AskDefine | Define coffee

Dictionary Definition



1 a beverage consisting of an infusion of ground coffee beans; "he ordered a cup of coffee" [syn: java]
2 any of several small trees and shrubs native to the tropical Old World yielding coffee beans [syn: coffee tree]
3 a seed of the coffee tree; ground to make coffee [syn: coffee bean, coffee berry]
4 a medium to dark brown color [syn: chocolate, deep brown, umber, burnt umber]

User Contributed Dictionary



From caffè < kahve < (qahwa) ‘coffee’. Some Ethiopians claim a derivation from Kaffa, an ancient province of Ethiopia where coffee is said to have originated, but this etymology is highly improbable as it fails to explain the initial shift to the Arabic 'qahwa'. At the same time, qahwa refers only to coffee in liquid form. When it is dry, either as beans or ground, Arabs call coffee ('bunn). That word comes from 'buna', the Amharic word for coffee.
Many sources state that the Arabic term meant 'a brew', especially wine.


  • (US) /ˈkɑfi/


  1. A beverage made by infusing the beans of the coffee plant in hot water.
  2. A serving of the beverage coffee
    We’d like three coffees on this table please
  3. The seeds of the plant used to make coffee, misnamed ‘beans’ due to their shape.
  4. A tropical plant of the genus Coffea.
  5. A pale brown colour, like that of milk coffee.
    coffee colour:   


  • Arabic: (bun) g Arabic
  • Dutch: koffie, koffieboon
  • Hebrew: פולי קפה m|p
  • Japanese: コーヒー豆
  • Russian: кофе


  1. Of a pale brown colour, like that of milk coffee.


Brownish color

Extensive Definition

Coffee is a widely-consumed stimulant beverage prepared from roasted seeds, commonly called coffee beans, of the coffee plant. Coffee was first consumed in the 9th century, when it was discovered in the highlands of Ethiopia. From there, it spread to Egypt and Yemen, and by the 15th century had reached Armenia, Persia, Turkey, and northern Africa. From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Italy, then to the rest of Europe and the Americas.
Coffee berries, which contain the coffee bean, are produced by several species of small evergreen bush of the genus Coffea. The two most commonly grown species are Coffea canephora (also known as Coffea robusta) and Coffea arabica. These are cultivated in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried. The seeds are then roasted, undergoing several physical and chemical changes. They are roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor. They are then ground and brewed to create coffee. Coffee can be prepared and presented by a variety of methods.
Coffee has played an important role in many societies throughout modern history. In Africa and Yemen, it was used in religious ceremonies. As a result, the Ethiopian Church banned its consumption until the reign of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. It was banned in Ottoman Turkey in the 17th century for political reasons, and was associated with rebellious political activities in Europe.
Coffee is an important export commodity. In 2004, coffee was the top agricultural export for 12 countries, and in 2005, it was the world's seventh largest legal agricultural export by value.
Some controversy is associated with coffee cultivation and its impact on the environment. Many studies have examined the relationship between coffee consumption and certain medical conditions; whether the effects of coffee are positive or negative is still disputed. It comes from the Italian caffè. The term was introduced to Europe via the Ottoman Turkish kahveh which is in turn derived from the , qahweh. The origin of the Arabic term is uncertain; it is either derived from the name of the Kaffa region in western Ethiopia, where coffee was cultivated, or by a truncation of qahwat al-būnn, meaning "wine of the bean" in Arabic. In Eritrea, "būnn" (also meaning "wine of the bean" in Tigrinya) is used. The Amharic and Afan Oromo name for coffee is bunna.


