An Introduction to the Many Roasted Coffee Beans

by Linden Walhard

A person who makes coffee beverages as a profession is referred to as a “barista.” As expected, the barista experience will shape how coffee beans are judged. Professional coffee tasters or coffee contest judges are known as “cuppers,” and company buyers share the sentiment of baristas in hopes of finding beans that will produce a delicious drink. But, the barista is the one who faces the consumers day in and day out and directly receives feedback on the results of this effort.

For this reason, let’s take a moment to explore the opinion of the barista when it comes to the coffee bean and the coffee drink itself.

Roughly seventy countries grow coffee from which beans are produced, including the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, Hawaii and South America. All are situated within a band around the equator of approximately twenty-five degrees to the north or south.

It should come as no surprise then that, given the differences in climate, altitude, techniques and equipment, beans from different countries have distinct differences.

Even so, coffee plants fall into two main categories: robusta and Arabica. The Arabica contains about half of the caffeine found in the robusta. It is used almost exclusively for the highest quality coffees since its beans are stronger in flavor and aroma.

Since coffee grows better at higher altitudes, some arabica beans are grown as high as three thousand feet or higher while others are grown at a much lower altitude.

From this point forward, it tends to differ based upon whether or not the consumer plans to roast their own coffee beans. Fresh, unroasted beans are soft, green and have a vegetative odor which is very normal prior to any roasting.

For those who want roasted beans, the categories broaden significantly starting with the light or “cinnamon” which is highly caffeinated and acidic.

The medium roast, or “American,” is a very popular choice since it is used by major vendors, such as Folger. But, it is not considered a quality cup by the standards of most baristas.

Dark or “City” roast is found in many specialty shops and has endured a process to reduce the acidic taste as well as the caffeine. This results in a sweeter, less bitter cup of coffee. This is typically the standard selection for the average espresso.

Next is the “French” roast and was named as such because of the French’s tendency for the more full-bodied coffees. The beans are very dark brown in color and have an oily sheen or texture. Take a close look and sniff so you do not confuse them with beans that have simply been burnt, as there is a big difference.

The “Italian” roast is the darkest on the drinkable scale and is often the chosen beans for specialty expresso. The deep brown color and strong aroma are quite distinct and, certainly, produce a quality cup of coffee. The regular sampler of this high quality bean is one lucky coffee drinker!

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