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DIFFERENT TYPES OF COFFEE BEANS

There are many different types of coffee species, not unlike the different species of other fruits out there. Still, most of the beans produced and used can be divided into two main species: Arabica and Robusta.

Arabica beans account for a majority of the coffee produced and sold in the world today. And, the account for about 60% of the world’s coffee consumption. They’re generally considered to  be of a higher quality than the other bean types and are grown predominantly in Latin America. 

Robusta beans, on the other hand, are a much stronger and bitter bean that is produced and used in many types of espressos and even for those that prefer a really strong coffee. They tend to have around double the caffeine content of Arabica beans. 

Two less common types are Liberica and Excelsa, which are rarely seen, especially in the United States. The former is grown exclusively in the Phillipines and is not imported at all into the States. On the other hand, the latter (which is often considered a genus of Liberica beans) only makes up about 7% of the world’s consumption and are grown in Southeast Asia. 

For those of you who want a little extra info on each of these, read on:

ARABICA

Starting with a fan favorite among coffee connoisseurs, estimates for Arabica’s prevalence in the world production range from 60 to 75 percent. These plants are occasionally referred to as the mountain varieties because they are grown at higher altitudes with ample shade and steady rainfall. 

Overall, this is the most “delicate” or least hardy of the different types. That means that growing it in the wrong environment could severely and negatively the success of the crop. Also, they are more susceptible to diseases. (We mean plant diseases, not the flu)

While there is obviously a high amount of variation among different localities, Arabica beans tend to have brighter bodies. Also, they usually have with more complex flavor profiles and aromas, which is why they tend to be more popular among serious coffee drinkers. 

These beans are showcased best by hot brewing, especially manual techniques like pour over. However, their depth and complexity can get overshadowed or diluted if you go for creamers and sugars or cold brewing methods. 

ROBUSTA

Next, the other very common type of coffee bean is Robusta. Rather than gaining its popularity through quality and depth of the brew, these plants are popular for for their high caffeine  level and hardiness. 

While they do thrive in hotter climates and varied rainfall, Robusta beans are known for being able to put up with a much wider range of climates and altitudes. Also, they withstand diseases much better than other varieties. That resistance makes them better for growing in large crops. 

Higher quality robust tends to have a lower acidity and heavy body. These brews stand up better against things like cream and sugar, making them great for something like Vietnamese Coffee. And it works well in blends like Death Wish that are specifically curated for their caffeine kick. 

LIBERICA AND EXCELSA

Excelsa is actually a sub variety of Liberica; however, the two types have very different profiles, so many people still consider them two completely different types. 

Liberica beans peaked in popularity in the 1890s when coffee rust  destroyed 90% of the world’s Arabica crops. The Philippines were the first to start any kind of serious production and thus became a major supplier. https://dc6865a84950a4062e879c7b71507e3c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

These beans were (and are when you can find them) known for having a distinct, woody or smoky flavor with a full body and floral or fruity aroma. 

However, after the Philippines declared independence, trade between there and the United States was cut off. So by the time a crop of Liberica could be reestablished, Arabica had already reclaimed the top spot for coffee production. It has remained that way since then. 

On the other hand, the tart and fruity Excelsa bean type is a bit easier to find. It grows on massive 20 to 30 foot coffee trees (as opposed to the max 6 ft trees that Arabica grows on). These beans are mostly used to add an extra layer of complexity and depth to coffee blends, rather than being sold on their own.

Their light-roast-esque flavors stay true even with slightly darker roasts which is why some people do still seek them out. 

VARIETIES AND VARIETALS EXPLAINED

First off, let’s dispel some confusion about these terms. If you’ve been dabbling in the coffee community for awhile, you’ve likely come across them before but might not know exactly what they are referring to. 

A coffee’s “variety” is a classification term that identifies a specific subspecies or genetic makeup of the coffee plant. The term “varietal” is used for the resulting brew or product that comes from a singular variety of coffee. Among coffee varieties there are original (naturally occurring) varieties, Sub-varieties, mutations, interspecific hybrids, and infraspecific hybrids.

If you’re into botany, going further will likely be pretty interesting, but it may just seem like a bunch of nonsense to other people. So know that you don’t really need to be familiar with every single variety to buy good coffee.