Coffee use can be traced at least to as early as the 9th century, when it appeared in the highlands of Ethiopia. According to legend, Ethiopian shepherds were the first to observe the influence of the caffeine in coffee beans when the goats appeared to "dance" and to have an increased level of energy after consuming wild coffee berries. It was in Arabia that coffee beans were first roasted and brewed similarly as they are today. By the 15th century, it had reached the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey, and northern Africa.
In 1583, Leonhard Rauwolf, a German physician, gave this description of coffee after returning from a ten year trip to the Near East: From the Muslim world, coffee spread to Italy. The thriving trade between Venice and North Africa, Egypt, and the Middle East brought many goods, including coffee, to the Venetian port. From Venice, it was introduced to the rest of Europe. Coffee became more widely accepted after it was deemed a Christian beverage by Pope Clement VIII in 1600, despite appeals to ban the "Muslim drink". The first European coffee house opened in Italy in 1645. The Dutch were the first to import coffee on a large scale, and they were among the first to defy the Arab prohibition on the exportation of plants or unroasted seeds when Pieter van den Broeck smuggled seedlings from Aden into Europe in 1616. The Dutch later grew the crop in Java and Ceylon.
When coffee reached North America during the colonial period, it was initially not as successful as it had been in Europe. During the Revolutionary War, however, the demand for coffee increased so much that dealers had to hoard their scarce supplies and raise prices dramatically; this was partly due to the reduced availability of tea from British merchants. After the War of 1812, during which Britain temporarily cut off access to tea imports, the Americans' taste for coffee grew, and high demand during the American Civil War together with advances in brewing technology secured the position of coffee as an everyday commodity in the United States.
Noted as one of the world’s largest, most valuable, legally traded commodities after oil, coffee has become a vital cash crop for many Third World countries. Over one hundred million people in developing countries have become dependent on coffee as the primary source of income (Ponte 1). Coffee has become the primary export and backbone for African countries like Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, and Ethiopia as well as other Central American countries (1)


The Coffea plant is native to subtropical Africa and southern Asia. have only one; these are called peaberries. Berries ripen in seven to nine months.


Coffee is usually propagated by seeds. The traditional method of planting coffee is to put 20 seeds in each hole at the beginning of the rainy season; half are eliminated naturally. Coffee is often intercropped with food crops, such as corn, beans, or rice, during the first few years of cultivation.
The two main cultivated species of the coffee plant are Coffea canephora and Coffea arabica. Arabica coffee (from C. arabica) is considered more suitable for drinking than robusta coffee (from C. canephora); robusta tends to be bitter and have less flavor than arabica. For this reason, about three-fourths of coffee cultivated worldwide is C. arabica. However, C. canephora is less susceptible to disease than C. arabica and can be cultivated in environments where C. arabica will not thrive. Robusta coffee also contains about 40–50 percent more caffeine than arabica. Other cultivated species include Coffea liberica and Coffea esliaca, believed to be indigenous to Liberia and southern Sudan, respectively. These taste characteristics are dependent not only on the coffee's growing region, but also on genetic subspecies (varietals) and processing. Varietals are generally known by the region in which they are grown, such as Colombian, Java, or Kona.


Brazil is world leader in production of green coffee followed by Vietnam and then Indonesia.

Ecological effects

Originally, coffee farming was done in the shade of trees, which provided habitat for many animals and insects. This method is commonly referred to as the traditional shaded method. Many farmers (but not all) have decided to modernize their production methods and switch to a method where farmers would now use sun cultivation, in which coffee is grown in rows under full sun with little or no forest canopy. This causes berries to ripen more rapidly and bushes to produce higher yields but requires the clearing of trees and increased use of fertilizer and pesticides. Traditional coffee production, in the other hand, caused berries to ripen more slowly and it produced lower yields compared to the modernized method but the quality of the coffee is allegedly superior. In addition, the traditional shaded method is environmentally friendly and serves as a habitat for many species. Opponents of sun cultivation say environmental problems such as deforestation, pesticide pollution, habitat destruction, and soil and water degradation are the side effects of these practices. However, while certain types of shaded coffee cultivation systems show greater biodiversity than full-sun systems, they still compare poorly to native forest in terms of habitat value.


