Have you ever wondered what those fancy words mean on your bag of coffee? Then this is the article for you. In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about your coffee beans.
I will start by covering the different kinds of coffee beans, how they are processed, roasted, and much more information regarding your coffee beans!
Which coffee beans are there?
Let me start by explaining which coffee bean families are out there. I will cover the most commonly used coffee beans on the planet; the Arabica and the Robusta.
These two coffee beans are not alone; there are also coffee beans that are much rarer and will only be used to produce the best quality coffee on the planet.
I’m talking about the Liberica and the Excelsa coffee beans. These coffee beans are much harder to find in your local supermarket because there just aren’t enough coffee beans produced to go around.
I will begin by covering the Arabica coffee bean. Make sure to read along, as I will be giving out a lot of information about the coffee you are drinking every morning.
The Arabica coffee beans
So, let’s start with the Arabica coffee bean, which is the most popular coffee globally. Arabica coffee is harvested from the plant called Coffea Arabica.
It is believed that this is one of the first species of coffee to be recognized. Coffea Arabica accounts for over 60% of the world’s coffee production.
Arabica is the general name of all the coffee beans of the same family. Typica is considered the original variety. From here on out, there are a lot of mutations known.
Here are some examples of coffee varieties: Bourbon, Caturra, Cutaui, Mundo Novo, and many more.
The bourbon coffee plant, for example, is a natural mutation of the Typica coffee plant. Mundo Novo is a hybrid between the Typica and the Bourbon coffee plant.
Every region has its own kind of coffee plant. The coffees from these plants all have a distinct flavor to them.
The Arabica coffee plant usually grows from 900m- 2000m (3000ft- 6600ft) and up. The further up the mountains the coffee plants grow, the more expensive the coffee beans will be.
This has everything to do with how much space the coffee farmer has on his mountain. But also because hard-to-reach places involve more hard labor work.
What are Robusta coffee beans, and how do they grow?
Robusta coffee, or Coffea Canephora in Arabic, is the second most-produced coffee bean in the world. Producing more than 98% of the entire coffee stock together with the Arabica coffee beans.
The Robusta plant packs more caffeine, contains less sugar than the Arabica coffee bean, and is less susceptible to different kinds of diseases. This is why most coffee farmers choose to have a mixture of coffee plants on their farms.
But there are even more advantages to growing Robusta beans on the farm: the Robusta coffee plant takes about 2-3 years to grow fully when compared to the Arabica coffee plants, which will take up to 7 years of growth until the coffee beans are ready for plucking.
Robusta is known for its acidity. This coffee bean has almost twice the amount of acidity on them as the Arabica coffee beans.
This coffee bean is most commonly used in a coffee blend. This is because the coffee beans add a nice flavor profile combined with a high-grown Arabica coffee bean.
When you read along, you will find everything you want to know about coffee blends. This will give you a more general idea of what I just talked about.
Liberica coffee, how rare are these coffee beans?
The Coffea Liberica coffee plant is scarce. Only growing in a few places on earth, the coffee beans from this coffee plant are sought after. The Coffea Liberica produces only about 2% of the entire world’s stock of coffee.
The coffee beans the Coffea Liberica produces are bigger than the Arabica or Robusta coffee beans. It also packs more caffeine than Arabica coffee beans but less than Robusta.
The Excelsa coffee bean. What is it, and is it that much more different than the rest of the coffee beans?
I wanted to include this coffee bean from the Coffea Excelsa coffee plant on this list because it is even rarer than the Coffea Liberica coffee. It is now considered to be of the same family as the Coffea Liberica.
Having a normal coffee bean size, the coffee beans pack a unique flavor profile. It is very sought after by coffee enthusiasts because it is hard to get your hands on a good amount of these delicious coffee beans.
If you ever get the chance to try a nice cup of coffee made from either the Excelsa or Liberica coffee beans, I would suggest going for it.
What is a peaberry, and how do they differ from regular coffee beans?
The beans inside of a coffee cherry come in pairs. Most of the time, when you break open a coffee cherry, there are two sides of a coffee bean. You can compare this with a peanut, which has the same kind of growing technique.
