Coffee is one of the cornerstones of world culture, affecting social and economic policies, lifestyles, ethics, and thoughts. It is a powerful tool used as much for pleasure, social rituals, and functions. Coffee houses have become landmarks and symbols of the identity of cities such as New York and London. Coffee lovers are just as passionate about the beverage as tea lovers, with which it competes for popularity.
In the coffee world, there are several different types of coffee beans (and of course also many different types of coffee machines). All of these types have different flavors and different characteristics. Knowing the difference between the many kinds of coffee beans is essential to understanding what works best for you. Are you the kind of person that loves to try new things, or do you prefer the tried and true? Are you looking for subtle earth tones or bold, bright colors? No matter your taste, there's a type of coffee bean out there for everyone!
Types of Coffee Beans and their Origin
When you buy coffee beans from a reputable place, you feel pretty safe in the knowledge that you will get decent quality coffee. However, it can be hard to know what exactly you are buying with so many different coffee bean types. Even coffee roasters don’t know all of them, and we bet half the time they choose beans according to the size of their price tags rather than anything else! The taste of coffee can vary significantly from region to region, depending on where the beans are grown. For this reason, it can be challenging to wade through all of the world’s different coffee beans and their origins. Fortunately, we have answers for you! There are four different types of coffee beans that the American Coffee Association has classified.
- Arabica Coffee Beans: They are mild, sweet, and aromatic. This is the most popular type of coffee bean in the world. Arabica beans have more sugar in them but less protein and fat. These differences in chemical composition mean that they can be more acidic and have a "brighter" flavor with more fruity notes. They are also a bit sweeter, smoother, and more floral than robusta. Robusta beans are bitter and have a grainy flavor to them.
- Robusta Coffee Beans: The Robusta coffee bean is much more hardy and disease resistant than the Arabica bean. It’s grown at lower altitudes and has a more earthy flavor with less acidity. Robusta coffee beans have twice as much caffeine as Arabica coffee beans do. Robusta is hardier and easier to grow, but it produces beans with twice as much caffeine as Arabica. These types of coffee bean are also less expensive, making them popular for instant coffees and espresso blends.
- Liberica Coffee Beans: They are produced in West and Central Africa; their flavor is woody, floral, or smoky. Liberica coffee beans are one of the rarest types of beans available in the world. It has been widely reported that these beans only represent about 3% of worldwide coffee production. These large, irregularly shaped beans are native to the Philippines and were initially considered novelty beans.
- Excelsa Coffee Beans: They are grown in Southeast Asia and Africa. They have a fruity flavor similar to wild cherries and plums. Excelsa is a type of coffee bean that is used in many different blends. Not only does it have a unique flavor profile compared to other types of coffee beans, but it also has some unique characteristics that set it apart from many other coffee varieties.
How a Variety of Arabica Coffee Beans Cropped Up
People say that variety is the spice of life or that it is the one thing missing from their lives. Coffee varieties are classified based on their genetic makeup and their characteristics as coffee plants. When we think about what makes coffee different — flavor, body, acidity — we are really talking about the traits of the plant itself. And those traits come directly from the genetics of the coffee variety. The purpose of offering different types of coffee varieties is to cater to the varying tastes and preferences of customers who have grown accustomed to the variety found in restaurants or specialty shops. However, there is no greater variety than the Arabica bean. Here we shall take a look at how a variety of Arabica coffee beans came about over the years.
- Typica (Ethiopia)
Typica is the common name of an heirloom variety of Arabica coffee that has been cultivated in countries such as Ethiopia since the beginning of the 19th century. It was originally planted around a monastery in the Sidamo region. Over the last decade, Typica made a considerable comeback and became a major planting concentration due to its desirable yield, cup profile, and disease resistance.
- Bourbon (France)
Bourbon is a French variety of Arabica coffee. It was developed on the island of Bourbon (now called Reunion) and found its way to Latin America in the 1800s, where it became one of the main varieties of coffee grown in that region. The name was not given according to the French tradition, but after the island where it was first cultivated. Bourbon has high quality and productivity potential, with high cup quality, a fruity flavor, and a floral aroma.
- Caturra (Brazil)
The Caturra is a natural mutation of the Bourbon variety. It grows at an average height of 2-3 meters, which makes it easier to cultivate, and therefore also more susceptible to disease and pests. The plant produces a medium sized coffee bean with a light body, citrus acidity and a distinctive floral aroma.
- Pacamara (Central America)
Pacamara is a relatively new variety, created by crossing the Pacas variety with the Maragogipe. It was first discovered in El Salvador and is now grown extensively throughout Central America. The large bean size and its unique flavor account for its popularity. These forms of beans are more elongated than those of other Arabica varieties, and they can reach up to 60% larger in size.
- Catuai (Central America)
Catuai is a hybrid variety of coffee created in Brazil in the 1930s as a cross between two traditional coffee varieties – Mundo Novo and Caturra. It was developed to help increase the production levels of arabica coffee plants.
- Mundo Novo (Brazil)
This is a hybrid between arabica and robusta, created by Brazil in the 1940s. As a result of the cross, it has more resistance to disease, higher productivity, and better quality beans than robusta. It accounts for 90% of the Brazilian crop (almost all their coffee). Mundo Novo is primarily grown in Brazil, Bolivia, and Costa Rica.
