It’s a universal experience to be wowed by a selection of beans, having learned about their history and flavour profile, and then to be disappointed by your freshly brewed cup of coffee. Who would have guessed that choosing the perfect beans for our own use would be as mind-boggling as choosing the perfect vehicle?
When making such a weighty choice as picking the right beans, it’s necessary to take into account how coffee beans are selected and roasted. After everything is said and done, it’s that perfect cup that gets our day off to a great start.
Keep your wits about you
Commercially available coffee beans typically come from one of two species: Robusta or Arabica. Robusta coffee, on one hand, is renowned for its bold flavour and woody aftertaste. Coffee made from arabica beans, on the other hand, has a flavour profile that is often more fruity, subtle, and even somewhat acidic. It’s not surprising that coffee from various nations would taste different due to the wide variety of climates in which the beans are grown. Temperature, height, precipitation, and soil conditions all play significant roles in shaping flavour characteristics.
How to Determine Which Coffee Roast to Use
Coffee beans get their colour and their flavour from the amount of time they are roasted. A freshly plucked, raw, coffee cherry, which contains the green coffee bean, has a smell more akin to a green pepper than the familiar fragrance of your favourite coffee shop. Coffee’s signature flavour burst is the result of the roasting process.
Flavour-wise, light roasts and dark roasts couldn’t be more different. Choose beans that are lighter in colour if you like a more refined flavour with more pronounced acidity in your coffee. Because of their reduced roasting period, these beans have a milder flavour profile. Similarly, if you want a more robust beverage with stronger body and less acidity, darker roasts are the way to go.
One must not forget that water quality plays a big part in defining flavour of coffee. Ensure you have the correct water filters for your water type.
Make a note of the desired level of caffeine in your drink.
Despite popular belief, there is no link between the colour of coffee beans and their caffeine concentration. Roasting the same bean for a longer amount of time causes it to shrink and lose weight, but caffeine content is unaffected.
Plants of the robusta species have evolved to withstand greater heat and can grow well in lowland areas with hotter climates. They tend to have more caffeine than the arabica species. You can’t go wrong with well roasted robusta beans if you’re looking for stronger drinks with body.
Origin-Specific vs. Multiethnic
When referring to coffee, “single origin” refers to coffee that is not blended, and as such, it originates from a particular region or a specific country where the beans were grown.
The fact that the coffee brings with it the growing characteristics of that region such as the weather, altitude, and soils of the coffee plantation where the bean was grown, allows an origin to be treated as a unique coffee with its own flavour profile. Some coffee roasters roast single origin coffee where they can use this uniqueness to best advantage.
However, most coffee bean offerings are blends of two or more origins because the coffee roaster can balance the taste and flavour profiles using the characteristics of each origin. For example, the floral notes of Central South American coffee from origins such as Colombia, can be blended with the stronger body of Drugar coffee from Uganda.
It’s fairly uncommon to see coffee roasters using more than four or five coffee origins to make a single blend because they’ll typically find the balance they seek with three or four origins.
This is why every coffee drinking experience is exactly that – a coffee drinking experience!