May 17, 2023
What are the different types of coffee beans? And what's the difference between a type and a variety of coffee? You can find a comprehensive overview here.
Coffee is much more than just a beverage. It's a pick-me-up and a soul-soother. It is a social anchor and a cultural asset. It’s both a traditional and a trendy beverage. But above all, it is the world's most popular stimulant.
Its aromas beguile us and its effect is stimulating and intoxicating and it can develop up to 800 aromas. From berry to chocolate, nutty or velvety-sweet like caramel. But what lies behind this popular hot beverage? What are the different types of coffee beans and what are the differences?
There are about 124 types or species in the genus (Coffea). They are all separate plant species, some of which were only discovered in the 21st century.
If you are wondering what the most widespread type of coffee is, the answer is quite clear. By far the most important of the many different types of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. You are probably familiar with those two. Most of the countless varieties also derive from those two species. Only a fraction of the coffee sold is produced from other types of beans, such as Liberica, Excelsa or the crossbreed Maragogype.
Despite the large number of different types of coffee beans, in principle only two types are really relevant for trade and consumption - Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica is the most important species in the world, accounting for around 60% of the global marken total, around 99% of the coffee consumed worldwide is made from either one of those two types.
Every connoisseur is familiar with the two names, but what is the difference between these two popular species? Which bean is the better choice for you?
Coffee is exotic and also a bit mysterious. It is reminiscent of distant lands and foreign cultures. Although it came to us only a few centuries ago, its history is much older. The fact that there are many myths about its origin, but no proven records, only adds to its magical aura.
However, according to world coffee research, it is proven that it originated in Africa, because both the Arabica bean (Ethiopia) and the Robusta bean (Congo) were discovered and probably first utilized in Africa.
The coffee tree is demanding and only thrives in very specific regions, the so-called "coffee belt" around the equator. The demands, however, differ greatly between the different types. Robusta and Arabica belong to the same genus, but they cannot thrive side by side.
The Arabica plant is a real sensitive soul and also has high demands on its cultivation area. The popular Cafe Arabica is also called "mountain coffee" because the plant prefers an altitude between 2625 and 5000 feet above sea level. However, it really does not like cold and doesn’t tolerate frost at all. 68o F is its favorite temperature. And not too much rain, if you please. Oh, and absolutely no direct sunlight! If all these conditions are me, the plant feels comfortable.
The regions where those very special climatic conditions prevail are mainly Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala. The Arabica bean is also grown in Kenya and of course in its homeland, Ethiopia.
The Robusta plant, on the other hand, prefers a very warm and humid, even tropical, climate. This plant is resilient to pests and fungal diseases alike, and the bushes grow faster, ready for harvesting after only five years. The plant originated in the African Congo. Today, Robusta plants are mainly grown in the low regions of West Africa, in Vietnam and Indonesia.
The following criteria are crucial in the evaluation of coffee:
Acidity (chlorogenic acid)
These ingredients don’t only determine the taste, but also the digestibility and effect of your brew.
The much smaller bean from the humid lowlands has a strong aroma, which coffee sommeliers describe as earthy, woody or nutty. The significantly higher chlorogenic acid content gives the bean its tart and strong aroma. Robusta doesn’t only taste strong, due to the higher caffeine content it also is much stronger.
The chlorogenic acids are diuretic and can cause discomfort and indigestion for people with sensitive stomachs. That's why Robusta has a comparatively bad reputation among coffee lovers. While it is true that acidity determines tolerance of your brew, this is mainly influenced by the roasting process, and not by the bean itself.
Arabica beans taste comparatively mild, well-rounded and pleasantly sweet. Many people find the aroma of Arabica beans more complex than that of Robusta. In addition, the fat content is higher, resulting in the popular crema during extraction. Arabica contains significantly more sugar, but only half as much caffeine.
The tolerance of coffee is largely determined by its acidity and caffeine content.
People with sensitive stomachs should use blends that are roasted slowly and with a low heat.
