Different Types of Coffee Explained
Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. A lot of people can’t start their day without a cup of Joe. Apart from being the favorite breakfast drink of billions of people, it is also a drink for socializing. A lot of dates and friend reunions are had over a fresh pot of coffee. Professionals from multinationals all over the world meet up to discuss business over a cup of coffee.
If you love coffee, you have probably wondered about the types of coffees there are. For coffee enthusiasts, it goes beyond knowing how to make caramel macchiato or pumpkin-spiced latte. You also have to know the different types of coffee beans, understand their roasting spectrum and recognize the different bodies, flavors, acidity levels and blends of coffee.
Things to Consider Before Buying Coffee
With the several varieties of coffee that exist, buying your coffee could be overwhelming. It is best to approach it from the angle of an adventurer. Brewing your own coffee and customizing it to suit your palate is fun and cements your status as a coffee connoisseur.
When it comes to coffee, everything contributes to its flavor. A lot of factors determine the taste and texture of coffee. Therefore, you need to know what to be on the look-out for before purchasing your coffee. Some of the points to note are:
- Know the different type of coffee beans. This is the first step to buying coffee. Find your preferred option. It can be a solo species or a blend of two or more.
- Pick the roast which best suits your taste. If you want a fuller body, go for dark roasts. If you prefer mild-flavored coffee, then buy light roasted coffee.
- Know the environment it was grown. Most brands provide information on the region the coffee was grown. The climate, altitude and soil type of the home of the coffee bean affects its taste and texture. For instance, coffee beans from Asia are richer in taste, South America coffee is sweeter and more balanced in taste, while African and Middle Eastern beans are fruitier.
- If possible, check the farming methods employed. Some farming practices affect the quality and flavor of the coffee. This involves the planting patterns, type of chemicals used, and the picking time. The age of harvest and the freshness of the crop also influences the taste and flavor of the coffee.
- Was the coffee organically grown? The presence or absence of chemicals also determines the flavor and taste of the coffee.
- The processing method applied also influences the resultant flavor. There are different methods of washing, drying and roasting. The type used impacts the flavor and taste of the coffee.
- Before buying, check the packaging date of the coffee. Without refrigeration, coffee beans have a shelf life of one week. The texture, fragrance and taste deteriorate with time.
- Compare the prices of different brands before making the ultimate decision. Expensive does not always translate to quality.
Types of Coffee Beans
There are four major types of coffee. They all require different conditions to do well. Coffee thrives in a hot climate so they are mostly grown in Africa, South America and Asia. Knowing your coffee beans and where they come from helps you select the right blend for you. The four types of coffee include:
- Arabica beans
This is the most popular coffee bean. Over 60% of the coffee produced and consumed in the world is Arabica beans. They are more acidic than other beans. Despite being the most popular, Arabica beans are the most delicate of the four. It requires specific conditions such as high altitudes, stable rain and lots of shade to grow. If there is any alteration in the conditions or if they are grown in an environment they are not used to, they do not do well.
Arabica beans are mostly grown in South America. They have brighter bodies, with more complex flavor profiles and aromas. Because of this, most coffee shops serve it. If you want to brew Arabica at home, it is best to look for a blend that has a lower amount of acidity and full body.
- Robusta beans
Robusta beans are next in line to Arabica bean. They are mostly found in grocery stores and brewed at home. They are aptly named Robusta because they easily adapt to their environment and are almost immune to diseases. They also do well in both high and low altitude and as such, are easier to grow than Arabica.
Robusta beans have a deep and bitter taste which comes from the roasting. They also contain twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans. They have chocolate and nutty flavors. They are harsher than other coffee beans and do not change their flavor or taste when added sugar or cream. This seemingly disagreeable feature, however, makes it ideal for brewing espresso.
- Liberica beans
This variety only grows in the Philippines. They are extremely rare. Liberica beans are larger than other coffee beans and have a sweet, flowery aroma. When used for coffee, it has a full body with earthy and smoky notes. Most people say Liberica beans taste nothing like normal coffee and describe the taste as woody.
