If you consider yourself a coffee aficionado, then you’ll know that the most important part of a great cup of Joe starts with the perfect beans.
There are many different types of coffee beans, each one giving you a different aroma, consistency and flavor in your coffee cup.
So what exactly will the best coffee beans be for your drink? What is the best bean for an Americano vs what is the best for a latte?
If you love coffee and want all the coffee bean types explained, then keep reading our comprehensive guide to coffee bean varieties.
Not only do we share all the common types of coffee beans, we also explain how to grind them, roast them and how to choose the right type for your favorite coffee drink.
What Are The 4 Types of Coffee Beans?
There are 4 principal coffee varieties, Arabica, Robusta, Liberica and Excelsa. The first two types, Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, account for most of the world’s coffee production.
Each coffee bean variety offer very distinct flavors, even before the grinding and roasting process.
These are considered the most basic elements of coffee roasting, having been cultivated in various parts of the world.
This first type of coffee bean is probably one of the most widely recognized to your average coffee consumer.
Arabica coffee beans account for 70-80% of the coffee produced around the world and are usually grown at high altitudes where there is plenty of moisture and natural coverage from the sun.
This coffee species has been naturalized outside of Africa in its native land of Ethiopia and parts of Kenya. It is now also commonly grown in plantations in South America such as Brazil and Colombia.
Arabica beans are a very delicate plant to grow and require constant attention to keep them healthy.
After 2 to 4 years of planting, this coffee plant starts to produce white fragrant flowers. It needs to be pruned back consistently to prevent overfertilization that could lead to a weak harvest.
When the coffee “cherries”, as they are called, are ready to pick, they are usually shaken onto a mat, meaning only the very ripest will fall.
How to brew Arabica coffee
If you have some single-origin Arabica beans at home, one of the best ways to brew them is with a drip or pour-over method.
This will slowly bring out its multi-layered flavor profile, which is the primary reason it is the coffee bean of choice amongst specialty coffee roasters.
Robusta coffee beans are slightly less popular than Arabica coffee, although it is just as commonly used as the former type.
These beans are some of the most tenacious of the coffee beans listed here.
The Robusta plant itself can survive in very humid conditions and is resistant to numerous diseases that other types of coffee plants can succumb to.
This coffee is native to sub-Saharan Africa, which is why it can resist extreme weather conditions, pests and plant-based diseases. It is grown world wide, with Vietnam now the largest producer of Robusta coffee beans.
This type of coffee beans has very low acidity but high bitterness and less depth in flavor than Arabica beans. They are also cheaper to produce than Arabica beans and as a result they are often used in coffee blends and instant coffee.
Another key piece of information for coffee lovers is that Robusta beans contain double the amount of caffeine that the Arabica counterpart has.
It is a popular addition to high caffeine blends such as Death Wish Coffee and for use in espresso blends.
The Liberica coffee bean originates from West Africa and is one of the largest coffees in terms of physical size, almost double the size of our previous two coffees.
This breed of coffee was first grown as a cheaper alternative to Arabica coffee, but it has fallen out of favor in recent years.
When it was cultivated in the Philipines, Liberica coffee beans were used as an alternative to Arabica, which was then undergoing decimation from a disease known as ‘coffee rust’.
Coffee rust is a disease that causes the plant to become severely discolored, ultimately losing all its leaves and left completely unable to produce coffee beans at all.
However, despite its recent fall from favor, Liberica beans have a very complex flavor palette and are often added to traditional coffees to give it a much more defined flavor.
This coffee bean type has a floral, smokey but often bitter flavor and is difficult to find outside of Asia.
Coffee producers do not really produce this bean much anymore, but you can still get it from suppliers in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Excelsa coffee beans are considered part of the Liberica family, although it is actually much smaller in size.
The plants for this coffee can mostly be found in Southeast Asia, used mainly as a blend in coffee products like instant coffee.
In terms of flavor, Excelsa beans do not taste too dissimilar to Liberica coffee, with a fruity texture that goes really well with more acidic coffees like Robusta or Liberica.