They mainly differ in growing potential and requirements as well as look (bean and leaf shape), which is more important to farmers than it is to you. The quality of the brand you’re buying from should indicate how well they work with the variety they’re growing. 

But for those of you who are interested, let’s look at some of the more well-known varieties (these all technically fall under the Arabica family tree):

TYPICA

Typica is your “typical” Arabica. It’s a variety that encompasses a number of the most popular and most sought after regional coffees including Kona, Java, Jamaican Blue Mountain, and more. This variety started in Yemen before being spread far and wide through trade. It first made it to Malabar India and Indonesia before eventually reaching the West

Some subvarieties of Typica include Sumatra, Bergendal, Rume Sudan, Amarello de Botancatú, Blawan Paumah, and Java Mocha. Also, there are a number of Typica mutations, including Mokka*,  Pluma Hidalgo, Creole, Ethiopian Harrar, Blue Mountain, Villa Sarchi, San Ramón, and Sidikalang (just to name a few).

*Not to be confused with the Mocha drink, which the original chocolatey flavor of these Yemeni beans inspired. 

BOURBON

Bourbon is probably one of the most common sub varieties of Typica. It got its start in the early 1700s when the French brought an Arabica Typica plat to the island of Bourbon (now Réunion). A slight mutation occurred and the variety eventually spread across Central and South America. These plants are popular because they produce more coffee cherries than other Typica varieties.

Sub-varieties of Bourbon include French Mission, N39, Mayaguez, Arusha, Jackson, K20, Kenya Selected, and SL35 ; and Pointu, Semperlorens, Caturra, SL34, Tekic, and Pacas are mutations from this variety.

GESHA/GEISHA

This is an original variety of Arabica. It is named for the Ethiopian village that it originated from and wasn’t actually planted/harvested commercialy until the 1950s. It is resistant to coffee rust and is now primarily grown in Panama.The trees are rather tall with notably long leaves that mimic the shape of the beans.

Obviously, these aren’t nearly all of the coffee varieties  that are out there, but we figured it might help to get an idea of how they are all interconnected. For further reading, Medium  has a helpful “periodic table” to help demonstrate the connections. And the World Coffee Research  catalog is a great research if you want to more specifically explore individual Arabica varieties.

If you’re interested in exploring a variety of coffees every month, I’d recommend checking out your list of the best coffee of the month clubs. 

Now let’s more on to the simultaneously less and more complex world of coffee drinks, shall we?

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Types of Coffee Makers

Now that you’re a master on all the coffee types, let’s learn how to make ’em! From French presses to Mokas, there are plenty of ways to prepare your dream cup of java.

French Press

This manual coffee maker is extremely easy to use. Add ground coffee beans into your French press, pour piping hot water over the grounds, let the coffee steep for a few minutes and finally, press the plunger down and pour! Simple as that. French presses can be used for any bean, but many people prefer using them for darker, richer roasts. Also, how fancy does this French press  look? Make your morning brew…in style!

Percolator

Try out a percolator  to add a retro feel to your daily brew—like 1880s retro. To put it simply, percolators brew coffee by continuously pushing boiling hot water bubbles up into the “coffee chamber” to steep the coffee grains. This cycle is repeated until the coffee is ready to serve. They’re typically used for medium roasts and prepared over the stovetop, but percolators can work over any heated surface, even a campfire (hint, hint!).

Single Serve

Single serve coffee maker sales have really peaked in the past few years. Measure out your desired coffee amount, pour into the reusable filter, pour water in and voila! A cup of coffee just for you will be ready soon. Single serve coffee makers are perfect for single-person households (or those where just one person drinks coffee). Try out this budget-friendly single serve coffee maker which includes a fun travel mug!

AeroPress

We’ve got another manual coffee maker for you. The AeroPress  is very similar to the French press. To use an AeroPress, we recommend checking out this beautiful get-started guide. You can make espresso, lattes, cold brews or just a classic cup of coffee in this nifty little machine.

Drip

Aah, yes. The classic electric coffee maker you know and love. To get your brew going in a  drip coffee maker, all you have to do is scoop your coffee, pour it into the filter, pour some water in and press start to let the drip coffee maker do it’s coffee magic. Soon, you’ll hear the sweet sounds of your coffee dripping right into your coffee pot. Mornings, conquered.

