Really, all you want is to have a good cup of coffee. But the shelves at the store are packed with coffee. There are so many different types of coffee beans and coffee products available. Find out what to look for when buying coffee and which coffee type is right for you.
- Definition and Terminology
- Coffee Types on the World Market
- Which Type of Coffee is Best for Making Cold Drip Coffee?
- Countries of Origin
- Coffee Plants and Coffee Fruits
- How coffee is made
- Coffee Processing
- Cleaning, Peeling, and Grading
- How does coffee get to Europe and the United States?
Definition and Terminology
Initially, it is important to understand that there is a significant difference between “coffee type” and “coffee type”. There are
- types of coffee plants
- types of coffee beans
- types of coffee specialties
There are only about 100 different types of coffee plants that can be distinguished botanically. All types of coffee beans go back to one of those type of coffee plant. The most popular types of coffee plants that also produce the majority of all coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta coffee. However, one can derive many types of coffee beans from one type of coffee plant. Because the type of coffee bean is influenced only after the harvest. It is defined by the way people process and roast the coffee beans. While the type of coffee plant is biologically set, the type of coffee bean is a matter of process and procedure. Accordingly, there are indeed almost countless types of coffee on the world market.
The third category, the types of coffee specialties, covers a very large spectrum as well. It is what baristas do with the different types of coffee beans and what kind of beverages they turn them into. This article focuses mostly on the types of coffee beans.
Coffee Types on the World Market
What coffee types are there? While there are almost countless types of coffee beans worldwide, the two most important types of coffee beans are Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) and Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora). The Arabica coffee type clearly leads the global coffee market with about 70% share of the global coffee trade. Next up is Robusta coffee, which accounts for around 30% share of the world coffee market. The majority of all coffee originates from these two coffee types: Taken together, Arabica and Robusta beans account for about 98% of the global coffee trade. However, there are also other types of coffee beans. A very small market share – around 1-3% – is divided among those other coffee types. The coffee beans Liberica, Excelsa and the Maragogype crossbreed, for example, account for a relatively important share of this market niche.
By the way, all coffee types are initially made from coffee beans. Coffee beans only grow on plants of the Rubiaceae variety. The beans are the seeds of their fruits, the coffee cherries.
There are many names for the popular Arabica coffee. Coffea arabica is also known as mountain coffee or Java coffee. Arabica is the economically most important coffee type. We particularly recommend this coffee bean as a cold drip coffee type.
Arabica coffee is mainly grown in India, Latin America, East Africa as well as Papua New Guinea. This is because all the ideal production areas for Arabica plants are located between the northern and southern tropics. The climate conditions near the equator are ideal for growing coffee.
The Arabica plant is generally very sensitive and susceptible to diseases and weather. It is mainly cultivated in the highlands. The best altitude for its cultivation is 600 to 1,200 metres above sea level. However, ideal altitudes are over 1,000 metres above sea level. It is precisely because of these high altitudes that Arabica coffee beans grow relatively slowly. The usual maturing time of the Arabica coffee cherry ranges between 9 and 11 months.
Arabica is considered to be the most exquisite type of coffee. Most premium coffees therefore consist of pure Arabica beans. Unfortunately, the term “Arabica” does not automatically stand for high quality: only about 5% of all Arabica beans harvested and processed are indeed top quality. The price usually reflects the level of quality.
With 12 milligrams of caffeine per gram of dry weight, the Arabica coffee bean has a lower caffeine content than the Robusta coffee bean.
Arabica – Flavor and Aroma
The Arabica coffee bean is extremely popular due to its fine taste. Coffee made from Arabica beans is described by connoisseurs as balanced, fruity, and complex. Arabica also tastes mild, soft, and has a fine acidity.
The best way to bring out these various flavors of an Arabica bean is to use the hand filter method or make cold drip coffee yourself.
Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora) is also known as lowland coffee. In contrast to the sensitive Arabica plant, the Robusta bush is much sturdier. It is more adaptable to high humidity, heat or disease.
