Coffee has been a part of our lives since a long long time. A 9th century goat-herder of Ethiopia is said to have discovered coffee beans in a pretty dramatic way and since then it’s been a worldwide favourite.
Whatever good equipment you manage to buy to make coffee, nothing can compensate for low quality or stale coffee beans. They say choosing high quality coffee is like choosing wine.
A few basic considerations are vital to experience good coffee:
Know your preferred bean type
There are broadly two kinds of commercial coffee beans in the market, Arabica and Robusta.
The higher you go in altitude, the more sweet and acidic coffee you get. Arabica is farmed in higher altitudes and is well known for its smooth and a bit acidic taste. They are deep green before roasting and slightly larger in size to boot.
Robusta is produced in lower altitudes and is perceived as stronger and more bitter. They are pale green in colour with a brown tint.
While Robusta beans are easier to grow, Arabica beans give a much finer brew with milder, more aromatic and less bitter flavour than Robusta beans. Consequently, Arabica blends seem to be more richer and luxurious in every sense of the word while Robusta is economical and provides a stronger flavour.
Knowing the distinction between the two beans will make it easier to choose the beans whose attributes meet your taste expectations.
Origin influences taste
Just like wine, the geographic region where beans have been grown also has a distinct effect on the taste and aroma of coffee. It also depends on the soil, altitude and farming methods of every individual grower. Other factors that may also affect the taste include if they were shade-grown or organic and how the beans were processed.
Familiarizing yourself from where the kind of coffee beans you love come from, makes it easier for you to purchase them when there are so many options in the store.
There are basically 3 regions where the finest coffee beans are grown and each of these places offer a distinct taste.
- Latin America: This region includes Central and South America, the Caribbean, Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama, and Mexico. They are usually light body and well-balanced, acidic and with good fruity undertones. To bring down their bitterness, they are best if roasted mild to medium. This region also includes brazilian coffees that are mostly robusta beans and tend to have a heavy mouth-feel, often with chocolatey overtones, and they are better if roasted dark vs light roast.
- Africa/Arabia: This region includes the countries in the continent of Africa(prominently Ethiopia and Kenya), the Middle-East and Arabian regions. Coffee here tends to have a medium body and with syrupy acidity with usually strong hints of strawberry or blueberry. Some people even find them to be tropical, with a black-currant character and occasionally even a tomato-like acidity. A dark roast is recommended for this region.
- Indonesia and the Pacific Island Region: This region includes Asia, Indonesia and surrounding Pacific Islands. Coffees from here have a dark rich or smoky flavour with a prominent aftertaste hinting of unsweetened cocoa. They are less acidic and bolder. To preserve its smooth undertones, they are best if roasted medium-dark to dark.
Buying freshly roasted coffee is very important. Before purchasing your beans, make sure you know the roast date so you have an idea of how many days you have to consume it. If you have a coffee grinder in your house, go for the whole bean bag and grind them just before you are going to brew. Avoid coffee that is packed as ground and opt for whole beans always as coffee tends to lose its flavor within 30 minutes of being ground.
The type of roast
Roasting turns green beans into coffee. Making yourself familiar with the roasts available can help you predict the flavor of coffee beans you are about to brew.
Along with species and origin of beans, the kind of roast is heavily responsible for determining the aroma, acidity, flavor and caffeine content of your chosen bean.
Contradicting to common sense, the darker the roast, the lesser is its caffeine content!
Here is a brief outline of the roasts available:
- Light roast: This type has a milder flavor with low body and low acidity and can taste almost like wheat or grain but they have the highest amount of caffeine. The surface of the bean is light brown with no visible oil.
- Medium roast: They have a stronger flavor and is sometimes referred as “American roast”. The beans are medium brown in colour, but show no visible oil on them.
- Medium-dark roast: These are richer, more darker and give a bittersweet aftertaste and also show some amount of oils giving a shiny look.
- Dark roast: These shiny black beans with some bitterness have very little acidic taste and are used mainly for Espresso. They have the least amount of caffeine (Get your own restaurant quality espresso at home at qavashop.com).
About the author: Amanda Bentley has 5 years’ experience in the food and beverage industry and currently works as a Content writer at Qavashop (www.qavashop.com). Qavashop.com is an online store for all the “coffee aficionados” located in the GCC. Apart from providing its customers with quality coffee machines and consumables, it also provides them with skilled, knowledgeable advice on how to make their own restaurant quality espresso at home.