Unlike acidity, caffeine content cannot be influenced by roasting. Those who love the invigorating effect of coffee and are looking for an additional energy boost should go for blends with a high Robusta content.
Espresso blends take advantage of the characteristics of both types, because a good espresso must be strong and creamy at the same time.
What is your favorite coffee? Answers to this question generally vary considerably. Arabica, espresso, a blend of varieties. The reason for this confusion is that the terms species and variety are often used interchangeably.
However, this is not quite correct. Type or species refer to the different coffee plants. The distinction between varieties, on the other hand, is much more subtle and there are several factors at play. Coffee varieties do not differ exclusively in their botany, but due to the area of cultivation, processing and roasting of the beans. Therefore, the possibilities are almost endless.
And what's more, these days different types of coffee beans are often mixed and used as a so-called blend.
Each type has its own peculiarities and by blending the different types in certain proportions, completely new varieties are created in turn.
As you can see, the world of coffee is as diverse and complex as its aroma. And that's exactly what makes it so fascinating.
As already mentioned, a lot of popular coffee varieties are blends, i.e. mixtures of different types of beans. Blending not only creates the desired flavor, but also ensures consistent aroma and quality, regardless of weather fluctuations and even the region of cultivation.
However, it is precisely these fluctuations that ultimately make up the individual character of a specific variety, which purists and devotees of single origin coffee value.
Lovers of single varietal coffees appreciate their unique identity. If you want to experience how the highlands of Ethiopia taste, the best way to do so is with a Single Origin. The purity of Single Origin goes so far as to define not only the variety, but the exact growing area, often even the plantation. Only beans from exactly this place and from the same harvest may be used in a Single Origin.
As with fine wines and other culinary specialties, there is also a luxury class in coffee, the so-called "specialty coffee". They are of particularly high quality and are evaluated by trained experts according to strict guidelines. At Coffee Annan, only outstanding specialty coffee is served. So it's worth ordering a free sample and having a tasting session in the office!
There are a lot of these specialty coffees, but we would like to briefly introduce the three most exotic ones here.
Excelsa is one of the few types that has managed to secure a small share alongside the big players on the world market. But with its share of just under 1%, Excelsa coffee is considered a rarity in our country. The largest share of the cultivated beans is consumed directly in the country of production in West Africa and therefore plays only a very small role in the global market.
However, if you would like to taste the exclusive Excelsa, it’s available from selected dealers. But beware, it really is an acquired taste! Due to the dry growing area, the aroma is extremely earthy. Therefore, this coffee is often used in a blend.
The aim of this cross was to combine the best characteristics of the most popular species in one plant. The mild, full aroma of the Arabica, is paired with the robustness of the Robusta plant. To date, the hybrid has not caught on and is not widely grown. Qualitatively, the Arabusta is to be classified between Robusta and Arabica, also with regard to its caffeine and acid content.
Probably the most famous exclusive coffee specialty is Kopi Luwak from Indonesia, also known as "cat coffee." The origin is actually funny, but sadly it has led to a situation that is far from amusing. When the civets, who are native to Indonesia, ate large parts of the harvest, the farmers unceremoniously collected the excreted beans and processed them again to make up for the loss.
Aficionados swear by the unique taste of kopi luwak. Animal rights activists, however, advise against this type of coffee because the production is generally based on animal cruelty. Civets are now being fattened up in small cages with the beans to meet the increasing demand.
So far, we've talked mainly about cultivation and botanical differences, but of course there's still one essential step missing to the enjoyment of a perfect cup: preparation.
That's an issue which lovers of the aromatic brew can spend hours discussing - and even arguing fiercely about. The preparation methods of the popular hot beverage are as diverse as its varieties. In principle, all varieties are suitable for any coffee maker. However, the processing, roasting and grind of the beans make a significant difference.
How to Make the Best Coffee?
As we all know, there's no accounting for taste. Therefore, we don't want to discuss what the best coffee is.
Instead, we will show you the most popular preparation methods:
Simple but tasty. All you need is a filter, hot water and the coffee blend of your choice. Just pour the water onto the grounds and enjoy your aromatic brew.
