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Complexity of Coffee

Complexity of Coffee

Oct 31, 2021


Ryan Beckley

Complexity of coffee

Did you know that coffee is a very complex food? Let me tell you, that little coffee bean is just about as complex as they come. Having roasted around 100,000 lbs of them, I can tell you, I am learning something about coffee daily.  Here are a couple things to consider.

Do you know that little coffee bean is the seed of a coffee cherry. Food scientists have accounted for nearly 700 flavor compounds in a single coffee bean? That is correct. Within a coffee bean there are hundreds upon hundreds of nuanced flavors.

While there certainly is a noticeable difference between different coffees, those notes are still exist, among all the various coffee. Those differences might be expressed differently in aromatics or in taste as some flavors are more pronounced are in some cases more subdued.

Pulling the pleasurable notes and enjoyable flavors out of the coffee, and suppressing the less desirable notes is a challenge, it can also be an immensely rewarding experience. I often wonder what George Washington Carver felt when he was all his work and experiments with what many thought was a simple  peanut. Certainly, I am not creating hundreds of inventions as Mr. Carver has some famously achieved, I am simply try to deliver to my customers a coffee to the very best of my ability that enjoy drinking.  

That sounds much easy than it really is to accomplish. How complex is that coffee bean? Just think of the inputs that go into the growing of the coffee bean. I mentioned the approximate known 700 flavors, think of all the variables that impact each of those coffees as they grow.

 When you hear of some coffee roasters boasting of flavor notes such a blueberry of citrus, those reports are correct. Those flavor notes are possibly. Now whether you want your coffee to taste like blueberries is an entire different matter.

Before we get started, let me first point out that there is a tremendous difference that we have noticed in taste between the organic and conventional coffee bean. In has been my experience, that the organic coffee beans are harder to roast because the bean is not as large, uniform, and other factors including bean density can be impacted, through the use of chemicals agents in threat mediation to the plant and synthetic fertilizers to increase yield. Having said all that, once you get a handle on the profile, they organic coffee is a pleasure to drink. After all, coffee was organic before, it was ever conventional.

Let’s start out with a few variables give you an idea of the many things that can impact taste before the coffee ever makes it to our roastery. Certainly, flavor notes can vary from coffees grown in different regions. Variables such as soil content and altitudes can have roles influencing coffee bean flavor. Coffee is is grown in different types of soil such as being volcanic loam or clay minerals, which will have an impact.

Altitudes for Arabica coffee can very widely from 900 meters or less to over 2000 meters. The difference in altitude can play a role regarding bean density as well. Even night time temperatures or proximity to the equator can have an impact on the bean.

Let’s not forget the different types of plants within the “C” Arabica family of coffee. For example, there are many varieties such as Bourbon, Castillo, Caturra, to name just a few. Each of the varieties can have an impact on flavor. Typically coffee is harvested twice a year with pre and post crops, fly crops, and other harvesting that surrounds the regular schedule harvests. When and how the bean in harvested can make a huge difference in flavor.

Processing methods can vary widely from country to country. The various processing methods in particular country can affect the flavor dramatically. Processing methods such as washed or semi washed, and natural to name a few, all can have major impacts on the coffee.

After processing, storage of the bean can have an influence coffee flavor. Coffee beans need to be held at certain temperatures and humidity to avoid degrading the moisture content inherent in coffees by removing to much of it, but also to be carefully no to have too much moisture where molding occurs.

Within each of the few variables I have mentioned, there can be dozens and hundreds of other variables and opportunities for things to occur. The variables for coffee still keep coming as the beans have not even left the country of origin and , the  Next time you see one of those litte coffee beans, tip your hat, thst little bean carries quite a flavor variety.




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