In our first blog post titled ‘Coffee 101: Part One’ we explored some of the basics regarding coffee. We looked at defining what coffee was, how it’s made, and why the region it’s grown in matters. If you haven’t read that post, we suggest you do that before you continue on with this one
In part two, we are going to explore the world of coffee deeper to help you better understand the difference between types of roasts, beans, and most importantly drink composition. Let’s get it after it!
What are the differences between roasts?
The roast of a coffee is typically what the average coffee consumer sees or asks about when they are at a coffee shop. Understanding the difference between a light, dark, and city roast can help you make the right decision for you when ordering your coffee!
Roast types are just a scale that measures how long the beans were in the oven for. Roasting coffee is essentially the same as cooking coffee. The reason we cook coffee beans for different amount of times is because it changes the flavour of the beans. This is called the “Maillard Reaction”, a chemical reaction where the coffee beans’ amino acids and sugars are combined under extreme heat. This reaction changes the flavour of the coffee beans as well as the look! The flavours that come from roasting the beans are desirable to consumers as they are chocolatey and caramelized, known as savoury flavours. Like everything else in life, roasting beans comes with its trade-offs. The darker the roast, the more savoury notes it has … however, it loses the flavour of the bean itself that comes from the sugars and amino acids. Caffeine too is also a trade-off, the darker the roast the less caffeine.
Fun Fact: Coffee doesn’t give you energy – we will explore this more in a future post
Let’s summarize the different roasts so you know what to ask for the next time you purchase a cup of coffee.
Dark Roast: longer cooking time, darker colour, more savoury tasting notes, weak bean flavour and lowest amount of caffeine
City (Medium) Roast: average cooking time, medium colour, balanced flavour, medium amount of caffeine
Light Roast: shorter cooking time, lighter colour, less savoury tasting notes, rich bean flavour, and highest amount of caffeine
What are the differences types of coffee beans?
If you are not an avid coffee drinker, you’ve probably never wondered how many different types of coffee beans there are. Coffee beans are grown in the ‘Coffee Belt’, an area along the equator where most coffee plants grow. Within the Coffee Belt, there are four main type of beans: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. Let’s take a look at how they differ …
Arabica Beans – Arabica beans are the most common beans; they make up roughly 60% of the world’s coffee consumption. The beans are considered high quality, which leads to a higher price tag. These are the beans that most upscale coffee shops will serve, it is more desirable as they are more acidic compared to Robusta beans (the second most used bean). Arabica beans are grown throughout the Coffee Belt but mostly within Latin America.
Robusta Beans – Robusta coffee beans are the second-most used coffee bean. You will typically see Robusta beans sold at grocery stores for consumers to make at home. What makes these beans different and desirable is that they contain twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans. These beans look like little balls compared to the typical coffee bean shape. These beans typically grow in Africa and Indonesia and can thrive in low or high altitudes. These beans tend to provide a more harsh and bitter flavour due to the Maillard Reaction effects during roasting, which is why they are great beans to use to make espresso shots.
Liberica Beans – These beans are unique as they only grow in the Philippines. Liberica beans have a floral, fruity aroma but produce a woody, smoky flavour.
Excelsa Beans – Excelsa coffee beans are used rarely, they only represent 7% of the world’s coffee consumption. These beans are grown in Southeast Asia and are considered a type of Liberica bean. Unlike the Liberica bean, the flavour of these beans tends to be fruity and tart.
How do I know which coffee is best for me?
Coffee is supposed to be simple … beans + water à cup.
Why does it feel that there are 100’s of different types of coffee beverages? How do you know which one is best for you? Understanding the composition of your coffee beverage will help you make the best choice. Let’s review the most common types of coffee beverages.
Espresso (Short Black): the foundation and most important part to every espresso-based drink. We will use the espresso as the baseline for all drinks. The espresso is a single shot of espresso in an espresso cup.
Doppio (Double Espresso): two shots of espresso in an espresso cup. (Holey Brewed Favourite)
Ristretto: an espresso shot that is extracted with the same amount of coffee but half the amount of water. This creates a more concentrated and darker espresso shot.
Short Macchiato: a single espresso shot with a dollop of steamed milk and foam to mellow the espresso’s bitterness. A Short Macchiato normally comes in a short glass or espresso cup.
Long Macchiato: same as a short macchiato but with double shot of espresso.
Cortado: an espresso that is ‘cut’ with a dash of warm milk. The milk to coffee ratio is roughly equal and is typically made with two espresso shots
Americano (Long Bank): hot water with an espresso shot. General rule is the cup is 2/3rds full of hot water, and one shot of espresso is poured over it.
Caffe Latte: an espresso-based drink with steamed milk and micro foam added. This coffee is much sweeter due to the steamed milk. Rule of thumb is 1/3 espresso, and 2/3rds steamed milk.
Cappuccino: similar to a latte however a cappuccino has more foam at the top. Rule of thumb is that the glasses is 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, and 1/3 micro-foam
Flat White: An espresso-based drink is similar to a latte, but smaller volume and less micro-foam. There is a high proportion of coffee to milk. The milk tends to be more velvety in its consistency allowing the espresso to dominate the flavour. (Holey Brewed Favourite)
Mocha: a mocha is the love child of a latte and a hot chocolate. This espresso-based drink is a mix of espresso and hot milk but with added chocolate flavouring, typically in the form of cocoa powder or syrup.
Affogato: an espresso-based dessert. Usually takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso. At times a shot of liqueur is added for an extra kick.
There you have it, Coffee 101. You now know the fundamentals of coffee and hopefully have a much better idea of what you are getting the next time you visit your favourite cafe!
Mr. HB | Holey Brewed