Robusta coffee is mainly grown in Indonesia, Uganda, Vietnam as well as West Africa. Nevertheless, it also can be found in Brazil and India. As the name lowland coffee suggests, Robusta coffee plants thrive at altitudes between 300 and 800 metres above sea level.
Coffea canephora has a relatively short ripening period of about 6 months. Accordingly, it bears more fruits that ripen faster than those of the Arabica plant. For this reason Robusta beans can be harvested several times a year.
Robusta – Flavor and Aroma
On the palate, the Robusta coffee bean is woody to earthy. In addition, Robusta coffee is generally more bitter and has fewer aromas than Coffea arabica. Nevertheless, it pleases the palate with a full body. Robusta beans also contain less coffee oil. This results in a better crema. Which is why Robusta coffee is particularly popular for making espresso: either pure or as a blend with Arabica coffee.
The caffeine content of Robusta beans is about 2-4%. This is about twice as much as in Arabica beans. Therefore, it is a bit too high to be an ideal cold drip coffee type.
The Liberica coffee bean (Coffea liberica) is less well known and als less widespread. It is mainly being grown in West Africa: Liberia and Sierra Leone are particularly important areas for growing Liberica coffee. But Liberica coffee also grows in parts of Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Coffea liberica is very productive and not prone to parasites.
Compared to the more common coffee types, the Liberica bean contains more caffeine and less sugar and juice. Therefore, some critics consider it less appealing or even inferior. This assessment is probably one of the reasons why Liberica coffee is so rare. Buying pure Liberica coffee, as a result, is a difficult undertaking.
Liberica – Flavor and Aroma
Because the fruits of the Liberica coffee plant naturally contain little juice and sugar, Liberica coffee tastes particularly bitter. Yet, it contains a comparatively high amount of caffeine. Opinions differ on the taste of Liberica coffee: some find it woody, others smoky-fruity. Especially when blended with other varieties, Liberica coffee can offer a very special taste experience.
The Excelsa coffee bean is also relatively unknown. It originally comes from the region of Lake Chad in West Africa. Today it also grows in parts of Southeast Asia. A special characteristic of the Excelsa plant is that it is extremely robust. Therefore, it can withstand long periods of drought.
Excelsea is a low yielding coffee type. For this reason, it accounts for only about 1% of all coffee trade on the world market. Nevertheless – or precisely because of this – Excelsea coffee is a real gem for coffee fans.
Excelsa – Flavor and Aroma
The taste of Excelsea coffee can be described as full-bodied and strong. Despite the high caffeine content, the aroma of Excelsea is mild, slightly sweet, and very fruity.
This coffee type is a very successful hybrid of Arabica and Liberica plants. Maragogype coffee is mainly found in Central America (Mexico, Nicaragua).
Maragogype – Flavor and Aroma
Coffee made from Maragogype beans is particularly mild and low in acid. As a result, Maragogype coffee is very easy on the stomach. Because of this, it is particularly suitable as a cold drip coffee type as well as for filter coffee or the French Press. You can also use Maragogype for a particularly mild espresso with a low caffeine content.
Cold Drip Coffee Type
Which type of coffee is best for making cold drip coffee? This is quite simple! You can just use your favourite coffee type to make cold drip coffee or cold brew coffee. Use a single bean and chew it. If it doesn’t taste bitter, sour or otherwise unpleasant, you’ve already found the perfect type for marking cold drip coffee.
In general we can recommend coffee with mild flavor and low acidity for your cold drip coffee. From our point of view Arabica and Maragogype coffee beans are particularly well suited for cold drip coffee.
In addition to the right type of coffee, the most important thing is to roast and grind your coffee as freshly as possible. The grinding degree also influences the taste of your cold drip coffee.
