Put the cappuccino down and leave that latte, black coffee is making a comeback and it’s for a very good reason!
Coffee drinks have been exponentially increasing in complexity over the years and the result is an overly sweet, carb-loaded drink, that’s so far removed from the original cup of coffee that it’s barely recognizable. It’s typically Starbucks leading the craze with its ever more mad inventions but other coffee chains are not far behind.
With overcrowded menus and bright-colored, exotic-looking ingredients, more and more people are returning to the good old days when coffee was ordered one of two ways. Black or white.
This leads us to the question of what is black coffee or how do you make a simple cup of joe?
Black coffee is typically fresh coffee grounds, brewed hot to make a cup of black coffee, no milk or creamer is added.
Now we have covered the basics let’s take a deeper dive into black coffee and everything you need to know to brew the perfect cup!
What Is Black Coffee?
When it comes to a simple cup of black coffee the basic definition can be very straightforward or very confusing. The simple answer is, a cup of black coffee is brewed coffee served without milk or creamer. It’s dark brown to black in color and the only ingredients are coffee and hot water.
The complexity comes in when we look at all the different ways you can brew black coffee as well as the variety in the type of coffee used. All coffee drinkers have their own preferred method and there’s no specific right or wrong answer. Here is everything you need to know about black coffee.
Instant vs Fresh Ground Coffee
Instant coffee is a freeze-dried, powdered form of coffee that you simply add to hot water. The powder dissolves in the water and creates a cup of regular coffee without any need for filtering. It’s quick, easy, and a go-to method for a lot of people.
Fresh coffee is made from the coffee beans themselves. These beans are actually the seed from a coffee plant that has been processed and roasted. This can then be ground up and when the grounds are submerged the flavors infuse into the liquid.
Instant coffee is made from freshly brewed coffee that has been dried out to a powder form. This means that the coffee loses a lot of that rich, fresh flavor.
Selecting Your Coffee Beans
When you set out to brew black coffee the first thing you encounter is likely an overwhelming display of coffee bean options to choose from. Understanding how to select your coffee will have a big impact on how your brewed coffee tastes.
Coffee can be grown in many locations all over the globe but it does require a specific environment to grow well. These ideal climate conditions are found in many countries spanning across South America, Africa, and Asia. The country of origin as well as the species of coffee plant grown all have an impact on how the coffee tastes. There are so many varieties out there, it’s impossible to sum it up here so my best advice is to buy a coffee sample variety pack from your local coffee shop or roasters and see which region suits your palate best.
How the coffee is roasted has a large impact on the flavor of your coffee drink. Coffee roasted for a short period of time is called light roast as it’s lighter in color. It’s higher in caffeine and acidity compared to dark roasts and has more complex and brighter flavor notes.
Dark roasts spend longer in the roaster so the mild complex flavors break down and more coffee oils are released. They are less acidic and have lower caffeine due to the longer roasting time and are packed with rich, single-note flavors resembling burnt caramel, chocolate, and occasionally tobacco.
Medium roast beans fall in between these two categories and are a great option if you’re not sure which one suits you best.
The next important thing to consider when choosing coffee is the grind size. If you have a grinder at home then whole beans are best as the beans help lock in all those delicious flavor notes which are lost pretty quickly when the beans are ground up.
If you are opting for pre-ground then it’s essential to choose a grind size that suits your brew method. Some brands of coffee will have the kind of coffee maker they are suitable for written on the label and some brands will simply tell you how coarse or fine they are. Make sure you know the recommended grind size for your preferred brew method.
Different Kinds of Black Coffee
Now you’ve selected your beans, it’s time to brew some delicious black coffee. Here are the most common ways coffee shops will advertise their basic black java.
No Starbucks menu is complete without the humble Americano. This coffee drink starts life as a bold and dark espresso. Espresso is a small volume of concentrated coffee brewed using finely ground beans exposed to high pressure. The result is a thick-textured, very intense shot of coffee with a creamy, bubbly layer on top called the crema.
This kind of coffee originated in Italy where the tradition is still very much alive today. When American soldiers first arrived in Italy during the war, they typically found the espresso to be far too intense and too far removed from the black coffee they were used to. This led baristas to start topping up espresso with hot water to give a cup of black coffee that’s still rich in flavor but less intense.
