Coffee 101

Here’s how to prepare, appreciate and enjoy the world’s most popular beverage.


Coffee Growing

Coffee grows on large bushes or small trees in 80 tropical countries clustered around the equator. Its varieties require different conditions: robusta can grow in sunny, low-lying areas, but higher-quality arabica grows best at altitudes with wet, warm yet shady conditions. Coffee starts out as a red cherry and — as with wine grapes — the best fruit is often picked by hand. The pulp is removed either when fresh or after it’s dried, exposing two green seeds or beans. Roasting the beans creates the more than 1,000 aroma and flavour compounds coffee drinkers covet.

Coffee Cocktails

Angostura & Coffee Flip

Get this riff on a classic

Campfire Spiked Coffee with Kahlúa Cream

Get this spiked coffee recipe

Coffee Made Easy

What’s the best way to make a big batch of coffee?

“For larger quantities, traditional drip coffee is good,” says coffee educator Jingbo Deng of Bicerin Coffee Lab in Markham, Ont. Deng recommends using a kitchen scale (start with 10 to 11 grams per serving, and hone your preference), which, he says, is more consistent and accurate than measuring by spoon or scoop.

Does the type of grinder and grind really matter?

Yes! Use a burr grinder, right before brewing, for uniform particles and better extraction. Grind finely for espresso; medium for drip. For a French press, grind coarsely and brew for four minutes. “Then stir five times and skim off the top to remove bitterness,” says Jonny Marzano of Equator Coffee in Almonte, Ont.

Can I brew coffee with tap water?

Yes, but if your local water has chlorine, filter it. Jennifer Twigg of Twiggs Coffee Roasters in North Bay, Sturgeon Falls and Sudbury, Ont., also recommends filtered or bottled water “if you’re on a well or have very metallic or very soft water.”

How should I store whole coffee beans?

Buy them within a week of roasting and store in an airtight bag or container, away from sunlight (not in the fridge or freezer — they will absorb flavours).

Knockout Coffee Sidekicks

Chocolate Swirl Buns

Get this dessert recipe

Pecan and Molasses Scones with Vanilla Glaze

Get this pecan scone recipe

Fresh Vanilla Oatmeal Coffee Cake with Winter Peaches & Streusel

Get this coffee cake recipe

Grounds for Sustainability

It’s a fact: “Fair trade coffee guarantees farmers a minimum price for their coffee crop, one that allows them to stay in business.”

Brad Lynd, County Roasters

If you don’t compost, throw used coffee grounds in the garbage (never down the drain or into a septic system).

Keep leftover coffee in the fridge for a couple of days: enjoy as iced coffee, or cook or bake with it. “It makes the best chocolate cake you’ll ever have!”

Jennifer Twigg of Twiggs Coffee Roasters in North Bay, Sturgeon Falls and Sudbury, Ont.

Use Up Leftover Coffee in These Tasty Recipes

Barley Scones with Coffee & Molasses

Get this scone recipe

Coffee Toffee Banana Bread

Get this banana bread recipe

Frozen Mocha Affogato

Get this frozen dessert recipe

Espresso & Herb Marinade for Beef

Get this beef marinade recipe

Coffee Serving Tips

Here’s the buzz on which coffees to serve when, according to Jennifer Twigg of Twiggs Coffee Roasters. 


At breakfast or brunch, serve the robust flavours of Mexican, Colombian, Brazilian or Honduran coffee. 

Afternoon and Early Evening

Beans from Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica have a lighter, slightly more acidic flavour that works for afternoon or evening. 

Late Evening

No light roasts after dark: roasting removes moisture and caffeine. “So lighter roasts actually have more kick from caffeine!” says Twigg.


At breakfast or brunch, serve the robust flavours of Mexican, Colombian, For a affeine- and chemical-free sip, Twigg prefers naturally produced Swiss Water Process decaf. “You typically have to roast decaf more darkly to get a dark, flavourful brew.”

Buzz-worthy Bottles

Wolfhead Distillery Blended Coffee Liqueur 

This Essex County, Ont., craft distillery layers chocolate, vanilla, nut and nougat flavours on a Canadian whisky base in its creamy, dessert-ready liqueur. 

Buy Wolfhead Distillery Blended Coffee Liqueur

Kavi Reserve Coffee Blended Canadian Whisky

Whisky and cold brew from Colonial Coffee in Windsor, Ont., are barrel-aged together for a smooth, lightly sweetened spirit.

Buy Kavi Reserve Coffee Blended Canadian Whisky

Conker Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

The choice of discerning bartenders, this rich, bitter elixir will take a White Russian to the next level.

Buy Conker Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

Jameson Cold Brew Irish Whiskey

Try this coffee-infused whiskey, new from Jameson, in your weekend cappuccino or a highball with cola.

Buy Jameson Cold Brew Irish Whiskey