Once you’ve experienced the superior taste of gourmet coffee there’s no going back to anything less. While coffee has been enjoyed around the world for centuries, more people than ever have caught on to the gourmet coffee drinking habit.
This is possibly as a result of the worldwide explosion of coffee shop chains. However, a coffee shop addiction can become somewhat expensive. So the next best thing is to choose your own gourmet coffee beans and recreate the coffee shop experience at home.
Types of coffee beans
Though there are more than twenty five strains of coffee, the majority of our coffee comes from just three types of bean: Arabica, Robusta and Kona. Of these, it’s the Arabica bean which is the bean of choice for gourmet coffee, accounting for around 60 percent of the worlds coffee production.
Arabica beans are generally grown at high altitudes, mainly in Latin America or Asia. They are quite difficult to cultivate which puts them at a higher premium. Robusta on the other hand are a hardier plant and are therefore cheaper to produce. Then there is Kona coffee, which is produced exclusively in Hawaii and is typically the most expensive variety.
Coffee bean flavors
The flavor of coffee beans vary depending on where they were grown and you will often see a whole gamut of terms used to describe the various tastes, aromas, and body. For instance, Arabica coffee beans grown in Colombia produce a rich aromatic coffee with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and is one of the most popular gourmet coffees.
Brazilian coffee beans can have a full, chocolaty flavor while those hailing from Kenya might be described as having blackcurrant undertones. Generally though, Robusta beans have a harsher taste and are sometimes described as woody and are usually blended with Arabica beans.
Choosing your roast
All manufacturers have their own preferred methods for roasting their coffee beans. Beans are roasted to varying degrees and it is this important part of the process which determines the eventual flavor, acidity and body of the coffee. Generally, the lighter the roast, the milder the taste. Similarly, with darker roasted beans producing a more bitter brew.
Manufacturers often label their coffee with a strength indicator. This is usually given as a number guide ranging from one to five where one is the mildest flavor and five the strongest. Beans with a strength indicator of five are used for brewing espresso and espresso based coffees such as cappuccinos and lattes.
Buying your coffee beans
You can buy coffee beans from most major supermarkets as well as on-line. Some market stalls sell them, as do specialty coffee shops. Alternatively, if you are partial to a particular brand of coffee such as Starbucks, most of their outlets sell their house blend as well as other roasts.
Many outlets also sell Fair trade beans and decaffeinated. If you are buying loose beans, i.e. not ready packaged, only buy enough to last two weeks as they quickly lose their aroma once they’ve been roasted.
Storing your beans
To ensure your beans deliver the optimum gourmet coffee experience, always grind just enough for the coffee you are making at the time. Then store any remaining beans inside an opaque, airtight container no longer than two weeks. Storing them inside a fridge may cause condensation and impair the flavor.
Choosing your own gourmet coffee beans can be a lot of fun and experimenting with the various strengths, roasts and flavors can help you discover your own perfect blend. With the countless varieties of coffee beans to choose from, you need never become bored and you will soon develop an even greater appreciation of the wonderful benefits of gourmet coffee.