A coffee bean is a seed found in the fruit of the Coffea plant and it is the main ingredient of coffee. The fruit of the Coffea plant is known as a coffee cherry and it usually contains 2 coffee beans. In certain cases, a coffee cherry only has one coffee bean and these coffee beans are known as Peaberries. Peaberries are usually richer in flavour compared to a normal coffee bean.
While coffee beans are not real beans, they are often referred to as beans due to their bean-like appearance.
Where do Coffee Beans come from?
Coffee beans are found in the fruit of the Coffea plant and were first discovered in the country of Ethiopia. Since then, it has migrated to Asia, Central, and South America.
Today, there are many countries that produce coffee beans. Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia are considered to be the World’s top producers of coffee beans with Brazil being the top producer for over 150 years.
Types of Coffea Plants
There are 100 species of the Coffea plant, but the 2 important varieties are Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica is the more sought-after Coffea plant and 70% of the world’s coffee is produced from this plant. Coffee made from this plant has less caffeine, but more acidic. It is also a more costly type of coffee since the cultivation of the Arabica plant is more expensive.
30% of the world’s coffee is made from the Robusta plant and is primarily used in blends and instant coffee. Coffee made from the Robusta plant is known to have a distinctive taste and is generally cheaper than coffee made from the Arabica plant.
As mentioned earlier, coffee beans are found in the fruit of the Coffea plants, and these fruits are known as coffee cherries or cascara. These cherries turn pink or red when ripe, after which they are harvested. Coffee cherries are rich in antioxidants, which of course, are responsible for the benefits associated with coffee.
The Processing of Coffee Cherries
Once the coffee cherries have been picked they will go through a wet or dry process.
The Wet Process
The wet process is considered to be a more expensive process, and it is mostly carried out in Central America and Africa. During this process, the flesh of the fruit is separated from the seeds and then the seeds are fermented. The seeds will then be soaked in water for one or two days. This will then soften the mucilage, a sticky pulp residue attached to the seeds. The mucilage is then washed off with water.
The Dry Process
The cheaper of the two processes, the dry process is mostly used for lower-quality beans in countries where water resources are limited. The fruit is laid out in the sun on concrete for 2 to 3 weeks and covered during the night to prevent them from getting wet. During the day, the fruit will be turned to ensure that even drying takes place.
The Hulling Process
The hulling process is optional and takes place after the wet or dry process. The goal of the hulling process is to remove the skin from the coffee bean. This parchment skin is known as pergamino. Hulling is done via a machine called a “huller”. The basic function of these machines is to abrade the parchment until it simply crumbles away.
After the hulling process, the coffee beans are sent for polishing and then cleaning and sorting.
Types of Coffee Beans
There are 4 different types of coffee beans namely Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa.
Arabica coffee is the most popular type of coffee on this list, and it is mainly produced in Brazil where there is rain in abundance. It is a more expensive type of coffee and has a soft, sweeter taste when compared to other types of coffee. Despite its cost, it accounts for 70% of the world’s coffee production and is preferred by many.
Robusta is the 2nd most popular coffee in the world. It is cheaper when compared to Arabica coffee, and this is due to the fact that cultivating the Robusta plant is less intensive and therefore less expensive. It has a very strong taste and has extremely high levels of caffeine.
Liberica coffee is not well-known and considered to be rare. The Liberica plant requires a very specific climate to flourish, and the demand from a global marketplace would be a task too great for most farmers to fulfill. It was first harvested in the Philippines and it has a woody taste.
Excelsa is part of the Liberica coffee family and has a fruitier taste when compared to Liberica coffee. It shows attributes for both light and dark roast coffees, and despite being rare, it is sought-after by many coffee enthusiasts.