Strolling around the coffee shelves of your local grocer, you may have realized that nearly all the coffee bags are labeled "Arabica Coffee" or "Arabica Beans". Has that ever bothered you? The fact is that there are many different types of coffee beans, but Arabica is the most common of them all.
It accounts for 60-70% of global coffee production. However, some other types are not as common. Let's take a look at the types of coffee beans are out there and what makes each one of them stand out. Primarily, there are four main types of coffee that we will look at here: Arabica (Coffee arabica), Robusta (Coffee caniphora), Liberica (Coffee liberica), and Excelsa (Coffee liberica var. dewevrei).
Read our latest guide about the best coffee beans.
- What Are The 4 Types Of Coffee Beans
- Types of Roasting Coffee Beans
- Coffee Origins
What Are The 4 Types Of Coffee Beans
Coffee Arabica is the most common and highly marketed type of coffee, mainly because it has a more delicate flavor, and it also tends to be less acidic. Arabica beans are mainly grown in areas highly elevated above the sea level and in particular areas with plenty of rainfalls. Mostly, Arabica beans are found in Latin America and some parts of Africa. Brazil is most famous for its lush rainforest, and it's the world's largest producer and exporter of Arabica beans. The Arabica coffee plants are a delicate lot, thus require a fair amount of pruning and a lot of attention in regards to the environmental factors.
This species is generally prone to diseases making large scale farming quite a challenge, and this leads to a considerably high cost of the bean in the global market, but that doesn't stop the many coffee drinkers from purchasing it. Most of the coffee enthusiasts are happy to pay the difference in exchange for the softer, sweeter taste. The tender bean has a tendency of diminishing its taste a bit when served cold, added to milk, or blended with cream.
Robusta coffee is the second in rank on the list of global production. It is most popular in Europe, Africa, and the middle east. And just like its name, it's famous for its strong and often harsh flavor. Robusta beans boast of extremely high caffeine levels that give the plant more resilience than the Arabica species. The high caffeine content found on the plant plays the role of a natural insect repellant; helping to get rid of major disease threats to the tree. The species also tend to have a high tolerance for its climate, which allows it to be grown in many altitudes and different climates.
Except in areas where strong coffee is a cultural norm, the Robusta is not popular due to its reputation for having a rubbery or burnt taste. The plant is much easier to grow and harvest compared to the Arabica species; hence many farmers tend to earn more profits when they sell Robusta. For this, Robusta may be used for discount lines like instant coffees and also can be used as a filler in dark roasts. Since it is not as expensive, a variety of instant and ground coffee blends retailed in grocery stores are brewed from Robusta beans.
Sometimes delicious, high-quality Robusta coffees make it to the grocery store shelves as single-origin coffees made from craft, small-batch roasters. The high-quality Robusta coffee beans boast of hints of chocolate and rum in their rich flavor profile; however, they are not always readily available.
Liberica coffee beans are a very rare treat. The plant is grown in very certain climates, and its production is way far too scarce for farmers to enhance their levels of production to cater to global market needs. None the less, the beans are seen as a pleasant surprise. Those who have sampled the coffee compare its aroma to fruit and flowers and describe the flavor as having a near "woody" taste.
A couple of years back, Liberica coffee was very popular. Towards the closure of the nineteenth century, a plant disease commonly referred to as "coffee rust" set in and did away nearly all of the Liberica plants throughout the entire globe. Since coffee was such a huge and popular commodity, even at that point, individual farmers and government entities had to go out to find suitable substitutes.
The Philippines were the first to harvest and trade the Liberica coffee beans at a great volume, and as the sole supplier, the nation had its economy reporting tremendous growth. At this time, the Philippines was a U.S. colony, but as its economy grew, the nation gained its self-governance, a move that led to the U.S. government imposing very steep economic sanctions, and this ended up cutting off supplies to the country. This resulted in a subsequent decline of the Liberica coffee bean in the global marketplace. Since then, no other nation has ever managed to step up and reach the Liberica production level that the Philippines had once pioneered.
Excelsa is a type of coffee beans that is a class of the Liberica family species, but its species is incredibly distinct. Similar to the Liberica coffee described above, Excelsa coffee beans are mainly grown in Southeast Asia and cater to only a very minute proportion of the worldwide coffee production. Excelsa does boast a tart, fruitier flavor and is very famous for having attributes of both light and dark roast coffees that create a unique profile that is more often sought out by coffee fanatics.
Types of Roasting Coffee Beans
There exist various types of coffee, with a disparity in color, taste, type of roast, and amount of caffeine. The different variations are all readily available, which makes choosing the right one difficult. If you've ever felt confused and lost within the grocery coffee aisle, you're not alone. City, French, Viennese, Cinnamon–there is a wide variety of coffee and almost as many variances of roasts!
Have you ever wondered what the roasting process is all about?