Some drip coffee makers also come with a thermal carafe. Typically with a double layered, stainless steel wall, thermal carafes keep your coffee tasting fresh and hot for hours longer than most glass carafes do. Some drip coffee makers use a thermal carafe, but traditionally, they use a glass carafe instead.

Pour Over

A pour-over coffee maker is exactly what it sounds like: you manually pour hot water over the beans. With a solid 5-star rating on Amazon, pour-over coffee makers like Chemex  are a solid choice. Fans love the fact that you get to control the strength of the coffee, plus the pots are super easy to clean. You do need a special kind of filter, though, which is pricier than the typical drip coffee filter. However, some are reusable.

Cold Brew

Diehard cold brew fans may want to invest in a cold brew coffee maker. To use a cold brew maker, throw in your coffee grounds, brew and serve. You can store the coffee for up to 36 hours. If you’re looking for a multi-functional coffee maker, you can prepare cold brew coffees in other makers, like the AeroPress.

Moka

Moka pots share a lot of similarities with the percolator and there’s often confusion between the two. Both need a heated surface, like a stovetop or even a campfire. However, the Moka pot produces an espresso-like drink and its brewing process is a bit different than the percolator. You need to keep more of an eye on it because when the Moka pot’s water is spent, you should remove the pot from the heat surface to avoid burnt-tasting coffee. Whereas with the percolator’s simple brewing process, the longer you leave it running, the stronger the coffee will be.

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Types of Coffee Drinks

Latte, americano, affogato…it’s crazy all that you can do with a few small beans. Whether you’re a coffee newbie or you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur, there are so many types of coffee drinks  to discover. Here are some of the most popular types ordered by coffee lovers nationwide.

Black

Black coffee is as simple as it gets with ground coffee beans steeped in hot water, served warm. And if you want to sound fancy, you can call black coffee by its proper name: cafe noir.

Latte

As the most popular coffee drink out there, the latte is comprised of a shot of espresso and steamed milk with just a touch of foam. It can be ordered plain or with a flavor shot of anything from vanilla to pumpkin spice. (Here’s how to make a copycat Starbucks  pumpkin spice latte.)

Cappuccino

Cappuccino is a latte made with more foam than steamed milk, often with a sprinkle of cocoa powder or cinnamon on top. Sometimes you can find variations that use cream instead of milk or ones that throw in flavor shot, as well.

Americano

With a similar flavor to black coffee, the americano consists of an espresso shot diluted in hot water. Pro tip: if you’re making your own, pour the espresso first, then add the hot water.

Espresso

An espresso shot can be served solo or used as the foundation of most coffee drinks, like lattes and macchiatos.

Doppio

A double shot of espresso, the doppio is perfect for putting extra pep in your step.

Cortado

Like yin and yang, a cortado is the perfect balance of espresso and warm steamed milk. The milk is used to cut back on the espresso’s acidity.

Red Eye

Named after those pesky midnight flights, a red eye can cure any tiresome morning. A full cup of hot coffee with an espresso shot mixed in, this will definitely get your heart racing.

Galão

Originating in Portugal, this hot coffee drink is closely related to the latte and cappuccino. Only difference is it contains about twice as much foamed milk, making it a lighter drink compared to the other two.

Lungo

A lungo is a long-pull espresso. The longer the pull, the more caffeine there is and the more ounces you can enjoy.

Macchiato

The macchiato is another espresso-based drink that has a small amount of foam on top. It’s the happy medium between a cappuccino and a doppio.

Mocha

For all you chocolate lovers out there, you’ll fall in love with a mocha (or maybe you already have). The mocha is a chocolate espresso drink with steamed milk and foam.

Ristretto

Ristretto is an espresso shot. It uses less hot water which creates a sweeter flavor compared to the bitter taste of a traditional shot of espresso or a doppio.

Flat White

This Aussie-born drink is basically a cappuccino without the foam or chocolate sprinkle. It’s an espresso drink with steamed milk.

Affogato

The affogato is an excuse to enjoy a scoop of ice cream any time of day (and any time of year in my opinion). Served with a scoop of ice cream and a shot of espresso, or two. The affogato is extra delish .

Café au Lait

Café au lait is perfect for the coffee minimalist who wants a bit more flavor. Just add a splash of warm milk to your coffee and you’re all set!

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