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A coffee bean is a seed of the coffee plant, and is the source for coffee. It is the pit inside the red or purple fruit often referred to as a cherry. Even though they are seeds, they are incorrectly referred to as 'beans' because of their resemblance to true beans. The fruits - coffee cherries or coffee berries - most commonly contain two stones with their flat sides together. A small percentage of cherries contain a single seed, instead of the usual two. This is called a peaberry. Like Brazil nuts (a seed) and white rice, coffee seeds consist mostly of endosperm.
The two most economically important varieties of coffee plant are the Arabica and the Robusta; 75-80% of the coffee produced worldwide is Arabica and 20% is Robusta. Arabica seeds consist of 0.8-1.4% caffeine and Robusta seeds consist of 1.7-4% caffeine. As coffee is one of the world's most widely consumed beverages, coffee seeds are a major cash crop, and an important export product, counting for over 50% of some developing nations' foreign exchange earnings. The United States imports more coffee than any other nation. The per capita consumption of coffee in the United States in 2011 was 4.24 kg (9 lbs), and the value of coffee imported exceeded $8 billion.
Cultivation of the coffee seed originated in Ethiopia, in approximately 850 A.D..
The Americas were first introduced to the plants around 1723.
South America is now responsible for approximately 45% of the world's total coffee exports. Most of this coffee is grown in Brazil.
- First cultivation in Europe (also first cultivation outside of east Africa/Arabia) - 1616
- First cultivation in India (Malabar) - late 1600s
- First cultivation in Java - 1699
- First cultivation in Caribbean (Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico) – 1715–1730
- First cultivation in South America – 1730
- First cultivation in Dutch East Indies – 1720
- Roasted seeds first sold on retail market (Pittsburgh) – 1865
- Important spray-drying techniques developed in 1950s
The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that the European languages generally appear to have got the name from Turkish kahveh, about 1600, perhaps through Italian caffè. Arab qahwah, in Turkish pronounced kahveh, the name of the infusion or beverage; said by Arab lexicographers to have originally meant ‘wine’ or some type of wine, and to be a derivative of a verb-root qahiya ‘to have no appetite.’ Some have conjectured that it is a foreign, perhaps African, word disguised, and have thought it connected with the name of Kaffa in the south Abyssinian highlands, where the plant appears to be native. But of this there is no evidence, and the name qahwah is not given to the berry or plant, which is called bunn, the native name in Shoa being bunna'.
The coffee tree averages from 5–10 m (16–33 ft) in height. As the tree gets older, it branches less and less and bears more leaves and fruit. The tree typically begins to bear fruit 3–4 years after being planted, and continues to produce for 10–20 more years, depending on the type of plant and the area.
Coffee plants are grown in rows several feet apart. Some farmers plant fruit trees around them or plant the coffee on the sides of hills, because they need specific conditions to flourish. Ideally, Arabica coffee seeds are grown at temperatures between 15–24 °C (59–75 °F) and Robusta at 24–30 °C (75–86 °F) and receive between 15–30 cm (5.9–12 in) of rainfall per year. Heavy rain is needed in the beginning of the season when the fruit is developing, and less later in the season as it ripens. The harvesting period can be anywhere from three weeks to three months, and in some places the harvesting period continues all year round.
When the fruit is ripe, it is almost always handpicked, using either "selective picking", where only the ripe fruit is removed this also gives the growers reason to give their blend of origin a certain Spec called OCR (operation Cherry red) or "strip-picking", where all of the fruit is removed from a branch all at once. Because a tree can have both ripe and unripe berries at the same time, one area of crop has to be picked several times, making harvesting the most labor intensive process of coffee bean production.
There are two methods of processing the coffee berries. The first method is "wet processing", which is usually carried out in Central America and areas of Africa. The flesh of the berries is separated from the seeds and then the seeds are fermented – soaked in water for about two days. This dissolves any pulp or sticky residue that may still be attached to the seeds. They are then washed and dried in the sun, or, in the case of commercial manufacturers, in drying machines.
The "dry processing" method is cheaper and simpler, used for lower quality seeds in Brazil and much of Africa. Twigs and other foreign objects are separated from the berries and the fruit is then spread out in the sun on concrete or brick for 2–3 weeks, turned regularly for even drying. The dried pulp is removed from the seeds afterward.
After processing has taken place, the husks are removed and the seeds are roasted, which gives them their varying brown color, and they can then be sorted for bagging.
Content of green coffee seeds
The term “green coffee seed” refers to unroasted mature or immature coffee seeds. These have been processed by wet or dry methods for removing the outer pulp and mucilage, and have an intact wax layer on the outer surface. When immature, they are green. When mature, they have a brown to yellow or reddish color, and typically weigh 300 to 330 mg per dried coffee seed. Nonvolatile and volatile compounds in green coffee seeds, such as caffeine, deter many insects and animals from eating them. Further, both nonvolatile and volatile compounds contribute to the flavor of the coffee seed when it is roasted. Nonvolatile nitrogenous compounds (including alkaloids, trigonelline, proteins and free amino acids) and carbohydrates are of major importance in producing the full aroma of roasted coffee, and for its biological action.
Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethyl-xanthine) is the alkaloid most present in green and roasted coffee seeds. The content of caffeine is between 1.0% and 2.5% by weight of dry green coffee seeds. The content of caffeine does not change during maturation of green coffee seeds. Lower concentrations of theophylline, theobromine, paraxanthine, liberine, and methylliberine can be found. The concentration of theophylline, an alkaloid noted for its presence in green tea, is reduced during the roasting process, usually about 15 minutes at 230 °C (446 °F), whereas the concentration of most other alkaloids are not changed. The solubility of caffeine in water increases with temperature and with the addition of chlorogenic acids, citric acid, or tartaric acid, all of which are present in green coffee seeds. For example, 1 g (0.035 oz) caffeine dissolves in 46 ml (1.6 US fl oz) of water at room temperature, and 5.5 ml (0.19 US fl oz) at 80 °C (176 °F). The xanthine alkaloids are odorless, but have a bitter taste in water, which is masked by organic acids present in green coffee, however.
Trigonelline (N-methyl-nicotinate) is a derivative of vitamin B6 that is not as bitter as caffeine. In green coffee seeds, the content is between 0.6% and 1.0%. At a roasting temperature of 230 °C (446 °F), 85% of the trigonelline is degraded to nicotinic acid, leaving small amounts of the unchanged molecule in the roasted seeds. In green coffee seeds, trigonelline is synthesized from nicotinic acid (pyridinium-3-carboxylic acid) by methylation from methionine, a sulfur-containing amino acid. Mutagenic activity of trigonelline has been reported.
Proteins and amino acids
Proteins account for 8% to 12% of dried green coffee seeds.A majority of the proteins are of the of 11-S-storage kind  (alpha - component of 32 kDa, beta – component of 22 kDa), most of which are degraded to free amino acids during maturation of green coffee seeds. Further, 11-S-storage proteins are degraded to their individual amino acids under roasting temperature and are thus an additional source of bitter components due to generation of Maillard reaction products. High temperature, oxygen concentration and low pH degrade 11-S-storage proteins of green coffee seeds to low molecular weight peptides and amino acids. The degradation is accelerated in the presence of organic acids such as chlorogenic acids and their derivatives. Other proteins include enzymes, such as catalase and polyphenol oxidase, which are important for the maturation of green coffee seeds. Mature coffee contains free amino acids (4.0 mg amino acid/g robusta coffee and up to 4.5 mg amino acid/g arabica coffee). In Coffea arabica, alanine is the amino acid with the highest concentration, i.e. 1.2 mg/g, followed by asparagine of 0.66 mg/g, whereas in C. robusta, alanine is present at a concentration of 0.8 mg/g and asparagine at 0.36 mg/g. The free hydrophobic amino acids in fresh green coffee seeds contribute to the unpleasant taste, making it impossible to prepare a desirable beverage with such compounds. In fresh green coffee from Peru, these concentrations have been determined as follows: isoleucine 81 mg/kg, leucine 100 mg/kg, valine 93 mg/kg, tyrosine 81 mg/kg, phenylalanine 133 mg/kg. The concentration of gamma-aminobutyric acid (a neurotransmitter) has been determined between 143 mg/kg and 703 mg/kg in green coffee seeds from Tanzania. Roasted coffee seeds do not contain any free amino acids, the amino acids in green coffee seeds are degraded under roasting temperature to Maillard products (reaction products between the aldehyde group of sugar and the alpha-amino-group of the amino acids). Further, diketopiperazines, e.g. cyclo(proline-proline), cyclo(proline-leucine), and cyclo(proline-isoleucine), are generated from the corresponding amino acids, and are the major source of the bitter taste of roasted coffee. The bitter flavor of diketopiperazines is perceptible at around 20 mg/liter of water. The content of diketopiperazines in espresso is about 20 mg to 30 mg, which is responsible for its bitterness.
Carbohydrates make up about 50% of the dry weight of green coffee seeds. The carbohydrate fraction of green coffee is dominated by polysaccharides, such as arabinogalactan, galactomannan and cellulose, contributing to the tasteless flavor of green coffee. Arabinogalactan makes up to 17% of dry weight of green coffee seeds, with a molecular weight of 90 kDa to 200 kDa. It is composed of beta-1-3-linked galactan main chains, with frequent members of arabinose (pentose) and galactose (hexose) residues at the side chains comprising immunomodulating properties by stimulating the cellular defense system (Th-1 response) of the body. Mature brown to yellow coffee seeds contain fewer residues of galactose and arabinose at the side chain of the polysaccharides, making the green coffee seed more resistant to physical breakdown and less soluble in water. The molecular weight of the arabiniogalactan in coffee is higher than in most other plants, improving the cellular defense system of the digestive tract compared to arabinogalactan with lower molecular weight. Free monosaccharides are present in mature brown to yellow-green coffee seeds. The free part of monosaccharides contains sucrose (gluco-fructose) up to 9000 mg/100g of arabica green coffee seed, a lower amount in robustas, i.e. 4500 mg/100g. In arabica green coffee seeds, the content of free glucose was 30 to 38 mg/100g, free fructose 23 to 30 mg/100g; free galactose 35 mg/100g and mannitol 50 mg/100g dried coffee seeds, respectively. Mannitol is a powerful scavenger for hydroxyl radicals, which are generated during the peroxidation of lipids in biological membranes.