The popular French Press works in a similar way. A so-called stamp pot is used and preferably a dark-roast blend. For detailed instructions, you can refer to our article.
Capsules and pads are quick and convenient to use. These small coffee makers have become popular in many households and small offices for a quick cup. However, with increasing environmental awareness, the pre-portioned disposable capsules have fortunately lost much of their popularity.
The original Italian method, with the simple preparation. Among aficionados Moka pot vs French press is a bone of contention. All you need is an espresso pot, often simply called "Bialetti '' after the famous Italian original, and a stove. It is best to use medium-fine ground coffee, which still feels somewhat coarse between the fingers. Fine powder, like that used for the big espresso machines, would gum up this espresso maker. These days, the electric Moka pot is also popular, especially among travelers.
As the name suggests, cold Brew is brewed with cold water. This process takes 12 - 24 hours. Devotees swear by cold brew coffee and its benefits. Cold extraction retains 90% of the flavor and aroma compounds, but about 70% less acidity and bitterness than traditional methods using hot water.
The classic espresso machine. For a long time, real espresso was only available in selected coffee houses or on vacation in Italy. These days, many households proudly boast a portafilter machine. They’re not exactly cheap, but true lovers of espresso still claim that this is the only decent espresso machine.
The workday in the office can be stressful and exhausting. That's why the coffee break is a welcome and important respite. It can motivate and stimulate employees, and at the same time, (shared) coffee breaks promote collaboration as a team.Basically the way in which coffee breaks are regulated in a company can greatly influence the working atmosphere.
Most people consume the majority of their coffee intake during work hours. Unfortunately, this is often a low-quality drink, rather than pure joy. Although the coffee break as a social event is an integral part of everyday working life in most offices, there is often no adequate investment in the quality of the coffee. It just has to be fast to make and to satisfy as wide a spectrum of taste as possible.
Is it possible to combine these attributes? What is the ideal coffee for the office?
Whether there is a fully automatic coffee machine, espresso machine or filter machine in the office depends primarily on the budget and the decision of the boss. However, which beans or grounds are used is often in the hands of the employees. And this is where the difference lies. Not all coffee is the same. In the office, you should choose a blend that really suits the taste of the majority of the workforce. Coffee that is low in acidity and a bit lower in caffeine is generally the best.
The origin and roast are particularly crucial. Not only with regard to the quality of the coffee, but also with regard to social responsibility.
We can't talk about coffee without also shedding light on the dark side of this popular beverage.
The coffee industry is enormous. 410 billion euros were generated worldwide from coffee in 2022. And where there is money to be made, there are usually losers as well as winners.
In the case of industrial coffee, which accounts for the majority of the global market, the path from farmer to consumer is usually not transparent. This is not the case for coffee based on fair trade. Here, all partners of the supply chain pay attention to environmental aspects, the origin of the beans, gentle roasting and fair conditions for farmers in the country of origin.
The international Fair Trade seal is now known to all consumers. Unsurprisingly, Fair Trade has its origins in the coffee trade and this was the first product to be given this "seal of approval". The necessity for this is apparent, as coffee cultivation was, and still is, responsible for the exploitation of local farmers and workers.
The Fair Trade seal guarantees fair payment and better working conditions for the small-scale farmers on whose land coffee is grown. However, some roasters and traders go the extra mile. They directly support local farmers, provide medical care, and internally monitor the working conditions and pay of local workers. Coffee Annan is committed to the mission of "coffee with real social impact" and even has the coffee roasted in the country of origin so that most of the profit remains in the region and does not flow to roasters abroad. By consuming fairly grown and traded coffee, everyone can contribute to a fairer and better world and this makes your coffee taste twice as good.
It's a joy to explore the incredible variety and beguiling flavors of coffee while discovering your own favorite. Why not try a new variety next time, paying attention not only to the different types of coffee beans, but also the country of origin, region and roast. And of course if more people get interested in coffee that bears the Fair Trade seal and thus support fair trade, the greater our combined contribution to greater prosperity in the growing countries will be.
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