WHAT COFFEE BEANS SHOULD I BUY?
Allan Issa (Coffee Nerd)
Bachelor of Science
“What coffee beans should I buy?” Make no mistake about it, choosing the coffee bean that is just right for you seems daunting at first, especially when we are talking about ‘REAL’ coffee, specialty coffee to be more precise, not the low-quality stale stuff you buy in your local store.
But let me assure you that by the end of this article, you will not only be salivating uncontrollably in anticipation for your next cup of coffee but you will also be armed with the required knowledge to combat any annoying indecisive thoughts on this subject forever.
THE COLOMBIA COFFEE BEAN
Grown in volcanic soil way up at very high elevations (nearly 6,000 feet)
with the perfect terrain and soil, perfect amount of rainfall, perfect amount of sunlight, perfect temperature, perfect amount of shade from neighbouring banana plants…that is a lot of perfectness! And the outcome of all this perfection is a well-balanced, medium-bodied coffee which tastes rich in sweet(fruity), nutty (slight), chocolatey flavours that excite the hell out of your taste buds while the sweet caramel and cocoa aromas cause chaos to your sense of smell.
Body is just a term coffee tasters use to describe the weight of a brew. It can either be light, medium or heavy (full). A really good example which will clarify this further is milk. Skim milk is a good example of a light bodied liquid. It feels watery, light and easily swished around in the mouth. Full cream milk however is a good example of a full-body or heavy ‘feeling’ in the mouth. The oil extracted out of the coffee beans is a big contributor to this ‘mouth-feel.’ Coffee grown at high altitudes tend to have more body, they are considered more ‘dense’ because they have been allowed to absorb more nutrients such as proteins (which also add to texture) and mature for a lot longer duration before harvest. Not only that but I think there is an even bigger contributor to the fundamental taste characteristic they call body. What I found is that the actual roasting process itself is a big factor in determining whether or not a coffee brew will be infused with a heavy or light bodied feel on the palate. Apparently, you acquire peak body (weight) somewhere between the medium to dark roast stage and if you proceed past this stage it begins to lose its body from this point.
Wow talk about being side-tracked! Okay so now that we all know what body is, we can establish that the Columbia coffee bean possesses the medium-body trait.
Most of the coffee experts agree that having more body is a plus, a signal or identifier that qualifies it as a superior bean but if you are one of those people that actually like their coffee ‘thin’ do not distress, it’s just a preference, you will not be cast out of your local community and live for the remainder of your life in exile If that is what you are thinking. You are perfectly normal, just in a weird way.
THE GUATEMALA COFFEE BEAN
Lightly-roasted Guatemala coffee has a clean, chocolatey-cocoa flavour, bright acidity combined with a full body taste. The term clean just refers to the absence of any pungent or unusual flavours.
But what the heck is bright acidity you may ask, well we touched on body before but let me explain briefly what acidity is.
Acidity is yet another critical taste characteristic that is used to express the wonderful sensation after sipping on some delicious coffee.
Many of the tastes that can be identified in coffee can be directly attributed to the acids contained within them. For instance, a few of the more profound and prevalent acids that exist in gourmet coffee beans are citric acid (think lemons/oranges), malic acid (think apples/pears) and tartaric acid (think grapes/wine). So, it is quite clear then, that by making these associations with our beloved fruits, acidity can be seen as playing a pivotal role in establishing the complex explosion of flavours created by these high-quality coffee beans. But let me stress that acidity can be both a friend or foe depending on the concentration left in the bean after roasting. A coffee bean with too much acidity will be too sour which is considered a defect. This can occur if the coffee bean was picked before it had time to ripen or if the beans were fermented for a prolonged period of time after harvest.
On the other hand, if the bean has too little acidity (most low-quality, low-altitude beans), this will consequently equate to a flat flavour profile with an aftertaste that is quite dull.
Bright or vibrant is just common words used to refer to coffees with good acidity.
THE PERU COFFEE BEAN
In the thin air of the Peruvian mountain ranges,
coffee matures slowly and sugars settle deep, producing, vibrant floral aromas, rich cocoa sweetness and a medium body that tickles the tongue with a tangy fruit finish.
Also, unlike most other beans, this bean is special in that is highly compatible with beans of different origins making it ideal for high-end blends. It also has a tendency to maintain its incredible flavour despite being subjected to heavy roasting making it very suitable for dark roast coffees.
THE ETHIOPIA COFFEE BEAN
I was quite surprised to learn that the Arabica coffee beans originated there and are consistently some of the highest rated in the world.
Ethiopia produces hard-type coffee beans, with intense flavours and aromatics. Hard beans are just beans that are heavy or dense. This is almost always the case when describing beans which are harvested at high altitudes. And on the contrary, beans produced closer to ground-level are classified as soft beans and are of lower quality – I briefly explained the reasons for this earlier but if you would like further clarification, I go into more detail in the article titled “Why high altitude coffee tastes better.”
TODAY’S QUIRKY TRIVIA
The world’s most expensive coffee can be found in Peru and is harvested from animal droppings! Ewwww. No joke, and people are expected to pay up to $80 US dollars for one measly cup! WHY?! Please explain the madness! Well apparently, the animals eat the fruit and their digestive system alters the coffee beans (seeds) to remove some of the acidity resulting in a smoother cup. The ridiculous price is supposedly justified because, well, they just can’t get the little guys to poop fast enough to satisfy everyone:P
I used to wish I was human when I was a younger but now I change my mind, my dream is to be a tall, handsome horse, these humans are nuts!