THE ESPRESSO BLEND

Literally, "espresso" means anything "made on the spot for someone who orders it", but applied to coffee it has changed from adjective to noun. It is the result of a chemical, physical, and technological "miracle" which makes it possible to get the very best out of coffee. Professionally prepared espresso is at once sugars, caffeine and proteins in solution, emulsion of oils and colloids, and coffee particles in suspension along with tiny gas bubbles -all packed into 30 cubic centimeters and topped with a rich, brown froth. The concentration of aromas and the density distinguishes espresso from any other type of prepared coffee. Sight (the cream-like froth or "crema" whets the tastebuds) and sense of smell both play a primary role in the final judgement, allowing appreciation of the strength and assortment of flavors made up of over 600 chemical components and differently combined in each of the various blends. Smell and taste then merge into one.

"Body" -that dense, velvet intensity peculiar to an espresso- is perceived by tongue and mouth thanks to the presence of oils and colloids. The perfection of an espresso depends on the thickness of the "crema" (froth) which keeps both heat and aroma in during the brief moment between preparation and consumption.

The best blends are produced by mixing several types of coffee from different parts of the World. Their various properties and characteristics combine to give a balance of flavour and aroma and to bring out the best in each other. Blends specifically designed for use on espresso machines are typically medium to dark-roasted, and may contain varietals from 5, 6, or more countries of origin.

Blends of pure Arabicas - from a variety of sources - tend to be milder and more aromatic, while blends of Arabicas and Robustas have more body and a stronger flavour.

While the concentration of caffeine is high (extraction is around 80-85%), a good espresso will NOT contain any more caffeine than other filtered coffees, chiefly because the contact-time between water and coffee is much shorter (20 to 30 seconds).

Lavazza has created a range of blended coffees perfected by experts whose sense of smell and taste are highly developed. It is they who, calling on their many years of experience, determine the exact proportions of each blend.

Since coffee beans are packed immediately after roasting, carbon dioxide produced in the roasting process (representing 90% of the gases formed this way) diffuses into the empty spaces inside the pack and builds up pressure that could result in the bag bursting. To avoid this, a valve is bonded in the bag, which lets CO2 escape but prevents oxigen from entering.

Roasted coffee is perishable and should be kept from coming into contact with light, moisture and above all, oxygen that exists in the atmosphere. The substances which give the beans their flavor and aroma are volatile, and any deterioration in these properties can be traced to prolonged contact between the essential oils of the coffee and either light or oxygen. When this happens, oxidation occurs, releasing unpleasant, rancid odors that overpower coffee's natural pleasant aroma.


Two Cups

DECAFFEINATED COFFEE

Many of the effects coffee has on our bodily functions are due mainly to the caffeine in it. A small cup of coffee contains betweeen 50 and 150 milligrams of this alkaloid, depending on the type of coffee and how it is prepared. In an effort to avoid certain effects that were once believed to be caused solely by caffeine, research was undertaken to find ways of removing it from coffee beans. A scientist named Ludwig Raselius had the idea of using steam to make the beans porous. The caffeine released through this porosity would then be easy to extract using organic solvents.

It should be noted here that the term "decaffeinated" is strictly legislated to ensure compliance with a number of legal stipulations. These specify the percentage of caffeine permissible in both green coffee and resulting brew. Every method of decaffeination must conform to EEC provisions which specify that the caffeine must be reduced to less than 0.1% in raw coffees and less than 0.3% in the drink.

DECAFFEINATION METHODS

There are three decaffeination methods commonly used by the coffee industry. They are conventionally named according to the means used in the process:

  • Water (aka "Swiss" method)
  • Pressurized gas (Carbon dioxide)
  • Organic solvents
  • a) Decaffeination using water

    This is the method chosen by Lavazza to decaffeinate its Dek and Caffe' Decaffeinato blends, both ground and whole beans. It is based on the natural capacity of water to solubilize caffeine. Water, however, acts non-selectively on the raw coffee, extracting all of the soluble components as well, like the aromas.

    Nonetheless, it does not alter the characteristics of the bean. A sophisticated technological process makes it possible to return the extracted aromas to the coffee in a subsequent phase, once the caffeine has been eliminated, thus giving it back most of its original flavors and aromas.

    The advantages of this very innovative method are:

    • The coffee comes into contact with water only;
    • The richness of aromas and flavors in the blend is not much altered.

    b) Decaffeination using pressurized carbon dioxide

    During the CO2 decaffeination process the raw coffee beans are moistened with steam and water and put into an extractor in contact with the gas in supercritical condition (in simple words, a condition in which the temperature and pressure reached are such that the CO2 takes on the characteristics of a liquid as well as a gas). The carbon dioxide in supercritical condition acts as a selective solvent for caffeine, thus making it extractable.

    c) Decaffeination using a solvent

    This method is no longer widely used, following health concern issues raised a few years ago. Certain organic solvents which are selective for caffeine are used. The raw coffee beans are moistened with steam to make their surface more permeable so that the caffeine can be extracted more easily when the solvent comes into contact with the coffee.

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