Different people drink coffee for varying reasons. Some drink coffee to boost their energy levels, some drink coffee for its health benefits, and some drink coffee as part of their culture. Whatever your reason for drinking coffee is, it’s essential to understand coffee appreciation and learn how the coffee-making process brings about different tastes.
Like wine, the world of coffee appreciation is diverse and complicated. Every cup of joe has its unique taste and aroma depending on the type of coffee beans, their roasting process, and the brewing process. The beginner step to appreciating coffee is accessing the drink based on several factors such as aroma, body, acidity, and flavor.
This article will discuss how to appreciate coffee based on these factors. Additionally, we’ll discuss the different factors that determine the variables in your cup of coffee as a way of appreciating coffee. Read on!
The Four Traits of Coffee
Just like wine, the aroma of coffee is an important part of coffee appreciation. Usually, our sense of smell is related to our sense of taste. Therefore, before taking a sip of coffee, take a moment to engulf the aroma of your coffee. Some of the common coffee aromas you may come across include caramel, fruity, nutty, smoky, spicy, and carbon depending on the type of coffee. While some aromas are detectable, others are subtle. Therefore, don’t be disappointed if you can’t discern the underlying aroma of your coffee. Generally, getting a whiff of your coffee enhances the taste of your coffee as you drink it.
The body of your coffee refers to its mouthfeel or measure of its texture. When sipping different types of coffee, you’ll notice that the coffee settles differently between your palate and tongue. Most coffee connoisseurs describe the body of coffee as either rich, heavy-bodied, or light-bodied. A heavy-bodied coffee is thick and more viscous, while a light-bodied coffee is less viscous and thinner. An easy way for you to distinguish between a light-bodied and heavy-bodied coffee is to feel the texture of whole milk and skimmed milk as it settles between your palate and tongue.
Coffee acidity refers to the flavor sensation that you perceive as a pleasing sharpness in front of the mouth, a numbing sensation on your tongue, and a dry sensation at the back of the palate or under the edges of your tongue. Acidity gives your coffee a unique taste. There are different acid types depending on the origin of your coffee beans. They can range from citric acid, and malic acid, to quinic acid.
The flavor of coffee refers to the taste of your coffee. There is a variety of coffee flavor descriptors. Your cup of joe can taste like vanilla, caramel, nuts, or honey among others. Additionally, coffee lovers can describe their coffee flavor as either sweet or bitter. The body and acidity of coffee are also descriptors when it comes to the flavor of your coffee. Generally, knowing the flavor of your coffee is part of coffee appreciation.
Factors that Determine the Four Traits of Coffee
With the four traits of coffee, you can easily describe your cup of joe. As part of appreciating coffee, it’s also important to understand how these four traits come about during the coffee production process. As mentioned earlier, coffee appreciation also involves understanding the types of coffee beans, the type of roast, and the coffee brewing process. Let’s take a look at these factors that bring about the four traits of coffee that we’ve discussed.
1. Types of Coffee Beans
As part of coffee appreciation, it’s important to know your beans. Generally, all coffee types start as seeds. These seeds grow into coffee cherries which are red when ripe and ready to be harvested. The coffee beans are what develop inside the coffee cherry. There are approximately 25 to 100 species of coffee plants around the world. However, only about four species are cultivated for commercial purposes. They include Arabica (Coffea Arabica), Robusta (Coffea canephora), Liberica, and Excelsa. The most common are the Arabica and Robusta beans. However, you might be lucky to come across the other two species.
Arabica Coffee Beans (Coffea Arabica)
Arabica coffee beans are the most popular and they make 60% of the world’s coffee. Arabica coffee beans originated from the Ethiopian highlands and are most likely the first ever coffee beans to be consumed. These beans are high-quality and pricier compared to other coffee beans. This is because they are harder to grow and harvest since they grow on high elevations and steep slopes. Mostly, Arabica coffee beans are hand-picked during harvesting and this ensures that their quality is maintained.
When it comes to taste, Arabica coffee beans are smooth with a highly complex aroma and complex flavors. However, the taste may vary depending on where the coffee beans are grown. Generally, Arabica coffee beans can offer different tasting notes from earthy to floral notes.
Robusta Coffee Beans (Coffea Canephora)
Robusta coffee beans are the second most popular beans on the market. These beans originated from sub-Saharan Africa and are primarily grown in Indonesia and Africa. Compared to Arabica coffee beans, Robusta beans are less expensive which makes them budget-friendly for roasters and consumers.
When it comes to taste, Robusta coffee beans are considered smooth and with distinct chocolate notes. Additionally, Robusta coffee beans have more caffeine content compared to Arabica beans.
Liberica Coffee Beans (Coffea Liberica)
Liberica coffee beans are cultivated along the Atlantic coast of Liberia. These coffee beans are considered a rare commodity, especially in the US since they are limited in supply. Liberica coffee beans have a nutty and woody flavor that only suits people with a specific taste profile.
Excelsa Coffee Beans (Coffea Excelsa)
Excelsa coffee beans mostly grow in Southeast Asia and they are somehow shaped like Liberica coffee beans. Unlike Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, Excelsa coffee beans are harder to find. They have a unique flavor which is a combination of light roast traits such as tart notes and dark roast traits such as fruity flavors.
2. Type of Roast
There are three types of coffee roasts. These are light roast, medium, and dark roasts. Variables such as temperature and the roasting length are what determine the type of roast and the taste of your coffee. Usually, a lightly roasted coffee bean retains its original flavors while a dark roasted coffee bean brings about the “roast flavor”.
Coffee beans that fall under the light roast category are roasted for a shorter period and at lower temperatures. Lightly roasted coffee beans are achieved at an internal temperature of between 356 to 401 degrees Fahrenheit. Light roasts are acidic with a lighter body and more varied flavor profiles depending on the origin of the beans. The most common examples of light roasts include New England, Cinnamon, and Half-City.
Medium roasted coffee beans are achieved at an internal temperature of between 410 and 428 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is after the 1st crack and just a few seconds before the second crack. Medium roasts have a balanced acidity and body. Some examples of medium roasts include Breakfast roast, American roast, and House Blend.
Dark roasts are achieved at a temperature between 464 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit. Dark roasted coffee beans are sweeter because the sugars in the beans have time to caramelize as a result of the long roasting period and the high temperatures used during the roasting process. Additionally, dark roasts have less acidity and less caffeine content. Some examples of dark roasts include Italian, Espresso, Continental, New Orleans, Viennese, and Turkish coffee.
3. Coffee Brewing Process
Brewing coffee involves infusing roasted coffee grounds with water or liquid of your choice. The different coffee brewing methods determine the flavor of your coffee. Over the years, different coffee brewing methods have developed. They include French press, Aero press, Espresso machine, percolator, and drip coffee makers among others. Variables such as water temperature and brewing time determine the taste and strength of your coffee.
With this information, you are in a better position to appreciate your cup of joe and its contents. What’s more, you have a better understanding of the process involved in making your brew.