How to Select the Best Coffee Beans
So you’ve decided to start buying your own coffee beans but the choice is daunting. There’s Arabica, medium roast, dark roast, blends, single-origin; what do all of these words even mean? Making your own coffee and sourcing a bean is a journey of taste and understanding. Using this guide, you should be able to develop a better understanding of what it means when picking up 500 grams of Arabica light roast single origin.
Types of Coffee Beans
Coffee varies largely based on the region in which it is grown. However, the type of bean is where the selection process starts.
Arabica and Robusta are the two main beans used to make coffee. The beans are harvested and roasted to make coffee. Each bean has different advantages.
Arabica is without doubt the most popular coffee bean. Grown in high altitude areas, Arabica represents three-quarters of coffee consumed worldwide. The Arabica bean produces a coffee that is slightly acidic, with a smooth taste. It can deliver a coffee that is high in flavour and aromatics, with unparalleled richness and body.
Arabica is often considered to make the best coffee beans, and as a result, you may notice that many commercial coffee roasters market their beans specifically as being Arabica for this reason.
Commercial instant coffee often finds its cost efficiency in the Robusta bean. Robusta grows in lower-altitude regions and delivers a less acidic and more bitter taste. What Robusta does have is a higher amount of caffeine.
Robusta is quite often described as having a burnt, even rancid flavour. This is because of the lower sweetness combined with the higher caffeine content. Robusta is usually used as a filler in coffee to deliver a cheaper product.
Liberica is the rarest of coffee beans, accounting for only one-fiftieth of worldwide production. It is a very rare bean and is sometimes added to coffee blends on account of the body and unique flavour that it has. People who have had pure Liberica coffee have described it as full-bodied, with a pleasant wooden flavour.
Choosing a Roast – Bean Types
When choosing a roast, you’ll often notice the first question is between light, medium, or dark roasting. This will depend on the flavour and caffeine content, as well as what you are using to brew your coffee. Your beans will also be either single origin, or a blend to deliver enhanced flavour.
Roast for Caffeine and Flavour
Contrary to popular opinion, and largely thanks to marketing, the lighter the roast means the more caffeine is in the bean. Just to clarify: the darker the roast, the less caffeine. This is due to the density of the bean.
Light and dark roasts have the same amount of caffeine by weight. By scoop, the light roast is denser and has more caffeine. Coffee is made using a scoop, not by weight.
- Light roast coffee generally has a light crisp acidity. Its body is mellow, and it is full of vibrant flavour. These beans have been roasted the least until the internal temperature reaches 175-200 degrees celsius.
- Medium roast coffee has higher acidity than light roast and is medium-bodied and well-rounded. The bean has been roasted until before caramelisation takes place, delivering a nice fruity taste.
- Dark roast coffees are the most acidic and often have a very full flavour profile. They have been roasted the longest, usually having a heavy oily film on the surface of their caramelised surface.
There is also a higher level of roasting; known as Italian Roast or French Roast. This level is beyond the dark roasting process to the point that the bean comes out black. It can be described as strong, burnt coffee.
Choose Roast for Purpose
The choice of roast is also dependent on what you are using to brew the coffee. Extracting flavour from coffee is about the amount of time that the water encounters the coffee ground.
Coffee will be ground differently depending on which instrument is being used to brew it. A light roast bean will perform well with a French press plunger, but not as well with an espresso machine. The best coffee beans for espresso is a medium roast. Your local coffee roaster should be able to provide guidance.
Country: Single Origin
Coffee is grown in many countries. South America, Africa, India, and Oceanic Countries are known as strong producers of coffee. Single-origin coffee is coffee grown in one region, often from one farm. This allows the drinker of the coffee to fully appreciate the subtle differences of that coffee-producing region.
Blends are made by combining origins to make a combined flavour profile, using different tastes that balance and complement each other. One origin that may be exceptional for mouth texture could be combined with other origins to improve the aroma, add to the taste profile, or balance the acidity. If you buy coffee beans that have been blended well, you may wind up with a very special and unique brew.
Risks When Choosing Beans
Always check that the beans are fresh. There should be a roast date printed on the bag. It is worthwhile to invest in a coffee grinder and avoid buying pre-ground beans. If the coffee grounds have been sitting for too long, you may not have the best coffee you could drink.
The best coffee beans are fresh, so make sure the roast date was recent when you buy coffee beans.
100% Coffee Beans
Some dubious roasters have been known to use fillers in their grind to improve their margins. Only ever buy coffee beans that are specifically marked as 100% coffee or 100% Arabica.
Buying Coffee Beans
Your preference ultimately comes down to you. Using your own smell and taste, you will be able to identify what you like and what you don’t like in a coffee bean. If you can keep a record of your coffee tasting experiences, over time you will begin to understand what roast and origin means for your preferred source of caffeine. Coffee is made to be enjoyed, so have a great coffee enjoyment experience.
For more content on coffee beans, check out our coffee beans category.