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Coffee Selection Guide- How to choose beans and what roast method?

How to choose the best coffee beans?

Choosing the best coffee beans is the first step towards your perfect cup of brew. In fact, I will argue that it is the most important step. You can try various coffee brewing techniques, be it pour over, french press. You use different water temperature. Distilled water. Mineral water. Different brew durations. You can do whichever brewing style you like, the most impact on how rich and tasteful your coffee is, your coffee beans are going to matter the most. And we say the most important factor is how it is roasted.

1) Know what you like in coffee

Before you choose your beans, your roasting preference, your grind size, your brewing method, the ratio of bean to water, water temperature etc, the key to selecting the perfect coffee is…. there is no perfect coffee.

Different Coffee, different likes

Different Coffee, which one do you like?

What exists, is the cup of coffee that perfectly suits your tastes and preference. So before you start, know your preference. Do you like it strong? Smooth? Bitter?  Once you know what is the ideal coffee for you, you can start from the bottoms up.

Choose Coffee Bean by Tastes Preference

  1. Choose Arabica for slightly acidic, smooth taste.
  2. Choose Robusta- strong, bitter taste

Choose Coffee Roasting by Taste Preference

  1. If you like Starbucks house coffees, choose beans that are roasted for long period:- shiny, dark appearance- bitter and bold taste, with more coffee oils to the surface.
  2. If you do NOT like Starbuck house coffees, choose beans that are roasted for short period:- dry, lightly colored coffee beans- not bitter, smooth, varying acidic taste
Starbuck coffee beans

Starbuck coffee beans

2) What are the types of coffee beans?

Coffee Arabica (Arabica), Coffee canephora (Robusta) and Coffee liberica Bull. ex Hiern. are the 3 major types of coffee beans brewed worldwide.

What is Coffee Arabica?

Arabica makes up roughly 70% of the world’s coffee. Arabica is known for a slightly acidic, smooth taste. It is more appreciated for its higher value tastes and is usually hand-picked, which allows a better selection as manual picking means less underripe or overripe beans are selected.

What is Coffee Robusta?

Robusta makes up roughly 27% of the world’s coffee. Robusta has a strong, bitter taste with a high caffeine content. As it has a lesser taste profile and cheaper to grow in Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, and West Africa, it is often used for instant coffee packs.

What is Coffee Liberica?

Liberica is a minority crop (3% of world’s coffee supply) that is relatively rare in our usual coffee shops. IIt is similar to robusta’s strong and bold flavor, with a strong aroma and a woody fruity taste. It is quite popular in places like the Philippines, where their favorite is barako blend.

Arabica and Robusta are the mainstream coffee types

 

There are actually roughly 126 types of coffee plants, but most of us will usually only drink the 2 major types:- Arabica or Robusta. These two type of coffee beans make up most of the coffee supply the world drinks. The plant can be similar but the beans can differ in taste depending on where it is grown when harvested, and the style of roasting. The many different factors contribute to the many different types of coffee we can enjoy.

How to choose non-oily coffee beans?

Choose lightly roasted coffee beans for non-oily beans. You do not need oily beans to have bold and strong coffee. It is a common coffee myth. You can choose lightly roasted beans, and adjust your brewing style to get a different taste or different bold strength of coffee.

For those who do not like oily coffee beans, let us explain. Many drinkers link oily beans with dark roasted beans, which gives strong bold tastes.  You can get lightly roasted beans that do not taste like “oily beans”.

Non oily Coffee Bean In Cup

Non oily Coffee Bean In Cup

You can get lightly roasted beans that are not oily, and still get different and bold taste from your beans.

Why are some coffee beans oily?

When roasted for too long, the internal shell cracks and let out carbon dioxide, this reacts with oxygen and create an oily bean. Hence, if you roast beans for long, it will create oily beans.

If you sit coffee beans for too long, i.e. not fresh, it will also get oily. Oily beans (or dark roasted beans) have bold flavors, but you may lose out on other subtle tastes of the coffee bean if you only drink dark roasted beans.

This is why many coffee drinkers avoid oily beans, as oily beans tend to be only bold and covers the other subtle, finer tastes. You can use other ways to get bolder tastes rather than oily beans. You can grind the beans finer for more surface area in contact with the hot water. You can use more beans with less water to get bolder coffee etc.

3) Choosing Ground or Whole coffee beans?

The best-tasting coffee is brewed from beans that were just freshly ground before brewing, so the best option is to buy whole beans.

