Everyone likes to think they know their coffee, but with more than 100 species out there, it’s easy to get lost in the lingo of roasts, beans, and flavours. But don’t worry, we’re here to break it all down for you so you can compare the differences and pick according to your tastes the next time you shop for a caffeinated treat.
Four main types of coffee beans
The most common and perhaps the most beloved coffee bean would be the Arabica, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the world’s coffee production. It has low acidity and a bright body, making it smooth on the tongue. Arabica beans can also bring out intricate layers of flavours and aromas, more so than most other coffee beans, which is why it is so popular. When brewing with Arabica beans at home, it’s advisable to look for types with less acidity and a fuller body.
Yet, there isn’t a shining example without a downside: This bean is the most delicate of the four and is highly sensitive to its environment. It only grows in high altitudes—especially where rain is abundant—and must be farmed with great care. These particular conditions drive up the price of the Arabica bean, though many are happy to pay more for its soft sweetness. Be wary of serving your morning fuel cold or with creamer, however, as this is better off served hot for a fuller experience.
Often compared to Arabica is the sharply contrasting Robusta, which is also the second most popular bean in the market. It has a higher acidity and twice the caffeine of Arabica, and many attribute this stronger and harsher flavour profile to the reason for its “robust” name.
Unlike its more picky counterpart Arabica, Robusta is pretty adaptable to its environment, and is usually grown in lower altitudes in hotter climates. Good Robusta can draw out hints of rum and chocolate, while lower-quality varieties will have a flat smell and a rubbery taste, so you can tell if the goods are inferior! If you have a sweet tooth and love some creamy goodness, Robusta beans are perfect as the brew won’t lose flavour when milk and sugar is added.
Despite being one of the main types of coffee beans, Liberica is pretty rare—this coffee bean is only grown by four countries in the world, with the Philippines being the main exporter. Liberica is a bit of an oddball not just in its large, irregular, and asymmetrical shape, but in its earthy taste and aroma. While its darker flavours make it less smooth than the Arabica or the Robusta, some very much enjoy the smoky, woody scent it gives off.
With attributes of both light and dark roasts, exhibiting both bold and fruity notes, the Southeast Asian-grown Excelsa bean is well sought-out by coffee enthusiasts perplexed and intrigued by its contradicting flavours. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find pure Excelsa beans in most places as they’re mainly used in blends to inject the coffee with a kick of flavour and complexity.
But wait, we’re not done yet! The raw fruit of the coffee plant still has a ways to go before ending up in your cup. All coffee beans have to be put through a roasting process, which considerably alters their taste and aroma. With that in mind, here’s a quick guide on the four types of coffee roasts.
Four types of coffee roasts
The light roast is not only lightest in colour, but also has a light and fruity taste to go with it. Because it hasn’t been in the fire for long, light roasts are the most similar in flavour to the original beans. Prolonged heat also extracts the caffeine and acidity from beans, which means that the light roast has the most acidity and caffeine levels out of all the roasts.
Nicknamed “the first crack” because the beans are in the first stages of expansion from heating, light-roasted beans aren’t oily at all, unlike its darker brothers. Common varieties include the Cinnamon, Half-City, and New England roasts.
Right after the first crack (and just before the second!) lies the medium roast. This is the conventional roast that the average coffee drinker is used to, and feels just as dry as the light roast, though it has a sweeter and more caramelised profile. With a fuller body and well-balanced flavours, the medium roast is a safe and solid choice to go for. Common varieties include the House Blend, the Breakfast Roast, and the American Roast.
Medium dark roast
Also known as—you guessed it—the second crack, medium dark roasts produce a rich, dark brown cup of coffee. The extensive roasting has destroyed almost all the acidity, allowing the beans’ bittersweet aftertaste and aroma to rise to the top of its flavour profile. Oil starts to show on the surface of these beans, and a typical type of medium dark roast would be the Full City Roast.
These shiny black beans are what makes a legendary cup of strong black coffee. Bitterness and bold flavours dominate its profile, and it has the least acidity and caffeine out of all the types of roasts. It’s normal for dark roasts to have European names because of their popularity in Europe, such as the Italian, Viennese, and the darkest roast of all, the smoky French Roast.
Now that you’ve reviewed your essential coffee types, it’s time to treat yourself to some of that energising liquid goodness! To find the perfect type of coffee that suits your tastes, Mr Coffee would be the place to go. Your ultimate one-shop-stop for all things caffeine, Mr Coffee brings a variety of premium quality coffee beans, ground, capsules, and even machines directly imported from Europe to your doorstep. Whether it’s for your office, your home, restaurants and bars, or even hotels, this no-nonsense online shop stocks them all, with free shipping for orders of $450 or above.
For the entire month of September, you can get two one-kilogram bags of the creamy and perfectly Italian espresso Lavazza Crema E Aroma for free when you buy any fully automatic coffee machine. If you’ve been dreaming about getting a new coffee machine, now’s your chance to snag one with a great freebie!
What’s more, loyal Localiiz readers (yes, you!) can get a snazzy 10 percent off on your first purchase with the one-time discount code LOCALIIZ10 (coffee machines not included). This code is only valid until 30 September, so seize the chance now and take your pick of aromatic brews!