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How Do Coffee Beans Get Their Flavor?

How Do Coffee Beans Get Their Flavor?

When it comes to the flavor of coffee beans, there are several key factors that determine their taste. Altitude plays an important role as higher altitude locations generally produce a better-tasting bean due to slower growth and more intense sunlight.

Whether or not the cherries are full-removed, left intact, or semi-removed when they are dried will also affect the flavor of a coffee bean. Roasting and brewing are also major aspects- dark roasts tend to have a smokier flavor while light roasts can hold onto the natural sweetness that is present in the beans.

Finally, picking only ripe cherries is also important as unripe/underdeveloped beans lead to a sour cup. As you can see, there are many different things that go into creating the flavorful cup of joe we all enjoy.

Factors Influencing The Flavor Of Coffee Beans

There are a number of factors that come into play during the manufacturing process, which we will take a look at below.

1. The Soil In Which They Are Grown

When it comes to the flavor of coffee beans, the soil they are grown in is a major factor. Specifically, areas with a lot of rainfall, and nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5 will create the ideal conditions to cultivate coffee trees.

So countries such as Colombia and Brazil are renowned producers because they have these ideal environmental conditions throughout the year and can achieve continuous flowering and picking of the coffee cherries.

2. The Altitude At Which They Are Grown, Particularly With Arabica

When it comes to the flavor of coffee beans, one of the most important factors is the altitude at which they are grown. This is particularly true with Arabica beans, as they need a very specific altitude to reach their optimal flavor.

High-altitude grown Arabica beans in particular are highly sought after for their renowned taste, though this does come with a higher price tag.

3. The Manner In Which They Are Processed

The way coffee beans are processed greatly affects their flavor.

  • One method is to use a mechanical device or fermentation to remove the coffee bean from the cherry, followed by drying them for 6-7 days before forming a small skin called a “parchment” which can be removed prior to roasting or kept intact in storage. This process often gives flavorful coffee beans a more acidic flavor.
  • Alternatively, it is also possible to just peel off the skin of the cherries, leaving the sugary layer on top of the beans – which then needs to be left to dry for 9 days before either being stored or having its parchment removed and roasted. This method normally results in many sweeter-tasting beans.

4. How They Are Prepared

Apart from the way the beans are roasted, how they are prepared also has an effect on the flavor of coffee beans. The manner in which your beans are ground and brewed is key to achieving their desired taste.

For espresso, finely-ground beans can be used. A finer grind allows for a more intense flavor to be extracted, while coarsely ground coffee beans provide a smoother taste.

Other Factors Influence Coffee Bean Flavor

Apart from the above-mentioned factors, there are other elements as well that affect the flavor of the coffee beans.

1. The Variety Of Coffee Beans

When it comes to coffee beans, there is a huge variety that can be purchased. The two main types are Robusta and Arabica beans.

  • Robusta beans have a strong taste and discounted price; they make up the remaining 33% of the total coffee bean market share.
  • Arabica beans give a much smoother flavor, due to their need to be grown at high altitudes they are generally more expensive than Robusta beans.

2. Age

Age is one of the biggest factors that influence the flavor of ripe coffee beans. If you want to get the optimal taste and aroma out of your beans, it’s best to use them within 3 weeks of roasting.

It’s also not recommended to use them within 3 days because they will still contain a lot of CO2 created during the roasting process, which can make the flavor slightly off.

For long-term storage, though, you can keep your beans in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for up to 3 months. This should help maintain their flavor over time.

3. The Water’s Temperature

When preparing coffee or espresso, the water’s temperature plays a huge role in the flavor of the final product. If you use hot water, the flavor will be strong due to more of the cheap coffee beans mixing with the liquid. This may lead to a bitter taste and possibly even burning if you’re not careful.

4. The Manner In Which They Are Ground

When it comes to the flavor of coffee beans, the way they are ground has a big influence. The fineness of the grind will determine how much of the coffee mixes with the water in the brewing process, which then affects coffee flavor profiles.

A finer grind will cause more of the coffee to be extracted and make for a stronger taste. Whereas, a less fine grind will make for a milder brew.

5. The Number Of Coffee Beans Used

When it comes to influencing the flavor of coffee beans, the number of coffee beans used is a major factor. If more coffee beans are used in coffee making process, the final brew will have a stronger taste and if fewer are used it will be weaker.

Therefore, in order to get the desired taste strength, coffee experts should adjust the number of flavored coffee beans accordingly.

The Coffee Taster Flavor Wheel From SCA

The Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel, created by the Specialty Coffee Association, is a great tool for coffee lovers who are looking to identify different flavor notes in their coffee.

The wheel features descriptors like “nutty” and “fruity” at the center, then as you move outward, you find more precise tasting notes such as “honey” or “citrus.”

What Do Coffee Tasting Notes Tell Us?

Coffee tasting notes provide insight into the flavor, aroma, and character of a particular coffee. By understanding these notes, you’ll be able to identify flavors that you enjoy and recognize the type of coffee beans you prefer.

As different regions are known for their distinct flavor profiles, taste notes can tell us a lot about the region where the coffee was grown or processed in.

Why Am I Unable To Taste Some Of The Flavor Notes?

Well, with practice comes understanding; the more you taste different coffee roasts, the better your palate becomes at distinguishing individual flavors. Coffee flavors also fluctuate depending on the climate; differences in soil composition and harvest season can lead to slight variations in flavor.

So try tasting coffee from various coffee-producing regions to become well-versed in all the wonderful flavor notes coffee has to offer.

How Can You Improve Your Coffee Tasting?

Gaining a better appreciation for the flavor of coffee doesn’t have to be difficult! With a few simple techniques, you can quickly learn how to differentiate between roast types and uncover the nuances of each cup.

To improve your coffee-tasting skills, try coffee cupping, an exercise that uses all the senses to identify properties in a cup of coffee. You can practice using the flavor wheel or find tutorials online.

Ellie Patchen

Ellie Patchen

I love a good cup of coffee on Monday mornings for that pick-me-up, also love them in the afternoon, and on Tuesdays. In fact, it's fair to say that I love coffee all day everyday! So much so that I created a whole site to blog about it, answer questions and to just have a place for my frequent ramblings on the wonder that is.. coffee!

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