It has been variously described as having both the flavor of light and dark roast coffee, with a distinctive taste that can be enjoyed either neat or with cream and sugar.
Finally, in addition to the main 4 varieties of coffee beans grown, there is a rare coffee bean type only recently rediscovered in West Africa called Stenophylla, or coffea stenophylla.
Whilst not widely planted, the Stenophylla plant is considered far more robust and tolerant to heat than Arabica coffee plants. It may provide coffee farmers with a future opportunity for wider production.
What Are The Best Coffee Bean Types?
Arabica coffee beans are considered by many coffee experts to be the best variety of coffee bean for brewing rich and smooth tasting coffee at home.
Due to the higher cost of production, 100% Arabica beans are more expensive than Arabica and Robusta blends.
There are plenty of great coffee blends on the market, and it is worth trying a range of brands and blends to find what you prefer.
As you probably already know, the taste in your cup isn’t just about the coffee beans types.
There are several other factors that will influence the final taste:
- Where the coffee is grown. The soil composition, as well as the climate and humidity, will all affect the flavor.
- The roasting process has a big impact on how tasty the final cup is.
- The age of the coffee beans after roasting.
- Your choice of coffee maker. This will also affect how your coffee turns out in the final mix.
By learning the different growing and roasting processes, you can be more aware of the different types of flavors that you prefer.
It will take some experimenting of beans from different countries to discover which bean and roasting style suits your particular palette.
You might even set up your own little distribution system. Ordering, roasting and grinding your coffee yourself to achieve that super smooth and punchy latte tailored just how you like it.
Now you know the most common coffee bean types, let’s delve a little more into how to use them.
How Long Should You Grind Coffee Beans?
How long you grind the coffee beans for will depend on the type of coffee grinder and the grind size required for your brew.
Types of Grinders
There are two types of coffee grinders that you should be aware of that will give you very different results from your coffee bean.
These coffee grinders are some of the cheapest grinders available and a reasonable option for a beginner. They are generally electric.
- Suitable for coarse ground coffee.
- Affordable and multi-purpose grinder.
- Inconsistent grind size.
- Not suitable for fine grinds.
The grinder of choice by most coffee experts, burr grinders are more precise and consistent when it comes to grinding up your coffee beans.
They come in both electric and manual options.
The coffee drops between two preset burrs that will automatically grind your beans.
This will give you a very consistent texture of coffee every time that you put it through your machine.
- It will give you a consistent grind every single time.
- The versatility – whether it is very coarse, super fine or a Turkish blend, you can have different grinds for every kind of coffee.
- More expensive, so it might not be that appealing to a student who loves coffee and is trying to save on their student loan budget.
How Fine Should I Grind My Coffee Beans?
Now we’ll go into a little bit more detail about coffee grinding techniques and which ones are adaptable for which kind of brewing style that you’ll be making.
How fine you grind your coffee and the type of coffee maker you use will affect the flavor of your brew.
By choosing the right grind you can be sure that your coffee releases as much of its natural flavor and aroma as possible.
There are 5 different types of grinding methods that you can use depending on the type of coffee drink you are preparing.
Grind Types and Methods
What follows is the name of the grind followed by how they will look.
- Coarse ground coffee – These look very chunky and distinct and are known for yielding less of the flavor but more texture. This looks more like potting soil.
- Medium ground coffee – this has the texture of sand, being finer grains that still tend to clump together.
- Finely ground coffee – This is very smooth and resembles the texture of salt or sugar when you rub it between your fingers.
- Super finely ground coffee – This is nearly the texture of flour or sugar, sifting even finer through your fingers than the finely ground.
- Turkish ground coffee – This is a very powdery mix, very similar to the texture of flour.
What follows are the general methods used for grinding each type of coffee and what equipment that you’ll need:
- Coarse grind – French press, cold brew coffee, nitro coffee, or a percolator.
- Medium grind – an auto-drip maker with a flat bottom filter
- Medium/Fine Grind – automatic or manual drip maker with cone-shaped filters.
