Taste is subjective. Each individual will have their own preference, a cup of coffee can taste delicious to one while the same cup of coffee can taste horrible to another. Hence, we are going to run through the different types of beans based on its species, origins and roast to determine whats best for you!
There are two main species of coffee beans in the world, Coffee Arabica, and Coffee Robusta. More than three-quarters of the beans that are sold in the world today are Coffeea Arabica, the majority of the remaining bulk are Coffea Robusta also known as Coffea Canephora. For those who do not know, the term “Coffea” is not a typo, Coffea is a genus of flowering plants whose seeds, called coffee beans. So, the question lies in which species is the best. We will break down each species based on price, taste & crema.
Robusta the cheaper alternative as compared for Arabica. This is a result of robusta being easier to grow and maintain, they can also produce a higher yield and are more diesease resistant as compared to Arabica.
Arabica beans will blow Robusta beans out of the water for this category, unless you like the taste of burnt tires. Robusta has a bitter taste with a rubber like texture which is attributed by its caffeine content. Arabica beans have a sweeter, with nicer flavor notes and contains more sugars compared to Robusta. However, do take note that this is what to expect in general. It is possible to get Robusta beans that taste as good or if not better than Arabica beans, but we are not going to find that regularly.
Robusta produces more crema for your espressos compared to Arabica. This means if you want that nice color and base for your latte art, Robusta beans are the perfect bean to use to get that nice golden brown to contrast with the white from the beautiful microfoam.
Given the 3 factors, which species is superior? Fact is that none of the two is better than the other. Most coffee roaster mix the two species to create their own blend. A mix between Robusta, to bring out the thick crema and nutty flavour, and Arabica to bring the fruity notes and improve the overall taste.
In reality, the flavor of coffee is almost impossible to generalize. There are so many factors that affect the taste; the altitude of the plant, the ripeness of the fruit and how thoroughly the bean was washed. However, we are able to get a pretty good idea of what a cup of coffee will taste like depending on what part of the world it’s from. If you have done your research before, most will break down their beans to 4 regions. Central America, South America, Africa & Asia.
- Central America
We have beans coming from places such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador & Nicaragua. Beans from this regions are usually very balanced and have a good mix of sweetness and fruity acidity which brightens the taste of coffee.
- South America
In this regions, coffee beans are produced in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador & Bolivia. Similar to Central American coffee, it is relatively light. However, within this area, different countries produce a different flavor profile. For example, Colombian coffee tends to be more sweet and less acidic with nutty hints, while Brazil beans have a less-clean after taste and chocolatey flavor notes with a creamier mouth feel.
Coffee are grown in Ehtiopia, Kenya and Uganda. These beans are considered as one of the purest kinds of coffee out there. This is because of the flavor profile is extremely diverse. Usually described as complex, fruity and floral, African beans are strong, fragrant and full bodied flavors.
This region is a wild card. Why do I call Asia a wild card? That is because beans from this region tend to have extreme opinions; either complete love or hate. Asian coffees tend to be earthier and darker compared to others. These beans are less acidic yet more complex.
In terms of espressos, we look at a few roasts; light, medium, medium-dark & dark.
Light roasts are light brown in color, with a light body and no oil on the surface of the beans. Light roasts have a toasted grain taste and pronounced acidity. The origin flavors of the bean are retained to a greater extent than in darker roasted coffees. Light roasts also retain most of the caffeine from the coffee bean.
Medium roasted coffees are medium brown in color with more body than light roasts. Like the lighter roasts, they have no oil on the bean surfaces. However, medium roasts lack the grainy taste of the light roasts, exhibiting more balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity. Caffeine is somewhat decreased, but there is more caffeine than in darker roasts.
Medium-dark roasts have a richer, darker color with some oil beginning to show on the surface of the beans. A medium-dark roast has a heavy body in comparison with the lighter or medium roasts.
Dark roasted coffees are dark brown in color, like chocolate, or sometimes almost black. They have a sheen of oil on the surface, which is usually evident in the cup when the dark roast coffee is brewed. The coffee’s origin flavors are eclipsed by the flavors of the roasting process. The coffee will generally have a bitter and smoky or even burnt taste. The amount of caffeine is substantially decreased.
To summarize the differences, in addition to the color gradations:
- As coffee roasts get darker, they lose the origin flavors of the beans and take on more flavor from the roasting process.
- The body of the coffee gets heavier, until the second crack, where the body again thins.
- Lighter roasts have more acidity than darker roasts.
- Light roasted beans are dry, while darker roasts develop oil on the bean surface.
- The caffeine level decreases as the roast gets darker.
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