You’re here because you wonder about coffee bean types. Because you want to know where do coffee beans come from. Or because you want to know more about types of coffee roasts and different types of coffee.
Well, let me tell you, not two beans are the same! Choosing the right coffee for you is important. Because of that, I’ve created this page, the ultimate guide to all coffee bean types: from bean to cup!
I want to help you understand coffee better. That way, you can enjoy your cup of java on a regular basis according to your preferences, tastes, and flavors!
Ready? Dig in!
- The Complete Guide to Coffee: Where do coffee beans come from?
- The scientific name of coffee: coffea
- Coffee bean locations: region guides
- A brief history of coffee
- Coffee Bean Types: what are they?
- Types of coffee roasts
- A list: Different types of Coffee
The Complete Guide to Coffee: Where do coffee beans come from?
The scientific name of coffee: coffea
Let’s back it up a bit. Let’s talk about coffee. So, it’s a scientific name if the coffee plant is coffea. The coffee plant is native to tropical Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Reunion in the Indian ocean. It grows as a small tree or a shrub.
For those of you wondering the soft fruit from which a coffee bean is obtained is commonly known by what name? –It’s a cherry. Coffee cherry.
The coffee trees grow purple or red berries, which are known as coffee cherries. Now, the fun fact is that the caffeine in the coffee beans is toxic and is meant to somewhat naturally protect the seeds of Coffea from herbivores (says Wikipedia), even though this doesn’t seem to work in all cases (there are animals that adore sweet and ripe coffee cherries!).
Since coffee leaves and fruits also contain caffeine, you can get coffee cherry tea instead! It’s a simple and elegant solution for all those who dislike the taste of coffee (well, if any at all).
The seeds of the coffee plant are coffee beans, which are actually seeds in the coffee cherries, two per cherry. When the fruits are ripe, they are mostly handpicked.
Then, there are two ways of how to obtain coffee beans:
- The wet method: workers either separate the cherry flesh from the beans and ferment the beans by soaking them in water (historically, this method was used in Central America and a few places in Africa).
- The dry method: workers spread out the coffee cherries in the sun up to 3 weeks, turning them and letting them dry naturally (traditionally, this method was used for beans of lower quality in Brazil and majority of Africa).
After this process, the coffee beans are roasted (see more on roasting types below) and ground, giving up that heavenly cup of warm hot dark liquid we obsessively enjoy on a daily basis.
How many kinds of coffee are there?
There are more than 120 different species of the Coffea but the two most famous ones are Arabica and Robusta; you can find a list of different types of coffee beans below. But don’t worry about running out of coffee options. There are more species being discovered; in 2008 they discovered 2 new species in Cameroon!
Beans from different countries have different body, acidity, flavor, and aroma. These are not limited to the growing region only but also the characteristics of the bean type, coffee plant species, and processing. Generally, the names Java, Kona, Colombian are given to coffees based on the region where it is grown.
Coffee bean locations: region guides
Most commonly the coffee plants thrive on higher altitudes and they seriously dislike freezing temperatures (and I completely concur). Have a look at the map to see where the coffee in your cup comes from!
Where does coffee grow?
Nowadays, coffee is grown all over the world since it’s one of the most widely traded and popular commodities in the world. It’s an important export product for a number of countries, such as Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
To give you an idea, the top producing countries today are:
Apart from these 5, coffee is produced in more than 70 countries in the world. The most surprising country on the list for me was China! You can see the whole list of countries by coffee production here.
What does a coffee plant look like?
A brief history of coffee
Let’s have a look quickly at coffee history facts, at how was coffee introduced to the Americas, and some fun facts about coffee consumption.
How did coffee get its name?
The Arabs had a word for coffee qawah, which somehow entered to the Turkish language and turned the Arabian word into kahve. The Dutch apparently loved it and didn’t want to bother with their own inventions of the word, so they took the Turkish version and changed it into koffie. It was through the Dutch language that the coffee entered into English back in the 16th century, and we’ve known the word coffee ever since.
How was coffee invented?
There are no certain facts to tell when it comes to how coffee was invented. There are various stories of old that talk about mystics, goat-herders, and sheiks but no one actually knows.
