The History of Coffee is steeped in legends
President: Mario CERUTTI - Luigi LAVAZZA S.p.A., Secretary: Gianni FORNI
Coffee is a drink obtained from the roasted and ground beans of a few species of the genus Coffea that belong to the family Rubiaceae, which consists of over 66 species of tropical plants. Two of these are universally known, cultivated and commercialised: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora, commonly known as Robusta coffee. Many basic ingredients are needed to make a good cup of coffee, but the first is of course the quality of the chosen blend. Arabica and Robusta – in different percentages – determine the character and flavour. Blending is the art of creating a harmonious product, the process of combining different types of coffee to create pleasing flavours and strength, while maintaining consistent quality.
What's in a cup of coffee?
A cup of coffee mostly consists of water, has a negligible number of calories and – if not decaffeinated – contains a molecule that contributes to its characteristic bitter note, but which above all is responsible for its stimulating effects: caffeine. Other components include polysaccharides (soluble fibre), acids (chlorogenic, quinic and citric), minerals (potassium and magnesium) and small amounts of lipids, proteins and trigonelline. Furthermore, it contains – albeit in small amounts – the very important volatile aromatic compounds, while the rest is made up of the so-called “unidentified constituents” (bitter compounds, melanoidins). It should be noted that the composition of the drink varies according to the blend, the degree of roasting and the production process.
The first coffee decaffeination process was invented in the early twentieth century by the German coffee merchant Ludwig Roselius, who then patented it. To produce decaffeinated coffee, the caffeine is removed from the green coffee beans, after which they undergo similar processes to those used for regular coffee. There are three different methods for decaffeinating coffee (see the website www.caffebenessere.it), all of which ensure highly selective extraction and do not affect the other substances that contribute to the quality of the coffee. All three methods guarantee the removal of 99.9% of the caffeine (the maximum level of caffeine allowed for decaffeinated coffee in the European Union is 0.1%). The decaffeinated coffee is then dried.
Coffee roasting is a process by which heat is applied to the coffee beans. A vital factor is creating the correct temperatures and being able to control them at the right time, then stopping the process when the aroma has fully developed and the coffee beans have a uniform colour. During the roasting process the green coffee beans gradually turn darker until they are brown, and they also become very crumbly. The aromatic character of a coffee is largely a result of the roasting process, and is determined by hundreds of chemical compounds belonging to various different classes.
Blending is a process that optimises the aroma, body, structure and flavour of the coffee, while delivering a consistent flavour profile. Most espresso blends are based on high-quality Brazilian Arabica coffee. This can be blended with African coffee beans to impart a winy or fruity component, or high-altitude Central American coffee to balance the acidity. Robusta coffee is used to add body and produce more crema in espresso coffees. Blending requires specialised expertise, in-depth knowledge of each coffee that is to be blended, and understanding of the flavour profile of the coffee being produced. There is a wide choice of ready-made blends on the market, in order to satisfy all consumer preferences and tastes.
Once the coffee has been roasted and blended, it is ready to be ground. The main objective of grinding is to increase how much of the coffee is actually in contact with the water in order to facilitate extraction, that is, the transfer of soluble and emulsifiable substances into the coffee. Depending on the extraction method, the grind can be fine, medium or coarse. The size of the particles in fact affects the extraction speed and, consequently, the final organoleptic characteristics of the beverage in the cup. The blends for espresso coffee must be ground very finely, thereby allowing the water to capture the maximum amount of aroma in just a few seconds. A medium grind is the most suitable for making coffee in a moka pot, while an Americano coffee requires a coarser grind that is able to retain the water for the amount of time necessary for the infusion.
Coffee by numbers
The volume of green coffee processed by Italian companies is approximately 9.2 million bags, down 1.45% compared to 2016, with sales totalling 3.9 billion euros in 2017, 1.35 billion euros (+ 3.3%) of which derived from exports.
In Italy, the annual per capita consumption of coffee in 2017 was 5.6 kg.