It is a coffee bean with a natural mutation, forming a single bean inside the coffee fruit. About 5% of all coffee cherries produce peaberries. The result you get from this peaberry is much more different than a regular coffee bean.
The peaberry coffee beans have a more round-shaped size and are believed the be of better quality than normal coffee beans. This is because all of the nutrients go to one coffee bean instead of two.
The peaberry coffee beans are usually roasted alongside the rest of the coffee beans but are picked out of the bunch for a separate sale afterward.
Picking these peaberries out of the rest of the coffee beans; is all handwork, which is why peaberry coffee tends to be more expensive when bought separately.
How are coffee beans processed?
Does the quality of the coffee bean change when using a different process? The answer is no, although the flavor can change slightly depending on which process is used; all the flavor will come out once the coffee beans get roasted.
This is where the real change in flavors begins.
I will cover the three processes used in the coffee industry. The natural process, the washed process, and the pulped natural process; are most commonly referred to as the semi-washed process.
In most cases, the process used can be found on the packaging of your coffee. If you cannot find it on the packaging, you can always ask your local coffee roaster. They will always have an answer to these coffee-related questions.
Using the natural process
With this process, the whole coffee cherries are left to dry. This mostly happens on big patios just outside the farmer’s house. Sometimes drying beds are used.
This method of drying the coffee beans is used to get more airflow to the coffee beans. Resulting in a more even drying process.
The coffee cherries are covered at night and when it is raining. The drying process will take up to six weeks. The coffee beans are then off to be separated from their fruit. What is left is a clean green bean, ready to be shipped off and roasted.
How the washed process works
In this process, the coffee cherries get a nice little bath. The coffee cherries will run through a stream of fresh water. The good cherries will stay afloat. The bad ones will sink to the bottom and will be thrown out.
They are then sent to the next washing station, where a pulping machine will remove the outer skin. The beans are then left to ferment.
This can take up to a few days. This will reduce the mucilage that was left when going through the washing station.
The coffee beans will then be ready for drying. The drying will take place in the sun in most places.
Some farmers use a drying machine as well, and this is because the weather is very unpredictable, and if the beans get wet by rain, it will need more days to get fully dried coffee beans.
The pulped natural/ semi-washed process
The pulped natural or semi-washed process is where the outer skin will be removed by a pulping machine, just like the washed process. The coffee beans are then stored until the next morning.
This will result in small fermentation, which will eventually pay off with a more flavorful coffee bean. The coffee beans are then fully washed off and then left to dry. Drying the coffee beans will usually take anywhere from three to six weeks.
This process will give your coffee a few more sweet notes with less acidity. This process is mostly used for an espresso roast.
To sum up, the processing of the coffee cherry can bring out another flavor profile. Usually, the coffee beans with a little mucilage of the coffee cherry on them tend to be a little sweeter than the natural process.
Some people swear by the washed process, and others like the natural process more.
How does the roasting of the coffee beans impact the flavor of coffee?
A few years back, the coffee beans were not that great of a quality. This is why coffee roasters choose to dark roast their coffee beans. A dark roast of the coffee beans to mask low-quality coffee bean flavors like leather.
Nowadays, this isn’t necessary anymore because of the upcoming specialty coffee farms.
Coffee from these farms usually gets light or medium roasted.
When light or medium roasting these coffee beans, they bring out a complex flavor profile.
So what exactly is the difference between a light, medium, and dark roast?
When looking at this overview, you can see the difference in taste. In short: the longer the coffee beans get roasted, the more defined complex flavor it brings out.
Mass-produced coffee will usually get a fast roast. Roasting the coffee beans this way will get you the result in about 90 seconds. This way, the downside to roasting coffee beans is that the coffee beans don’t have time to bring out their flavor.
What does slow-roasting coffee beans mean?
The benefits of slow-roasting coffee are as follows: you can get a more complex tasting cup of coffee by really bringing out the flavor profile you like.
Let’s say, for example, you want a low acidic coffee bean for an espresso. Slow roasting can achieve this flavor by lowering the acidic level in the coffee beans.
