Coffee is a popular drink around the world because of its rich taste and texture, but with so many different varieties on offer it can be tricky to know how to pick coffee beans that will produce the drink you want. Whether you are after a natural sweetness or bitterness, or simply looking for a warm fresh flavor, your choice of coffee bean will be the main factor that influences the taste. In this article we will be looking at the different types of beans, and how to ensure you get the ones that suit your needs.
How Many Varieties of Coffee Bean Are There?
While all coffee originated in Ethiopia, there are now over 25 million producers of coffee in the world across 50 different countries. Even though some of these, of course, will be growing the same type of bean, variances in climate, soil type, and the way it is harvested means that beans from each place will taste slightly different.
There are two main types of bean to be aware of; Robusta and Arabica.
About 75% of the beans produced in the world are Arabica, and they are known as a more gourmet offering than other types. Arabica coffees are more aromatic and flavorsome, and will usually be named after the country or region they have come from.
Robusta beans, on the other hand, account for 20% of world coffee production and are a lower quality than Arabica, but able to be grown at lower altitudes. They have twice as much caffeine in them as Arabica beans have, and are much easier to grow because they are more disease resistant than other beans and have a higher yield. The flavor is normally thought to be less pleasant than that of Arabica beans.
The remaining 5% of coffee production is made up of at least 12 other varieties, but they are not very common on the export market and are only really available within the country they are sold, or under special circumstances.
What Makes a Good Coffee Bean?
The best type of coffee bean in your case will completely depend on your preference for how the drink will taste. If, for example, you want something with a smooth, acidic taste then you will want an Arabica bean- a Robusta bean will give a stronger and more bitter flavor. Quite often you may find products with blends of each, but once you know what you prefer it will make coffee bean picking a lot easier.
One crucial process in the preparation of coffee beans for drinking is the way it has been roasted. If you like a darker, more bitter coffee- similar to what you will get as standard from Starbucks, for example, then you will want to get a bean that has been roasted more.
This makes them look darker and shinier because it pulls more of the oils out of the bean, and will produce a more bitter taste. If, however, this is the aspect of coffee you don’t like, then you will be far better of by choosing a lightly roasted bean.
The freshness of a bean is also important, so the shorter the time between roasting and brewing, the better your coffee will taste. Quite often, particularly on gourmet products, the package will say when the process has taken place so you will know what to expect.
One of the reasons coffee is so popular is because of the presence of caffeine. The different methods of preparation mean that caffeine levels wildly differ, so if levels are important to you, you will need to look closer when choosing coffee beans.
The type of bean makes a difference here, but also the amount that has been roasted. The more a bean is roasted, the less caffeine it will contain, so if you want higher levels you should go for a medium light roast, as opposed to the darker versions you might assume was stronger. For the highest caffeine content go for a light roast, but you may sacrifice some of the flavor by doing this.
Bean or Ground?
The best coffee is made from beans that have been ground immediately prior to brewing, so as much as possible you should always be buying a whole bean instead of a pre ground one. Freshness is key with coffee, so the longer it’s been on the shelf at the store, the weaker the flavors you will end up getting.
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The Final Verdict
Coffee is no different to other foodstuffs- the fresher the product you get the better the flavors your finished drink will have. Once you have decided on the type of flavor you want from your drink it becomes easy to work out how to pick coffee beans. With so many varieties on offer there will be one that is perfect for you. If you’re still unsure, then it’s worth trying a few different ones out to see what you like best and go from there.