Brazil remains the largest coffee exporting nation, but in recent years Vietnam has become a major producer of robusta beans. Colombia is the third exporter and the largest producer of washed arabica coffee. Robusta coffees, traded in London at much lower prices than New York's arabica, are preferred by large industrial clients, such as multinational roasters and instant coffee producers, because of the lower cost. Four single roaster companies buy more than 50 percent of all of the annual production: Kraft, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, and Sara Lee. The preference of the "Big Four" coffee companies for cheap robusta is believed by many to have been a major contributing factor to the crash in coffee prices, and the demand for high-quality arabica beans is only slowly recovering. Many experts believe the giant influx of cheap green coffee after the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement of 1975–1989 led to the prolonged price crisis from 1989 to 2004. In 1997 the price of coffee in New York broke US$3.00/lb, but by late 2001 it had fallen to US$0.43/lb. In 2007, wholesale coffee was about US$1/lb (e.g. 69 cents in London in March to 134 cents in New York in October), with robusta being about 70% of the price of arabica. Retail prices varied from an average of $3 in Poland to $3.50 in the US to $17 in the UK.
The concept of fair trade labeling, which guarantees coffee growers a negotiated pre-harvest price, began with the Max Havelaar Foundation's labelling program in the Netherlands. In 2004, 24,222 metric tons out of 7,050,000 produced worldwide were fair trade; in 2005, 33,991 metric tons out of 6,685,000 were fair trade, an increase from 0.34 percent to 0.51 percent. A number of studies have shown that fair trade coffee has a positive impact on the communities that grow it. A study in 2002 found that fair trade strengthened producer organizations, improved returns to small producers, and positively affected their quality of life. A 2003 study concluded that fair trade has "greatly improved the well-being of small-scale coffee farmers and their families" by providing access to credit and external development funding and greater access to training, giving them the ability to improve the quality of their coffee. The families of fair trade producers were also more stable than those who were not involved in fair trade, and their children had better access to education. A 2005 study of Bolivian coffee producers concluded that Fairtrade certification has had a positive impact on local coffee prices, economically benefiting all coffee producers, Fairtrade certified or not.
The production and consumption of "Fair Trade Coffee" has grown in recent years as some local and national coffee chains have started to offer fair trade alternatives.



Coffee berries and their seeds undergo several processes before they become the familiar roasted coffee. First, coffee berries are picked, generally by hand. Then, they are sorted by ripeness and color and the flesh of the berry is removed, usually by machine, and the seeds—usually called beans—are fermented to remove the slimy layer of mucilage still present on the bean. When the fermentation is finished, the beans are washed with large quantities of fresh water to remove the fermentation residue, which process generates massive amounts of highly polluted coffee wastewater. Finally the seeds are dried, sorted, and labeled as green coffee beans.
The next step in the process is the roasting of the green coffee. Coffee is usually sold in a roasted state, and all coffee is roasted before it is consumed. It can be sold roasted by the supplier, or it can be home roasted. The roasting process influences the taste of the beverage by changing the coffee bean both physically and chemically. The bean decreases in weight as moisture is lost and increases in volume, causing it to become less dense. The density of the bean also influences the strength of the coffee and requirements for packaging. The actual roasting begins when the temperature inside the bean reaches 200 °C (392 °F), though different varieties of beans differ in moisture and density and therefore roast at different rates. Sucrose is rapidly lost during the roasting process and may disappear entirely in darker roasts. During roasting, aromatic oils, acids, and caffeine weaken, changing the flavor; at 205 °C (400 °F), other oils start to develop.
Depending on the color of the roasted beans, they will be labeled as light, medium-light, medium, medium-dark, dark, or very dark. Darker roasts are generally smoother, because they have less fiber content and a more sugary flavor. Lighter roasts have more caffeine, resulting in a slight bitterness, and a stronger flavor from aromatic oils and acids otherwise destroyed by longer roasting times. A small amount of chaff is produced during roasting from the skin left on the bean after processing. Chaff is usually removed from the beans by air movement, though a small amount is added to dark roast coffees to soak up oils on the beans. Decaffeination may also be part of the processing that coffee seeds undergo. Seeds are decaffeinated when they are still green. Many methods can remove caffeine from coffee, but all involve either soaking beans in hot water or steaming them, then using a solvent to dissolve caffeine-containing oils. in order of importance to preserving flavor in coffee beans.
Folded-over bags, a common way consumers often purchase coffee, is generally not ideal for long-term storage because it allows air to enter. A better package contains a one-way valve, which prevents air from entering.
Machines such as percolators or automatic coffeemakers brew coffee by gravity. In an automatic coffeemaker, hot water drips onto coffee grounds held in a coffee filter made of paper or perforated metal, allowing the water to seep through the ground coffee while absorbing its oils and essences. Gravity causes the liquid to pass into a carafe or pot while the used coffee grounds are retained in the filter.
Coffee may also be brewed by steeping in a device such as a French press (also known as a cafetière). Ground coffee and hot water are combined in a coffee press and left to brew for a few minutes. A plunger is then depressed to separate the coffee grounds, which remain at the bottom of the container. Because the coffee grounds are in direct contact with the water, all the coffee oils remain in the beverage, making it stronger and leaving more sediment than in coffee made by an automatic coffee machine.
The espresso method forces hot, but not boiling, pressurized water through ground coffee. As a result of brewing under high pressure (ideally between 9-10 atm) the espresso beverage is more concentrated (as much as 10 to 15 times the amount of coffee to water as gravity brewing methods can produce) and has a more complex physical and chemical constitution. A well prepared espresso has a reddish-brown foam called crema that floats on the surface. The drink "Americano" is popularly thought to have been named after American soldiers in WW II who found the European way of drinking espresso too strong. Baristas would cut the espresso with hot water for them. Once brewed, coffee may be presented in a variety of ways. Drip brewed, percolated, or French-pressed/cafetière coffee may be served with no additives (colloquially known as black) or with either sugar, milk or cream, or both. When served cold, it is called iced coffee.
Espresso-based coffee has a wide variety of possible presentations. In its most basic form, it is served alone as a "shot" or in the more watered down style café américano—a shot or two of espresso with hot water. equal parts espresso and milk froth make a cappuccino, and a dollop of hot, foamed milk on top creates a caffè macchiato.
A number of products are sold for the convenience of consumers who do not want to prepare their own coffee. Instant coffee is dried into soluble powder or freeze dried into granules that can be quickly dissolved in hot water. Canned coffee has been popular in Asian countries for many years, particularly in Japan and South Korea. Vending machines typically sell varieties of flavored canned coffee, much like brewed or percolated coffee, available both hot and cold. Japanese convenience stores and groceries also have a wide availability of bottled coffee drinks, which are typically lightly sweetened and pre-blended with milk. Bottled coffee drinks are also consumed in the United States. Liquid coffee concentrates are sometimes used in large institutional situations where coffee needs to be produced for thousands of people at the same time. It is described as having a flavor about as good as low-grade robusta coffee and costs about 10 cents a cup to produce. The machines used can process up to 500 cups an hour, or 1,000 if the water is preheated.

