THE ORIGINS OF COFFEE
There are over 120 different types of coffee.
Main two that are referred to are: Robusta and Arabica.
Robusta is actually a brand name chosen to highlight its attributes.
Robusta was discovered in the Belgian Congo (now referred to as Democrat Republic of Congo).
It was able to grow in lower altitudes than the Arabica species, in higher temperatures, with more rainfall and more resistant to disease. The Robusta bean is less of a pronounced oval shape as shown below.
Arabica coffee is considered superior to Robusta because of its delicate flavor and low acidity. This variety is grown at higher altitudes and can be more difficult and costly to grow. These labor-intensive, low-yield plants produce a high-demand bean that sells for a higher price.
You can also read in our BLOG one of the first legends of how coffee came to exist.
THE ARABICA VS. ROBUSTA DEBATE
ARABICA is the bean most associated with specialty coffee. It has a much higher sugar ratio and is generally sweeter, with more complex flavour, aroma and smoothness with a pleasant acidity. The two original varieties of the Arabica species are the Typica and Bourbon.
Arabica has wide ranging taste and flavours.
Arabica has about ½ caffeine – about 1.5% caffeine content.
Arabica coffee is a very useful medicine by energizing our bodies, and for our consciousness by helping us focus our attention in a positive and creative way.
Arabica has more than ½ more lipids and over twice the concentration of sweetness of Robusta.
Arabica green beans twice as expensive.
More susceptible to disease such as coffee rust and small beetle known as cherry coffee borer.
Used for speciality coffee.
ROBUSTA is use more widely for commodity coffee due to its’ cheaper pricing and it is known to present more bitterness and nuttiness than Arabica.
Taste: Often described as woody / rubbery / burnt tires, sometimes referred to as Nostalgia coffee.
More caffeine: Often 2.7% and caffeine is bitter. Also the type of caffeine is more likely to give you “nervous jitters and attention that is distracted and unfocused, the exact opposite of Arabica.”
Lipid & Sugar content: Robusta contains almost 60% less lipids and almost 1/2 the concentration of sugar than Arabica.
Price: green Robusta beans is about ½ cost of Arabica green beans.
Farming the fruit is easier, has a much higher yield, less susceptible to insects and the extra caffeine content actually acts as a toxin to many insects.
Mostly found in instant coffee.
Coffee beans are not beans, but cherries.
Coffee beans are fruits, and this fruit is a berry. We extract juice from berries in the same way we extract juice from our coffee beans.
The seed, or coffee bean, is made up of several layers, most of which will be removed during processing, leaving behind the bean we grind and brew. The seed has a protective outer layer, called the parchment, then a thinner layer wrapped around it, called the silverskin.
Most coffee cherries contain two seeds, which face each other inside the berry, becoming flattened along one side as they develop.
Occasionally, only one seed inside a berry will germinate and grow and these are known as peaberries. Instead of having a flattened surface on one side, these seeds are rounded and make up around five per cent of the crop. These peaberries are usually separated from the rest of the crop and some people believe that they have particularly desirable qualities or that they roast in a different way to the flattened beans.
The Coffee Family Tree
Coffee or Coffea is a shrub from which coffee cherries grow.
The cherries are dried and de-pulped though various processing methods and it is through these roasted beans that the coffee drink is extracted.
The two main commercially viable beans are the Arabica or Robusta varieties.
The first coffee trees to be cultivated originated in Ethiopia, and this same variety, Typica, is still widely grown today. Many other varieties now exist, some natural mutations and others the result of cross-breeding. Some varieties have explicit taste characteristics of their own, while others take on their characteristics from the terroir in which they are grown, the way they are cultivated and the way they are processed after harvest.
Almost all arabica coffee varieties we know and love stem from two original varieties: Typica and Bourbon. These two are at the top of the family tree.
Typica coffee plants tend to produce excellent tasting coffee, but the yield is on the low side. Bourbon (burr-bone) plants generally produce 20-30% more coffee than Typica, but the cherries are at greater risk of falling off the trees in harsh weather.
Careful harvesting of coffee cherries is fundamentally important to the quality of the resulting cup of coffee. Unsurprisingly, coffee beans harvested from fruit at peak ripeness generally taste the best. Many experts see the harvest as the point at which the quality of the coffee peaks, and every stage thereafter is about preserving quality rather than improving it.
Traditionally coffee is harvested by hand by one of two ways: strip picking or selective picking. Strip picking is exactly how it sounds, trees are harvested entirely at one time "stripping" all the beans off the branches, ripe as well as unripe cherries. Typically, only Robusta coffee is strip picked.
Arabica coffee beans are susceptible to defects due to insects, temperature, and climatic changes (drouts, floods etc).
The way coffee is graded is based on the number of defects in a 300g sample. Within that sample defective beans can be present. For instance, beans that have blotchiness, and are paler than the rest or quakers can be present amongst the sample.
Coffee grading explained
Coffee is graded based on number of defects.