- Fine grind – Stovetop espresso pots, drip makers with cone-shaped filters.
- Superfine grind – Espresso machine
- Turkish ground – Ibrik coffee pots
Below is a little more detail on some of the most popular brewing methods and the grind required.
For this style of coffee brewing, you’re going to want a coarse grind, which is much more chunky than the finer grinds of coffee.
This is because the coffee is immersed in boiling water for a longer period.
The coarse grind helps keep the grinds out of your cup while still ensuring a nice strong brew at the end.
Pour Over Coffee
Using a medium grind for a pour-over is perfect, as it is less coarse and allows more time for the coffee to brew while pouring.
There are many different pour-over brewers, so you might want to experiment with how finely ground your coffee is for the best final flavor.
Remember: the less time the water is in contact with the grind, the finer the grind should be.
Stovetop Espresso Maker
For something like this, you’ll have to use a fine espresso grind, grinding your coffee up until it is roughly the consistency of sugar.
However, it should be a slightly coarser grind than that of a regular espresso maker, as it will be brewing in the water for slightly longer.
Espresso making is very delicate and you’ll have to be sure that the grind is just right to avoid getting that overly bitter flavor.
We would recommend trying out a few taster sessions using your automatic grinder to make sure the settings are just right.
This is one of the strongest coffees that you can get and will require a superfine coffee grind. The coffee grounds for a Turkish coffee maker should resemble that of flour.
This coffee needs to be ground so finely that nothing but a Turkish grinder will be able to process it.
How Long Does It Take To Roast Coffee Beans?
The roasting time of your coffee will all depend on what type of coffee roasting machine you’ll be using.
If you have a special home roaster for coffee beans, then it should come with a manual that will walk you through the various profiles that you can use to set your coffee roaster to.
However, you can also use devices like popcorn machines and skillets that will do a good job at roasting your coffee beans.
Using a popcorn machine, you can be sure that it will take around 8-12 minutes to fully roast your beans, whereas with a drum roaster it will probably take around 14-20 minutes.
If you are going with the old-fashioned method of roasting your beans in a skillet, then you’ll have to be sure that you are turning them regularly.
This ensures the beans don’t burn and the flavor is released right the way through the bean.
Can You Roast Coffee Beans Twice?
It is not recommended that you roast coffee beans twice, as you will get cooked rather than roasted coffee beans, which will severely detract from the final flavor.
The intense but short heat is what enables the coffee beans to react in the special way that they do.
When you buy raw coffee beans, they have a green appearance.
It is when you subject them to the intense heat that then causes them to caramelize and turn brown and to release their distinctive coffee flavor.
How Long Do Coffee Beans Last?
Coffee shelf life varies depending on whether the beans are raw, roasted, whole or ground.
If you are talking about green fresh coffee beans, then you can expect them to last for around 2 years.
However, once you have roasted them they undergo a chemical reaction that radically reduces their shelf life.
Once your coffee beans have been roasted, they can last anywhere from 2 – 6 months.
This will all depend on the storage method that you use to keep your beans. If you have a sealable bag, then we would suggest keeping them in there so that they last longer.
There are a few things that you’ll want to minimize when you are trying to preserve your coffee beans, that is moisture, heat, light and oxygen.
All these elements will drastically influence the state of your beans. This is why if you keep them in a sealable bag in a cool place, you can be sure that they will last for as long as possible.
You can also store your coffee beans in jars with a sealable handle. This way you can be sure that not a lot of air will get into them.
What Is The Most Expensive Coffee Bean?
Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee bean in the world, although this is owing mainly to their very unique processing.
These coffee cherries have been digested by an Asian palm civet. The animal then ferments the coffee bean in its stomach before passing it through defecation.
Some people regard Kopi Luwak as a novelty and argue that the digestion process does not radically alter the taste of the coffee enough to warrant its extortionate price tag.
A lot of the most vocal critics have claimed that this coffee bean does not taste that much different from bad coffee that you might find at Starbucks.
