Flavorful Coffee Beans

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The key to good and flavorful coffee beans begins, of course, with the soil the trees grow in. It wants to be well drained, rich, and partly shaded. In the best of all worlds, the soil will be volcanic. The climate must be temperate to warm (annual temperature about 70° F). Rainfall should be perhaps 50 inches annually. A wet season is typical.

Roasting is another critical factor in determining the flavor. No matter how good the bean, it can be spoiled by poor roasting. Yet even an inferior bean can be brought to its highest taste potential by quality roasting. Temperature is key. Beans roasted at less than 400° F are pale, somewhat sour, a bit grassy, and have little aroma. Their natural oils are still dormant. Beans roasted at more than 480° F are black, bitter, and charred. Their oils have been burnt.

Terminology behind Flavorful Coffee

Coffees are typically described--at least in the industry and by aficionados and experts--in terms of specific qualities. These include acidity, and the darker the roast, the less acid it usually is. Body describes the sensation of the coffee in the mouth, how heavy it is, how full it is; the darker the roast, the less body it typically has. Aroma is least noteworthy in both light and dark roasts, peaking with medium (often called city) roasts up to the lighter espressos.

Other terms used to distinguish among beans and coffee flavor include complexity, depth, balance, and character. Complexity in coffee is good--and a good example of complexity is a coffee that is both acidic and sweet at the same time. Coffee blenders aim for complexity. Depth is just as tricky a term, but just as descriptive. One way to think of it is its ability to echo, in a sense, across the palate. Balance describes a full body and pronounced acidity that stay this side of overwhelming.


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