What makes great coffee beans?

Every coffee bean retailer says their beans are the best but what does that mean to customers?  And more importantly, what does great coffee beans look like for people wanting to purchase coffee beans so as to have great tasting coffee in their home?

Characteristics of great coffee beans:

To help break down the meaning of what is meant by great coffee beans, below are some characteristics that come from a coffee drinkers perspective…

  1. Coffee beans that present or produce a great aroma.  Great coffee beans will allow coffee drinkers to experience floral notes.
  2. Coffee beans that present or produce a great taste.  Coffee drinkers will benefit from nutty, earthy, or a fruity aftertaste.
  3. High quality coffee beans will produce a pleasant bitterness.  This is compared to a bitter taste that can be sharp and sometimes vile.
  4. Great coffee beans are fresh!

Prolonging Freshness:

A challenge for some international coffee bean brands is they roast their coffee beans in manufacturing plants internationally and ship the finished product to Australia.  The standard of freshness of these brands can never compete with coffee beans which are locally roasted in Australia.

Even locally roasted coffee beans must be immediately packaged with the right type of coffee bags, to seal freshness and enable the safe and secure release of carbon dioxide which happens up to 10 days after roasting.  This is why the use of coffee bean bags with single way valves is crucial for prolonging freshness.


Coffee Bean Roasting Process:

The last characteristic of great coffee beans is the roasting process. Most roasters will have their own “secret recipe” but as a general guide, the process can be summarised in the following steps below…

Step 1:  Coffee Bean Drying:

This is where coffee bean roasters need to be careful to dry the beans and not burn them with too much heat.  This step is important to the process because it primes the coffee bean to collect energy which is important later.

Step 2:  Coffee Bean Browning:

This is a step where the aroma and flavour development of the coffee bean becomes established.  Think of this stage as a “pre cooking” step before the real roasting process begins.

Step 3:  Coffee Bean Roasting:

This is where the collection of energy comes into play (see Step 1).  This is the step where the flavours and aromas of the coffee bean are established.  The technical term is the flavour and aroma “compounds are developing“.

It is during Step 3 where coffee bean roasters are determining the degree of the roast.  This is where coffee beans  become “light roasted” or “dark roasted”.  A “light roast” is typically more fruity in nature and “dark roasted” coffee beans are less fruity.

It is this degree of roast that defines a coffee bean’s flavour profile.

Slow vs Fast Roasting:

The time taken to roast coffee beans also influences it’s greatness.  Fast roasting, if done right, enhances coffee bean flavours.  However, to reduce an acidic taste in a coffee bean requires a slower roasting process.

The Final Word:

Creating great coffee beans requires careful planning, manufacturing processes and science.  Ultimately, the definition of great coffee beans comes down to you the customer.  So while it’s great to understand what is required to create a great coffee bean, all you care about is what goes in your coffee cup.

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