Another, really common way people love to enjoy black coffee is the drip coffee maker. This is a method of brewing coffee that siphons and heats the water before showering it over a bed of coffee grounds sat in a paper filter. The water soaks the grounds and brews coffee and the paper filter separates the grounds from the liquid. The coffee drips down into a carafe below ready to serve.
This is one of the easiest and most reliable methods that coffee lovers rely on for making black coffee. The machine controls all the variables so all you need to do is select a coffee that’s ground to medium grind size and add it to the machine. It’s worth noting that this kind of coffee is also sometimes referred to as ‘filter coffee’.
Pour-over coffee is basically the hands-on version of a drip machine where you actually pour the hot water over the coffee grounds. This gives you more control over the brewing process.
Both methods produce a very dark, smooth cup of coffee that’s strong and satisfying. If you see black coffee on the menu in a coffee shop and it’s not an Americano then chances are it’s drip coffee.
A French press is another easy way to brew black coffee at home. It’s an immersion-style brewer so the coffee is submerged in the water until the extraction is complete. It works by adding coarsely ground coffee and hot water to the carafe and letting this mixture steep for 4 minutes. Once the time is up, you press down on the plunger and this moves a mesh filter through the liquid to separate the coffee away from the grounds.
This method brews a rich, bold cup of black coffee that’s thick and grainy in texture. The mesh filter means high levels of coffee oils remain which can add a more diverse range of flavors although some people find this to be too strong.
Another black coffee option that you may notice on your coffee shop’s menu is the long black. This drink is very similar to an Americano although the brewing steps differ slightly. The long black, similar to the flat white, has Australian origins. It’s made by taking a mug of hot water and topping it off with a shot or two of espresso. Layering the coffee on top helps the crema to remain intact and gives a stronger coffee hit in the first sip.
If you don’t mind a bit of a wait then a cup of cold brew coffee can be a deliciously refreshing treat on a hot summer’s day. This method of brewing coffee utilizes a cold, slow extraction technique where coarsely ground coffee is left sitting in cold or room temperature water for 12-24 hours. The cold water means the extraction phase is a lot slower but avoids any burnt or bitter tastes ending up in the black coffee. It brews a sweet, smooth cup of joe that’s low in acidity so perfect for anyone with a sensitive stomach.
Health Benefits from Drinking Black Coffee
Coffee contains a lot of nutrients such as vitamin B2, B3, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. These elements boost your enzymes to allow your body to grow, repair, and heal. Although coffee helps out in a lot of ways it’s still not going to be top of the list for a nutritionist’s recommendations due to the potential side effects and the fact you can find a lot of these nutrients in much higher quantities in other whole foods.
The health benefits of black coffee include protection from a wide range of diseases including; heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, liver cancer, liver disease, liver cirrhosis including alcoholic cirrhosis, and cardiovascular disease. A lot of these protective mechanisms are attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties of the antioxidants found in coffee. Caffeine also plays a role in some of these positive effects and may also help with weight loss.
A lot of the studies that point towards these effects do so based more on correlations found in large meta-analysis studies. The thing to bear in mind is that the large ground studies, although they may find that people who consume more coffee have a lower risk of Parkinson’s, it doesn’t mean that it was definitely the coffee that caused this effect. Although drinking coffee has been linked to lots of potential health benefits, I’d be cautious to recommend it as a preventative measure to avoid disease.
Coffee consumption is not always the healthiest choice for every individual. The high caffeine content can bring on anxiety and jitters in caffeine-sensitive individuals and can be dangerous if you suffer from high blood pressure. It can lead to stomach upsets and coffee has a diuretic effect that can cause anything from a mild inconvenience to a potentially dangerous level of dehydration if you have other health issues.
How Much Black Coffee is Safe
It’s recommended to limit your caffeine intake to 400mg a day so this equals around 4 cups of black coffee. This amount is deemed safe for most individuals although this may vary if you suffer from any other health problems. It’s worth consulting your doctor if you do have any health concerns or if you are pregnant or lactating.
If you choose to drink coffee from a wellness perspective then avoid any additives as creamers and sweeteners can quickly negate any positive effect you get from your mug of java.
There are so many ways to brew black coffee and even though it sounds like a simple beverage it’s surprisingly diverse. Coffee is a safe and delicious drink for most individuals and may have some health-boosting properties although these are not considered powerful enough to give coffee a medicinal label. There are lots of ways and means to enjoy this bold beverage, just don’t overdo it!