- Excelsa beans
Less than 7% of the world take Excelsa coffee bean. They are grown in Asia. Recently, Excelsa coffee bean was reclassified as a member of the Liberica family. However, it is vastly different from Liberica in both taste and physical appearance. Excelsa coffee beans have tangy and acidic tones. Excelsa beans are rarely sold on their own. They are used in blends to serve as a flavor boost and add extra complexity to the taste of the coffee.
Type of Coffee Roasts
There are four types of roasted coffee beans. It is evident in their color. The darker the roast, the lower the caffeine content and the flavor. This means that light roasts have higher caffeine content and more acidic taste.
Sometimes, the roasters create a custom blend using two or more roasting levels. This gives the coffee a unique depth of flavor and complexity. If you want to create a personal coffee blend for yourself or your coffee shop, learning the various roasts and flavors of coffee is a necessity. The four main types of coffee roasts are:
- Dark roast: Dark roasts are black or deep chocolate and are oily. They are roasted the longest of all other blends. This brings out their oil which can be seen in the beverage. Dark roast coffee beans have the lowest caffeine content and a smoky, bitter taste. The natural taste of the coffee is lost to the flavor of the roast. Dark roast coffee is most consumed in Europe. They are also called European, Espresso or New Orleans roast.
- Medium-dark roast: Medium-dark roast coffee beans are dark brown and have a semi-oily exterior. They give a faint hint of bittersweet tones and have a deep flavor. They are also called Viennese, Continental or Light French roast.
- Medium roast: Medium roast is the most preferred type of roast in America. Its color is medium brown and its exterior has no oil. They have a higher caffeine content than dark roast. Medium roasts are commonly called Breakfast, Regular, Medium or American roast.
- Light roast: Light roast coffee beans are roasted for the shortest time when compared to other roasts. Because of this, they are light brown and have no oil on the exterior. Light roast coffee beans have light and aromatic notes. They are used for coffees with a thin, mild body. If you are not a fan of strong coffee, you will love light roast. Light roasts are also called Cinnamon Roast, New England or Light City roast.
Brewing Styles for Coffee
There are numerous ways of brewing coffee. Each brewing style gives a distinct flavor and strength to the beverage. Some of the popular brewing styles include:
- Drip coffee: This involves adding coffee to a brew basket which is placed in an automatic coffee machine. Water is passed through the ground beans, leaving you with a classic cup of coffee. This method is simple and efficient. It also allows you to control the strength of the coffee.
- Espresso: For espresso, finely ground dark roasted beans are used. Pressurized hot water is passed through a filter containing the coffee beans using a cappuccino or espresso machine. The force of the boiling water produces a concentrated cup of coffee.
- Cold brew coffee: In this method, hot water is not used. The coffee beans are ground coarsely and placed in room temperature water. It is allowed to steep for some time, ranging from 12 to 24 hours. The resulting brew is less bitter, yet high in caffeine. It is perfect for those who suffer from acid reflux.
- Pour-over coffee: In this brewing style, boiling water is slowly poured through coffee grounds as they sit in a filter basket. The resultant coffee drips into a cup, producing a strong brew. This method is used as a base for most coffee drinks and it produces a smooth, flavorful cup of coffee.
- French press coffee: In this method, coffee is made with a French press brewer which is a glass or wooden beaker. It is filled with coarse coffee grounds and filled with hot water. After the grounds have steeped, the plunger which comes with the French press is used to press down the coffee to separate the brew from the coffee grounds. Brewing with the French press lets you get the full, natural flavor of the coffee beans.
- Turkish coffee: This style of brewing coffee is mostly used in the Middle East. Ground coffee is submerged in sugary water allowing the foam to form. The more the foam, the better the taste.
- Percolated coffee: This is a brew method in which hot water is cycled through the ground beans using gravity to reach the desired strength.
- Vacuum coffee: This brewing style involves using two chambers where the vacuum and vapor pressure produce the cup of coffee.
- Moka pot coffee: The coffee is brewed in a Moka pot which using pressurized steam, passes water through the coffee.
