Coffee Consultations – What’s The Difference Between Coffee Bean Types

When you sip your morning coffee, the flavours that dance across your tongue can tell you a story. The story of what coffee beans were used, where they were grown, and what happened to them between being picked and ending up in your favourite keep cup. When it comes to your taste buds there really are differences between beans. At the risk of becoming an insufferable coffee snob, class is in session on the differences in coffee beans.

Coffee King Pins – Arabica and Robusta

Arabica accounts for about 60% of the coffee beans produced and sold worldwide. Freshly roasted coffee made with Arabica beans is typically aromatic (high in lipids), sweet (due to its high acidity) and contains around 1.5% caffeine. It’s the world’s most popular, and expensive, coffee bean. Unfortunately it does require specific growing conditions and can be affected by diseases which limit annual production. 

Fortunately, Robusta coffee beans have come to the rescue. As the name implies this bean can grow in a variety of locations and accounts for about 40% of the coffee beans produced and sold worldwide. A freshly roasted coffee (an espresso most likely) made with Robusta beans is typically bitter earthy flavor with around 2.7% caffeine.

Regional influences – it matters where you grow up

One glance at the offerings at your local coffee roaster will show an enormous variety seemingly belying the fact that there are only two types of coffee beans being consumed by the world. Robusta beans don’t vary particularly with the location they are grown in. As such you will normally taste these beans in instant coffee, in an espresso coffee or as part of a blend. On the other hand, Arabica bean flavours vary significantly with the location they are grown, and they are grown in a lot of places! Arabica varieties provide a wonderful palette of flavours for the dedicated coffee drinker, and a delight for the coffee roaster looking to make that special blend. 

Some of the leading blends that may sound familiar:

  • Kona coffee, grown in the Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii.
  • Java coffee, grown at the eastern end of the island of Java.
  • Blue Mountain coffee, initially grown in the Blue Mountain of Jamaica

Now for human intervention

The picked coffee bean is green (yes, green) and before it’s ground up and made into your favourite coffee, the green beans need to be roasted. Roasting is a deceptively simple process with a seemingly infinite range of possible outcomes in terms of flavor, aroma and colour. The roasting process applies heat to the green bean with the goal of changing its flavor to the one desired by the roaster. Coffee roasts are normally described by the colour of bean they produce, light, medium and dark.

  • Light roasts: Roasting at this lower temperature doesn’t trigger the chemical reactions within the bean that darker roasts do. As a result there is a toasted grain flavor in addition to the flavours of the varietal, preserved rather than obscured by the roasting. The best part? This type of roast has the highest level of caffeine to get your day going. 
  • Medium roasts: These have a stronger flavor and aroma than the light roasts with a medium acidity. The caffeine level is lower than the light roast. 
  • Dark roasts: The beans are almost black and the roasting has caused a chemical reaction within the bean that has forced the oil to come out of the bean, overwhelming the flavours associated with the varietal being roasted. Coffee from these beans will have an oily, bitter and smoky taste (think espresso). This roast has the lowest level of caffeine of all three styles.

So tomorrow when you sip your first coffee of the day take a moment to consider what beans were used, where they were grown and what type of roast was used. If you would like to discuss what coffee beans are available here at Corporate Coffee, contact our team or come in for a free demonstration and tasting.

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