What Is The Best Coffee Bean Variety?
Coffee – it’s finer than wine and a staple that many cannot live without. For some, instant coffee is more than enough while others enjoy the more tantalising aroma and flavour of whole or ground beans. These beans come in all shapes and sizes with an endless variety of blends and brands to choose from. This can make selecting your go-to cup of java quite the challenge.
To help you to choose the right coffee beans that will give you a taste that tickles all of the right senses, we have put together a quick guide that will assist you in selecting the type that’s right for you and your expectations.
There are 5 main factors to consider when selecting the best coffee bean.
Arabica Vs Robusta
The two most popular coffee species types are Arabica beans and Robusta beans. Both species are grown for commercial coffee drinking and vary quite considerably. Apart from having completely different distinctive tastes, they are also grown under separate conditions and have economic differences too. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each species:
- Arabica coffee beans are not as readily available as Robusta brands and this generally makes them more expensive. They also tend to be less harsh in taste in comparison with Robusta and contain much less caffeine.
- Robusta coffee is found on most store shelves and while the taste can be a little more abrasive, it works well in Arabica-Robusta blends and increases the body of the coffee, giving it a satisfyingly full flavour.
Generally, the more Arabica there is in a blend, the better – although there are definitely brands out there that defy the odds.
Not surprisingly, the taste of coffee reflects the region in which it has been grown. Soil type, climate, and even the daylight-darkness ratio can affect the end result of the beans. Both Arabica and Robusta varieties are grown all over the world with the most popular regions being South and Central America, Jamaica and Hawaii, the Pacific, and Kenya and Ethiopia.
While beans still do differ even though they are grown in the same location, there are a few regional generalities that can help you to choose your favourite type:
- Central American coffees tend to be fairly light and well-balanced. They are often a bit acidic and have clear fruity undertones.
- Brazilian coffees are packaged for large-scale commercial use and contain more Robusta beans that Arabica. Expect to find this bean in heavy darker roasts, sometimes with chocolatey overtones.
- Ethiopian coffee is where it all began. Biodiversity is practised far and wide in this region and the plant species vary significantly. Mostly on the syrupy side, these blends tend to have strong overtones of strawberry or blueberry.
- Kenyan coffee is bold and almost tropical. It features a black-currant quality and many described the acidity as tomato-like.
- Indonesian coffee has a dark earthy quality – almost smoke-like. The aftertaste might even remind you of unsweetened cocoa.
- Hawaiian coffee has a blissfully sweet scent. It’s soft and mild and has floral qualities.
3. Roast Degree
Before you can enjoy a fine bean, it needs to be roasted. Once again, varying degrees of roasting will result in different flavours. For example:
- American Roasts, often referred to as regular roasts, feature a medium roast that gives a moderate flavour (not too strong, not too mild).
- French Roasts are a little stronger since the beans are heavily-roasted. The brew will be dark brown in colour with an extremely strong taste.
- Italian Roasts are predominantly used for espresso-based drinks. This is because they have a strong flavour and are almost black in appearance.
- European Roasts consist of around two-thirds of a heavy roast and one-third regular roast.
- Viennese Roasts are also a blended-roast and consist of one-third strong roast and two-thirds regular roast.
4. Local Roast Or Import
Some might think that this factor does not make a difference but it can have a big effect on the freshness of the coffee. Beans start to become stale the minute they are roasted. This means that blends that are imported after being roasted will not be as fresh as your local blends where the products hit the shelves much sooner after the roasting process. A fresh cup of coffee tends to be more flavourful and richer.
5. Single Origin Or Blend
Whether you like your beans to be caffeine-loaded or you are happy to drink decaf coffee, the last thing you need to decide between is a single origin or blended coffee. Again, each type comes with its own pros and cons and it’s up to you to choose which one is right for your taste buds.
As the name implies single origin coffee is coffee that comes from one region only while blended types are either from many locations in one country or from multiple regions. The differences are as follows:
- Single origin coffees have a cleaner “purer” taste.
- Blended coffees have a more balanced and well-rounded flavour.
Just like wine, you are going to have to taste your way through at least a handful of different roasts and blends before you decide which type of coffee is going to get you up and going in the mornings and which one is worthy of your coffee thermos. We suggest that you use this guide to help you narrow down your preferences before you purchase your next bag of beans. Most packaging will also give you direction and will feature information on the region of the coffee, its roast type, bean species, and whether it is a blend or single origin creation.