Atmosphere and ambiance only partially play into a coffee shop’s appeal. The rest of it is the flavor of the coffee you serve. Yet choosing the right coffee for your roastery or cafe is a spine-tingling process.
If you’re not quite sure how to choose the right beans, we can help. The elements of a good bean vary, based on many factors like location and roast. Here’s a full list of essential features in finding the right coffee bean.
Where was the coffee bean grown? The soil and breed of plants contribute to the flavor of the coffee beans. All coffee grows in a tropical climate, but the altitude has a lot to do with its flavor.
Soils at high altitude have less water in the beans because it means better drainage for the plants. The best beans grow above 4900 feet, and many of the coffee farms have volcanic soil. These beans have a fruity flavor, often with wine or berry notes.
Some higher altitude origins include Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Kenya.
Soils at medium altitudes, from 2900 feet and up, have a smooth flavor. These have nuttier notes, as well as chocolate or vanilla. Medium altitude coffee beans come from places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, or Brazil.
Hawaiian Kona coffee has more subtle flavors. It’s very mild tasting and comes from much lower altitude farms.
Type of Roast
The way you roast your beans also affects the flavor. To some, the roast is everything. Most roasts fall between light, medium, and dark profiles.
While the caffeine content is higher in lighter roasts, some customers still prefer the hearty, deeper flavor of a dark roast.
Light roasts most often have names involving breakfast, blond, or other sunny, upbeat references. These coffees taste milder, and the beans look lighter brown without any oils on them.
Medium roasted beans are most popular in America, a satisfying balance between the easy flavor of light roasts and the less subtle dark roasts. They’re a medium brown color and have a slightly oily look. Medium roast coffees taste bitter, but in an average way, without the depth of a dark roast.
Dark roasts are most often used for espresso, their dark brown color and oils giving them away. The extra time in the roaster means a heavier flavor, strong and fragrant.
What you eat or drink with your coffee plays a big part in how the flavor comes out. As with wine, the drink brings out the flavor of the food and vice versa. Make sure you’re pairing your coffee with the right accompanying flavors to help your customers appreciate the beans the most.
For a higher altitude coffee, add some fruit to the plate-like blueberries or a peach tart. Suggest a full-flavored omelet to go with it.
Medium altitude coffees go well with brownies, chocolate, or biscotti. For a more savory option, offer this coffee with a hearty eggs-and-bacon breakfast.
Lower altitude, milder coffees pair well with oatmeal, quiche, or crepes.
Taste: The Right Coffee Bean
Flavor is only one part of a coffee bean. Other factors affect the taste of coffee, including the roast, discussed above. Aroma, finish, body, and acidity also play a significant part in making a coffee bean the right one.
Aroma is added flavor notes that come from inhaling the coffee aroma, rather than tasting it. Our taste buds can only pick up salty, sweet, sour, or bitter flavors. They can’t distinguish much beyond that.
Yet your nose can do a lot of work for you that affects how you taste coffee. You can smell notes of flowers, nuts, caramels, fruits, and other influences. If your customers pay attention, they’ll note the different aromas of each type of bean.
The finish of a coffee is like the aroma, but it’s the flavor notes you get at the end of your taste, rather than the beginning or the middle. A finish uses the same descriptors as the aromas, but they’re usually different than the aromas of the same brew.
The body of a coffee involves the feel of it in your mouth. Your customers will notice a light-bodied coffee feels thinner in their mouth than a robust, full-bodied brew. If will feel more like a glass of water on the tongue than a thick drink of milk.
Acidity could also be called sharpness, or a tinny feel or flavor. It typically hits the tongue at the beginning of the sip, and some coffees have very little acidity. Others, especially the Ethiopian and Kenyan beans, have high acidity to accompany the fruity notes.
After coffee beans finish roasting, they need some time to breathe. This is because the beans release carbon dioxide gas, and it affects the flavor of the coffee they brew. Make a pot of coffee with just-roasted beans, and it won’t have the same appeal.
The degassing time depends on your brew method. The more gas bubbles in the brewing process, the less time the coffee beans have to infuse the water, and the water doesn’t get the full flavor. So a french-press style coffee brew would taste better with fresh-roasted coffee because it has more time to absorb the flavor, despite the extra gas releasing.
For espresso or traditional coffee makers, use beans that have had a chance to sit for 3 or 4 days to degas. It’s a sensitive process because if you let the beans sit for too long, they get stale. The last thing you want is to serve stale coffee to your customers.
The Art of Coffee
Finding the right coffee bean is truly an art. As you take into account geographic origin, roast, and pairings, you still have the many components of flavor and degassing to consider, too.
When you master the technique of combining all these elements into the perfect cup of coffee, your business will soar.
Our fine green coffee at Intercontinental Coffee Trading is ready for your business to mold into the masterpiece we know you’re capable of. Contact us for help choosing the right bean to get started.