Coffee Beans Grind before brewing

Coffee Beans Grind before brewing

Why you should buy whole coffee beans instead of ground?

  1. More flavourful and with a fresh taste quality
  2. Grounding just before brew produces more strong noticeable traits and unique tastes of your beans
  3. Whole beans allow you to grind your preferred size for brewing
  4. whole bean last longer with less exposure to air

You can grind your beans to be coarse, or fine grind (the finer, the more surface area in contact with water, and the more strong it can get). Having whole beans allow you to grind for a different experience.

Ground coffee has more surface area and oxidize faster than whole bean.

As you grind coffee, you break apart the outer shell and allows coffee to oxidize faster, hence losing flavor.  Coffee loses flavor and gets stale with exposure to air.

Only reason to buy ground coffee is convenience.

You may want to buy ground coffee for convenience. You can still alter different methods (french press or pour over), different amount of coffee ratio to water, length of standing period, etc to customize that ideal taste.

Whatever you buy, make sure it is as fresh as possible. Beans that sit for too long starts to have inner cracks, releasing their carbon dioxide and seeping oils. This creates strong bold tastes that may cover up the finer traits.

What roast coffee should I get?

Roasting transforms raw green coffee beans into the brown, aromatic, flavorful coffee beans that we love. There are lovers of raw, green coffee beans brew, but they are a minority. Most of us enjoy our coffee beans from lightly roasted to those who prefer dark, roasted beans. Roasting beans well is a skill and important in getting the full aroma out of the beans.

Types of Coffee Roast – by Color & temperature

The most usual way to describe roast level is by color. Coffee beans that are roasted for a short time are described as lightly roasted, with its light brown color. Beans roasted for a long time are dark or extra dark. Then you have the different tones of color in between that describe how long it has been roasted.

It is common to use color, but not necessarily accurate. For simplicity, we will stick to color classification for roasted beans and we will explain in details each style

  1. Light Roasts
  2. Medium Roasts
  3. Medium Dark Roast
  4. Dark Roasts

Light Roasts

  • Light brown in color
  • No oils on beans
  • Toasted grain taste
  • Sharp acidity
  • Have most caffeine
  • Original flavor from the beans, based on the plant and geographical region

The roasting starts at a heat of around 180°C to 205°C (355°F to 400°F). The beans will start to crack at this heat, known as the first crack. The roasting will stop then so the beans usually only crack once.

Medium Roast

  • Medium brown in color
  • No oils on bean
  • No grainy taste
  • balanced flavor, aroma, and acidity
  • Less caffeine

The roasting will last around 210°C to 220°C (410°F to 430°F). Generally, this is the halfway point between the first crack and the second crack.

Medium Dark Roast

  • Darker, richer brown in color
  • Some oils on bean
  • Sharper and more biting taste
  • Stronger flavor, aroma and acidity
  • Lesser caffeine

The roasting will last around 225°C to 230°C (435°F to 450°F). Most beans would have cracked twice, and stop around the midway point between 2nd and 3rd crack

Dark Roast

  • Dark chocolate brown or black (extra dark roast) in color
  • Lots of oils on bean
  • Taste of roasting stronger than bean’s original taste
  • bitter, smoky or burnt taste
  • Left small amount caffeine

The roasting will last around 240°C to 250°C (465°F to 485°F). Most beans would have cracked twice, and stop around the midway point between 2nd and 3rd crack

The more you roast coffee

In summary, the more you roast coffee, the more coffee will taste like

  1. Lose more and more of the original coffee beans taste
  2. More of roasting aroma and tastes
  3. More and more oily beans
  4. Less and less acidity taste
  5. Less and less caffeine

Which roast is best for coffee?

Depends! If you love toasted grainy taste with a strong earthly feel of the original coffee beans, go for lightly roasted beans. If you like strong roasting aroma and coffee, go for those with darker and darker roast.

They key is to experiment. Different beans, different roasts can tastes with slight but unique differences with your brewing method too.

For me, I love our beans lightly roasted, as I can tasted the fundamental original tastes of the coffee beans. This is especially important as I like to purchase more exotic beans from far-flung corners of the earth where the tastes is less mainstream and more unique and special.

If I am buying commercial beans, which are cheaper and more mass-market, I will prefer them to be dark roasted to have strong aroma and roasting tastes. I have experimented for many years and found out my preferred cup of brew, what is your favourite coffee?

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