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Ultimate Coffee Guide

Coffee energizes us during the day and fuels creative work late into the night. It has a worldwide consumption estimated at 1.4 billion cups a day! It’s also the world’s leading agricultural commodity, grown on 4 continents in over 76 countries and producing over 200 varieties.

The secret to a good cup of coffee

Whether it be robust or mellow, strong or mild, black or with milk or cream, sweetened or not, there are rules to producing a truly good cup of coffee.


Buy just a little at a time. Roasted coffee beans oxidize in three weeks, ground coffee within five days. Once opened, coffee should be used within a week and stored in the fridge or in an airtight container.


Grind consistency depends on the brewing method: extremely fine for espresso machines; fine for automatic drip, French drip and Italian pressure coffee makers; and coarse grind for French press or plunger coffee makers, such as Bodum. The faster the extraction method, the finer the grind.


If you have hard or chlorinated water, use faintly mineralized spring water or a tap-fitted water filtering system.


Making full-flavoured coffee requires precision. Allow 1 rounded tablespoon (10-12 g) of coffee per cup. For maximum flavour, sprinkle grounds with a few drops of cold water and let stand a few seconds before pouring hot water over them. Never use boiling water, it heightens coffee's acidity. Boiled coffee is ruined coffee.

Coffees to suit all tastes

Café au lait or latte

Coffee with hot steamed milk and up to a quarter inch of foamed milk on top. Hot milk cuts coffee's acidity or bitterness. Caution: milk casein combined with coffee oils can trigger excessive gastric juices, which may lead to indigestion.


Very strong coffee made with a machine that forces steam through extremely fine grounds. Steam pressure is the key to good espresso — the higher the pressure, the stronger the coffee. A shot of espresso topped up with hot water is called an Americano, with light cream an espresso breve. Espresso can also be flavoured with alcohol like calvados or cognac.


Fill a large cup one-third full with espresso, then add less than half a cup of steamed milk and spoon foamed milk on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon, cocoa or shaved chocolate. Good any time of the day.


Chocolate syrup, espresso and steamed milk in proportions of one third each, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkled with cocoa.

Viennese Coffee

In a big cup, combine strong coffee, melted chocolate and light cream. Top with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

Iced Coffee

Make ice cubes with strong espresso. Make more coffee and let it cool. Combine crushed ice cubes and cold coffee in a cocktail shaker along with ice cream, milk and sugar to taste. Shake and pour.


Pour strong coffee over ice and add seltzer water to taste.

Instant Coffee

Most instant coffees use very strong varieties such as Brazilian or African Robustas, although some use Arabica. There are also milk-added instant coffees like instant cappuccino. Fun fact: instant coffee was invented in 1901 by a Japanese-American.

Flavoured coffees

Flavoured coffees were developed to boost consumption among young adults who preferred soft drinks. Coffee companies started selling amaretto, chocolate almond, Irish cream, French vanilla and many other varieties. Although a marketing flop in Europe, they have proven quite popular in North America with young and old alike.


Green beans are decaffeinated before being roasted. Unfortunately, drawing out the caffeine from the beans also draws out a fair amount of their aromatic compounds.

Coffee cocktails around the world

Coffee is served with calvados in Normandy, with anisette in southern France, with grappa or sambucca in Italy, with Kahlua in Spain, kirsch in Germany and rum in the Caribbean.

To make an Irish coffee, combine one measure of Irish whisky and three measures of hot strong coffee, then stir in a spoonful of raw sugar and float heavy cream on top. Sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Sip the coffee through the cream.