How Do I Choose The Right Coffee Beans?

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Coffee beans are among the world’s most valuable and most traded commodities, surpassed only by oil. 

This trendy commodity is produced and consumed worldwide. Coffee beans are grown in more than 70 countries, in an area we know as the “bean belt”. 

The story goes that coffee beans are originally from Ethiopia.

Coffee beans are among the world’s most valuable and most traded commodities, surpassed only by oil. 

This trendy commodity is produced and consumed worldwide. 

Coffee beans are grown in more than 70 countries, in an area we know as the “bean belt”. The story goes that coffee beans are originally from Ethiopia.

Every home-barista knows that you should not go down on equipment – but the equipment may be just fine if the beans are not chosen with the same care.

Yes, you can actually brew the most amazing cup of coffee on the simplest equipment – if you choose the right beans (and process them properly in the process).

When you are new to the world of coffee, and for the first time want to look elsewhere than the middle shelf in the supermarket for coffee beans, it may seem a bit obscure to see what parameters to choose from.

My best advice to all home-baristas is to be curious. “Play lab”, explore and throw yourself into experiments. Know that you’re going to brew coffee that tastes different than you thought – maybe even ugly.

Take it with you. Analyze why the taste was different than expected. Practice and learn from your mistakes – it makes the home-baristas journey fun and exciting and gives every coffee lover great flavors along the way.

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The most popular coffee beans

If we want to cut it down as much as possible, we can divide coffee into two groups. Arabica and Robusta.

arabica robusta beans

Arabica coffee beans

Although Arabica coffee beans contain less caffeine than Robusta, Arabica is considered to be superior in

taste. It is much smoother and hardly so sour.

According to the International Coffee Organization (hereafter “ICO”), 60.92% of the total production in 2017 was Arabica. Unlike Robusta, Arabica is a species and not a variant. That means the Arabica coffee bean has two varieties that are grown. These are about Typica and Bourbon.

Typical was the first variant of the Arabica bean discovered. That is the variant story from Ethiopia.

Praised for its complex and balanced aroma, Bourbon has since its founding laid the groundwork for many sub-variants and mutations.

Robusta coffee beans

Robusta is the most recognized variant, as Arabica is a species and not a variant. Although Robusta bean’s taste is far less refined, the bean is very popular in espresso blends. 

It is because it offers more crema. Crema is the delicious layer of coffee foam you would like to find on top of espresso and similar to coffee drinks.

Robusta’s caffeine is higher than in Arabica and provides a better yield for the beans that grow the coffee beans.

The coffee bean family tree

If you eventually want to see the coffee plant’s family tree, you can create a small overview here.

  • Rubiaceae (family)
    • Coffea (genus)
      • Arabica (art)
        • Typica (variant)
        • Bourbon (variant)
      • Canephora (art)
        • Robust (variant)

Read the label

Moving out into the commercial coffee market, you can easily be dazzled by light marketing tricks, such as flashy colors and beautiful images.

But beware: it is not necessarily those who spend most on marketing which has the best coffee on the market – and not at all if we are talking about high-quality coffee.

Those who go into the supply of a high-quality product would like to tell you everything they know about it.

So our best advice is: always read the label.

Roasting Date

Maybe you wondered that the coffee in the supermarket does not have a roasted date, but instead a “best before” date?

The thing is that coffee is neither rotten nor mouldy and is not easily perishable and should not be labelled with a production date.

Roasted coffee beans can last for a very long time. But long shelf life does not mean that the quality does not change over time. It actually does!

Aromas and flavors appear much more clearly in freshly roasted beans than in old ones.

Basically – fresh is best.

Aroma is gas

During the roasting process, CO2 builds up in the bean; this level begins to drop immediately after the coffee is roasted, which affects the taste of the beans.

It may surprise, but in fact, the coffee is not the best when it has just come out of the grill. Most coffee beans need a minimum of three to four days to gas off before they taste optimal.

Your local professional coffee roaster knows exactly when the beans are best and therefore, only puts the freshly roasted coffee on the market when it tastes optimal.

The packaging is very important

To keep the best taste and aroma content in the beans, they should not contact air. 

Therefore, the beans should be stored in an airtight bag with a one-way valve. 

This means that CO2 from the beans can come out, but oxygen cannot enter.

Some specialty stores sell “specialty coffee” which is packaged and sold in paper bags.

The likelihood of you coming home with beans that are completely degassed and do not taste very much is very high.

Therefore, always choose beans that are packed immediately after roasting.

After opening the bag, close it as tightly as possible. Use a BeanKeep, an elastic or similar. To close the bag, keep it dark and at room temperature.

And last but not least … Use the coffee –  “the one who saves for the night saves for the cat.”

