Types of Coffee

When you first start exploring the world of specialty coffee, it can be a little confusing. Sorting through all the different types of coffee can seem overwhelming at times. Relax. The most important thing will always be how coffee tastes you. As you gradually try different varieties you'll naturally develop your own preferences as well as a broad base of knowledge and experience.

I'll give you a head start here and on some other pages by explaining a little bit about how coffee is categorized, what you can expect from different blends and roast and even how to go about tasting coffee like the pros.

Let's begin with the most basic coffee classification of all:

Arabica vs. Robusta Coffee

There are two main species of coffee in commercial production: arabica and robusta. Arabica plants produced a better quality coffee. These plants do best when grown at high altitudes in subtropical climates. The best growing range seems to be between 4000 and 6000 feet. They do not do well at all below 2000 feet.

They also require consistent watering and, like all coffee species, they do not tolerate frost at all.

As you can see, the requirements are rather specific. Even so, 70 to 80% of all coffee grown is arabica. Prominent producers include Columbia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ethiopia and Indonesia.

The other major coffee species is coffee robusta. While botanists will note that many other species of coffee, robust it is the only other one that has commercial significance.

This plant has the advantage of being able to grow at lower altitudes than arabica. Robusta has high yields and is also disease-resistant.

Unfortunately, it produces a distinctly inferior coffee with not nearly the degree of aroma or flavor as a quality arabica bean.

Robusta plants are grown in Vietnam, the Ivory Coast as well as at low altitudes in major coffee-producing countries such as Brazil and Indonesia it also produce high-grown arabica beans.

Robusta beans cost much less than arabica. As you might expect, they are dominant component of cheap, low-quality commercial coffees.

Other Ways to Classify Coffee

Two main other ways of classifying coffee are its country of origin and the degree of roast. Generally speaking, the more specific information given about a coffee the more likely it is to be of good quality.

Be a little cautious, however, with commercially produced coffees with fancy sounding names. As specialty coffees have become more popular in the United States, low-quality producers are trying to jump on the bandwagon without improving the quality of their product.

Your best bet is to find a reputable coffeehouse or coffee roaster were coffee is their passion. In the final analysis, it will always come down to taste. As you continue your coffee explorations you will readily develop the ability to distinguish a quality cup from an impostor.



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