If you're a coffee fanatic, then this article is for you. Coffee beans are the raw material from which brewed coffee is made. In this guide, we'll cover everything that you need to know about them - where they come from, what types of beans exist and how to brew them.
Coffee has been consumed for hundreds of years. The first recorded history of drinking coffee was in the 15th Century in modern-day Yemen. Coffee bean plants, however, have been around forever so we think humans were drinking the black stuff for aeons before, they just didn't write it down.
Coffee was introduced to Europe by the Turks when they invaded central Europe in the 1700s and Dutch traders popularised it to the rest of the continent. Coffee was grown extensively as a cash crop in colonial Latin America but wasn't planted on most of the African continent until the 20th century.
Coffee beans are seeds from coffee plants that grow mainly around Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The fruit is called "coffee cherry" or more simply just "cherry".
There are two main types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is more popular, but some people say that it has a milder taste than Robusta; this may be because it contains less caffeine (on the whole, there are lots of different types of Robusta or Arabica just to make things more complicated) or because it's usually used to make iced coffees (coffee with ice). Coffee from the region near Ethiopia and Sudan - called Ethiopian Yirgacheffe - is one variety of excellent Robusta bean. Many coffee brands and roasters use both varieties, the trick is often in the blend.
There are three different roast styles for roasting coffee beans: light, medium-light and dark roast. Roasts can also vary in their level of sweetness or bitterness according to how long they have been roasted. There is a common misconception that how long beans are roasted for will dictate their strength, whereas, in fact, it is really all about the beans — roasting doesn't change the caffeine content you see.
Where do most coffee beans come from?
The majority of coffee beans globally come from Latin America and Brazil, specifically. Brazil is where we tend to source most of our coffees. The Arabica coffee beans come from Latin America, while Robusta is the type of bean more commonly found in Africa and Asia. However, as producers have diversified, so have the beans so the Africa/Asia vs. Latin America divide is not always true.
The most popular brew method for coffee in the UK is filter coffee. This is made by brewing ground beans (i.e., not whole) in hot water with a filter and pouring out the resulting liquid, or using filtration methods to concentrate it without boiling the entire mixture. This can be achieved with either a coffee percolator, V60, French Press or a Chemex.
What is the best method for making coffee in a filter? This will depend on what kind of machine or technique you are using to make your coffee but this foolproof coffee life hack should help the V60 enthusiast out. The coffee should be ground medium/fine.
- Fold and moisten the filter.
- The origin/blend etc. is entirely a personal matter. Measure out 60 grams of coffee per litre of water. If you don't have any micro-scales two tablespoons of coffee of is around 15 grams.
- Now heat your water. Boiling water that has been rested for about 30 seconds is perfect.
- Slowly pour the water in a spiral pattern from the outside - make sure you get any dry spots.
- After the water level has settled pour some more until your jug or cup is full.
Making the perfect Espresso (or Moka Pot)
Next up, let's talk Espresso. The espresso (not expresso - does it wind you up when people call it that?) is the core component for many coffee drinks so nailing the technique on this one is crucial. First up, the grind - you want a fine blend for espresso. As with any coffee, use what bean tickles your fancy most but purists will swear by a dark Arabica.
- If grinding make sure your beans are superfine (too coarse and they will clog up your filter).
- Measure one to two shots (depending on the amount your making) and make sure your coffee is compact.
- Pull your shot hard and fast.
- Enjoy! You should now have an espresso with a lovely 'crema'
N.B. Coffee purists won't agree to this put a Moka pot and espresso technique is virtually identical.
Making the perfect Turkish coffee
OK for this one you will need need a ceveze You can use whichever coffee is your preference but Arabica is generally considered the 'go to' bean in Turkey.
- Add water to the ceveze, about 50 millitires per cup.
- Add sugar, or sweetener if you want to.
- Bring your ceveze to the boil and a teaspoon of coffee per cup.
- Boil the coffee.
- Remove the ceveze from the heat and mix the coffee and water well
- Allow the powder to settle and add a teaspoon of cold water before serving, if you like.
What's next for the coffee industry globally?
Incredibly, the world consumed 166.63 million 60 kilogram bags of coffee in the period 2020/21, which was up by 2 million bags on the previous year. In this country sales of tea are going down and, you guessed it has been replaced by coffee. More and more roasters from around the world (much like us) are springing up as the globe wakes up to being more ethical and sustainable as well as more discerning about how our coffee tastes.
We predict that more 'single estate' coffees from producers around the world will come on the market in the period 21/22 and the demand for ethical and tasty coffee will continue way beyond that.