The lipids found in green coffee include: linoleic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid, arachidic acid, diterpenes, triglycerides, unsaturated long-chain fatty acids, esters and amides. The total content of lipids in dried green coffee is between 11.7 g and 14 g / 100 g. Lipids are present on the surface and in the interior matrix of green coffee seeds. On the surface, they include derivatives of carboxylic acid-5-hydroxytryptamides with an amide bond to fatty acids (unsaturated C6 to C24) making up to 3% of total lipid content or 1200 to 1400 microgram/g dried green coffee seed. Such compounds form a wax-like cover on the surface of the coffee seed (200 to 300 mg lipids/100 g dried green coffee seeds) protecting the interior matrix against oxidation and insects. Further, such molecules have antioxidative activity due to their chemical structure. Lipids of the interior tissue are triglycerides, linoleic acid (46% of total free lipids), palmitic acid (30% to 35% of total free lipids), and esters. Arabica seeds have a higher content of lipids (13.5 to 17.4 g lipids/100 g dried green coffee seeds) than robustas (9.8 to 10.7 g lipids/100 g dried green coffee seeds). The content of diterpenes is about 20% of the lipid fraction. The diterpenes found in green coffee include cafestol, kahweol, 16-O-methylcafestol, cafestal and kahweal. Some of these diterpenes have been shown in in vitro experiments to protect liver tissue against chemical oxidation. In coffee oil from green coffee seeds the diterpenes are esterified with saturated long chain fatty acids.
Nonvolatile chlorogenic acids
Chlorogenic acids belong to a group of compounds known as phenolic acids, which are antioxidants. The content of chlorogenic acids in dried green coffee seeds of robusta is 65 mg/g and of arabica 140 mg/g, depending on the timing of harvesting. At roasting temperature, more than 70% of chlorogenic acids are destroyed, leaving a residue of less than 30 mg/g in the roasted coffee seed. In contrast to green coffee, green tea contains an average of 85 mg/g polyphenols. These chlorogenic acids could be a valuable, inexpensive source of antioxidants. Chlorogenic acids are homologous compounds comprising caffeic acid, ferulic acid and 3,4-dimethoxycinnamic acid, which are connected by an ester bond to the hydroxyl groups of quinic acid. The antioxidant capacity of chlorogenic acid is more potent than of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or mannitol, which is a selective hydroxy-radical scavenger. Chlorogenic acids have a bitter taste in low concentrations such as 50 mg/L water. At higher concentrations of 1 g/L water, they have a sour taste. Chlorogenic acids increase the solubility of caffeine and are important modulators of taste.
Volatile compounds of green coffee seeds include short chain fatty acids, aldehydes, and nitrogen-containing aromatic molecules, such as derivatives of pyrazines (green-herbeaceous-earthy odor). Briefly, such volatile compounds are responsible for the unpleasant odor and taste of green coffee, and are capable of causing nausea and vomiting upon inhaling of the odor of ground green coffee seeds or ingestion of a beverage made by pulverised green coffee seeds. Due to this nauseating odor, green coffee seeds have never been used by themselves for the preparation of a refreshing beverage; such a beverage would cause vomiting, although green coffee seeds contain the same amount of caffeine as roasted coffee. When green coffee seeds are roasted, other molecules with the typical pleasant aroma of coffee are generated, which are not present in fresh green coffee. During roasting, the major part of the unpleasant tasting volatile compounds are neutralised. Unfortunately, other important molecules such as antioxidants and vitamins present in green coffee are destroyed. Volatile compounds with nauseating odor for humans have been identified, including acetic acid (pungent, unpleasant odor), propionic acid (odor of sour milk, or butter), butanoic acid (odor of rancid butter, present in green coffee with 2 mg/100 g coffee seeds), pentanoic acid (unpleasant fruity flavor, present in green coffee at 40 mg/100 g in coffee seeds), hexanoic acid (fatty-rancid odor), heptanoic acid (fatty odor), octanoic acid (repulsive oily rancid odor); nonanoic acid (mild nut-like fatty odor); decanoic acid (sour repulsive odor), and derivatives of such fatty acids - 3-methyl-valeric acid (sour, green-herbaceous, unpleasant odor), acetaldehyde (pungent-nauseating odor, even when highly diluted, present in dried green coffee seeds at concentrations of about 5 mg/kg), propanal (choking effect on respiratory system, penetrating-nauseating), butanal (nauseating effect, present in dried green coffee seeds at 2 to 7 mg/kg), or pentanal (very repulsive nauseating effect).
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