In nature, there are four kinds of coffee trees – robusta, arabica, liberica and ekstselsa. The last two species are tasteless and have no nutritional value, but arabica and robusta rightly prevail on the coffee market. New coffee hybrids that have actively been created recently in order to increase the volume of the crop and increase the resistance of the plants to disease, are also still significantly inferior to the classic pure varieties in terms of taste.
Arabica – the Queen of Coffee in the World
According to coffee drinking statistics, the famous arabica accounts for 70% of all the coffee consumed in the world. Its delicate flavor and the huge variety of characteristics associated with the geographical origin of the bean, the quality of its cleaning, the degree of roasting and other factors are what make arabica so expensive. General characteristics of taste – most noticable is its sweetness and density. To a large extent, the plant’s fickleness and low resistance to disease and frost affects the price of arabica coffee (and it is quite expensive). Over a whole year, one coffee tree produces about 5 kg of fruit, but only 1 kg is finished grain. Arabica is distinguished by its high aromatic content (16-18%) and low caffeine content (1-1.5%). The grains of this variety are large, long and straight.
Robusta. Some Like it Stronger
The tart and sharp taste of robusta has far fewer fans than the delicate, sweet and aromatic arabica. Robusta you can buy for much cheaper. Robusta is only 30% of the total volume of coffee produced in the world. The aroma of robusta coffee is not as impressive, but the strength of the drink is much greater. This is the reason robusta is used to produce successful original blends, and in the production of instant coffee and espresso to create a dense, stable foam. The aromatic oils in robusta only make up 8-10% of the coffee, but the caffeine content can reach 4%. You can distinguish robusta beans by their minute size and rounded shape.
It is not hard to distinguish robusta coffee from arabica by taste. robusta coffee will have a characteristic sour and sharp bitterness in the flavor, while arabica coffee is much more mild. At the same time, robusta is dense and full-bodied, and is less watery than arabica.
Tell Me Where My Coffee is Grown. We Say, “What Does it Taste Like?”
Distinguishing the variety and types of coffee beans is enough for a coffee drinker who wants to buy a decent coffee, but true professionals value the beans also according to their geographical origin, which makes its own mark on the finished drink.
- Colombian Milds – Arabica, grown in Colombia, Tanzania and Kenya. These are the best coffee beans, and are the most valuable and expensive variety. In fact, the cost of these beans dictate the pricing policy for the rest of the class. Almost always, these grains are used for mixing with stronger flavors.
- Other Milds – High-quality coffee grown in Mexico, Central America and some Asian regions. Valued lower than Colombian coffee beans, but still create a high quality aromatic drink.
- Brazil – Even cheaper grades of arabica grow in most of Brazil and other South American countries. You should not need to go with these relatively low grade beans, because you can buy coffee beans from other, more elite categories.
- Robustas – A category that includes all kinds of robusta, regardless of origin. Compared with arabica, these are the cheapest coffee beans.
Separating them into four categories, of course, is not enough to convey all the subtleties and nuances of flavors. The fragrant composition of the finished beverage will also include a particular note, formed due to the influence of high mountains, monsoons, volcanic soils and other climatic conditions, which affect the result in the rating of coffee beans:
- Aromatic palette grains grown in Yemen, for example, can be discovered by their pronounced fruity undertones.
- You will not mistake beans from Rwanda or Tanzania with any other. Their unique aroma and mild flavor will make you a long time fan of this excellent coffee.
- The taste of beans from India is attractive for its complexity and versatility. The soft tartness on the palate and easy drinkability gives it an easily recognizable flavor.
- Coffee beans from the fruit grown in Hawaii have a long aftertaste. This variety is considered to be quite rare, and therefore it is not cheap to buy. Note: the degree of roasting will substantially affect the finished drink: a light roast makes it ideal to add milk or cream to, while a strong roast will give off a heavenly scent and the taste will have a nice bitterness.
- Coffee from Costa Rica – Bitter, aromatic and full-bodied. If Latinos call Mexican coffee invigorating, for Costa Rican coffee they apply the epithet – burning. Likewise, Cuban coffee beans possess a scalding temper.