The bean is that seed inside a coffee cherry. Before they are subjected to the roasting process, coffee beans are green and have almost no aroma, aside from an earthy, grassy smell. Coffee bean roasting is the process that turns coffee beans into the delicious cup of coffee you enjoy drinking. The process toasts the coffee beans, darkens their color, and gives the beans a chocolate caramel flavor. At very high temperatures, oils are seen on the surface of the coffee beans. At approximately 401°F, the beans get a primary crack and start to expand. As the temperatures rise to 437°F, they crack a second time. High-quality coffee beans should not be roasted beyond 482°F. Beyond that temperature, they'll start to thin out and acquire a burnt taste. You don't want to drink charcoal!
Roast names and descriptions don't seem to be universal within the coffee industry, and roasting may be a component of art and part science. All that variation can make it a touch tricky to decide on the right bag of beans. However, you got to be able to tell the roast level by the looks of the bean and what it tastes like. Although the bean itself matters, coffee acquires most of its aroma and rich flavor from the roasting process. The amount of time of the roasting process can influence many things, including the body size, acidity levels, and flavor of your tasty beans. To enhance your coffee knowledge, we'll look at the four major sorts of coffee roasts.
Lightly Roasted Coffee
Light roasts are roasted for the littlest amount of time. Lightly roasted beans generally reach an indoor temperature of 356°F – 401°F, right after the first crack occurs. These beans tend to lack oils on them since they have not been subjected to high enough temperatures.
The longer the time a bean is roasted, the more the heat pulls out the caffeine, and thus the higher the acidity. This suggests that light roasts have the very best caffeine and thus the highest acidity. Light roasts can have a special taste profile because the shortened roasting process prevents some chemical changes from occurring inside the bean. Original flavors of the bean are highly recognized in light roasts because the flavors that originate from the roasting process aren't prominent. The acidity in light roasts is usually amid a citrus or lemon tone, which some people find pleasing to the palate.
Medium roasted coffee reaches internal temperatures of 410°F-428°F. This is often after the first crack and just before the second crack occurs. They have a fuller body than the light-weight roast and lesser acidity. Medium roasts are what the standard American coffee drinker is familiar with. These roasts are considered to possess balanced flavors. The acidity levels and body size of a medium roast are not constant but are usually somewhere within the middle. A few examples of medium roasts include; House blend, Breakfast roast, and American Roast.
Highly Roasted Coffee
Beans roasted to medium-dark reach an indoor temperature of 437°F – 446°F. This may be during or just after the second crack. The medium-dark roasts will start showing some oils on the beans' surface because the temperatures are high enough. These medium-dark roasts have a richer, fuller flavor, more body, and lesser acidity. Vienna Roast and Full-City Roast are some samples of a medium-dark roast coffee blend.
High Bean Roast
The roasting temperature for a dark roast is very high and ranges between 464°F – 482°F. Oils are seen on dark roast beans. Typically, you cannot taste any original flavors in a dark roast, since the high temperatures during the roasting process completely change the flavor of the coffee beans.
Dark roasts have sweeter flavors because the sugars within the coffee beans have time to caramelize. The longer the time taken in the roasting process, the richer the flavor acquired and the fuller the body, which regularly leads to it having a buttery finish. They even have the tiniest amount acidity of all coffee roasts. Dark roasts have the littlest amount of caffeine because they're roasted the longest. French roast is taken into consideration because of the darkest roast and encompasses a pronounced smoky flavor. In the event where coffee beans are roasted at a period longer than a French roast (482°F), the oils and sugars within the bean end up burning. Dark roasts often have European names as a result of the popularity of dark roasts in Europe, like Italian roast.
The place of origin of the coffee has everything to do with the taste and aroma of the different types of coffee beans. The factors that influence the quality of the coffee are the climate, amount of rainfall, height above sea level, and the amount of time the coffee trees receive sunlight. While there are many coffee producing countries in the world, only a few leave a mark as they have the best coffee beans in the world. Most of the Coffee that we consume is from the following countries.
The coffee trees planted in Vietnam are mainly Robusta and Arabica. Vietnamese coffee is famous for being some of the best available. Vietnam is the largest producer of Robusta Coffee in the world. Therefore, it is unsurprising that for travelers and ex-pats in Vietnam, Coffee is the most sought after souvenir and most often consumed beverage product.
Colombia traditionally grows arabica beans, and its unique geography makes it perfectly suited for producing a delicious, high-quality brew. Columbian Coffee can be roasted any way you like. If you want to dark roast it, you can. Most Columbian is a medium roast, but a fair amount is dark roasted.
Coffee plant varietals grown in Guatemala are mainly Typica and Bourbon, but also grown are Catuai, Caturra, and Pache. Coffee from Guatemala can be the perfect balance of full-bodied, strong and sweet with gentle acidity and complex flavor notes.
