Coffee beans can be very flavorful and you might be wondering why that is.
This post will show you how coffee beans get their flavor, the factors that influence their flavor and the other factors that can impact the way that they taste once brewed.
But, in case you don’t know, the coffee making process involves planting the coffee seeds, harvesting the cherries from the trees, removing the coffee beans from the cherries, drying the beans, removing the skin known as “parchment” from the beans and then roasting them.
So, how do coffee beans get their flavor? The main factors impacting the taste of the coffee beans are the altitude that they grow in, whether or not the cherries are fully removed, semi-removed or not removed at all before drying, how long they are roasted for and the whether or not only the ripe cherries are picked.
There are actually many factors that can impact the taste of a coffee bean and the way that they are processed can have a big impact on the way that they taste. Additionally, the way that the coffee beans are ground and brewed will also have a large impact on the taste of the coffee.
Factors impacting the taste of coffee beans
Below, I will mention a number of factors that impact the taste of coffee beans in the manufacturing process.
The soil that they are grown in
The soil that the coffee seeds are planted in will have an impact on the flavor of the coffee.
Areas that get a lot of rain with fertile soil and ph of 6 to 7.5 tend to the ideal conditions for growing coffee trees. This is why countries such as Brazil and Colombia are large exporters of coffee since they get a lot of rainfall year round which allows for continuous flowering of the coffee cherries.
Coffee beans are actually picked from trees that grow cherries that contain the coffee beans inside of them.
The type of cherries that are picked will actually have a large impact on the way that the coffee tastes. The redder the cherry the more rip it is. Cherries that are riper will have more flavorful coffee beans inside of them.
When producers are producing cheap coffee, in order to cut costs, they will strip all of the cherries from the branches without taking the time to sort through for just the ripe ones. The problem with doing this is that the green unripe cherries will contain coffee beans with less flavor which can impact the taste of the coffee when you brew it.
The altitude that they are grown at especially with Arabica
The altitude that the coffee trees are grown in can have a large impact on the way that the coffee beans taste.
Arabica beans need to be grown at high altitudes of between 3600 – 6300 feet. This is because the slower growth process gives them more flavor. This is why Arabica beans that have been grown at a high altitude are highly sought after and why they also cost more.
Robusta beans can be grown at between sea level and 3000 feet which is one reason that they are much cheaper to produce and to buy.
The way that they are processed
Once the cherries are picked the coffee beans need to be removed from them. The way that the coffee beans are removed from the cherries can have a large impact on the way that they taste.
One method is to remove the coffee bean from the cherry completely normally using a mechanical device or via fermentation.
Then, after removing the beans from the cherries they are then dried for 6-7 days where they will form a small skin called a “parchment”. The parchment will then be removed before roasting the beans or it will be kept there if they are going to be stored.
Making the coffee beans using this method will normally give the coffee beans a more acidic flavor.
You can watch the video below to see the whole coffee making process using the mechanical method to remove the coffee beans.
Instead of removing the coffee beans completely from the cherries it is also an option to remove the skin of the cherries from the beans but to leave the sugary layer, that they have, on the coffee beans.
The beans will then be left to dry for 9 days before having the beans stored or having the parchment removed and be roasted.
This method will normally give the beans sweeter flavor.
The final option would be not to remove the beans from the cherries at all and to let them dry inside of the berries for 12-14 days.
Using this option will normally give the beans a more fruity flavor.
How they are roasted
The way that the beans are roasted will also impact the way that the beans taste.
If the beans are roasted for a long time then it will give them a more nutty taste that can also be bitter or even burnt tasting if they are roasted for too long.
Whereas, if the beans are roasted less then it will give them a smoother taste that can sometimes cause them to be sour if they are not roasted enough.
Generally, beans used for espresso will have a darker roast and beans to be used for regular coffee will have a lighter roast. However, that is entirely down to personal preference.
Other factors that influence the taste of coffee beans
In addition to the manufacturing process, there are a number of other factors that will impact the way that the coffee beans taste.
The type of coffee beans
There are two main types of coffee beans that get produced and they are Arabica coffee beans and Robusta coffee beans.
The trees that grown Robusta are much less disease prone and they can be grown at low altitudes. This allows for Robusta beans to be produced much more cheaply.
Robusta beans have a strong taste that can be slightly bitter. They are often used for espresso which is supposed to have a slightly bitter taste.
The trees that grow Arabica beans are more disease prone and Arabica beans taste best when they are grown at high altitude. This means that Arabica beans tend to be more expensive.
Despite this, there is a huge demand for Arabica beans since they give a smoother flavor. They account for around 67% of the beans that are produced and sold with Robusta accounting for the rest.
The age of the beans will also have an impact on their taste. Generally, beans can be stored in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for up to 3 months after being roasted.
However, in order to get their full flavor it is best to use them within 3 weeks of being roasted.
It is also best not to use them within 3 days of being roasted because they will still contain a lot of the CO2 created in the roasting process.
Temperature of water
The temperature of the water used to make the coffee or the espresso will have an impact on its taste.
If water with a higher temperature is used then it will give the coffee a stronger taste since more of it will mix in with the water. However, it can result in it being bitter or even burnt.
If water with a lower temperature is used then the coffee will be weaker since less of it will mix with the water.
How they are ground
The way that the beans are ground will also have an impact on the taste of the coffee or espresso.
If the grind used to make the coffee is more fine then it will cause more of the coffee to mix with the water since it will be harder for the water to pass through it in the brewing process. This will give the coffee a stronger taste.
Whereas, if coffee with a less fine grind is used then less of it will mix with the water giving it a less strong taste.
Generally, a very fine grind is used to make espresso and a less fine grind is used to make coffee.
Amount of coffee beans used
If a lot of coffee beans are used to make the coffee then it will give a stronger coffee and if less is used it will give a weaker coffee.
Generally, it is recommended to change the grind size before changing the amount of coffee that you use if you want it to be stronger or weaker.