The first step in brewing a great cup of gourmet coffee is selecting high-quality coffee beans. High-quality gourmet coffee beans produce more full-bodied and aromatic cups of coffee than lower-quality beans. Although there’s a seemingly endless variety of coffee roasts, blends and flavors, nearly all of the coffee in the world comes from just two types of beans: Arabica and Robusta.
Harvesting and Roasting Gourmet Coffee Beans
Coffee beans come from the center of a coffee plant’s fruit, also known as the “cherry.” Typically, the coffee cherry holds two half beans. In rare cases, however, the cherry holds one larger bean instead. These large beans, known as peaberries, have a robust flavor and result in exceptionally smooth, aromatic coffee. Peaberry coffee is a rare treat, and it typically commands a much higher price than other types of coffee.
After coffee beans are harvested, they are processed using either a wet or dry method. The result is “green” coffee beans. The final step in the process is roasting the coffee beans. Roasted coffee beans may be light, dark or anything in between. The level of roasting affects the flavor of the coffee.
Arabica Coffee Beans
Arabica coffee beans are highly sought-after gourmet coffee beans. Some of the best coffees in the world are made from Arabica beans, since roasted Arabica beans result in a pleasantly mild, aromatic coffee. Arabica beans grow at a higher altitude–and are typically more expensive–than Robusta beans.
Robusta Coffee Beans
Robusta coffee beans are more widely available and less expensive than Arabica beans. Robusta crops also grow to maturity in half the time it takes Arabica beans, and they are heartier, which means they can be grown in more regions. The tradeoff is that Robusta beans result in a slightly more bitter cup of coffee with less body. Robusta coffee beans have a higher caffeine level than Arabica beans.