Countries of Origin
You have been asking yourself for some time: “Where do coffee beans actually grow?”, “Where does coffee come from?” and “Which country produces the most coffee?” In the meantime you know that coffee grows best in the area around the equator. For all of you who want to know exactly where, we have compiled a list of the 20 most important coffee-growing countries. For a better overview they are listed according to their annual export volume. So they are listed from most exports to less:
- People’s Republic of China
- Ivory Coast
- Costa Rica
- Papua New Guinea
This list is also very useful if you are looking for holiday destinations that offer good coffee. 😉
Coffee Plants and Coffee Fruits
The botanical term for coffee plants is “coffea”. Coffea plants are basically low trees or shrubs. Coffee is usually grown in interculture with other plants, trees or shrubs. This happens, among other things, to protect the coffee plants from the sun and to keep pests away.
By the way, the fruits of the coffee plant are called coffee cherries. The name probably originates from the fact that the ripe fruit turns red – just like its namesake on our local fruit trees. Each coffee cherry usually contains two coffee beans, sometimes only one. Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee cherry.
How Coffee is Made
Different types of coffee are produced by applying different methods and techniques after the harvest. Below we will describe how coffee is made and how man can influence it.
The so-called coffee processing takes place after the coffee harvest. During this process, the skin and pulp of the coffee cherry are removed as far as possible, leaving only the seed: the coffee bean.
There are two different ways of processing coffee beans: dry and wet processing. Robusta coffee, just like Ethiopian and Brazilian Arabica coffee, is usually dry-processed. In most other growing regions, however, Arabica coffee is mainly wet-processed.
What processing method coffee farmers choose for their coffee primarily depends on the local climate and water resources. Likewise important is the taste. It is impossible to generalise whether wet or dry-processed coffee is of higher quality. At the end of the day, the type of coffee and thus only the result speaks for itself.
What remains after processing is what we know as green coffee beans: raw coffee.
Cleaning, Peeling, and Grading
After processing, the coffee beans are still covered by the so-called parchment layer. For this reason, coffee is referred to as “parchment coffee” at this stage of processing. During cleaning and peeling, the parchment and – if it is possible – the silver skin are removed from the coffee bean.
Finally, the coffee is graded. The beans are being sorted according to quality and size. Grading is done either by machine or by hand. What remains is the so-called raw coffee or green coffee.
In order to make green coffee palatable it is necessary to roast the coffee beans. During the roasting process, dried coffee beans are heated. As a result, the beans undergo various physical and chemical processes. These, in turn, strongly influence the development of aroma, color, and flavor. Temperatures in traditional coffee roasting vary. Initially they start at 60 °C and reach up to 250 °C towards the end of the roasting process. However, during industrial coffee roasting they heat the coffee beans up to temperatures of 550 °C. By employing this method, the beans are roasted much more quickly.
The different roasting times additionally influence the coffee beans’ taste. Espresso, for example, is roasted for an average of 15-18 minutes. This is 3-8 minutes longer than “regular” coffee.
Degree of Roasting
When roasting coffee, you can vary the temperature as well as the roasting time. This will produce different roasting results. The so-called roasting degree significantly influences aroma, flavor, and intended use for each type of coffee. You will frequently find the following roasts:
- Dark roast: A strong roast. It is also called Viennese roast or light French roast. Darker roasting degrees taste slightly sweet yet bitter. They often have strong and chocolaty aromas.
- Medium roast: A medium roast. It is also marketed as breakfast roast or American roast. Very balanced with a full body.
- Light roast: A light roast that is also called pale or cinnamon roast. Light roasts taste rather acidic, however, they are hardly bitter. They often have a distinct citrus note.
- Double roast: It is also called doppio tostado, Continental roast or French roast. This coffee has been roasted twice.
- Italian roast: Also known as espresso roast.
- Torrefacto: For this Spanish type of roasting, the coffee beans are roasted while adding sugar. The torrefacto coffee is usually sold as a blend mixed with regularly roasted coffee. Torrefacto components in coffee blends soften acidity and bitterness.
How does coffee get to Europe and the United States?
Some of you coffee drinkers may have wondered about this by now. After all, coffee is grown in regions around the equator. From there the journey to Europe or North America can be quite long. Therefore, coffee is usually transported there by sea. Another reason for this mode of transport is the large quantities in which coffee is traded. The largest coffee import port in Europe is the port of Hamburg, Germany. As of the United States of America, the main port for coffee trading is the port of New Orleans.