When roasting the coffee beans to a less acidic level, the other flavors of the coffee beans stay preserved. This technique will take up to 30 minutes, depending on the desired roast.
Fun fact: have you ever wondered why your dark roast coffee has an oily consistency to them? The longer you roast the coffee; the more oil the coffee beans let go.
This is why you will most commonly see this happening with an espresso-roasted coffee bean.
How does altitude affect coffee?
I recently started buying more and more from a local coffee roaster. The quality is amazing, and most of the coffee beans they sell are from certified coffee farms.
Sometimes, when you buy the coffee beans, you get a coffee sheet. On this sheet, you can read where your coffee comes from, from which year the crop is, and at which altitude the coffee grows.
So when doing some research, I found out that altitude can impact the flavor of your coffee big time!
This has everything to do with how high up the mountain the coffee farm is stationed. Coffee grown at a higher elevation tends to be of better quality.
High altitudes above 900m- 1500m (3000ft- 4900ft) and higher provide the ideal growing conditions. This isn’t true for most smaller producing coffee farms, though.
You can still get a very good-tasting coffee bean, for example, from a farm stationed at 500m (1600ft), where the beans get lots of sunlight.
Whether the coffee plants get a lot of sunlight or are in the shadow most of the time; makes a big difference as well.
When the coffee plants get a lot of sunlight, they produce the coffee beans faster, compared to staying in the shadow at all times.
The cooler the mountain, the slower the coffee beans grow, which provides a more complex flavor profile.
The soil makes a big difference as well. When the coffee beans grow on fertile soil, the beans get a much deeper flavor. The more nutritious the soil can give the coffee plant, the bigger and better coffee beans they produce.
What is a coffee blend?
A coffee blend is made by combining multiple single-origin coffees. Where single-origin coffees have a more pronounced taste, a coffee blend has a more well-balanced flavor.
In most cases, the cup of coffee you drink in the morning is a coffee blend. This is because it is most commonly used in the coffee market. Most blends consist of a mixture of Arabica and Robusta beans.
Here you combine the best flavors, using the Robusta beans, which pack more bitter notes, and Arabica for the sweeter notes.
You can always see what type of coffee beans you buy, for example, in your local supermarket. You can check whether your coffee is a blend of a single-origin coffee by looking at the label.
It will usually say that it’s a mixture of coffee beans like 60% Arabica and 40% Robusta. This means it is a blend. When searching for a single-origin coffee, you must look for the label containing 100% Arabica coffee beans, for example.
What is single-origin coffee?
Single-origin coffee is coffee grown on either a single farm, multiple farms in the same area, or coffee from multiple farms in the same country.Wikipedia
This means you get a more general idea of where your coffee comes from. This is what sets it aside from a coffee blend, which is something I will talk about in a bit.
Most commonly, single-origin coffee is made from Arabica beans because of its taste profile.
As more specialty coffee shops open around the world, coffee enthusiasts and coffee drinkers alike are more interested in the transparency that single-origin coffee has to offer.
Single-origin coffee usually has a more pronounced flavor profile. This is because you can get a coffee bag made on one farm, for example, from the Sumbi Province of Papua New Guinea.
This is the third-largest producing region of the island. The coffee from this region often has wonderful complexity and a great sweetness.
Once you start tasting coffee from all around the world, you will notice a big difference in taste.
This is why most people prefer a single-origin coffee over a blend. When tasting side by side, you can taste all the different kinds of flavors in each coffee.
If you taste enough coffee, you will start to understand the importance of drinking a single-origin over a blend.
I have been drinking coffee for quite a while, and I prefer drinking coffee from Costa Rica.
Coffee from Costa Rica has a nice balanced flavor profile which I really like. Once you start exploring the world of coffee more and more, you will definitely get a favorite too.
In this article, I have answered a few questions I had when first starting to discover the world of coffee.
I’ve explained to you which kinds of coffee beans are out there and how the process and the altitude of the coffee can change the way your cup of coffee turns out.
These are some fun and intriguing questions to which you now have the answer. I will see you in the next article, read on, and enjoy the coffee journey!
Down below, I’ve listed a few articles that might be of interest to you: