What Make Coffee Beans Great and Why?

Ahhhh… here I am, early morning on a weekday, sitting with a coffee while I write this article. It’s not just your average coffee, but it’s a coffee that has been made from crushed beans I was sent from a colleague who lives in Hawaii. Coconut flavour. And I brew it with my small mini coffee maker. And let’s just say, it is delicious.

But that gets me thinking. Of course, I love the taste of coffee – and for me it’s not so much about the caffeine hit, but it’s that I really do enjoy the taste. When I was pregnant, I still drank caffeine-free coffee – which was testament that it wasn’t about the caffeine for me (as much as my husband wanted to argue differently). But there are so many different types of coffee, so many different flavours.

And, there is no doubt in my mind that a lot of effort goes into creating the perfect cup of coffee and that starts long before the barista opens that bag of beans and fiddles with the grind.

So while the coffee maker works hard to capture the right temperature, decent water, and the perfect grind to tease the right flavours from the bean – what is it that makes the bean great?

The Origin Story 

Climate has a lot to do with making a coffee bean great, many regions produce the ultimate – the Arabica. It is generally grown at a higher altitude and is allowed to fully ripen before being handpicked and allowed to dry naturally. You’ll pay more for beans like this, but you will notice the difference in your finished cup. Allowing beans to grow slowly and under the right temperature will allow it to cope well with the rest of the process it will undergo before finally hitting the hopper.

Arabica Or Robusta? 

Of course, part of this process is in the harvest. The coffee bean is basically the pit of a coffee cherry, so to get to the bean you have to get rid of the fruit. Arabica farmers pick the fruit when it’s ripe and if there are fruits not yet ripe during the picking process they leave them and return to pick them when they’re ready, whereas Robusta farmers will pick all the cherries at once. This is why Robusta brews tend to take a more bitter flavour, they are usually used for instant coffees and in blends, rather than standing alone. You can read more Arabica vs. Robusta here.

A lot of TLC goes into the production of Arabica beans, which is why these coffees are more expensive. However, they are worth the additional cost, especially if you enjoy the different flavour profiles of coffee and your life isn’t all about just getting caffeine any way you can. I mean, sure, if your habit is big you can mix it up and include Robusta for the boost, but it’s difficult to turn your back on Arabica once you’ve had it.

The Roast

Yet, no matter how much love and affection is poured over the beans it can all go wrong when it comes time to roast. Everyone has different taste, so the type of roast you prefer is entirely up to you. However, when you’re buying beans it shouldn’t be too dark (it may be burnt) and they should be a bit oily (but not too much so). All of these factors have an impact on the final coffee taste.

Light Roast – these are roasted for a short period of time and don’t carry too much flavour, they tend to be a light brown colour.

Medium Roast – a medium roast has more body to it and the bean itself is a medium brown colour.

Dark Roast – this oily bean is deep brown and is fully in body, but may not pack the flavourful punch you’d expect.

A dark roast is consistent, though not stronger in any sense. Any one of these roasts can be achieved in any region.

Don’t look at the sell by or use by date, rather looking for a roast date to determine how fresh those beans are.

Now that you know just what goes into the coffee bean process, it’s important that you do your part to maintain its sanctity. Invest in a grinder and buy whole beans, it’s the best way to enjoy your brew. Grind as much coffee as you need and no more. In coffee shops once a bag of beans is open it’s slapped with a 48-hour use by date and that lifespan is reduced to 24 hours as soon as those beans are poured into the machine. This is what it takes to ensure you have the freshest coffee possible to produce high-quality, delicious coffee beverages. Try it at home and see how much better your coffee game gets.

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