Social aspects

See also: Coffeehouse for a social history of coffee, and caffè for specifically Italian traditions.
Coffee was initially used for spiritual reasons. At least 1,000 years ago, traders brought coffee across the Red Sea into Arabia (modern day Yemen), where Muslim monks began cultivating the shrub in their gardens. At first, the Arabians made wine from the pulp of the fermented coffee berries. This beverage was known as qishr (kisher in modern usage) and was used during religious ceremonies.
Coffee became the substitute beverage in place of wine in spiritual practices where wine was forbidden. Coffee drinking was briefly prohibited to Muslims as haraam in the early years of the 16th century, but this was quickly overturned. Use in religious rites among the Sufi branch of Islam led to coffee's being put on trial in Mecca, accused of being a heretic substance, and its production and consumption was briefly repressed. It was later prohibited in Ottoman Turkey under an edict by the Sultan Murad IV. Coffee, regarded as a Muslim drink, was prohibited to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians until as late as 1889; it is now considered a national drink of Ethiopia for people of all faiths. Its early association in Europe with rebellious political activities led to its banning in England, among other places.
A contemporary example of coffee prohibition can be found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The organization claims that it is both physically and spiritually unhealthy to consume coffee. This comes from the Mormon doctrine of health, given in 1833 by Mormon founder Joseph Smith, in a revelation called the Word of Wisdom. It does not identify coffee by name, but includes the statement that "hot drinks are not for the belly", which has been interpreted to forbid both coffee and tea.
Scientific studies have examined the relationship between coffee consumption and an array of medical conditions. Findings are contradictory as to whether coffee has any specific health benefits, and results are similarly conflicting regarding negative effects of coffee consumption.
Coffee appears to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, cirrhosis of the liver, and gout, but it increases the risk of acid reflux and associated diseases . Some health effects of coffee are due to its caffeine content, as the benefits are only observed in those who drink caffeinated coffee, while others appear to be due to other components. For example, the antioxidants in coffee prevent free radicals from causing cell damage.
Coffee's negative health effects are mostly due to its caffeine content. Research suggests that drinking caffeinated coffee can cause a temporary increase in the stiffening of arterial walls. Excess coffee consumption may lead to a magnesium deficiency or hypomagnesaemia, and may be a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Some studies suggest that it may have a mixed effect on short-term memory, by improving it when the information to be recalled is related to the current train of thought, but making it more difficult to recall unrelated information. About 10% of people with a moderate daily intake (235 mg per day) reported increased depression and anxiety when caffeine was withdrawn, and about 15% of the general population report having stopped caffeine use completely, citing concern about health and unpleasant side effects. Nevertheless, the mainstream view of medical experts is that drinking three 8-ounce (236 ml) cups of coffee per day (considered average or moderate consumption) does not have significant health risks for adults.
An American scientist Yaser Dorri has suggested that the smell of coffee can restore appetite and refresh olfactory receptors. He suggests that people can regain their appetite after cooking by smelling coffee beans, and that this method might also be used for research animals.