In any case, all these men of legends reported consuming coffee one way or another because it gave them energy, vitality, and helped them suppress hunger. You can read more on the legends of coffee here. In any case, it all happened by chance. The people observed what the animals were doing and tried it by themselves as well, or ended up accidentally cooking/roasting the coffee berries.
Coffee Bean Types: what are they?
Let me guess: you thought there was only one type of beans, two at the most. Well, don’t worry about it. I thought the same back in the day. Actually, I was convinced that coffee was just coffee and that there was no such thing as a variety of coffee bean (how ghastly of me, I know). Well, it’s not! There are four main coffee bean types that are used in the coffee world today commercially.
Just to give you an idea, according to this archive, Arabica is grown in Latin America, East Africa or Asia. Robusta is generally grown in southeast Asia, Brazil, and central Africa. Now, let’s have a look at what are the different types of coffee beans!
1- Arabica coffee (coffea arabica)
Well, it’s all about Arabica, isn’t it? It’s like a spoilt child in the limelight of the planet. Still, it may be so for a good reason. After all, Arabica counts for 60% of the world’s coffee production.
Don’t be fooled: it may be most popular but it’s also the most delicate of the four coffee beans types! It’s quite moody and it can easily succumb to the disease. Since it’s often grown in large quantities, you can imagine this can easily turn into a problem. Still, the trees are easy to look after since they’re quite small.
Arabica bean is grown in high altitudes, with Brazil being the largest producing country. It loves shade and rain. What’s more, the beans have a bright body, with a wide array of flavors and aromas. They’re also somewhat acidic. If you want to brew the best-tasting cup of Arabica coffee at home, look for the one with the full body and lower acidity. That sort should be sweet, accompanied by lovely notes of fruits, chocolate, nuts, and florals.
- Beans are oval and generally larger than other beans on the list
- Lower caffeine content but more complex structure
- Best served hot and plain without milk or creamer
- Great for pour over technique or drip coffee
- Popular types of Arabica are Blue mountain, Typica, Caturra, Bourbon
Why is it called Arabica coffee?
We’ve established that the origins of coffee go all the way back to Ethiopia. But the Arabica got its name when the bean went on an adventure, namely from Ethiopia, over the Red Sea, to present-day Yemen.
In other word, tribes in Ethiopia ate the seeds. Arabs in Yemen brewed the beans. The Arab scholars did it for the first time to pass the time. That’s where Arabica name comes from. You can read more about it in this article from ThoughtCo.com.
2- Robusta coffee (coffea caniphora)
The lesser version of the luxurious sires, you probably have heard about Robusta beans at some point. It’s the second most grown coffee type in the world, right after Arabica. It’s much more tolerant and resistant to the environment and diseases. It can be grown in various altitudes, but it especially loves a hot climate with only occasional rain.
What’s interesting about Robusta is that it contains almost double the caffeine compared to Arabica because it is so resistant to disease. Still, this coffee has been grown everywhere, even in the areas that are not best suitable for coffee farming. That’s why the coffee can smell unpleasant or flat.
Overall, Robusta has a heavy body but smooth texture with hints of chocolate and low acidity, somewhat woody quality.
- Beans are paler than those or Arabica, smaller and more circular
- It’s ideal for cream and sugar coffees (it’s great for espresso-based drinks and iced coffee recipes since it doesn’t lose the flavor when you add in milk and sugar)
3- Liberica coffee (coffea liberica)
This type of coffee is hard to come by, but it still plays an important role in the world of coffee. It originated in Western and Central Africa, but it’s still difficult to grow it commercially.
Liberica somewhat managed to get to the radar of governments and farmers in the late 19th century, when Arabica was severely damaged by the disease called coffee rust. This disease caused damage to a majority of Arabica plantations.
It is still roaming the world today with its devastating results. The Philippines were the first country to try it and the results were promising at the beginning. But because of the dispute between the Philippines and the USA, Liberica disappeared off the radar until 1995.
