May 25

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Explore The Different Types Of Green Coffee Beans

By Hanson Cheng

May 25, 2023


Green coffee beans are the unroasted seeds of the coffee plant that are packed with essential nutrients and chemical compounds. These green coffee beans have significantly gained popularity over the past few years due to their potential health benefits, including weight loss, improved heart health, and reduced blood sugar levels. One of the fascinating aspects of green coffee beans is that there isn’t just one type of bean available on the market. In this article, we will explore the different types of green coffee beans and their unique characteristics.

Understanding Green Coffee Beans

Green coffee beans refer to unprocessed coffee beans that have been harvested, but not yet roasted. They are green because the roasting process is what gives coffee beans their characteristic brown color. Green coffee beans are known for their high content of chlorogenic acid, a potent antioxidant that is thought to have various health benefits.

However, it should be noted that green coffee beans are not suitable for consumption in their raw form. Instead, they must be roasted before they can be brewed into coffee. As such, the quality of green coffee beans is critical as it directly affects the taste and aroma of the final product.

History

The history of green coffee beans can be traced back to Ethiopia, where the plant was first discovered. According to legend, a goat herder named Kaldi noticed that his goats became more energetic after consuming the berries of a certain plant. Kaldi tried the berries himself and experienced a similar boost of energy, leading him to share his discovery with others.

From Ethiopia, coffee cultivation spread to other parts of Africa, and eventually to the Middle East and Europe. In the 16th century, coffee became a popular commodity in Europe, with cities like Venice and Marseilles becoming major centers of the coffee trade.

During this time, the Dutch also began cultivating coffee in their colony of Java, leading to the widespread adoption of Arabica and Robusta varieties. In the 19th century, coffee production expanded to Central and South America, as well as parts of Asia. Today, coffee is one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world, with an estimated 25 million people employed in the coffee industry globally.

Cultivation

The cultivation of green coffee beans involves specific methods to ensure high-quality beans are produced. Coffee plants, which are native to tropical regions, thrive in environments that provide the right amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients. Planting typically occurs in the early spring, and specific techniques such as direct seeding or transplanting can be used. Coffee plants require consistent watering and fertilization, with some varieties requiring shade to maintain optimal growth conditions.

Once the plants reach maturity, they flower and produce fruit, commonly known as coffee cherries. It is essential to harvest the cherries at the appropriate time, as they become sweeter as they ripen. Handpicking is the most common method of harvesting, but machine harvesting is becoming more popular. After harvest, the cherries are processed, and the beans are separated and dried. These beans are then sorted, graded, and packaged for export or roasting.

There are several different varieties of coffee plant, each with its characteristics. Arabica and Robusta are the most commonly grown varieties. Arabica coffee plants produce quality beans that have a mild flavor, moderate acidity, and lower caffeine content. They are grown in high altitudes, and their trees are known for their majestic size. Robusta coffee plants, on the other hand, are more robust and can grow in low altitudes, making them less expensive and easier to cultivate. They have a stronger, more bitter taste and contain more caffeine than Arabica beans.

Other factors that affect the flavor and quality of green coffee beans include the geographic location of the plantation, soil type, weather conditions, and altitude. Environmental factors such as rainfall, temperature, and sunlight have a significant impact on the growth and development of the coffee plant and ultimately, the coffee bean. For instance, coffee grown in volcanic soil tends to have a unique flavor profile and is highly sought after by coffee aficionados.

Additionally, certain coffee-growing regions are famed for producing beans with distinctive flavors, such as Colombian coffee, which has a nutty, chocolatey taste. Cultivation is a vital aspect of the production of green coffee beans. It requires careful planning and execution to ensure high-quality beans that meet the demands of the coffee market. Understanding the various factors that affect the growth and development of the coffee plant is essential in producing quality beans that can compete on the global market.

Types of Green Coffee Beans

Arabica

Arabica coffee is known for its delicate and nuanced flavor profile that includes notes of fruit, chocolate, and acidity. Arabica coffee beans are an essential part of the specialty coffee industry, representing 60% of the world’s coffee. Arabica beans are grown at higher altitudes, often on steep slopes, and in environments with a consistent temperature and plenty of rainfall. The plants are relatively fragile and susceptible to pests, which often makes them more expensive to produce. The beans themselves are small and elongated with a curved shape and a thin skin that is easily removed during processing.

Arabica coffee is often referred to as “fine coffee” because of its high-quality flavor profiles. The most common Arabica varietals include Bourbon, Typica, and Caturra, each with unique flavor characteristics. Bourbon, for example, has a rich chocolate flavor, while Typica is often known for its fruity acidity. Coffees made from Arabica beans are typically more acidic, with a light to medium body. The beans are lighter in color than Robusta beans and often have a floral aroma that is highly sought after by coffee enthusiasts. India, Colombia, Brazil, and Ethiopia are some of the largest producers of Arabica coffee.

While Arabica coffee is more expensive to produce, it is often considered the higher quality of the two main coffee species, Arabica and Robusta. Due to its complex and unique flavor profile, there is a high demand for Arabica coffee among specialty coffee drinkers. The challenging growing conditions and the more delicate nature of the plant often result in a higher price tag, but many coffee enthusiasts believe the flavor is worth the cost.

Robusta

Robusta coffee beans are known for their strong flavor and high caffeine content. They are grown in warmer climates, primarily in West and Central Africa, as well as parts of Southeast Asia. Robusta beans are smaller and rounder than Arabica beans, and have a distinct taste profile compared to their more popular cousin. They are often used in blends to add a boldness and earthiness to the flavor.

