Guidelines for Serving Coffee

Different county has different Guidelines for Serving Coffee. In Turkey, the sweet, thick black coffee they brew is poured straight from the brass coffee pot in which it’s brewed into small cups of beaten brass. Italians favor elegant little china cups and saucers for their espresso, but often drink it standing up when they stop into the neighborhood espresso bar. Stop by a French café for a morning café au lait and the strong black coffee and hot milk will be poured into a coffee cup as large as a breakfast cereal bowl.

A Brazilian coffee drinker will drink many cups of café come leite daily from porcelain cups and saucers presented on a metal tray, accompanied by a silver bowl mounded with lumps of white or light brown sugar. No habitué of an all-American diner would expect anything less than hot coffee in a sturdy mug. Get that same coffee to go in New York City, and you’d be surprised if it didn’t come in a paper cup decorated with blue-and-white Greek-inspired motifs.

In other words, there is no one proper way for serving coffee or enjoying it. The only reigning rule in proper coffee etiquette is to be sure to offer it to your guests, whether you’re welcoming them in a restaurant or café, in your office, or in your home. 

Brew the coffee fresh.

Offer only the best quality coffee you can make, freshly brewed from freshly roasted coffee beans that you grind fresh just before brewing. (See Grinding Coffee and Brewing Coffee.)

Offer a choice of coffees.

Bearing in mind that some people drink only decaffeinated coffee, have a supply of decaffeinated whole bean coffee on hand for those who want it. If you yourself brew flavored coffee beans, keep a supply of regular unflavored whole bean coffee on hand for guests who prefer it.

Suit the coffee cups or mugs to the occasion.

Present the coffee in appropriate containers: elegant cups and saucers for a special dinner party, for example, or playfully decorated mugs for a casual gathering of friends.

Offer milk or cream and sugar.

Before serving just a few guests, ask if any take milk or cream and sugar; for a larger gathering, prepare these in one or more small pitchers or creamers and sugar bowls. Have separate pitchers of low-fat or nonfat milk and a separate bowl holding packets of artificial sweetener on hand for guests who might prefer them.

Serve some complementary bites of food.

Just as wine comes alive most fully when it accompanies food, so does good coffee benefit from the companionship of something to nibble. Put out platters or bowls of coffee accompaniments appropriate to the time of day or occasion, from a few simple cookies to a home-baked coffee cake to elegant hand-dipped dark chocolate truffles.

Have coffee refills ready.

It’s always a good idea to brew enough coffee to offer your guests refills. Have a thermos carafe on hand to keep the extra coffee hot, fresh, and ready to refill anyone’s cup.

Why Should You Join a Coffee Club?

Would you love to explore new coffee beans, coffee blends, and coffee flavors from around the world? Have you discovered one particular type of whole bean coffee you especially like that you’d love to be able to enjoy on a regular basis? Is there a coffee-growing region or country that you’d enjoy exploring in depth? Are you a busy coffee lover who would love to have a steady supply of gourmet coffee beans without having to stand in line once a week? Do you need to pick up the perfect gift for that coffee loving family member, friend, or colleague?

What is a Coffee Club?

Coffee clubs provide their members with regular shipments of high quality freshly roasted coffee. These usually arrive as special parcel shipments containing whole bean coffee, although some may also make ground coffee available to members.

The initial order may be placed by mail with a credit card number or check; or via the telephone or the Internet with a credit card. Then, the member receives, usually on a monthly basis, a specified quantity of freshly roasted coffee that suits his or her coffee-drinking needs. Some clubs continue the shipments, and the credit card charges, until the paying member asks to leave the club. Other clubs, particularly those offering gift memberships, send coffee bean shipments over a specified prepaid period of time.

What Do You Get from a Coffee Club?

The main benefit of belonging to a coffee club is the knowledge that high quality coffee beans you know you like will arrive at your home on a regular basis. But there are other benefits as well.

Many coffee club premiums provide incentives for joining. With your first shipment of coffee may come a coffee grinder, a coffee maker, or special mugs or cups and saucers in which to enjoy your coffee.

Another, less tangible but no less exciting benefit is the opportunity coffee club membership offers for coffee lovers to explore and learn more about the world of fine coffees. Some coffee of the month clubs offer their members different freshly roasted coffee beans each month from the world’s coffee-growing countries or regions; or from a different quality roaster; or different kinds of flavored coffee beans. Other clubs may provide assured regular shipments of particular kinds of exotic coffee beans, such as Hawaiian Kona coffee or Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. Still others may cater just to people with espresso machines, or to members who use only coffee pod coffee makers. Whatever the coffee drinking or coffee brewing tastes or habits you or your gift recipient might have, there’s a coffee club to match them.

Coffee Roasts from Lightest to Darkest

The process of roasting coffee wakes up the incredible, complex flavors that lie dormant within green coffee beans. Roasting coffee is often referred to as an art, in recognition of the combination of skill and talent it takes for a roaster to coax the maximum potential from a particular variety of coffee, with no two types of green coffee beans necessarily responding to the exact same roasting treatment.

Coffee beans are roasted by putting them in a rotating chamber heated, whether by a live fire, gas, or electricity, to a temperature range between 400 and 500°F (205 and 260°C). As the beans heat up, they give off their last traces of residual moisture and finally, suddenly “pop” with a distinctive crackling noise—expanding slightly in size in a phenomenon similar to that of popcorn popping. As roasting continues, the beans begin darkening in color. Meanwhile, the heat breaks down their cellular structure, unlocking aromatic oils that continue to develop in the high temperatures. At the same time, compounds known as polysaccharides transform into starches, then sugars, and begin to caramelize, adding sweetness and richness to coffee’s distinctive flavor.

Depending on the particular beans being roasted, the style in which the coffee will be brewed, and the tastes of a particular region or of the individual coffee drinker, coffee roasts may range across several different distinctive shades:

Cinnamon Roast.

The lightest roast, resembling the color of cinnamon and also known as Light Roast, Institutional Roast, Half City Roast, or New England Roast. Used largely for mainstream commercial coffees, these coffee roasts yield light, acidic-tasting coffee with little body.

American Roast.

Light or medium brown in color, and also called Medium Roast, American Roast coffee beans are also distinguished by their dry-looking surface. These roasts have notes of rich, sweet flavor to balance their acidity.

City Roast.

Slightly darker, City Roast coffee beans have a little more flavor and less acidity.

Full City Roast.

Also called High Roast or Light French Roast, Full City Roast coffee beans develop a deep brown color, with spots of shiny oil on their surface, and a rich coffee flavor.

Continental Roast.

Longer roasting develops a glossy surface of oils on the darker brown Continental Roast coffee beans, also called Dark Roast coffee. Smoky and sweet flavor overtones develop.

French Roast or Italian Roast.

Still darker shades of brown slightly beyond Continental Roast, French or Italian coffee roasts have a rich, complex, distinctively smoky and caramelized flavor.

Espresso Roast.

The darkest of coffee roasts, Espresso Roast coffee beans look almost black and very shiny with coffee oils. Their pleasantly charred flavor comes to the forefront, blending with other distinctive coffee notes.

Note that the level to which coffee beans are roasted does not significantly affect the caffeine level in a brewed cup. While espresso drinks deliver more caffeine per sip, for example, that is due not to the level of roasting but to the concentration at which espresso is brewed. The stronger any cup of coffee is brewed, resulting from using a higher proportion of coffee to water or from leaving coffee and water in contact longer, the more caffeine it will contain.