Overall, Liberica coffee has a unique aroma with fruity and floral notes. It is full bodied with a smoky taste, woody even or jungle-y. Those who’ve tried it claim that it is nothing like they’ve ever tasted before:
- Liberica beans are larger than Robusta, Arabica, and Excelsa. They’re also asymmetrical with an almond shape which makes them a very unique coffee bean
- It can easily improve any blend to which it’s added to
4- Excelsa coffee (Coffea excelsa or Coffea liberica var. dewevrei)
Excelsa is a member of Liberica coffee family, but it’s very different at the same time. They wanted to avoid confusion, that’s why they renamed it into Excelsa. Still, it grows in large trees and similar altitudes to Liberica, mostly in SouthEast Asia. It is quite tolerant to dry areas as well as resistant to diseases.
Excelsa makes up about 7% of the worlds’ coffee production. It is largely used in blends to give them additional kick of flavor and complexity. What’s more, it has a fruity and tart and dark flavor profile.
For more info on variety of coffee, have a look at this informational video:
Types of coffee roasts
Roasting the coffee brings out the aroma of the green beans. These are literally unwritten blank papers, soft with a grassy scent. Roasting sets chemicals in motion, providing each batch of beans with specific flavor characteristics, scents, and aroma. It is overall a complex process that could even be considered art!
- Light roast coffee
If you’re looking for a fragrant yet milt, fruity or floral coffee, a light roast is your type!
- Milder coffee varieties
- No oil on the beans’ surface
- Light brown color
- Light body
- Pronounces acidity
Also known as: Light City, New England, Cinnamon, Half City
- Medium roast coffee
If you’re looking for a more traditional and flavorful cup of coffee, this is your choice. It’s also the most preferred type of coffee in the USA.
- Medium brown color
- More body than light roasts
- No oil on the beans’ surface
- More balanced flavor and aroma
Also known as: City Roast, Breakfast, American, Regular Roast
- Medium-dark roast coffee
If you’re into bittersweet notes with deep flavors, you’ll enjoy dark roast.
- Rich, dark color
- Some oil on the beans’ surface
- Heavy body
- Somewhat bittersweet coffee taste
Also known as: Full-City Roast, After Dinner Roast
- Dark roast coffee
Looking for the heavy mouthfeel, strong smoky or even burnt flavor, with very low acidity (the darker the roast, the less acidity)? Go for a dark roast!
- Nearly black color
- Oily beans
- Apparent bitterness
- Low caffeine
Also known as: French, Italian, Espresso, Viennese, High, Continental, New Orleans, Spanish, and European Roast
A list: Different types of Coffee
As you were able to see, there are many different sorts of coffee beans out there in the world. That also means that there are numerous different types of coffee available! Now, we’ll focus on the most popular kinds of coffee.
Let’ have a quick look at how to make different types of coffee drinks. I’ve provided a list of coffee drinks, the most common that we know.
Short black or espresso, is the most important coffee type there is (or so I dare to claim). It’s the foundation of many espresso-based drinks. In other words, it’s a type of coffee made with a cappuccino machine.
Café Latte (café au lait)
Also latte for short, this type of coffee is espresso based with steamed milk and topped with creamy microfoam. It’s sweet and quite milky compared to espresso.
Similar to a latte, cappuccino has more foam and it’s in many cases topped with chocolate. It’s served in a coffee cup, whereas latte is normally served in a tumbler glass.
The idea here is similar to cappuccino: espresso and steamed milk. The difference is that flat white comes flat, without any foam or chocolate.
Macchiato (Piccolo Latte)
Also known as short macchiato, this coffee is similar to espresso but it comes with a dollop of steamed milk and foam. There are different versions of this drink, depending on the country you’re visiting. In some countries, they serve it in a glass, in others in a small cup.
Also known as Americano, long black is a single shot of espresso poured into hot water.
Ah, if you think espresso is too light for you, go for a ristretto. It’s made the same way but with half the amount of water. Yes, it’s a very dark and concentrated espresso.
This one is more of a dessert than an actual coffee, lovely for hot summer days. It’s basically espresso with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
One of my favorite coffee types while I was traveling around Spain, cortado is made with little or no foam. It contains a single shot of espresso with an approximately equal amount of steamed milk.
A mix of cappuccino and hot chocolate, mocha is espresso with steamed milk, chocolate powder, and creamy microfoam.