When I started drinking coffee, there was not a concern for the particular coffee beans, brand, or flavor. Coffee was just a constant in my life that I wanted. Coffee was always there in the pot when I would wake up and throughout the day as I needed.
The only time that brand was really a concern was on those nights that my then future wife and I would meet to spend some time together at Starbucks. The coffee chain quickly became one of my favorites.
I still remember an unexpected day that my wife and I had off during those early days of dating. We took the day and toured a local coffee roaster in Kansas City, The Roasterie. We had no idea of the significance of coffee at that time.
When I became a new dad, my views on coffee didn’t change a whole lot. I still just wanted to get as much caffeine in my system as I could. The clock on our coffee maker was my friend as each night I would schedule it to have a fresh pot brewed each morning so that my wife and I would have that fix we needed before leaving for work or staying home with the kids.
There came a point recently though, where my thoughts changed. My daily cup of big brand coffee started to change in flavor. My taste was starting to change so much so that even Starbucks was not tasting as good as it once had.
I started to fear that maybe the taste of coffee was starting to fade. Much like blogging, I thought that maybe I needed a change. I started to experiment with new and different coffees. With that, I started to understand that trying different beans gave me variety but it also allowed me the opportunity to see what kind of coffee I really enjoyed.
Your choice in coffee beans matter!
I began to start appreciating where my coffee came from and understanding the different types of flavor notes that came from each cup. I noticed that my flavors changed according to the season. During the summer I would go towards more floral (yes I said floral) flavors with light to sparkling acidity. I enjoyed more fruity flavored coffees that didn’t feel so heavy during a hot day. And in the winter I started to lean more towards chocolate and caramel flavor notes.
I wouldn’t have known this had I not left my comfort zone and tried something new. This is one of the great things about coffee. If you aren’t a fan of a certain flavor, try something different. Many roasters will place a certain roasts flavor profile either on the bag or on their website.
Once you learn the flavors that you really enjoy you can start to open up and explore new roasters. You’ll be more knowledgable about the roasts that you would like to try. Don’t be afraid to try something new and find out you don’t like it. That will be the only way that you are going to be able to find out the flavors that you will enjoy during your coffee experience.
Another piece of advice, don’t let one particular brew method make the determination of whether you like a particular bean or not. With so many different brew methods out there, you might discover that you really aren’t a fan of Ethiopian brewed with an Aeropress, but if you brew it with the Pour Over method you might find it really enjoyable.
When it comes time to buy your bag of beans, here are a couple of things to think about:
Light, Medium, Dark Roast
- Light Roasts – Light Roast coffee beans are the lightest of the bunch. They have no oils on the surface and have high acidity, mellow body, and bright flavors. Light roast coffee beans are roasted to preserve most of the unique flavor qualities from the bean. These coffee beans have unique vibrant flavors.
- Medium Roasts – These are the coffees that most people think of. Medium roast coffee is brown in color and also rarely has an oily surface. Medium roasted coffee beans have body and acidity and a well-rounded flavor profile making them most arguably the most popular roast profile for those who drink coffee.
- Dark Roasts – Dark roasted coffee are very dark in color with an oily surface. With low acidity and heavy body dark roast coffee beans have a tendency to have deeper and darker flavors. Coffees that are dark roasted, more than likely do not have many origin characteristics. While many think that dark roast coffee beans are boring, there are some that have that chocolate, nutty, and caramel flavor that many enjoy.
Single Origin vs. Blend
- Single Origin – As the name entails, single-origin coffee comes from ONE source and are mostly available during certain times of the year. Single-origin coffees are unique and their characteristics are unique enough to be able to tell someone drinking where the coffee came from. These beans are coffee in its purest form. Their flavor and aromas are more pronounced.
- Blend – Much medium roasted coffee, this is the type of coffee bean that most people associate with. Blends, as the name says, are multiple beans from various origins. This allows roasters to produce any combination of flavor and in larger batches, making many of the blended coffees available year-round. Blends are well-balanced and are more approachable with a gentler taste.
Natural Vs. Washed
- Natural – Naturally processed coffee beans go by several names: natural process, dry process, unwashed, or natural sundried. This means that the coffee beans dry while they are inside their fruit (cherry) either dried while on raised beds in the sun or on patios. They are turned and raked throughout the day to prevent spoiling. The process usually takes 3-6 weeks and is the more traditional method used to process coffee.
- Washed – This process also goes by wet process. The cherries are removed from the beans before the drying process in this method. Once the cherries are picked through to ensure consistent ripeness levels, machines squeeze the cherries until the coffee bean (which is technically a seed) out. The separated seeds are then moved to tanks to either go through a ferment-and-wash method or have a machine help remove the rest of the cherry before it is then dried.
My main piece of advice, experiment. See what kind of coffees you like and dislike. This way when you go to try a new roaster, you know what you are looking for to make that experience the most enjoyable that it can be.
This gives you a good idea of what to look for as you start your coffee journey. These are things that I wish I had looked at when I started my journey into coffee.