If someone were to ask you, how would you describe a cup of coffee, what would be your answer? Some people may say sweet or bitter, whereas others may say a little chocolatey. Many coffee lovers wonder why it tastes the way it does and what makes the difference between a good cup of coffee and a perfect one. There are answers to this. Here are some leading factors that have an influence on the taste and quality of coffee which may just surprise you.
1. Growing Conditions
When you take your first coffee sip of the day, the only thing you will care about is how it tastes. What may be the last thing on your mind is where it’s actually come from in the world. Some of us prefer Kenyan coffee, whereas others prefer Colombian. Why is this you ask? It’s simple. The taste of coffee differs from origin to origin. There are a whole load of climate factors that influence the way coffee tastes, such as the altitude, soil, and rainfall.
Coffee plants produce caffeine that acts as a natural pesticide, meaning that at a higher altitude, coffee beans produce less caffeine. In cooler climates, this enables the bean to mature slowly, which gives it a higher density. The end result being a sweeter brew with more complex flavours.
2. Types of Beans
Similar to the different types of grapes that influence the taste of wine, different varieties of coffee beans impact the taste of brewed coffee. To date, there are over 100 coffee species with most of the world’s coffee coming from two types, the Robusta and Arabica. The third type which makes up a minimal number is Liberica. This is the rarest type of coffee in the world.
Each type of coffee bean is grown in completely different conditions, which results in unique tastes depending on the soil and season. The best way to find out which type of bean is your favourite is to attend a cupping (aka coffee tasting) at a speciality coffee shop. If you’re looking to purchase new coffee beans, first read about the health benefits associated with drinking coffee. Yes, drinking coffee can be good for you!
Cup & Bean have coffee bean nutrition facts that can teach you more about the health benefits. They can teach you interesting facts about coffee beans and help you find one that’s perfect for your taste buds.
3. Type of Roast
Whether it’s light, medium, or dark roasts, the differences between the three aren’t only their colour. In fact, coffee roasting plays a huge role in bringing out the flavours and aromas of a green bean. Throughout the roasting process, a roaster follows a specific roasting profile, like a recipe. During this process, chemical reactions happen inside the bean.
The longer the bean is roasted, the more aromas and flavours are unlocked. As you can imagine, a cup of light roasted coffee features more delicate flavours, but it also brings out the unique taste profile of the bean. With darker roasts, there are bold flavours, woody notes and smoky undertones but are also less acidic.
As coffee beans roast, they begin losing their freshness almost right away. Coffee stored in warehouses or left on shelves for months on end won’t make the cut. With the right packaging, the life span can be anywhere between 4 and 5 weeks.
If coffee beans aren’t stored in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed, there will be consequences for the freshness of them. Coffee beans will almost certainly lose their flavour and aroma profiles as a result. Another pointer is grinding the bean just before you brew them. Doing this will preserve their freshness.
5. Brewing Equipment
A big misconception new coffee lovers have is that any brewing equipment will bring out the best flavours and aromas in every coffee cup. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Each brewing equipment requires specific recipes and variables. Learning about the best methods for brewing coffee will help you to get the perfect cup.
There are numerous factors to take into account too, including the infusion length and coffee-to-water ratio. Both of these will impact the taste of coffee and the extraction of caffeine. Make sure to take your time when buying brewing equipment as some models will require more steps to get the perfect cup of coffee.
6. Type of Milk
While many people love their coffee black, others love to add a dash of milk. If you fall into the latter category, you may not be aware of how much of an influence milk has on the texture and taste of coffee. Whole milk is a favorite amongst baristas. This is because of its high-fat content, which gives a creamy foam and delicious coffee.
In recent years, dairy-free alternatives have surged in popularity, especially plant-based milk. For those looking to go vegan, plant-based milk has little to no fat content in it. There are advantages and disadvantages to these alternatives. This is because the resulting coffee will take on unique flavours from ingredients like oats, coconut, soybean and almonds.
7. Purity of Water
Water isn’t only the core ingredient in coffee but acts as a solvent throughout the brewing process too. Firstly, the mineral content found in water is accountable for extracting flavours from coffee grounds. You should never lean on distilled water for the brewing process. This is because the absence of such minerals leads to a bitter and sharp-tasting cup of coffee.
The temperature of the water also has a strong influence on the coffee’s rate of extraction and solubility. Regarding ideal temperatures, it’s typically just below the boiling point between 90 and 96 degrees. If you go below this, flavours won’t be extracted fully. Should you exceed these temperatures, you’ll be left with a bitter-tasting coffee that no one wants!
While water is vital in coffee brewing, it’s a nuisance to brewing equipment. Whether you’ve just bought a new espresso machine or have had one for many years, the mineral deposits stop the full extraction of flavours from the coffee ground. This can impact the boiler heating capacity of your coffee machine. Dirt can affect and ultimately damage the steam wand and grinder too.
Whatever you do, make sure to clean your brewing equipment regularly. It’s advised to descale at least once every 3 months. Getting on top of your cleaning will ensure you’re always left with a decent-tasting coffee.
Whether you are a coffee-lover at home, run your own franchise, or work as a barista, we are all on the pursuit to finding the perfect cup of coffee. However, to create just that, there are all kinds of things that need to be taken into account which can impact the taste and quality. Any of the above can completely change the way coffee tastes, so having more knowledge of the factors can help you know what steps to take to create the ultimate cup.