Bill Doyle’s primer on coffee beans
Friday, September 29th, is National Coffee Day. Since I got into home roasting a few years ago, I have learned a little about coffee beans.
First, they aren’t beans. They are actually a seed or pit of the coffee fruit. Each fruit typically has two seeds, but some only have one. This is known as a “peaberry” and while they often cost more, I haven’t been able to discern any difference in taste.
There are two main varieties of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Most coffees are made from Arabica beans with Robusta beans, which are half the price of Arabica, used in instant coffee and blends, like espresso.
The area of the world in which they are grown, how they are processed, and how they are roasted all help in determining the coffee’s flavor. For most of my life, I believed that Colombia produced the finest coffee because that’s what the TV told me. When I started experimenting with other regions, a whole new world opened up to me.
Ethiopia, where coffee is believed to have been first cultivated, produces my favorite beans. Its coffees are thick, almost syrupy, and are rich and full bodied. Kenya, and Indonesia, specifically Sumatra, also deliver beans that hold up well to a darker roast and are very satisfying.
South and Central America produce a lot of coffee, with Brazil being the largest exporter of beans. These beans, generally speaking, produce mild coffee with many Brazilian varieties being “bright.” Two of the more expensive beans are produced in the New World: Jamaican Blue and Kona from Hawaii. I have tried both of them and did not feel they justified their $30 a pound price tag.
Enjoy your cup on National Coffee Day!
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