- Yellow Bourbon (Brazil)
Yellow Bourbon is a coffee variety (also known as cultivar) of Coffea arabica. Yellow Bourbon trees produce many sweet, juicy seeds and are easy to grow. The coffee they make has a clean taste with well-balanced acidity and a medium body. This coffee type has a pleasant aroma, with hints of caramel and chocolate, and its flavor tends toward sweet fruit and roasted nuts.
- Red Bourbon (Africa/South America)
Bourbon is one of the most famous Arabica varieties in the world, and it is known for its lovely fruit, bright acidity, and complex aromas. The coffee plants are smaller than some other varieties. Red Bourbon has a high potential for coffee quality, but it is more susceptible to coffee leaf rust and requires more fertilizer and inputs. The coffee-producing regions with good altitude, well-drained soil, higher precipitation, and low temperatures are ideal for the red bourbon variety.
Typica and Bourbon are two of the most common varieties in use today. Many hybrid varieties have been created from these plants, making them some of the most prolific plants in coffee history.
How Coffee Beans Derive their Names
While it's true that many coffee drinkers probably don't think too much about why their coffee has a specific name that sets it apart from other coffees, there are plenty of coffee drinkers who do! The packaging on your coffee beans could be the deciding factor between you and another brand. For example, if you have two choices, one from a brand that says "Brazilian coffee beans" and one from an unknown name, which one will you choose? Most likely the Brazilian coffee beans. So what is it that makes a coffee bean labeled as one thing over another? Is it just the location of where they are grown? Well, it might surprise you to know that there are several ways in which different coffees derive their names, as we shall discuss below.
The most common naming convention is geographical, with the country and region of origin forming part of the name. This can be as specific as a particular plantation or farm or as broad as a whole country, but the name should give you some indication of where those beans were grown and harvested.
Many coffee beans have names that refer to the process by which they are decaffeinated. There are several different techniques for removing caffeine from coffee beans, including the Swiss Water Process and the Mountain Water Process. Because these methods are very different from one another, it’s important to know which method has been used if you’re concerned about how much caffeine is in your coffee. The benefit of this type of naming convention is that it makes it easy to identify which beans have had their caffeine removed for a fact.
Some coffee beans are named for the varietal (or cultivar) that was used in their production. Varietals are specific strains of Arabica or Robusta coffee that have been bred to exhibit certain characteristics and flavors, so naming your coffee after its varietal can give you some idea of what it’s going to taste like.
The roasting process produces a significant change in green beans' physical properties and chemical properties. This is important to understand, as it directly influences the taste of coffee and its aroma. The degree of degassing also plays an important role in determining the name of the coffee beans.
- Light roast: This coffee has a light brown color and tends to have a light acidity as well as a mild aroma.
- Medium roast: The medium-roasted coffee beans still have a bit more acid than dark roast. They are characterized by their intense aroma and their golden brown color.
- Dark roast: Dark roasted coffee grounds have less acidity and a bitter, smoky taste. They receive their typical dark color through long exposure to heat.
Arabica vs Robusta Caffeine Content: Which is Higher?
The two most popular and widely available types of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. They are the same plants (Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora) but differ significantly in their makeup, resulting in different flavors and caffeine levels. Arabica coffee is usually referred to as “mild” because of its softer, more balanced flavor. Robusta coffee is usually referred to as “strong” because of its harsher, more robust flavor. Arabica beans are more popular than robusta beans, but they also have much higher growing costs, making them more expensive. The difference in price between the two is often reflected in the price at the store. However, which beans between Arabica vs Robusta caffeine content is higher?
It is a common perception that Arabica has less caffeine than Robusta, because Robusta beans contain nearly twice as much caffeine per bean as Arabica beans do, it is reasonable to assume that a brewed amount of Robusta will have higher caffeine content than an equivalent cup of arabica. Arabica beans are high quality and are considered to have a superior taste compared to Robusta beans. They have a much milder flavor, not as bitter and less acidic. On the other hand, Robusta is known for its strong flavor and higher caffeine content. This makes it more popular among manufacturers who produce instant coffee mixes and ground coffees with a stronger flavor profile.
What is the Most Common Type?
When it comes to coffee beans, people often ask, "What is the most common type?" Well, the most common coffee bean is called Arabica. This kind of coffee bean makes up about 75% of the world's coffee bean production. Arabica coffee is grown in tropical climates, at high elevations, and under the shade of a tree canopy. Coffee beans from arabica plants are larger than those from other species and have a more subtle flavor. Robusta coffee is another popular kind of coffee bean. It only makes up about 25% of the world's coffee bean production, but it is often used as an additive to enhance the flavor of other coffees. Robusta coffee is grown in tropical climates, at low elevations, and in full sunlight. Coffee beans from robusta plants are smaller than Arabica beans and have a more robust flavor.
What is the best type of coffee beans?
A good quality coffee bean is an essential aspect of a great cup of coffee. A wide variety exists between the different types of beans and roasts. Roasted beans are used as the primary ingredient in various brewing methods to make coffee drinks such as espresso, coffee, cappuccino, and latte. Therefore, understanding the different types of coffee beans will help you choose the perfect flavors for your morning brew!
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