Rating the Best Green Coffee Beans for Home Coffee Roasting
Not all specialty premium coffees are alike. They each can have distinctive taste and aroma characteristics. These are not necessarily on a scale of good to bad, but rather differences that accommodate individual taste preferences plus providing a pleasing variety of experiences available. Quite often these taste and aroma differences are tied to a certain world region, where altitude, sunlight, average temperatures, moisture, and a variety of regional environmental differences produce different taste characteristics from the same kind of coffee tree.
At Burman Coffee and on BurmanCoffee.com we use the following taste characteristics to evaluate and describe the differences among our coffees.
Coffee Brightness (acidity)
Acidity, or brightness, is the first impression of a cup of coffee – that crisp sensation at the tip of your tongue. It’s important to know we’re talking in terms of “perceived acidity” here, not the actual pH; in fact coffee is actually less acid then most soft drinks.
We perceive pleasantly acid flavors almost instantly on the tongue’s tip and front corners, and just behind the upper teeth. Trace amounts of various acids found in coffee – Citric, Lactic, Malic, Acetic and a dozen or so others – also contribute many different bright, snappy flavor notes.
Beans grown at higher altitudes and processed by washed methods generally have greater perceived acidity then lower-grown or naturally-processed beans from the same origin and region.
During roasting, heat causes acids to be formed and consumed, converted into sugars and other flavor compounds. Home Coffee Roasters can manage roasting time, roast profile and temperature as methods of controlling acidity, balancing it with body, and providing flavor notes. Some examples:
- Dark roasts have lower acidity then lighter roasts of the same origin;
- Origins or blends roasted on short roast times cup brighter then the same origin/blend roasted to the same level on longer times;
- Internal changes to a roast profile also changes relative levels of acids in a coffee, resulting in a cup with significantly different flavor notes.
Take a sip of coffee. Ask yourself – how full of flavor does my mouth feel, and for how long? Along with perspective gained from hundreds of tasting trials, that’s how cuppers and roasters learn to evaluate body. Laboratory testing can quantify components of coffee related to body – levels of viscosity, oils, sugars, dissolved solids such as cellulose, suspended particles, etc. – but comprehensive sensory evaluation is a matter of perception, practice, and experience.
We’ve found using a consistent brewing method for evaluating coffees has a profound effect on coffee’s body level and flavor profile. Coffee brewed by French press or cowboy-style shows a more complete flavor profile and significantly fuller body then the same coffee drip-brewed with a paper filter – the filter traps oils and solids that are part of body, and fine particles that carry darker flavors.
Green bean processing methods also dramatically affect a coffee’s body. Washed processing removes the sugary fruit pulp completely from coffee beans, producing coffees with light to medium body and very clean, bright flavors. Natural processing, in contrast, dries beans and fruit together to produce coffees with deeper-toned, more diverse flavors and heavier body.
Roasting methods also affects body. In general, longer roasting times build a coffee’s body, while shorter times accent its acidity. This, however is true only to a point; too long a roast causes a coffee to lose both acidity and body, a fault known as baked or bakey. Bakey coffees brew a cup that’s insipid and lifeless.
Other Important Characteristics Affecting Coffee Taste & Quality
Varietal Characteristics: In addition to body and acidity or dryness, a good specialty coffee imparts several distinctive flavor and aroma characteristics. These flavors may be bold or subtle and helps further hallmark a particular coffee.
Seasonal Variations: Like fine wine, the taste of particular region and grower’s coffee can be affected by weather. Coffee is a crop that varies by season, and by region, depending on the conditions present during that growing season. Our job is to uncover where the best coffees are being grown at any moment in time, and select the best lots from that region.
How Burman Coffee Traders Selects its Premium Coffee Beans for its Home & Commercial Coffee Roasting Customers
Whenever possible we visit our present and prospective coffee bean growers around the globe to learn first-hand of their methods and their regional characteristics. We also attend coffee industry conferences and events where we have an opportunity to meet and talk with producers and large distributors about their product offerings and do some sampling.
In evaluating coffees we will acquire samples to test in our facility. The first step we take in sorting out potential new coffees is to eliminate the ones that have any negative characteristics. You won’t find any bitter or sour or rubbery tasting coffees here. Then we decide if this coffee is distinctive enough to stock. Our goal is to provide a broad selection of the best examples of the classic coffees from the world market. We often go through many samples of outstanding coffees from different sources just to find right lot.
We supplement our selection of classic coffees with high quality decaffeinated coffees and organic/shade coffees. Incidentally, many of our decaffeinated coffee drinkers, have found our freshly home roasted decaffeinated coffee beans produce a coffee light years ahead of any decaffeinated coffees they have experienced.
Among the growers who produce excellent coffees we make a special effort to support those who provide fair wages and good working conditions to their workers.