There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to choosing good coffee beans. If you choose the wrong ones, you won’t be brewing amazing coffee.
First of all, there are 3 main types of coffee beans. The names of these coffee beans are Robusta, Liberica and Arabica.
There are also sub-types of these beans. But these are the main bean types. These types of beans take on different flavors while they are being processed and harvested.
Liberica: Liberica is a low yield type of coffee compared to Arabica and Robusta.
Robusta: This type of coffee, which contains 2.5% more caffeine than other types, has a pretty strong taste.
Arabica: This coffee bean with low caffeine and a smoother taste is aromatic and delicious. 80% of the coffee in the world is produced from these types of beans.
The Coffee tree starts its life as a seed and after 4 to 8 weeks it develops into a seedling. At this stage the seedling needs be handled with care making sure the soil remains moist and does not attract too much sunlight. After about 9 to 18 months the coffee tree will grow to about 12 inches tall. It is a further 3 years before the tree bears fruit, (known as cherries), and a further 6 years before it is fully mature and producing fruit fully. At this stage the trees are ready for harvesting.
A good coffee picker can pick the equivalent of 10 to 30 kgs of coffee beans in a day. The average life in a day. span for a coffee tree is about 20 to 25 years, yielding around 2000 beans per year.
Once the cherries have been picked they are ready for sorting. This can be done in different ways depending on the outcome of the required coffee taste. The first way is for ‘Aged coffee’ only, and involves keeping the green bean in a well ventilated warehouse for 1-7 years. This gives the beans a less acidic taste and a syrupy richness.
Dry Processing involves drying the cherries in the sun, then removing the pulp, parchment and dried skin. This can take up to two weeks and the beans must be continuously raked to prevent mildew.
Wet Processing this method involves putting the cherries in water; any ones that float are removed as defective. The cherries are then pressed by a machine which only allows the seed and some pulp to pass through the holes. The remaining pulp is removed leaving the beans which are then left to dry leaving about 10 – 12 percent moisture content.
Mahines are used to remove the parchment layer from the wet processed coffee beans. The dry process involves removing the entire dried husk of the dried cherries
A polishing machine is used to remove any silver skin that is left on after the hulling process
Cleaning, Sorting and Grading
Before the beans are exported tthey are sorted again by sizes and weight, and then they are checked again for colour flaws or other imperfections. Any beans with the slightest imperfection will be removed.
The beans are now referred to as Green beans and are ready for exporting. Their is approximately seven million tons of green coffee produced worldwide each year.
At every stage of coffee production the coffee is repeatedly tested for quality and taste. This process is referred to as cupping and takes place in a room specifically designed for this process. An experienced cupper is can taste hundreds of samples of coffee a day and still taste the subtle differences between them.
This is normally done in the importing country because freshly roasted beans must reach the consumer as quickly as possible. The process of roasting the coffee beans involves roasting them at 550 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans are kept moving throughout the entire process to stop them from burning. When they reach a temperature of about 400 degrees they begin to turn brown and the caffeol or oil that is locked inside the bean starts to emerge.
Light, medium or dark roast?
Light roast coffees go through the least intense roasting process meaning that they retain some of the more ‘natural’ qualities of the green beans. While they don’t taste raw or unroasted, they can hold onto some of the unique flavours of the coffee plants. This includes fruity, floral or even acidic undertones. Medium roasts are a little darker than light roasts and tend to hold more caramel, vanilla or honey-like flavours. Dark roasts lose the most of their ‘origin’ characteristics but hold a rich sweet flavour and strong aroma. They are the most bitter of the three roast types and often have nutty, spiced or chocolate undertones.
Single or origin blend?
Single origin coffees are sourced from one farm or coffee growing region. As they aren’t mixed with other beans, they hold the unique and authentic taste of where they’re from. In contrast, origin blends are coffees that are carefully mixed and blended with other complimentary coffee beans from coffee growing regions across the world. Blending takes the best of the world’s coffee and combines it to create new and interesting tastes, aromas and coffee drinking experiences.