Less than 3 = grade 1
More than 3 less than 7 = grade 2
More than 6 less than 13 = grade 3
SPECIALTY & PREMIUM GRADE COFFEE
By definition, premium coffee beans are those which receive a Grade Two in green grading. They have the same standards as specialty coffee beans except have a maximum of 3 quakers and 0-8 full defects.
scoring 80 points or above on the 100-point Review scale
scoring from 90-100 is graded Outstanding
scoring from 85 - 89.99 is graded Excellent
scoring from 80 - 84.99 is graded Very Good
specialty coffee is a term for the highest grade of coffee available
Premium coffee is coffee made from uniquely flavoured beans that are processed with special care.
This type of coffee is usually relatively expensive but is preferred by some people for its taste.
These are very expensive coffees that are rated extremely highly for quality and taste.
Starbucks coffee drinks are strong but with a very bitter and burnt taste. The most likely reason for the bitter/burnt taste is that Starbucks roasts their beans at a higher temperature then most roasters in order to produce large quantities of beans in a short time.
Golden Rules for Fresh Coffee
Buy coffee that has a clear roast date on the packaging
Try to buy within two weeks of roasting
Buy only enough coffee for a month
at a time
Buy whole beans and grind them yourself at home
roasted coffee from
Art & Coffee and contemplate as artists do
Roasting is one of the most fascinating aspects of the coffee industry. It takes the green coffee seed, which has almost no flavour beyond a quite unpleasant vegetal taste, and transforms it into an incredibly aromatic, astonishingly complex coffee bean. The smell of freshly roasted coffee is evocative, intoxicating and all-round delicious.
The roasting process affects acidity, sweetness and bitterness of bean flavours. Roasters seek to balance these three aspects through carefully controlled use of heat and timing.
The best cup of coffee begins with a well-chosen bean.
To prepare the green coffee bean for brewing, it must first be roasted. Coffee beans are roasted with dry heat and with constant agitation to ensure even heating. The range of roasts varies from light golden brown all the way to a dark, almost black appearance. Varying the roasting time has a significant effect on the flavour, aroma, and colour of the brewed coffee. Although there are several levels of roasting, they can be grouped into three main categories: light, medium, and dark.
Light roasts provide the lightest, most delicate flavors and can often be more acidic. Because there is less of a roasted flavor, the original flavor of the bean is allowed to shine through. High-quality beans or varietals with very distinct flavors are often roasted light to allow the original flavor to remain prominent. These beans will appear dry, as the bean has not been heated to the point where the oil is extracted. Light roasts include: Cinnamon, American, Half-City, and New England Roasts.
Medium-roasted beans will have a chocolate brown color, dry surface, and a full flavor. These beans will have less acidity than lightly roasted beans and a slightly sweet, toasty flavor. Due to the balanced flavor and acidity, this is the most popular roast within the major commercial coffee market. Medium roasts are also known as Full City, Breakfast, or Regular Roast.
Dark-roasted coffee is roasted until the sugars begin to caramelize and the oils begin to rise to the surface of the bean. Depending on the darkness of the roast, the bean may have a slight sheen or an oily appearance. The flavor of dark-roasted beans is strong, smoky, and sometimes spicy. The original flavor of the bean is overpowered by the roasted flavor and therefore lower quality beans are often used for darker roasts. Although these roasts have low acidity, they are often described as bitter. Roasts that fall within the dark category include French, Viennese, Italian, and Espresso.
To achieve unique flavor profiles, roasters will create custom blends of beans with two or more roasting levels. This provides a depth of flavor and complexity that cannot be achieved with a single roast.
COFFEE FLAVOUR ATTRIBUTES
Coffee is chemically complex and contains more aroma molecules than wine.
It takes years of cupping and learning about different varieties and origins to accurately perceive flavour notes. A Q-Grader is a person who has a qualification to determine flavour notes and grade a coffee in terms of quality.
While you needn’t aim this high, you can discover more by attending ‘cupping’ events with a roaster such as us and even experiment with your coffees at home.
Aroma and taste are the overriding factors determining coffee preference.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) created the first mapping of coffee’s flavour profiles was performed around 20 years ago.
This resulted in what we know today as the Coffee Taster’s Flavour Wheel. It’s not only super informative, it looks pretty cool too and makes for good wall art for the coffee enthusiast!
On the flavour wheel you can find a several subtle flavours in different coffees, which like wine, are often associated with their aroma.
Some of the most common flavour descriptors include:
* Chocolate * Nutty * Vegetal * Spicy * Fruity.
Coffee tasting goes even deeper than aroma and flavour however, if you aren’t overwhelmed enough.
We can also discuss * acidity * body * aftertaste and * balance.
While initially the word acidity doesn’t sound too appealing, acidity in the coffee world suggests a sharpness, tangy, fruit, sparkling, brightness with a dryness at the back of the mouth.
Think crisp apple rather than sour lemon.
Acidity denotes a high quality, high grown coffee that is set apart from the lesser, commodity grade which will taste “flat” in comparison.
Refers to the thickness or weight of the liquid against your tongue.
Imagine the difference between honey on the mouth versus water.
A bad coffee might feel oily, grainy, watery compared to a beautifully silky, buttery body. Body also helps the coffee to cut through milk, so a heavier body is ideal for milk based espresso.
This one is easier for the novice!
The sweet, pleasant flavour that is enjoyed without any sense harshness.
Sometimes a fruity taste that is evident at the tip of the tongue.