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Coffee Beans: The Comprehensive Guide to selecting the right Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans: The Comprehensive Guide to selecting the right Coffee Beans

Coffee beans come in all shapes and sizes and there are so many blends and brands out there. We hope this guide will help you to select the right coffee beans for you.

There are five main factors to consider when selecting coffee beans:

  • Arabica vs Robusta
  • Region
  • Roast Degree
  • Local Roast or Import
  • Single Origin or Blend

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Arabica beans and Robusta beans are two different species of coffee grown commercially for consumption as coffee. The general differences are those of taste, the conditions under which the two species grow and economic differences.

Arabica coffee beans are far rarer than Robusta and therefore cost considerably more. Arabica Coffee has a much less harsh taste compared to Robusta and has about the quarter of the caffeine amount compared to Robusta.

Robusta coffee is not all bad and can be used in an Arabica-Robusta blend to increase the body of the coffee giving it a heavy or fuller taste.

The general principal is the more Arabica the better, however just because a coffee blend has 10% to 20% Robusta doesn’t mean it needs to be written off completely.

Not surprisingly, different regions of the world produce different flavors and aromas in a bean, and it is important to know the difference between what types of tastes and smells each bean is going to put forth when it is brewed.

The main regions of coffee-growing in the world are the Americas (South and Central American Countries), Exotics (Jamaica and Hawaii), the Pacific (Sumatra and Java) and Africa (Kenya and Ethiopia). The regions, climates and soil type each result in very different flavors. Below is a guide to help decide which areas will best fill out your selection of coffee.


Region Body Acidity Flavour
Brazilian Medium Mild Dry, spicy, sweet, lingering
Colombian Medium-Full Medium Rich, sweet, caramel
Costa Rican Full Subtle Rich, smooth, sweet, delicate, smoky
Ethiopian Full Mild-Medium Rich, spicy, gamey, hints of cocoa, winey
Guatemalan Heavy Medium-High Rich, chocolate, soft, mild, subtle, smoky
Haitian Heavy Mild Full, winey, sweet, rich, mellow
Hawaiian Kona Medium Medium-High Rich, winey
Jamaican Blue Mountain Full Medium Well-balanced, pleasant, lingering
Java Medium-Heavy High Exotic, mellow, smooth, musty, smoky, winey
Kenyan Medium High Intense, floral, winey, lemony
Mexican Medium-Light Low-Medium Thin, dry, sweet, hazelnut
Monsoon Malabar Full Low Mellow, full
Nicaraguan Light Low-Medium Mild, pleasant
Sumatran Full-Heavy Medium Exotic, earthy, musty, natural
Tanzanian Kilimanjaro Heavy Delicate Rich
Yemeni Medium Delicate Dry, sweet, mild, winey

Coffee beans are only ready to drink once they have been roasted properly. They are picked green and shipped to their destination where they are roasted to ensure the beans are at maximum freshness before serving.

Varying degrees of roasting will provide different flavours:

  • American Roast: Also referred to as a regular roast, the beans are medium-roasted for a fairly moderate flavour that is not too strong, not too mild.
  • French Roast: This is a strong roast that comes from heavily-roasted beans. The brew will appear deep, chocolate brown and have a very strong flavour.
  • Italian Roast: This roast is predominantly used for espresso-based drinks due to its strong flavour and brown-black appearance.
  • European Roast: This is a blend of roasts consisting of around two-thirds heavy roast and one-third regular roast.
  • Viennese Roast: Also a blend of roasts, this consists of one-third heavy roast and two-thirds regular roast.

By taking time to learn the different flavours and aromas produced by different bean varieties, regional types and roast types, you can learn to produce some very unique blends of coffee for your home, office or restaurant. This will increase your staff or customer or even your own coffee intake, if you are able to create several unique blends that appeal to a variety of people.

Coffee beans which arrive at your door have either been imported in their green bean form and roasted in your own country or city, or the coffee beans have been pre-roasted in a different country and then imported.

The big Italian brand coffees – Italian coffee meaning coffee which has been roasted in Italy and not coffee which is grown in Italy since no coffee is grown there – such as Illy, Lavazza, Segafredo, Danessi, Kimbo Etc. are all roasted in Italy and then imported into South Africa.

Coffee starts to become stale from the moment of roasting. Therefore, local coffee will always be a fresher regardless of the packaging in which the coffee is wrapped in after roasting. Illy and Kimbo are sealed in 3kg tins whilst Segafredo is vacuum sealed in 1kg and 250g “bricks”. Both of these measures do certainly preserve freshness however neither are a true substitute for on-premises, freshly roasted coffee.

There is of course one major benefit of Italian coffee roasters over local roasters, is the world-class state-of-the-art roasting machinery – which provides one of the best roast qualities in the world.

The last thing to consider is whether to choose a single origin or blended coffee. As the name implies single origin coffee is coffee from only one region whereas blended coffee is either coffee from a number of regions in one country or from multiple regions.

Single origin coffees can taste “purer” but often blended coffees result in a more balanced and well-rounded taste. One of the more famous blends of all, is Mocca Java: Mocca is Ethiopia and Java is Indonesia, since Ethiopian coffee and Indonesian Coffee compliment each other perfectly.

Your choice of the right coffee bean is very personal and no one can tell you what is the right and the wrong coffee bean for you.

For advice on any coffee bean around please drop us a line.


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