1 Distinguish Between The Properties Of Animal And Vegetable Fats A Brief Tour of Coffee’s Chemical Composition

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A Brief Tour of Coffee’s Chemical Composition

Every day, millions of people around the world start their religious day with a morning cup of coffee. Although today we easily identify coffee in its beverage form, it wasn’t always this way in the beginning. Throughout history, coffee has undergone several physical transformations, first serving as a source of energy when nomadic tribes combined coffee berries with animal fat as an early form of an energy herb. It was later consumed as tea, then wine, and finally into the drink we have come to identify today. From the beginning, coffee has always been a product of great mystery, having been accidentally discovered in the wild forests of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and consumed in its native cherry form, then passed through fire to significantly change its state its chemical And although coffee has been around for thousands of years, only in the last half century have scientists been able to identify and truly understand what exactly this mystical bean contains. To date, scientists have identified over 1,000 compounds in coffee, which when compared to products such as chocolate wine that consist of several hundred, pales in comparison to that of coffee. Fortunately through advances in technology, much of the chemical makeup of coffee has been unlocked and we now have a better perspective on the chemistry contained within this mystical bean.

Caffeine

For many people, drinking coffee is simply a delivery vehicle for a powerful alkaloid that we have come to identify as caffeine or technically 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine. Although caffeine is closely related to coffee, its production within the plant kingdom is not exclusive, but is seen in several other forms of plant life. Mate, for example, which is traditionally consumed in parts of Uruguay and Argentina, contains less than one percent by weight. Whereas, tea leaves (Camellia sinesis) which originate in China, contain almost three times more caffeine concentration than Arabica, with Brazilian mate almost twice as much as robusta coffee. It turns out Mother Nature was pretty generous when it came to dispensing caffeine among the plant kingdom. But for humans, caffeine is very unique. So far, we are the only life forms on Earth that readily require caffeine for its stimulating and psychological effects. For all other life forms, caffeine is a potent toxin capable of sterilization, phytotoxicity, and antifungal properties. As such scientists believe that caffeine, with its intensely bitter taste, evolved as a primitive defense mechanism in coffee ensuring its survival in nature for thousands of years. It is not surprising that the caffeine content of the more “powerful” Robusta species is almost twice that of the more delicate Arabica. It is believed that as the insects attack the coffee cherry, they are put off by the bitter taste of caffeine and simply move on to the next crop. Since Arabica is typically grown at higher altitudes than Robusta, where insect attack is reduced, Arabica has evolved to produce less caffeine.

lipid

Lipid production and its subsequent survival after the roasting process play an important role in the overall quality of the coffee. In general, most of the lipids exist in the form of a coffee oil and are located within the endosperm (pods) of the cherry, with only a small percentage deposited on the outside of the coffee wax. Coincidentally, scientists have analyzed and discovered that most of the chemical composition of coffee oil is very similar to that of vegetable cooking oils. As such, most of the lipid content in coffee remains unchanged and relatively stable even at the elevated temperatures associated with roasting. In its green form, both Arabica and Robusta coffee contain on average 15-17% and 10-11.5%, respectively. But because Arabica contains about 60% more lipids than Robusta, many believe that this sharp difference is one reason responsible for the difference in quality between the two species. So far, the claim has remained unconfirmed, until French scientists recently discovered a direct link between the lipid content and the overall quality of the cup. It turns out that as the lipid content increases within the bean, so does the overall quality of the cup. It’s a very plausible explanation when you consider that most of the important flavor components in coffee are also fat soluble.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates make up approximately fifty percent of the total dry weight of coffee by composition. After roasting, the carbohydrates remaining in the cup contribute to the mouthfeel or body, with some studies suggesting they are also responsible for the frothy quality common in espresso drinks. Although there are many types of carbohydrates in coffee, perhaps the most important is that of sucrose. Sucrose, or more commonly known as table sugar, makes up 6-9% in Arabica with a slightly smaller amount (3-7%) contained in Robusta coffee. During baking, sucrose breaks down easily and studies have shown that up to 97% of the original sucrose content is lost even in light baking. Its role during baking is large with a large proportion of available carbohydrates participating in Maillard reactions and many other secondary reactions. One class of important byproducts generated during baking is that of organic acids. In its green form, coffee contains negligible amounts of formic, acetic and lactic acid. Although once roasted, there is an exponential increase in aliphatic acid production, along with a parallel increase in the acidity of the coffee. Since acidity plays an important role in evaluating quality, it is not surprising why we usually see higher levels of perceived acidity in Arabica than Robusta coffee, partly due to the higher concentration of sucrose. Coincidentally, last year Brazilian scientists identified a single gene, sucrose synthase, which controls sucrose production in plants and may hold the key to growing higher quality coffee for years to come.

proteins

The protein content of both green Arabica and Robusta coffee ranges between 10-13% and exists as free or bound proteins within the coffee matrix. Although actual concentrations may vary, there are a number of factors that can affect free protein content, including improper storage that can increase free protein levels and lead to detrimental effects on quality. During baking, proteins combine with carbohydrates in what is perhaps the most important reaction of all thermally processed foods— Maillard reaction. This set of reactions, discovered by a French chemist in 1910, is what is largely responsible for transforming the simple compounds found in green coffee into the complex matrix that is coffee today. As temperatures reach 150C (302F), the Maillard reaction drives the free proteins in the coffee to combine with reducing sugars, ultimately leading to the formation of hundreds of important aromatic compounds. Of these, pyrazines and pyridines have the largest aromatic contribution and are responsible for the distinctive corn/nutty aromas found in coffee. The reaction also leads to the formation of a brown colored polymer melanoidin – Compounds responsible for the color of coffee.

Coincidentally, this is the same set of reactions that give rise to the enticing aromas we produce when we toast a piece of bread or grill a steak. Although many of the byproducts created during the Maillard reaction are beneficial to coffee, in other agricultural products, these sets of coloring reactions can be a serious detriment to quality. In the cup, proteins also play a role in flavor by forming secondary compounds during the roasting process. It turns out that most of the “bitterness” of coffee is not just caffeine, but bitter compounds produced during the Maillard reaction. Caffeine, as bitter as it is, only accounts for 10-20% of the total bitterness of coffee.

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