Understanding Coffee Bean Types, Flavors & Characteristics
Learn what roasters & coffee companies are really saying
It can be daunting to understand coffee bean types, flavors & characteristics enough to go to a coffee shop or super market. Then look up at that large wall of coffee bags and select one. Which one should you choose? Why are you choosing it? What do these flavor words mean?!
We’re going to help explain how to understand beans and flavor characteristics, so you can get the best coffee for you.
Table of Contents
Understand Coffee Roasts
What is Coffee Strength?
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What's the Difference Between Espresso vs Filtered Roast?
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Standard Supermarket Coffee Roasts
Supermarket standard is light or medium coffee. On the occasions they don’t directly say roast light or medium, they tend to signify that.
If there’s a description of the roast, like the country, which doesn’t really mean anything. For example, French roast. But if it says it’s dark roast, then you know, it’s different. Otherwise, you can presume it to be light to medium roasted.
With the supermarket stuff, the higher the strength, the darker the roast. Generally speaking, the lighter the roast of coffee, the more acidity it will have. The darker the roast, the more bitterness it will have and the less acidity it will have.
Specialty coffee roasters feel that light to medium gives you a nice sweetness, a little bit of acidity, not too much bitterness, and tons and tons of flavor of where the coffee comes from.
This is why it’s such a popular roasting style choice for specialty companies.
Marketing Tactics of Commercial Coffee Makers
In some cases, descriptions can be so odd or unusual or kind of contrary and clashing that it really doesn’t make sense. But it sounds good to a beginner coffee consumer. It will sound completely delicious.
Those coffee descriptions from commercial coffee makers promise a great deal. If you say my coffee is going to taste of caramel, well, I expect it to taste almost as if you’ve put caramel in the bag.
This leads to further confusion with the consumer who thinks, “Oh, is this like a flavored coffee?” “Is this like a caramel flavored coffee?” Don’t make the mistake, those exist, but more often than not, commercial coffee makers are not living up to their marketing. They’re trying to communicate something about the coffee’s tastes to you with that word. And we’ll come to that a bit more very soon.
Quick tip: specialty coffee is a little bit like wine. There is an exception, the most expensive wines are often the most elegant, the most classic, and they would be familiar and enjoyable to most people.
The highest priced coffees tend to be the most unusual, the least kind of typical coffee-tasting coffees. That is the suggestion to bear in mind
If you’re looking at a more expensive coffee, have a look at those words. Do they promise you a very unusual experience? And is that what you want?
How Coffee Roasters Come Up with Descriptions
One of the things to bear in mind is that often these roasters come up with their descriptions
for coffees through a comparative tasting.
They’re not just tasting that one coffee on its own.
They’re comparing it to other coffees that they’re also roasting and serving.
But if you, the consumer, don’t have that comparative tasting experience when you drink it, it can feel harder to pull out the berry qualities of a coffee or the kind of ripe pear promised by the roaster.
However, if you were comparing it to something else, then the differences would be more obvious. You could say, “This is kind of more pear-like in its way in its flavor when compared to coffee B, C or D”.
So, know that there is an element of frustration that’s almost inevitable because you won’t have the same comparative experience as a coffee roaster. Generally, they’re doing their best to broadcast some key information to you.
They are trying to help you really find out if you’re going to enjoy that coffee or not. No one knows your personal preferences and what you like.
Many times, consumers don’t know what they want. With that being said, consumers do know what they dislike. With that information we can guide you to a better coffee.
Top 3 misleading coffee descriptions
Generally, if there isn’t a texture adjective on the coffee bag then it’s medium-bodied.
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Understanding Coffee Flavors
If a description has no fruit words, then I would expect very low acidity from it. However, if they’re using other words like caramel or treacle or nuts or chocolate, those are non-fruit words, suggesting low acidity in that regard.
Coffee Beans: Fruit & Fermentation
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Looking for coffee or espresso on the go? Maybe for your next camping trip or job-site. Whatever your reason check out this article to find out which on is best for your needs.