At its most expensive, Kopi Luwak can cost upwards of $1,000 per kilogram. Due to the exaggerated price tag, the production of this coffee has increasingly moved to factory farming.
A lot of animal rights organizations highlight that the palm civets are force-fed coffee beans and are kept in cages, which is very unethical.
What Is The Cheapest Coffee Bean?
Robusta coffee beans are the cheapest type of coffee bean on the market.
They are often used to produce instant coffee and cheap brands of pre-ground coffee, as well as for making coffee blends.
However it is possible to find cheap whole and ground roasted coffee bean blends online for under $10 per pound.
What Is The Rarest Coffee Bean?
There are a few notable coffees that produce exceptional and rare flavors and are considered the best coffee beans in the world.
However, bear in mind that these coffees are also very expensive and will give you a very small volume of coffee for the price.
Here is a list of some of the rarest coffees that you can find on the market as well as a brief history and flavor profile:
Jamaica Blue Mountain
This coffee is probably the most coveted coffee in the world. Hand-picked in the mountains of Jamaica, this commands high prices yet has been highly rated.
There are plenty of limited edition packs that come with this coffee, with some fetching around $400 per kilogram.
This next coffee hails from Hawaii. These coffees reach prices just below that of Jamaica Blue Mountain, with a kilo fetching at around $250.
Wild Kopi Luwak
As mentioned above, this coffee is ranked quite highly simply due to the extraction process by which it goes under.
This coffee is extremely rare to find, so it will cost you around $1000 for about a kilo.
Where Does Starbucks Get Their Coffee Beans?
Starbucks usually sources their breakfast and house blend coffees from Latin America. One of the most popular Starbucks roasts, Pike Place, is sourced from Colombia and Brazil.
Where Does Folgers Get Their Coffee Beans?
Folger’s combine the Arabica and Robusta beans to make their classic blend of coffee, both of which are sourced from Central America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Where Does Maxwell House Get Their Coffee Beans?
Maxwell House mainly utilizes arabica coffee beans to make sure that their coffee comes with a consistent flavor. Most of these beans are sourced from Asia.
Does Eating Coffee Beans Give You Caffeine?
Yes, you absorb caffeine when eating whole coffee beans.
If you decide to dispense with the coffee in its liquid form and want to chug on some raw beans, then you can, although be careful.
You can eat around 33 coffee beans before you start going over the safe daily recommended consumption of caffeine.
Can You Eat Raw Coffee Beans?
You certainly can eat raw coffee beans, although they will taste incredibly bitter when eaten before roasting.
One of the most popular ways to eat roasted coffee beans is as chocolate-covered coffee beans.
Coffee beans are an excellent source of antioxidants. Note that when eating coffee beans the caffeine will absorb into your bloodstream a lot quicker.
Should You Wash Coffee Beans?
No, you shouldn’t wash green or roasted coffee beans. Raw coffee beans are processed and dried before roasting and they do not need to be washed before grinding and brewing.
When you see the term “washed” on your coffee beans packaging it is referring to the processing method when they are picked.
There are both natural and washed processing methods which will impact the flavor of the coffee.
It is said that a washed coffee bean will give you a much brighter flavor, while the unwashed version will taste a lot smoother and sweeter.
Do Coffee Beans Need To Be Refrigerated?
No, coffee beans do not need to be refrigerated. To help coffee beans last longer, we recommend you keep coffee beans or grinds stored in a cool place in a sealed airtight container.
You should not refrigerate them as coffee beans absorb moisture. Plus changes in condensation as you remove and return the container to the fridge may negatively affect the flavor.
It is possible to freeze coffee beans. It isn’t recommended unless the container is 100% airtight, due to the possible impact to coffee flavor.
So there you have it – an explanation of the different types of coffee beans plus how to grind them, roast them and all the answers to common questions about different coffee beans.
Want to know more? Watch the video below for a more in depth explanation of the main types of coffee beans and their flavor profiles.
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