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A Coffee Guide: Get to Know the Basics

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Last Updated on May 3, 2021

Almost everyone around the world has a particular hot beverage they like or prefer the most, and for many, that is coffee. Some of the best coffee lovers do not know the hot drink as much as they enjoy it. Made from roasted beans from the coffee plants, now cultivated throughout South and Central America, it is native to subtropical regions of Asia and Africa. 

Almost everyone around the world has a particular hot beverage they like or prefer the most, and for many, that is coffee. Some of the best coffee lovers do not know the hot drink as much as they enjoy it. Made from roasted beans from the coffee plants, now cultivated throughout South and Central America, it is native to subtropical regions of Asia and Africa. 

During harvest time at the coffee farms, the plants are picked, and the flesh is peeled to extract the grey-green-colored seed, which is known as green coffee. They are then sold and shipped in their green form, to be roasted and processed to the coffee we all know. Here is a guide explaining the basics of coffee from the different types, roast levels, caffeine volume, and its recommended storage.  

Coffee Bean Types

Coffee beans differ in size, color, flavor, and shape depending on their growing conditions and the region in which they were grown. Like wine varies in cost between vineyards, coffee bean varieties and aromas differ regionally. To discover the coffee best tolerated by your palates, experimenting with different types is worth it. Arabica and Robusta are the two main categories of regional varieties of coffee beans. 

  • Robusta: Robusta coffee tends to have more caffeine than Arabica and a higher level of acid, with a harsh flavor. Robusta is mainly grown in warmer climate conditions at lower altitudes and with less moisture. Due to minimal growing instructions, the Robusta beans are generally the cheaper option with a less desirable flavor compared to the Arabica beans. The Robusta variety is commonly found at most mass markets.
  • Arabica: With its delicate flavor and lower acid, Arabica coffee is regarded as superior to Robusta. This labor-intensive plant is grown in higher altitudes in a more advanced and costly way. These low-yield plant varieties are in high demand, selling at a superior price. 

Coffee Roasts

When green coffee beans are prepared for brewing, they must undergo a roasting process. To ensure coffee beans are evenly heated, the beans are roasted with dry heat with constant agitation. The roasting process varies from light golden brown, medium, and an almost black dark brown. The roasting time has a significantly changing effect on the color, aroma, and flavor of the brewed coffee. Coffee is roasted on several levels; however, there are three main laves: light, medium, and dark roast coffee beans.

  • Light Roast: Often more acidic, light beans provide the most delicate and soft flavor. With less roasting time and roast-infused taste, this allows the original flavor to dominate and remain prominent. Lightly roasted beans appear to be dry and include American, New England, Cinnamon, and Half-City Roasts.
  • Medium Roast: Filled with flavor, the medium-roasted beans have a dry surface and a chocolate brown color. They are slightly sweeter and toasty flavor, with less acidity compared to the lightly roasted seeds. Commonly known as Breakfast, Full City, or Regular Roast, Medium roasts are famous for having an even blend of acidity and flavor.
  • Dark Roast: The process to get dark-roasted coffee is slightly longer, the wait is up until the oils begin to right to the top of the bean and the sugar starts to caramelize. The darker the bean, the more sheen or oily they appear. The beans’ original flavor is overpowered by the deep roast’s smoky, strong, and spicy taste. Roasts that fall in this category include Espresso, French, Italian, and Viennese, all known to have low acidity and have a bitter taste.
  • Blends: Sometimes delicate flavor and complexity cannot be achieved by one type of roast, so many roasters customize blends of different roast levels, two or more, to create a unique flavor profile. 

Caffeine and Decaffeination

Caffeine content inside a coffee cup is probably the most prized substance by coffee lovers. Depending on its brewing method and, as we have discovered, the type of bean used in the process. Though some may prefer decaffeinated coffee, there is some traceable amount of caffeine in a decaf cup. Decaffeination is regulated to 97% caffeine removal in the International standard for decaffeination. At the same time, the European Union’s Standard requires no less than 99.9% to be extracted. 

The decaffeination process is generally the same, following a basic step-by-step process. Soaked in water, the beans are extracted for caffeine together with all flavor responsible chemicals. Mixed with a solvent, a filter is introduced to isolate the caffeine from the extracted liquid while leaving other beneficial compounds. The beans are then soaked again to reabsorb the caffeine-deficient as a flavor-rich solution. 

In recent years, the Swiss Water Method has made a name for itself as a caffeine removal using only water. This process is a laborious exercise that includes ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide, or triglycerides as solvents used in the decaffeinating process. Each method has its pros and cons, like time, cost, labor, and the final flavor.  

Researchers are working on producing a caffeine deficient coffee plant without the caffeine synthase gene to eliminate the whole decaffeination process. Saving considerable costs in the process would not only terminate the decaffeination process but also keep the original flavor of the bean unspoiled.

How to Store Coffee

The flavor results in a brewed cup are highly impacted by the storage method. Coffee is not a great friend of oxygen, moisture, heat, and light. To help preserve coffee beans, most commercially sold coffees come in vacuum-sealed bags to keep oxygen out while allowing gasses to escape in a one-way valve. Once the seal is broken at home, store coffee beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry place with access to sunlight. 

Some people have different homemade ways to preserve beans by keeping them in a freezer or refrigerator; however, this method exposes the beans to excess humidity and the lack of circulating air. It is best to use coffee beans within a recommended two-week period and keep in mind to avoid stocking extra beans to last more than two weeks.