For most, starting the day off with a strong cup of java is a consistent ritual with no margin for change. For some, like this blog writer, it’s a ritual that continues all day long. The best cup of coffee is purely a matter of preference. Strengths and flavors vary based on the type of coffee bean, region it’s grown, and the how it’s roasted. So, join me in pouring yet another cup and exploring the major factors that can take your coffee brewing to the next level.
Coffee Bean Types
The two most common categories of coffee bean are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica dominates more than 60% of the world coffee market, considered to be the highest quality bean. Generally characterized as aromatic, mild and sweet, the Arabica bean originated from the Middle East but is grown all over the world. Arabica varieties often take their names from the region in which they’re grown, with tastes varying based on the soil and climate. Ethiopia, a prominent coffee-bean region, is known for producing a smooth, easy-drinking flavor bookended by a floral finish. Beans grown in Kenya, on the other hand, are often considered to have a stronger degree of bitterness, while Latin American coffee beans offer a cocoa complement and nutty finish. Columbia is another highly popular region for growing arabica beans, notated by a darker texture, bold taste and walnut finish.
Robusta is often reserved for hardcore caffeine addicts, containing twice the amount as Arabica. It’s often been considered by coffee aficionados to be of a lower quality, in part because it’s easier and cheaper to grow, having substituted for arabica during historical coffee busts. It’s been described as having an astringent, bitter taste, starkly juxtaposed against Arabica’s mild, aromatic qualities. Because of its higher production yield, the Robusta bean can often be found in an instant and canned coffees and espressos. It is primarily grown in Vietnam, Brazil, and Africa, making up roughly 40% of the world coffee market.
Two other minor beans you might hear about are the Liberica and Excelsa crops. Both are rare. Liberica is often the choice in the Philippines, considered similar to Robusta in having a stronger taste. It’s also been characterized as fruity, with a wood finish. Excelsa is primarily found in Southeast Asia. Some connoisseurs consider this bean to be a subsect of Liberica, describing its taste as fruity and lingering.
In addition to the type of bean and specific region it’s grown, the way it’s roasted also factors into the flavor. Prior to roasting, the coffee bean is actually green when it’s harvested. Roasting refers to the process of heating the bean, turning it to its characteristic shade of brown. It’s considered to be both a science and an art, bringing out the aroma and flavor. Depending on how the coffee bean is roasted depends on how light or dark the coffee is, as well as its acidity and degree of bitterness. Coffee roasts range from light to dark.
- Light roasts are a lighter shade of brown that have higher levels of acidity and give off a fruitier aroma. Breakfast blends are often considered light roasts.
- Medium roasts are a little darker in color, considered to be the most preferred roast in the United States. They are slightly sweeter than light roasts with balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity.
- Medium-dark roasts have a richer, darker color and a bittersweet finish with little to no acidity.
- Dark roasts have a shiny, black color with an oily surface. They are more bitter with no acidity. This is the roast in which the flavor gleaned from the roasting process fully presents itself. French and Italian blends are good examples of dark roasts, and many prefer to cut these with milk or cream, or used for espressos.
There are several ways in which to prepare and serve coffee. They type of brewer you opt with should depend mostly on how much you plan to serve. Automatic coffee brewers are the most popular type of brewer because they simplify the process while producing mass quantities. Pour over coffee makers are another common type, better for serving in lower volumes. An added benefit, many are portable since they do not necessitate a water line. Urns are ideal for catered events, guaranteeing the output necessary to keep up with demand while offering more elegance.
Many establishments have started adding espresso and cappuccino machines in order to provide customers with more sophisticated offerings. There’s a range with these machines, some simplifying the process by working off of pre-packaged mixes, while others requiring a high operational skillset.
A prominent trend lately, especially in more farm-to-table-esque establishments, is the use of French presses. Many argue that this brewing process produces the freshest grade of coffee. They’re not ideal for producing large capacities, but rather for individual tabletop service.
For more information on the various types of coffee brewers, check out our coffee brewer buying guide.
Chase joined Central Restaurant Products in February 2016 as a Content Specialist, bringing to the role years of various foodservice experience, including front-of-house service (slingin’ chicken wings and libations with a smile on his face) and back-of-house food prep using heavy-duty commercial cooking equipment to prepare for peak dining hours at his university’s dining hall.
He puts this experience to use writing for Central’s Resource Center, website, and print catalog. ServSafe certified, he enjoys educating on food safety in the commercial setting, researching new dining room and tabletop trends, and sharing innovative solutions to enhance operational efficiencies. He also enjoys (in no specific order) long hikes with his dog, bingeing 90s sitcoms, red wine, and live music.