Costa Rica has only two main seasons the dry season and the rainy season, both of which provide ideal coffee growing climates. All of these factors have a great impact on the aroma, body, flavor, and acidity of the coffee that we produce. The soils are enriched by volcanic ash, which oxygenates the beans, giving them richer flavors. It is the only country in the world where it is illegal to produce any type of coffee other than 100% Arabica, the highest quality of coffee beans.
Puerto Rico has enjoyed a long association with high-quality coffee because of the rich volcanic soil, altitude, and climate of its interior, which provide the perfect place to grow coffee plants. Puerto Rican Coffee to be rich, aromatic, creamy, potent, and soulful, with a signature sweetness that serves as its hallmark and experts suggest it is better enjoyed black and without sugar.
Coffee production in Tanzania is a major aspect of its economy, as it is Tanzania's largest export crop. Tanzanian coffee production averages between 30-40,000 metric tons annually, of which approximately 70% is Arabica, and 30% is Robusta.
Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is a special variety of coffee that is grown in the Blue Mountains region. It is famous for its scent and sweet taste. The cost of JBM is relatively high due to supply and demand. The supply of JMB is low because space on those Blue Mountains is limited, and demand is high. JBM coffee is unique and tasty, but unfortunately, it's one of the rarest coffees in the world.
Coffee farming and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula. Arabic coffee, commonly known as Gahwa, is a drink is a sign of hospitality when welcoming visitors or guests the Arabian Peninsula.
Zambia does not grow coffee on a large scale like Ethiopia and Kenya, but its coffee is sought by buyers in Japan, the United States, and Europe. Zambia grows and exports washed Arabicas, including its premier Triple-A brand coffee mainly shipped to Japan. Hand Washed Sun Dried Arabica Coffee, grown under warm African skies, on ancient lands fed by clear Zambian waters, this is an exquisite coffee in the highest tradition of African Arabica.
The Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe are well suited for growing arabica coffee. Highly aromatic, Zimbabwe coffee is a medium-bodied with a medium density and lively berry-like or citrusy acidity. Typically wet-processed (washed), a good Zimbabwe coffee is well-balanced with a rich flavor and fine aftertaste. In particular, coffee from the Chipinge region is respected.
Kenya exclusively grows Coffee Arabica. The Kenyan highlands, rich volcanic soils, and ample rainfalls offer the best environment for the production of high-quality Kenya's popular Arabica coffee. In addition to ideal growing conditions, Coffee from Kenya stands above the rest because of the care coffee producers take throughout the growing and processing of their coffee. Diseases and insect pests control are given special attention. Coffee plant management involving pruning, timely harvest, and processing are taken seriously.
Ethiopia is home to rich Arabica coffee, which accounts for the country's 60% foreign income. Ethiopia ranks as the seventh-largest coffee producer in the world, with the majority of the growers being small-scale farmers. The beans come in three categories of long berry, short berry and mocha. Much of the Coffee carries wine and herbs notes.
Indonesia is the leading producer of different types of coffee beans on the Asian continent. The main type of coffee beans in this country is Arabica with sharp, spicy notes, and bright aroma. The Arabica coffee beans from Indonesia are also expensive.
Kona coffee is the local name for coffee (Coffea arabica) grown on the slopes of the Big Island of Hawaii. Kona coffee is classified as one of the high costing coffees in the world.
The first record of coffee growth in India is following the introduction of coffee beans from Yemen. All over the world, Indian coffee is said to be the finest coffee since it is grown in the shade rather than under direct sunlight. Most of the coffee growers in India are small scale farmers, and the product is mainly for export. Coffee is grown mostly in southern India under monsoon rainfall conditions hence referred to as the "Indian monsooned coffee." Its rich and unique flavor is defined as the best Indian coffee, which is rich in the flavor.
Read our last guide about Where Does The Best Coffee Come From
What is the most famous coffee bean?
Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta are the leading coffee species globally. Of the two, coffee Arabica is the most common and dominates the coffee production industry. Robusta follows with a lesser production percentage as the majority of the remaining bulk.
What does coffee roasting mean?
Roasting is the process of changing the physical and chemical properties of green freshly harvested coffee beans into various coffee products. The process yields uniquely aromatic, crunchy, and flavorful beans that we purchase as coffee. Coffee roasts are mostly identified by the color and physical appearance of the roasted coffee beans that range from light to dark, or extra dark.
Which one has higher caffeine levels, light or dark roast?
If you decide to measure the caffeine levels of your coffee by the number of scoops, lightly roasted coffee will definitely have more caffeine because the beans are heavier than the darker roast. However, if you decide to weigh out your scoops, darker roasts will have more caffeine because they have lesser mass compared to the light roast.
Taking coffee is about tastes and preferences, getting to know what you enjoy most, and sticking with it. Basically, coffee Arabica and Robusta are the most popular. They are available all over the world, and this makes them affordable. Learn to identify different types of bean roasts and their characteristics and decide how you like to drink your coffee; hot, iced, with/without creamer? The bottom line is getting to know what works well for you and enjoying the beverage.
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