Beginner’s guide to coffee in FoCo

Sarah Ehrlich

For some people, particularly college students, coffee is considered its own food group.

Coffee, like beer or wine, is great to share among friends and has been developed into a variety of roasts and flavors.  One of the most common sources of caffeine has a long history and many different ways to drink it. 

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Coffee goes back centuries and its exact origin is still up for debate. One legend suggests a ninth century goat herder noticed when his animals ate coffee berries they began to dance and have high energy. The herder decided to put the berries in a drink and found it kept him up all night. Thus the first cup of coffee was born.

The bean to cup process is a rather long and difficult one. Coffee trees can take up to three or four years to produce a coffee cherry, where the coffee bean is found inside. The cherries are dried and the beans are harvested and dried before being exported around the world. From there, the green coffee beans are roasted and then ground to be brewed into our favorite drinks.

“How the coffee is prepared really dictates what kind of flavor profile it will have,“ said Aidan Lancaster, a coffee aficionado and employee of Alley Cat Café.   “Most of the coffee I personally enjoy comes from Southeast Asia and the volcanic islands there where the soil quality gives me that robust flavor I am looking for. Although you don’t need some expensive or fancy bean to enjoy good coffee, just as long as the bean is grounded correctly.”

There are over 100 types of coffee but the most widely produced are coffee Arabica and coffee Robusta. Arabica beans are more popular because they offer a sweeter, softer taste while Robusta has a more harsh and earthy taste. These beans are usually roasted into three different types: light, medium and dark.

Light: Most breakfast roasts fall into this category. These beans are lightly roasted, but contain the most caffeine and have high acidity.

Medium: This kind of roasts offers a more balanced and stronger flavor, but with a little less caffeine.

Dark: These beans are roasted the longest, leaving a strong and full-bodied flavor, with the least amount of caffeine.

“Students usually get the sweeter things here, but some just get espresso,” said Joseph Grenham, a fermentation science student and employee of Intermissions Coffee in the LSC. “With coffee, you can do whatever you want. If you change one small ingredient, you change the whole coffee experience. I also love the caffeine, of course.”

“Students usually get the sweeter things here, but some just get espresso,” said Joseph Grenham, a fermentation science student and employee of Intermissions Coffee in the LSC. “With coffee, you can do whatever you want. If you change one small ingredient, you change the whole coffee experience. I also love the caffeine, of course.”

a "honey buzz latte" from Alley Cat Cafe with a design in the steamed milk.
No matter how you take it, coffee has many health benefits. Here, Alley Cat Cafe employees make a simple latte into a little piece of foam art. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

Drip Coffee: This is the low and gentle extraction of coffee using hot water. This is the coffee you might be most familiar with and is the simplest to make with any coffee maker or Keurig.

Flavor: Expect a strong and fresh flavor. Depending on what kind of roast and brand you drink will change up your drip coffee experience.

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Fun fact: Coffee is known to be an ideal pre-workout drink. It increases adrenaline, which then aids in performance and more calories burned.

Try: Boyer’s Butterscotch Toffee Coffee from Denver, CO. 

Espresso: When that 8 a.m. class is not messing around. Near boiling water is forced under pressure through ground coffee beans.

Flavor: The water to coffee ratio is less than drip coffee, making espresso thicker with a strong bitter flavor, with a much higher concentration of caffeine.

Fun fact: “espresso” means express in Italian and was developed in 1884.

Try: Alley Cat Café’s Red Eye Cat, chai tea with a shot of espresso.

Shot in the Dark: The best of both worlds giving you a nice caffeine buzz.

Flavor: Drip coffee with two shots of espresso.

Fun fact: This type of coffee is also called a red eye but “shot in the dark” is more commonly used in the Southwest, particularly Colorado and parts of New Mexico. 

Try: The Bean Cycle’s Shot in the Dark. 

 Latte: For those who need the caffeine of an espresso, without the harsh flavor.

Flavor: Made with steamed milk, this drink will offer a creamier taste along with flavored syrups you can add in such as vanilla, hazelnut, caramel or peppermint.

Fun fact: Coffee and milk have been part of European cuisine since the 17th century.

Try: Mug’s “Big White Whale” Latte with white chocolate, Irish cream and hazelnut.  

Americano: For people who take their caffeine seriously, but do not want the full power of an espresso shot.

Flavor: This is espresso with a shot of hot water, for a more diluted caffeine experience.

Fun fact: An unconfirmed belief of Americano’s origin comes from American WWII soldier’s in Italy, diluting their coffee to save their rations.

Try: Intermission at CSU’s Americano, nice and straight.

Cappuccino: The milk helps with flavor, plus your barista can add cool art into the foam.

Flavor: Double espresso with steamed milk. Chocolate or cinnamon may be added.

Alley Cat Cafe's extensive menu, along with a guide to caffeine levels in their beverages.
Coffee shops usually have a very extensive menu list. It’s important to ask a barista’s opinion, so you don’t end up drinking something you don’t like. (Sarah Ehrlich | Collegian)

Fun fact: The steamed foam acts as an insulator and allows the liquid to retain its heat for a longer period of time.

Try: Starry Night Cafe’s Cappuccino 

It is estimated that 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed each day worldwide. When buying coffee, it is important to consider if the company works with the Rainforest Alliance, to ensure its product is fair trade, meaning the employees are and environment are taken into serious consideration.

This beverage is an acquired taste, so don’t feel like you have to take your coffee black to get the full caffeine effect. As always, ask your barista for the best and tasty options.

For more facts about coffee visit: pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-coffee/

Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @SarahEhrlich96.