What makes good coffee?

What is good coffee and how does coffee get to be good?

Coffee, the Agricultural Product

The first thing to know is that coffee is an agricultural product. Handling and freshness matter a lot. In case you did not know, the coffee “bean” is actually the seed of a fruit that grows on a coffee tree. As a green unroasted bean, it has a limited shelf life (up to about a year). After roasting, the clock is really ticking and time is even more critical!

This is a big reason it is hard to get good coffee – it is hard for coffee roasters to get it to you fresh. Ideally you should drink roasted coffee within two weeks of roasting.

Coffee, the Labor

A lot of work goes into producing coffee of any quality and much of this labor is done by hand; from cultivating the trees to the processing of the seeds. To grow and prepare the best coffees takes many added steps along the way to ensure the best, most consistent product.

Coffee, the Journey

Once coffee is prepared at origin (where it grows) the clock starts. The beans are bagged, trekked out of the mountains where they grew, to a sea port. This is a nontrivial journey in some part of the world. For example, Yemen, which is in the midst of a civil war… Eventually the coffee will arrive by ship at a domestic port, then to a distributor, then finally the roaster. The roaster needs to sample the coffee, develop a roasting process to bring out the coffee’s best qualities and finally production can begin.

Each coffee bean truly has a story to tell.

Coffee, the Art

Can we say coffee is good objectively? After all, there are so many different types of coffees in the world and many ways to roast them, aren’t these just different styles? And each coffee drinker has their own sense of taste and experience tasting which go into what they think of the coffee they are drinking. Doesn’t this make it all terribly subjective?

Yes, of course. If you think it is good, then it is good. However, there is a range of “good” that most experienced coffee drinkers agree is good even if it is not to everyone individual’s specific taste.

Different roasters have their preferences and styles. As long as they are producing the coffee they want and using decent quality coffee beans to start, then, yes, let’s call that good.

Coffee, in Your Cup

Now it is your turn. There are many ways to brew coffee and as long as you do a decent job, you are going to have some good coffee.