Caffeine content

180px|thumb|right|[[Caffeine molecule]]Depending on the type of coffee and method of preparation, the caffeine content of a single serving can vary greatly. On average, a single cup of coffee of about 207 milliliters (7 fluid ounces) or a single shot of espresso of about 30 mL (1oz) can be expected to contain the following amounts of caffeine:



  • The World in So Many Words

External links

coffee in Afrikaans: Koffie
coffee in Amharic: ቡና
coffee in Arabic: قهوة
coffee in Asturian: Café
coffee in Bengali: কফি
coffee in Min Nan: Ka-pi
coffee in Belarusian: Кава
coffee in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Кава
coffee in Bosnian: Kahva
coffee in Breton: Kafe
coffee in Bulgarian: Кафе
coffee in Catalan: Cafè
coffee in Czech: Káva
coffee in Welsh: Coffi
coffee in Danish: Kaffe
coffee in German: Kaffee
coffee in Estonian: Kohv
coffee in Modern Greek (1453-): Καφές
coffee in Spanish: Café
coffee in Esperanto: Kafo
coffee in Basque: Kafe
coffee in Persian: قهوه
coffee in French: Café
coffee in Friulian: Cafè
coffee in Irish: Caife
coffee in Gan Chinese: 咖啡
coffee in Scottish Gaelic: Cofaidh
coffee in Galician: Café
coffee in Hakka Chinese: Kâ-pî
coffee in Korean: 커피
coffee in Armenian: Սուրճ
coffee in Hindi: कॉफ़ी
coffee in Croatian: Kava
coffee in Indonesian: Kopi
coffee in Ossetian: Къофи
coffee in Icelandic: Kaffi
coffee in Italian: Caffè
coffee in Hebrew: קפה
coffee in Javanese: Kopi
coffee in Kannada: ಕಾಫಿ
coffee in Georgian: ყავა
coffee in Kinyarwanda: Ikawa
coffee in Swahili (macrolanguage): Kahawa
coffee in Haitian: Kafe
coffee in Kurdish: Qehwe
coffee in Latin: Coffeum
coffee in Lithuanian: Kava
coffee in Lojban: ckafi
coffee in Hungarian: Kávé
coffee in Macedonian: Кафе
coffee in Malayalam: കാപ്പി (പാനീയം)
coffee in Marathi: कॉफी
coffee in Malay (macrolanguage): Kopi
coffee in Dutch: Koffie
coffee in Dutch Low Saxon: Koffie
coffee in Japanese: コーヒー
coffee in Norwegian: Kaffe
coffee in Norwegian Nynorsk: Kaffi
coffee in Occitan (post 1500): Cafè
coffee in Uzbek: Qahva
coffee in Polish: Kawa
coffee in Portuguese: Café
coffee in Romanian: Cafea
coffee in Quechua: Kaphiy
coffee in Russian: Кофе
coffee in Northern Sami: Gáffe
coffee in Albanian: Kafeja
coffee in Sicilian: Café
coffee in Simple English: Coffee
coffee in Slovak: Káva
coffee in Slovenian: Kava
coffee in Serbian: Кафа
coffee in Finnish: Kahvi
coffee in Swedish: Kaffe
coffee in Tagalog: Kape
coffee in Tamil: காப்பி
coffee in Telugu: కాఫీ
coffee in Thai: กาแฟ
coffee in Vietnamese: Cà phê
coffee in Tok Pisin: Kopi
coffee in Cherokee: ᎧᏫ
coffee in Turkish: Kahve
coffee in Ukrainian: Кава
coffee in Urdu: کافی
coffee in Vlaams: Kaffie
coffee in Yiddish: קאווע
coffee in Contenese: 咖啡
coffee in Samogitian: Kava
coffee in Chinese: 咖啡
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