- Arabica, grown in Jamaica – a gourmet coffee bean, the most famous and expensive coffee, which can be bought all over the world. More than 70% of the crop is purchased in Japan, which makes the cost of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee beans almost inaccessible in the world market. Excellent acidity, nutty tones, clean delicate flavor, a delicate bouquet – all these qualities explain why such a this variety has been unsurpassed for such a long time.
- Coffee grown in Bali has a surprisingly rich aroma, which can be identified by notes of spices, including clove and allspice. The drink leaves a pleasant fruity, sweet aftertaste.
- Ethiopian coffee is lovely and unpredictable. The harvest of each new year presents consumers with surprises – it is difficult to buy the same coffee in different seasons. It can have a variety of flavors, including chocolate, hints of lemon, a flower taste, or a taste of wine.
In the selection of coffee beans there is a simple principle – the more ripe the berry was, the larger the bean that is extracted, and the higher grade the coffee will be considered. The largest grains provide an excellent and flavorful drink. Individual sieves with different mesh sizes are used to sort the wheat. A common general sorting system is used in all parts of the world:
- 8 mm – huge grains
- 7.543 mm – extra large
- 7,146 mm – large grains
- 6.352 mm – good grain
- 5.955 mm – average grain size
- 5.161 mm – small coffee beans
Despite the existence of such a classification, today the world has no single official standard to allow you to accurately determine the quality and grade of the grain.
Coffee Bean Defects: Allowance for Demanding Customers
The process of selecting the best beans is essential, and occupies a place of pride among the rest of the stages of coffee making, as from the coffee plantation to the cup, even one single rotten bean that has gotten into the package can completely spoil the taste of the drink. Many defects affect the quality of grain and, accordingly, reduce its value. Coffee trees, as well as other plants, are prone to various diseases, and exotic insects are not adverse to eating ripe coffee berries. A short education on determining the quality of the bean does not make you an expert in this area, but definitely will allow you to learn to distinguish between elite and premium beans from low-grade.
- Quality beans that have gone through the roasting process become a nearly black color. But they may turn black and rot due to disease. At the same time, if you mix multiple varieties in one bag and find a rotten bean, distinguishing between them is extremely difficult.
- Even a non-standard form may be considered in finding defects. Swollen beans with asymmetric grooves, or shrunken and shriveled grains indicate defects or severe lateness in the collection time.
- Broken beans, or chipped beans are evidence of problems in the process of drying and primary processing.
- Coffee beans that have been affected by worms or beetles will have one or more circular openings of about 1 mm.
- If the fruit of the coffee tree was collected while it was still immature, green beans would acquire a characteristic grayish color with dark shades, ranging from black to brown. Pale yellow blotches on the grains show their lower quality compared with healthy grains, as well as lighter density.
- “Stinky” – a term coffee specialists use to describe odorous, defective beans (from the English: Stinker-Skunk). A couple beans that have been overexposed in fermentation tanks or stuck in shelling machines can spoil the whole batch of natural beans.
- Caracol (peaberry, snail, pea) are not considered to be a separate species of coffee. They are obtained from fruit in which, instead of holding just one bean, two beans have been pressed together. They are selected from the total weight and sold separately.
The defects of coffee beans will play a significant role in determining their class and, of course, cost. If an expensive product is positioned as a “selective bean extra class,” you should not notice a single seed with any defects in a pack.
How to Determine the Freshness of the Coffee Beans
One of the main signs of fresh beans is their oily sheen. The surface of old coffee beans has a dull grayish tint. Irregularities and cracks on the surface of the coffee are another reason to doubt its freshness and compliance with the rules of transportation and storage. But the most important tip is to pay attention to aroma. The proper, sealed bean storage in packaging with a valve enables gases to disperse outwardly during the storage of coffee, are the packaging does not get blown up. But if, having opened a pack of coffee beans, you smell a rancid odor, using the beans for coffee is not recommended.
So, when planning to buy coffee, pay attention to three parameters:
- Lubricity grains
- Smooth surface without cracks or plaque
- Good flavor
After choosing good coffee beans, in any case, you can be sure you’re getting real, black, brewed coffee, not a substitute. Keep in mind the fact that quality coffee is never packed in plastic jars. It is usually sold in a sealed vacuum, in glass or in containers, which must have information about the roasting date. If the pack only specifies the product’s shelf life, this is not enough. A package without the date the coffee was roasted in most cases will be of cheaper quality, or may even be expired.