Types of Coffee Drinks
Most coffee drinks have similar ingredients which are espresso, steamed milk and foam. Extra additives are added in varying ratios according to your preference. Different coffee drinks include:
- Espresso: This is the foundation and the essential component of all espresso-based drinks. A single espresso consists of 1 shot or 75ml of espresso while a double espresso consists of two espresso shots or 150ml. It is usually taken after a meal or served with cookies. Espresso can be sweetened using brown sugar.
- Café Americano: This is a popular breakfast drink that came into being during World War II. American soldiers added water to their espresso to produce a larger amount of coffee than they were used to back home. It is made by adding a shot of espresso on top of hit water.
- Latte: Latte coffee is a type of espresso-based drink made with steamed milk with a little foam. The steamed milk makes the drink sweeter than normal espresso. Latte can be made using soy milk, almond milk, and other non-diary milk. The steamed milk is often used to decorate the top of the coffee to produce unique shapes and patterns. This is called latte art. Variants of latte coffees include iced latte and latte macchiato.
- Frappe: This is prepared by stirring instant coffee granules with a small amount of water. Cold water, sugary water and ice cubes are added, after which it is topped off with milk foam.
- Cappuccino: Cappuccino is just like a latte. The difference is cappuccino has more foam than a latte and it has chocolate placed on top of the drink.
- Flat white: It is an espresso made with textured milk. It is made like the cappuccino but without any foam or chocolate on top. It is popular in New Zealand and Australia.
- Macchiato: This is similar to a cappuccino but it is stronger. It is made using espresso and a small amount of foamed milk. If you love espresso but want a sweeter taste, then macchiato is for you. The milk foam softens the bitter espresso taste.
- Mocha: This is a mix of hot chocolate and cappuccino. It is made by combing chocolate powder with an espresso shot. Thereafter, steamed milk and microfoam are added to the brew. It is normally served as a dessert or a light coffee drink for younger adults.
- Irish coffee: This is coffee combined with whiskey and cream, then sweetened with sugar. It is perfect for cold winter days. Irish coffee is best prepared with actual Irish whiskey and not any other alcohol.
- Viennese coffee: This is a very strong coffee. It is espresso made with whipped cream and occasionally milk. It is then topped off with chocolate powder sauce or chocolate.
- Affogato: This coffee is mainly found in Italy and doubles as a dessert. It is made by placing a large scoop of vanilla ice cream within a single or double shot of espresso.
Types of Coffee Flavors
Coffee can be taken black or with various creamers and sweeteners. But adding flavors and spices to your coffee drink amplifies the pleasure of the coffee experience. There are several remarkable and exotic flavors that coffee lovers enjoy. They include:
- Vanilla extract: This combines the creamy taste of coffee creamers with the sweet taste of sugar, all without the extra calories. Add the vanilla beans to your grounds during the brewing process. In the absence of the beans, add a few drops of vanilla extract.
- Hazelnut: Hazelnut is an underrated coffee flavor. It goes well with black coffee, latte and macchiato. It adds a bold, enticing flavor to your coffee.
- Ginger: Ginger can be added to almost everything, including your morning coffee. If you have ever had gingerbread, you would love ginger in your coffee. Apart from the numerous health benefits and antioxidants in ginger, it gives a unique and zesty taste to your coffee. Add a few slices of ginger to your coffee grounds before you brew. If you do not have fresh ginger, one or two tablespoons of ginger powder will do the trick.
- Cinnamon: When brewing coffee, add a stick of cinnamon to the pot. The hot coffee will extract all the delicious goodness and make your coffee taste wonderful. Your taste buds will thank you.
- Pumpkin spice: The smell and taste of pumpkin spice in coffee are exquisite. It is considered the flavor of the fall and is only available in most coffee shops for a limited time. However, you can brew it at home and enjoy it all year long.
There are hundreds of different types of coffee to try. Coffee is a versatile and flexible drink. This accounts for the unlimited flavor combinations. As a coffee enthusiast, knowing the different specialty coffees and their flavor profiles will help you pick out your favorite. You may even be inspired to create your signature flavor or sample new brewing methods at home.