Coffee Science 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Different Types of Beans
Mar 3, 2023   •   Arianne Melendres
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Mar 3, 2023   •   Arianne Melendres
Almost everyone starts their day with a morning coffee. As far as the steaming, warm cup goes, everyone has their preferences. There’s black, two spoons of sugar, a single spoon of creamer, milk with a single shot of espresso, a few twists of syrup – the possibilities are endless.
But one secret key to a perfect cup of joe is the type of coffee beans. There are four major types of coffee beans: Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa.
With this new information on our hands, shall we start brewing?
Arabica coffee beans are the most common type of coffee bean, and have been around since 1000 BC. The humble beans are known to grow as upright shrubs or small trees spanning 10 to 15 feet tall when fully grown.The beans are cute and small, characterized by the typical oval shape with prominent center creases.
Popular as may be, they are admittedly difficult to grow. These delicate beans need extra shade, water, and have to be grown in high altitudes. While it sounds like hard work, the combination of all of these factors done right enhances their flavor.
Compared to the next coffee bean on this list, arabica coffee beans grow much slower, but we’re confident to say that they’re worth the wait! After all, who wouldn’t want their coffee to be smooth and multilayered? The distinct taste of arabica features its lack of bitterness, which is why it has to be wisely mixed when served cold. On the bright side, this means that there’s more variety to the drinks; just add syrup or additional flavors of your choice. Arabica is perfect for those who love the mild yet sweet aromas in their coffee.
Beware, however, that arabica beans are a tad bit more expensive than the other types of coffee beans on this list. But seeing how many people drink coffee, it doesn’t seem to be much of a problem.
Second in popularity to arabica is robusta. This one’s for those who crave both a strong—almost harsh, actually—flavor and caffeine kick in the mornings.
If the bitter taste isn’t enough of a wake-up call, it’s also worth noting that robusta’s aroma leans towards an earthy and somewhat burnt smell. When they’re unroasted, they smell particularly nutty, but are still a lot stronger compared to its previous contender whose unroasted smell leans towards blueberries.
Robusta’s strong taste actually makes them perfect for blends and instant coffees. Some robusta beans may even have a smooth hint of rum and chocolate, depending on how they are crafted. Robusta coffee beans also have lower acidity levels than arabica!
Plus, these beans are pretty easy to grow. That’s why you can find robusta almost anywhere – they can grow in hot climates, with irregular rainfall, and in a bunch of different altitudes. That said, they’re also quite easy on the wallets.
Refuse to be basic? Maybe liberica is the coffee bean for you. The only beans on this list with an asymmetrical shape, liberica beans conveniently thrive in the hot and humid climates. That’s why they’re commonly found in Indonesia, Malaysia, and of course, the Philippines. Ever heard of barako? That’s liberica!
Harvested from tall trees up to 60 feet high, Liberica’s plants are found with quaint flowers, big cherries, large almond-shaped seeds, and even bigger leaves. One of the proud products of the country, Liberica is characterized by a bold and smoky flavor that others commonly mix with other varieties.
Liberica beans are great on their own, delighting their drinkers with a floral aroma and a complex taste reminiscent of a boar’s strength. (Fun fact: that’s why we call Liberica “barako”). It also has a woody aftertaste that many love, delivering a pleasant and comforting surprise.
Last on this list is excelsa. The bean was recently clarified as a liberica variant, but excelsa is exponentially more difficult to find.
Despite its similarities with liberica concerning the way that it’s grown and the structure of its trees, excelsa is another coffee bean that’s perfect for making blends! With a fruity and tart taste that largely contrasts with the strength of liberica, excelsa holds its own. While it may require significantly higher temperatures to extract such tastes, the exploration it holds is promising.
What’s even more interesting about this coffee bean is that they smell woody and rich, juxtaposing the sweetness on the palate. As a mystery upon itself, it’s no surprise that excelsa continues to entice coffee enthusiasts.
One of those people that treat themselves to iced coffee after the most minute accomplishments? Or maybe you’re one of those that have recently started brewing their own coffee cups?
Well, no matter what kind of coffee person you are, rest assured that you’re not likely to run out of types of coffee beans to try!
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