Here are the astounding and insightful answers to some of our most Frequently Asked Questions:
1) How can I make the perfect cup of coffee?
* Start with good quality beans
* Grind the beans just before brewing
* Use the proper grind for your brewing equipment (see question 3)
* Make sure that your brewing equipment is clean, i.e., free of residue, thoroughly washed and rinsed.
* Use clean filtered water
* Use the right amount of ground coffee. We prefer 1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons per 6 oz. Cup.
* Brewing temperature and time is important; water temperature should be around 195 - 205 deg. F, and it should take around three to five minutes to brew 8 - 10 cups.
2) How can I keep my Maui Island Coffee fresh?
Green (unroasted) coffee beans can be kept for years without any appreciable change in flavor. Once coffee is roasted, however, it immediately begins to lose its freshness and flavor. There are three primary contributors to roasted coffee becoming stale: Air (oxygen), Light (UV radiation), and moisture. Stored appropriately, your coffee can be enjoyed for weeks and even months to come.
Here are some tips for keeping your Maui Island Coffee fresh and tasty:
* Store the coffee in an airtight container (preferably glass or stainless steel)
* Store the coffee in a dark, cool, and dry location
* Do not store the coffee in an open container next to other foods, as the coffee will tend to absorb other flavors.
3) What is the proper grind?
The proper grind depends on the brewing method. The objective is get the water into contact with the ground coffee surface for just enough time to extract the tasty, soluble flavor components. If the grind is too fine, then the water will reside too long in contact with the coffee, resulting in a bitter, overextracted brew. If the grind is too coarse, then the brew will be weak and watery. For most drip coffee makers a medium grind is best, about the consistency of cornmeal. For a French Press a coarser grind is desired. For espresso a very fine grind, almost powdered, is used.
4) What's the big deal, coffee is coffee, isn't it?
Sure, the same as wine is just squished grapes. We prefer to believe that each coffee bean holds within itself a unique and complex mix of flavor, waiting to be released. The flavor that is ultimately released from the bean depends on the coffee species, variety, grade, roast, and method of brewing.
Species: There are many different species of coffee, but only one, Coffea Arabica, is the source of the world's best coffees. All of the Hawaiian grown coffees descend from coffea arabica plants, brought to the islands from Rio de Jainero (see our History page). The arabica plant produces a large flat bean, that attains a superb aroma and superior taste.
Variety: Coffee varieties are named for the country, or region, from which they originate. The Hawaiian coffees comprise the only variety of coffee grown in the United States; of this variety, those grown in the Kona region on the big Island of Hawaii are the undisputed best. The same species of coffee plant, grown in two separate regions (or even grown in the same region but a few miles apart) can have distinctly different tastes; much the same as grapes from the Sauvignon region of France will have a distinctly different flavor than their descendants grown in California. The volcanic hillsides of the Hawaiian Islands have almost ideal conditions for growing coffea arabica: just the right mix of rain, sun, slope, shade,soil, altitude, and temperature conditions.
Grade: Hawaiian coffees are graded, in order of quality, Extra Fancy, Fancy, Ones, Prime, and Threes. At Maui Island Coffee, we use only the top two grades of coffee beans in order to bring you a superior cup of coffee. We also offer the Kona peaberry, where a single bean is found inside the coffee cherry, rather than the usual two split beans. Peaberry represents less than 5% of the entire Kona crop, thus is very rare. The peaberry presents the body and flavor of the Kona coffee with a greater intensity than can be found in the regular bean.
Roast: The manner and degree to which a good coffee is roasted can make, or break, the exotic flavor of the bean. As the green coffee bean is roasted, it undergoes physical and chemical changes. The bean swells to around twice its original size, the color changes, and the natural oils inside the bean begin to migrate toward the surface. The degree to which a coffee is roasted has a significant impact on the resulting taste of the coffee brew. (See question 8, below).
Brewing method: For the optimum flavor, it is important to extract just the right amount of soluble flavor material from the beans. This extraction depends on the grind, on the time that the water is in contact with the ground coffee, and on the temperature of the water. Ideally, only about 20% of the content of the bean should be released into the brew; any more than that and the coffee will be bitter (overextracted), any less and the coffee will be weak and watery (underextracted). The formula for good drip coffee is straight forward: good freshly roasted beans, good water, grind to the consistency of cornmeal, water temperature around 195 - 205 deg. F, correct ratio of coffee to water (1.5 - 2 tablespoons/6 oz. Cup), and a brewing time of 3 - 5 minutes.
5) What is the difference between brewed coffee and espresso?
Brewed coffee extracts the flavor from the bean by hot water (at atmospheric pressure) contacting the grounds, and gradually carrying away the flavors over a brewing time of approximately 3 to 6 minutes. Espresso extracts the flavors by hot water under pressure (around 130 psig, or about nine times atmospheric pressure) forced through finely ground coffee over 20 to 30 seconds. Where regular brewing produces a 6 ounce cup of complex tastes, espresso produces a one ounce concentrated shot, where every attribute of the coffee is amplified a hundred fold. When extracted correctly, espresso can yield a silky, golden, and exotic adventure for the taste buds. But when done wrong, espresso can accentuate the bitter and undesirable components of the coffee.
6) How do you know that your Kona coffee is 100% genuine?
All coffee that is grown in the state of Hawaii has to be certified by the state agriculture department before it can be sold on the open market. All of the Kona coffee that we buy has been tagged at the farm with the state seal of approval. We buy only coffee that has this seal. There are numerous small farms in the Kona region, but, through our roaster, we buy from only a select few. From the grower to the roaster to our stores, we have developed lasting relationships that assure only the highest quality Kona coffee is delivered to you.
7) How is your coffee decaffeinated?
Maui Island coffee is decaffeinated by what is known as the "Swiss Water" process. The components that give coffee its flavor are comprised of hundreds of complex water-soluble organic compounds. Among these is the odorless, slightly bitter alkaloid, caffeine (C8H10N4O2). In order to remove the caffeine, the beans are soaked in water until the flavor compounds and caffeine have dissolved and saturated the water. The beans are then discarded, and the caffeine is filtered out, leaving behind only the flavor compounds. New beans are then introduced into this saturated solution. Since the water is already saturated with the flavor compounds, only the caffeine migrates(diffuses) out of the new beans. The now decaffeinated coffee beans are removed, the caffeine is filtered out of the solution, and the process continues. This water process is preferred over chemical processes, because it is more environmentally friendly. Maui Island Coffee makes every effort to use environmentally friendly processes; for example, we use packaging and shipping materials made from recycled fibers.
8) What is the best coffee roast?
The manner in which a coffee is roasted can bring out the complexity of flavors, or obscure them. Lighter roasts enhance the acidity and varietal characteristics of a coffee, giving a bright clear taste. As the roast darkens, the body becomes fuller, and only the most distinct varietal characteristics remain; for the best coffees, this results in a complex and pleasing taste. At the darkest roasts, the coffee takes on a full bodied bittersweet richness. Coffee beans grown at higher altitudes are denser, and retain their distinct flavors at a darker roast; lower altitude coffees are better adapted to a lighter roast to bring out their body and characteristics. Ultimately, the best roast is the one that pleases your tastes; try a variety of roasts and see which you like the best.
1. The Coffee Companion, Jon Thorn, 1995 Quintet Publishing Limited
2. Coffee Basics, Kevin Knox and Julie Sheldon Huffaker, 1997 John Wiley and Sons
3. Home Coffee Roasting, Kenneth Davids, 1996 Kenneth Davids