You likely have a favorite brand of coffee grounds or have a strong preference for either Starbucks or Dunkin’. But what is it about your ideal cup of homemade coffee or coffee shop order that makes you love it so much? Or what makes you disappointed by diner coffee or when someone else in your family starts the morning coffee pot?
How a cup of coffee gets its flavor is more complicated than you’d think. Some coffee connoisseurs claim that brewing the perfect cup of coffee is as difficult as producing the perfect bottle of wine.
Every step of the coffee production process influences how the coffee ultimately tastes. From the planting of a seed to the final product, different decisions result in significantly different flavors.
From Bean to Brew
From bean to brew, here is an overview of the coffee production process:
- Farmers plant the coffee seeds (also referred to as coffee beans)
- After the plants grow fruit and those fruits ripen, farmers pick the coffee cherries
- The cherries are processed in one of three ways, resulting in clean and dried coffee beans
- Coffee producers then roast the beans
- The consumer or the producer grounds the beans
- The consumer brews the grounds and enjoys the final cup of coffee
Read More: 5 Ways to Pimp Your Morning Coffee
- Plant Species– The coffee you drink comes from either the Arabica or Robusta coffee plant species. While Arabica has a smoother taste, Robusta has a stronger taste and produces more caffeinated coffee. In terms of cultivation, Robusta plants are more resistant to pests and diseases than Arabica plants.
- Country and Cultivation– Because a coffee plant’s surrounding environment dramatically impacts its taste, people generally identify different coffee beans based on their region of origin. For instance, Brazilian coffee has chocolatey taste, Kenyan coffee tastes sweet and savory, Central American coffee has a bright flavor, and South American coffee has hints of nuts, caramel, and chocolate.
- Wet, Dry, or Honey Processing– Coffee producers use one of the three techniques to process coffee. Wet, dry, and honey processing yield different flavors because, for each process, the coffee cherry remains around the coffee beans for a different duration.
- Roast Profile– When it comes to selecting coffee varieties, you’re likely most familiar with the different roast profiles. However, many people confuse the two ends of the roast spectrum. Light roast has the most concentrated coffee flavor, whereas dark roast has a fainter coffee taste. The longer the coffee roasts, the less of its original flavor it retains.
- Grounds or Beans and Proper Storage– Coffee taste is all about freshness. The absolute best way to preserve freshness is to buy coffee as whole beans and then ground them right before brewing. If you opt for pre-ground coffee, be sure to store it in an air-tight container at room temperature.
- How You Brew– Various brew styles result in different concentrations and consistency of coffee. While there are countless ways to make coffee, some are easier to brew at home than others. A few common techniques include:
The Pour-Over Method: This brewing style results in a smoother, less bitter taste. However, some coffee drinkers say that coffee made with a pour-over has less body.
The French Press: Brewing coffee with a French press takes only a few minutes. However, if you want your cup of coffee to have a higher caffeine concentration, simply let the grounds steep longer.
The Drip Method: Drip coffee tends to have a strong, bold flavor because using this method, the water takes longer to pull through the flavorful coffee grounds.
Cold Brew: Cold brew coffee, as the name suggests, is brewed with cold instead of hot water. This results in a milder, sweeter taste compared to other coffee brewing methods.
Nitro Brew: The nitro brew produces a smooth, even creamy-textured coffee with a sweet taste.
Finding Your Favorite Flavors
Finding just the right coffee option for you takes a bit of experimentation. You’ll want to try different combinations of bean origin, processing style, roast profile, and brew style. For each new coffee product, you try, research the producer to learn more about how the coffee was made. That way, you’ll get to know which styles and flavor profiles you prefer.