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How to choose good coffee: Know your beans!


1st Jan 2015 Drinks

How to choose good coffee: Know your beans!

The popularity of coffee has exploded in recent years, with the humble beverage going from something to wake you up in the morning, to a gourmet experience. With artisanal coffee stores popping up all over the place, and many cities hosting coffee tastings and festivals, it can seem a little daunting to those who are novices in the world of coffee. Here are a few simple tips to help get you brewing your own at home, and to start you on your journey to becoming a coffee connoisseur.

Different regions, different tastes

If you've ever sat through a wine tasting, you'll know how much the climate and soil affect the taste of the grapes, and therefore the final product. The same goes for coffee beans. Although they're grown mostly in tropical climates, there can be big differences in flavour between countries, and of course, there are many different varieties of coffee bean grown.

The best coffee tends to be grown at a high altitude with a tropical climate, which is why Brazil has long dominated the coffee market, with many coffees from this region providing heavy flavours with hints of chocolate and spice, making them ideal for espressos and short drinks. Nearby Columbia, on the other hand, tends to produce smoother coffees with slight caramel tones, which is why you'll often see them in popular chain coffee stores. You can get fantastic Columbian coffee for less by using a Pact Coffee discount.

Africa is also a big producer of coffee, with most supermarkets stocking beans from Ethiopia and Kenya. The former has a diverse climate, which means it can produce many different kinds of coffee bean, and the latter produces lots of popular varieties that are ripened by the bright sunshine.

Of course, the only way to know which bean you'll prefer is to try them all. You can often buy tasting kits, and independent coffee stores will sometimes sell beans in small quantities, as well as more unusual varieties such as Asian and Pacific-grown coffee.

Or, you can combine bean varieties and create your own unique blend with The Specialty Coffee Company.


Arabica or Robusta?

In addition to different coffee growing regions, there are also many different varieties, but the main two that you'll find served around the world are Arabica or Robusta. Beginners to coffee will often prefer Arabica, with its softer taste, and slightly sugary, fruity tones, while those who need a bigger kick in the mornings will prefer the stronger Robusta, offering twice as much caffeine and a strong, nutty taste.


Preparation methods

Coffee purists will argue that the way the beverage is prepared is just as important as the bean, and so shoving the grounds in your ancient coffee machine simply won't do! Methods you could try include:

These rather retro devices sit on your stove top, and can make a strong, full-bodied coffee, although it's easy to accidentally let it boil and ruin the flavour.

Vacuum pot
An impressive looking device where you simply pour in water and let it steep, leading to a smooth flavour.

A favourite with coffee snobs, it brews coffee through intense pressure, keeping as much flavour in the grounds as possible.

Also known as a French press, many people have one of these simple devices in the back of their cupboard. For best results, use very hot, not boiling, water and plunge slowly.

A popular sight in the coolest of cafes, the Chemex is a simple glass pot with filter, which creates a smooth and flavourful cup of coffee.

Good coffee is a ritual in many homes, from a quick caffeine jolt before work, to a relaxing way to start the weekend mornings, and luckily there are endless ways to enjoy your morning cup. Whether you prefer dark and intense, or sweet and smooth, the world of coffee is complex and fascinating, and you'll never want to go back to dumping instant grounds in a cup again.

If you’re interested in choosing the perfect coffee, check out this barista training course in London. It can really help you not only to make the perfect coffee but also know which coffee beans are the best and why.