target consumer.
Famed graphic designer Milton Glaser once said: “There are three responses to a piece of design—yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” In other words, appearance matters. In fact, the aesthetics of your design are a critical part of its marketing: if it looks good, it is more likely to get attention in a crowded marketplace. We use sketches, 3D modelling, and computer surface modelling to enhance the aesthetics of your product and improve your chances of success once it hits store shelves.
Before any prototyping can be done, we need to iron out any wrinkles in your design. We do this through virtual models and rigorous testing. You may have heard of Catia and SolidWorks. These are the software programs we use to create accurate virtual models that can undergo virtual tests, like stress analysis and materials suitability. Once we are sure of the integrity of the product to this point, we can begin making it into something tangible.
3D Models and Prototyping
How can you really gauge the quality and utility of your product? By holding it in your hands. We use our state-of-the-art 3D printer to create real-life models of your invention. Working with you, we use this 3D model to evaluate the function, aesthetics, and ergonomics of your design before moving onto production.
Ready to get started with our industrial design team? Contact us today for a free consultation and make your idea happen!
Light bulb image from Creative Commons.
Blog posts aren't always about SEO or page views. There are times when you have something on your mind you want to share. We wrote this post on a sunny summer Friday to remind people to enjoy their weekend downtime.
How often do you let your mind wander?
In this age of short deadlines and overextended schedules where there is considerable cachet attached to being busy, few people leave themselves time to do nothing.
Yes, some will take a break from work and do some leisurely reading, tidy up the house, or catch up on the news. But how many of us actually allow ourselves the luxury of kicking back and staring off into space, or taking a casual stroll to a beautiful place to enjoy the quiet? No devices. No information to absorb. No pressure. Just a time to quiet the mind and shut out the noise of everyday life.
I am certainly not the first person to discuss the value of mental downtime, but I was reminded of its importance today as I shared a quote from author J.R.R. Tolkien on our social media channels:
“Not all who wander are lost.”
Indeed. Those who take even a few minutes each day to free their minds will find the break rejuvenating and extremely valuable.
As a writer, I also find that inspiration strikes in these quiet moments. I discover the right wording for passages I had struggled with or come up with a new way to present an idea. On an average workday, there is just too much mental clutter in the way of clear thought, so letting my mind wander actually brings insight that I might never have arrived at without those precious few minutes of silence. As a businessperson, you may very well have the same experience.
A Friday afternoon in the summer seems the ideal time for a post about doing nothing. Here’s hoping that we can all find some time this weekend to wander and let our minds unwind.
We wrote this post for Vintage Home Boutique (VHB), a retailer of mid-century modern furniture. Instead of a direct "we sell couches" message, this post provides people with information they can share in idle conversation, as in: "Guess what I read today...". It also shows that VHB's owners take an interest in all aspects of the products they sell, including the history of the terms used to describe them.
Watching movies, catching a nap, curled up reading. You do all of these things on a couch. Or is it a sofa? A chesterfield?
What you call that particular piece of furniture may depend on where you live: Britons prefer “sofa,” Americans like “couch,” and Canadians tend toward “couch,” with “chesterfield” still used occasionally. (At VHB, we side with the Brits.)
While the three terms are considered synonymous, some will argue that there are distinct points of difference between them.
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines a couch as “an upholstered piece of furniture for several people; a sofa.”
But is a sofa a couch? Not really. The words are often used interchangeably but they are not technically the same. The etymology of the words gives the first clues as to their differences. The word “couch” stems from the Old French word “coucher,” which means to lie down or sleep. The word sofa comes from the Arabic word “suffa” which refers to a long bench covered with cushions used for seating.
The first couches were used primarily for resting and had either no arms or a single arm. Think of the “fainting couch” used by Victorian women, lightheaded from being cinched tightly into corsets as was the fashion of the day. Couches also tend to have tapered backs and may more closely resemble what we now know as divans or chaises. Sofas, on the other hand, have two arms and a uniform back. They are typically larger and designed to seat more people. (We found this information on eBay of all places.)
And what, exactly, is a chesterfield? It is closer in form to a sofa, although the word is also used interchangeably with “couch.” Its dictionary definition describes it as a padded sofa with arms the same height as the back, while Entangled English specifies that a chesterfield has buttons and is often made of leather. The term is thought to be related to the Earl of Chesterfield, but there seems to be no definitive proof of that connection. Use of the word is more common in Canada than anywhere else, although it is a bit dated now.
No matter what you call that thing people sit on in their living rooms, you can find it at VHB. We have a wide selection of eco-friendly, custom sofas that can be tailored to your exact space and design aesthetic. Browse our offerings on our Custom Sofas page.