For lots of us, the day doesn't really begin until we've had their first cup of coffee, be that an espresso, a latte, a cappuccino or a big mug of instant coffee. The first jolt of caffeine is essential to get us going, but there can be a bewildering array of coffee and roasting options to choose from. Agnes Bouchier Hayes from Limerick Institute of Technology joined the Today With Claire Byrne show on RTÉ Radio 1 to discuss what's on offer and how best to prepare your favorite coffee. (This piece includes excerpts from the conversation which have been lightly edited for length and clarity - full discussion can be heard above).

Bouchier-Hayes began with the lowdown on the coffee beans which provide that caffeine in the first place. "There are four main types, but two mainly are the most grown. The first one is the Arabica bean and the other one is the Robusta. The other two beans are the Liberica and the Excelsa. Now, the Liberica was wiped out by a disease called coffee rust, so it was eliminated, but now it's beginning to reemerge again, and the Excelsa is grown primarily in the Southeast Asia.

"We primarily get all of our coffee from what's called the Bean Belt. That's all the sub-tropical and equatorial regions across the globe so that will cover South America, Africa, and Asia as well so there's a lot of different terroir. It's like with wine: you have a certain number of grapes. Equally with beans, you have a certain number of beans, but it's the ground that it's grown in, the climate that it's grown in, all of those impact on the flavor of the bean. And then of course, that follows on then to the roasting."

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So what happens with roasting? "What happens is that you'll roast it from light to dark. For the lighter roast, they're more acidic, and for the darker roast, they can be more bitter. So it's down to the roaster. This is where the artisan part comes in. Roasters would have their own particular way of roasting, but there's a couple of stages that they would all go through. It's how they roast it and how rich it becomes.

"As the roast goes on, the darker it becomes, the more oils that are released and it can become more bitter. Now, you don't want it burnt, but that's where the flavor and the development of the aromas and flavors come from in the coffee."

Then, there's instant coffee. "I know there are baristas up and down the country shaking their heads and rolling their eyes", says Bouchier-Hayes. "But there are really, really good quality instant coffees. Did you know the first instant coffee was a coffee essence that was created during the American Civil War? It was a syrup that was put into cups and then hot water. It was terrible. In 1876, they added chicory, which improved the flavor to this coffee essence, and that was created in Scotland so there's a history and a culinary heritage when it comes to coffee.

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"Instant coffee is made in three ways. It is either spray dried, freeze dried, or you can have micro grains, and that's what we would see. When you're looking at instant coffee, you can have some that are blends and you can have some that are single origin, and then you have your micro grains."

Bouchier-Hayes explains that the process behind instant coffee has changed enormously in recent years. "The roasting happens the same way as it would for a regular coffee, that you would make for a drip coffee, cafetière, café presse, espresso. But it's round really finely so it is actually a grind of a coffee that's put into the cup, and it sometimes can be mixed with a freeze-dried coffee as well. It's just a different technology that's used.

"It depends on what you want. Some of the flavors, the single-origin coffees that are instant, can have a better flavor and they're richer. Equally, the micro grinds, the ones you see in the silver tins, the fancy ones, they would have quite a robust flavor as well and they would give maybe a truer reflection of what a fresh coffee would be. Now, it's not going to be exactly the same, but it's a reflection."

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When it comes to the fancier coffees like cappuccinos and lattes, remember you can make serious inroads into your daily calorie allocation if you're indulging in these. "If you went into a café in Italy and they were quite notional, if you asked for a latte, they will just give you a glass of milk, hot milk. You have to ask for caffè latte and that's mainly milk. Cappuccino is a third coffee, a third froth and a third milk. The word cappuccino comes from Capuchin monks when Gaggia developed the piston in the espresso machine, that was when the cappuccino was born because they could now froth milk.

"I looked at 350ml drinks, so that would be a smaller coffee, or that will be a tall in Starbucks. An Americano was about 12 calories per 350ml, but once you start adding milks, different types of milks, different sugars, different flavorings, then you're actually eating into your calorific value. A cappuccino is about 93 calories with skimmed milk, and with whole milk, it's 163 kilocalories. A pumpkin spice latte, which is becoming very common now, is 301 kilocalories with whole milk."