Coffee should be used as soon as possible after opening, so don’t buy more coffee than you can use in a few weeks.

Taste and pleasure

There are about 70 coffee-producing countries globally, and it will be a strong generalization to hang each country on a specific taste. 

Good and bad coffee comes from all countries, and the taste profiles can vary widely, even in small geographical areas. 

The taste depends not only on the nature of the coffee plant but also on the soil conditions, the height, rainfall, and processing process.

Roughly generalized around country of origin – Examples

–  Brazil: Often low acidity, large body and sweetness, often with chocolate and nut flavors.

Colombia: Great diversity, ranging from fullness and heavy chocolate aroma to the fruit’s mild acidity and sweetness.

–  Indonesia: Often high density, the aroma of soil and wood with very low acidity.

–  Ethiopia: Great acidity, small to medium body and complex notes of, e.g. citrus, flowers, dark berries or tropical fruit.

–  India: Strong flavor, creamy, low acidity, often without great complexity.

–  Mexico: Medium acidity and sweetness. Light body and aroma of berries, nuts and light chocolate.

–  Guatemala: Very varied, but much of the coffee has great acidity, notes of citrus and sweetness from berry notes.

But remember, these are gross generalizations. There is also a lot of coffee blends and therefore has a flavor profile composed of different beans, giving a whole new taste impression.

Coffee varieties – The genetics of coffee

There are many different varieties of coffee. Some are obtained by selective crossing. 

Others have naturally evolved from the growth conditions in which they have been cultivated.

Commercially, the distinction is made between the species Robusta and Arabica coffee. Robusta is more resistant to disease, insect infestation and climate. 

It can be grown at lower altitudes and can often be picked by machine. 

This makes it much cheaper to produce than Arabica. However, the taste of the two varieties varies greatly.

Robusta’s taste is often described as bitter, with notes of wood, earth, perfume and burnt rubber, and has an overall great body and much fullness.

It is also the lower price that makes Robusta coffee as widespread as it is. 

Not surprisingly, the coffee industry is largely driven by price rather than quality. 

That being said, one can also sometimes find a Robusta,  which does well in a blender. But in general, Arabica coffee is tastefully preferred.

So unless you are looking to copy a traditional Italian flavor experience from St. Peter’s Square in Rome, you should choose a coffee that is pure Arabica.

Processing operations

A significant factor for the coffee taste is the finishing treatment the coffee carriers get after picking. 

Most coffee growers will claim that the processing process they use is the best. 

But often it is the local conditions that determine how the coffee is processed. 

For example, you cannot make washed coffee in places where there are scarce resources of water. 

As a beginner home barista, one can assume that each farm has chosen just the processing that provides the best quality for them.

Roasting profile

Roast Colors 1

Espresso brewing for espresso brewing – filter roasting for filter brewing

Always choose coffee beans according to the brewing method you want to use. 

An espresso roasted bean has evolved further in the roasting process and the caramelization. 

The beans appear dark brown and shiny with more body and bitter taste and almost no acid. 

Espresso coffee beans are toasted to fit under pressure in an espresso machine. 

When making the traditional café drinks such as latte, cappuccino and macchiato, the espresso must also have a certain strength to not disappear in the warm milk in taste. 

This is what you get when you choose coffee beans roasted for espresso brewing.

Slow brew coffee beans – including french press, pour-over and filter – shredded shorter and lighter, thereby preserving more acidity and sweetness.

These are divided into a few subcategories.

– Light grate: Mild taste and often many aromas, maybe even a small touch of wheat or grain. The surface is light and completely oil-free.

– Medium grill: Slightly stronger flavor, and is the grill that is most commonly found in supermarkets. The beans are medium brown and have no visible oil on the surface.

– Medium to dark roast: A more powerful and full-bodied flavor, still sweet but also bitter. Here, the oil will begin to appear on the surface of the beans.

The vast majority of cases will appear from the packaging, whether this is a bean toasted for espresso brewing. If it is not listed then suppose it is for filter brewing.

Whole beans are best

Avoid the aromas going into thin air – Roast your beans yourself

Should you choose whole beans or ground coffee? 

No matter how well you store ground beans, they will lose flavor and aroma much faster than whole beans. 

When beans are ground, the surface increases often, and the flavors (gases) in the beans disappear into the blue air. Therefore, choose to paint the beans yourself immediately before using them.

The best investment a home barista can make is to invest in a coffee grinder

With a coffee grinder (and the right grinding) you will experience a quality quantum leap.

You get the most amazing flavors when you occasionally go into deep water and try something completely new and different. 

Therefore, we recommend that you build your own experience by trying something different from time to time. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a favourite coffee …

But who knows? Maybe it will be replaced with a new and better one along the way.

Enjoy,

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