The plants themselves are hardier than Arabica plants, and can thrive in less-than-ideal climates and soil conditions. Robusta beans also contain more antioxidants than Arabica beans, but are less complex in flavor. The high caffeine content and lower price point of Robusta beans make them a popular choice for mass-produced coffee products. However, specialty coffee roasters are also beginning to experiment with single-origin Robusta beans to create unique and flavorful new blends.

Liberica

Liberica is a type of green coffee bean that is known for its distinct and unique flavor profile. The Liberica tree is native to West Africa, but it is grown in various parts of Southeast Asia today. The beans produced by the Liberica tree are large in size, and they are oval in shape. The outer layer of the bean is rough and tough, making it difficult to process compared to other coffee beans. Liberica beans are often used in blends to add complexity and flavor.

The unique aspect of Liberica beans is that they have a smoky, woody taste, and they are also known for their floral and fruity notes. Liberica coffee is an acquired taste, as the flavor profile is quite different from other beans. It has a low acidity level, a full body, and a slightly bitter aftertaste that lingers in the mouth. Liberica coffee trees are resistant to pests and diseases, making them an ideal choice for farmers in regions prone to such issues.

Excelsa

Excelsa is a type of coffee bean that is native to Southeast Asia. It is often grouped with Robusta beans, as they share many characteristics. Excelsa coffee plants can grow up to 20 feet tall, and the beans are larger than those of Arabica plants, but smaller than those of Robusta plants. The flavor profile of Excelsa coffee is complex, with notes of fruit and dark chocolate. The acidity level is lower than that of Arabica beans, but higher than that of Robusta beans.

Excelsa coffee is known for its unique aroma, which is often described as spicy or nutty. It is often used in blends to add complexity to the overall flavor profile. Excelsa beans are generally less common than Arabica and Robusta beans, and are often more expensive due to their rarity. However, the unique flavor and aroma make them a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts who appreciate unusual tasting experiences.

Processing Methods

Washed Processing

Washed coffee beans are those that undergo the wet processing method. This method is commonly used in Central and South America, as well as in some African countries. The washed process involves removing the cherry fruit from the coffee bean within 24 hours of harvesting. This is done through a pulping machine that separates the outer skin from the coffee bean.

The beans are then soaked in water for one to two days to promote the fermentation of the remaining fruit. Next, the beans are washed in clean water to remove any leftover fruit. Finally, the beans are dried either in the sun or through mechanical drying methods to bring down the moisture content to around 11%.

Washed coffee beans produce a clean taste that is free of defects or inconsistency. This processing method highlights the intrinsic flavors of the coffee bean, making it a popular choice for specialty coffee. Washed coffee beans are also referred to as wet-processed coffee beans, which distinguishes them from other processing methods.

Natural Processing

The natural processing method is one of the oldest and most traditional methods of processing coffee beans. This process involves leaving the entire coffee cherry to dry in the sun before removing the outer layer and separating the bean from the fruit. This technique is the least invasive, meaning that the coffee beans maintain most of their original flavor profiles and natural characteristics.

Natural coffee beans are known for their fruity and sweet taste, which is why they are often the preferred choice for specialty coffee blends. However, because the beans are left to dry for an extended period, they can be prone to over-fermentation and mold growth if not carefully monitored, which can negatively impact the quality and flavor of the final product.

Honey Processing

The Honey processing method is a type of coffee processing that preserves some of the fruit’s sweetness while removing the outer skin. Honey processing is also known as pulped natural. Honey coffee refers to coffee beans that are processed using the honey method. Honey processing involves removing the skin and pulp from the coffee cherries. However, unlike the washed method, honey processing does not remove all of the fruit or mucilage.

Instead, the coffee beans are left with a sticky layer of fruit on them that is then allowed to dry. During drying, the layer of fruit dries onto the coffee beans, imparting a sweet taste that’s similar to honey. The honey method is a flexible processing method, and the amount of fruit left on the beans can be adjusted according to the desired outcome. Depending on the amount of fruit left on the beans, honey coffee can range from white honey (minimal fruit) to black honey (maximum fruit).

The honey process has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its unique taste profile and the way it retains some of the sweetness of the coffee fruit. Honey coffee beans tend to have a medium-to-heavy body and can exhibit a range of flavor notes, from fruity (such as grape, strawberry, or raspberry) to nutty or chocolatey tones.

The exact flavor profile will depend on the specifics of the honey process used (such as drying time and the amount of fruit left intact) and the type of coffee beans used. In general, honey coffee is considered to be a middle ground between washed and natural coffee, offering some of the flavor complexity of natural coffee without the sometimes-overpowering fruitiness.

The honey processing method is often used in areas where there is a shortage of water. It’s also a good option for coffee producers who want to experiment with different processing methods to create unique flavor profiles. In general, honey coffee tends to be more expensive than washed varieties due to the increased labor involved in its processing and the lower yield of beans. However, for those who value unique taste profiles and are willing to pay a premium, honey coffee is an exciting option to explore.

Semi-washed Processing

Semi-washed coffee beans, also known as pulped natural or honey processed coffee beans, are a hybrid of the washed and natural processing methods. In this method, the cherries are pulped to remove the skin and fruit but some of the fruity mucilage is left on the bean. The beans are then dried with this mucilage still attached, resulting in a slightly sweet and fruity flavor profile that is characteristic of natural beans.

However, the removal of the skin and fruit pulp before drying helps to reduce the chance of defects and mold growth, resulting in a cleaner cup. Semi-washed beans are typically dried on raised beds and can be sun-dried or mechanically dried depending on the producer’s preference. The drying process takes longer than the washed method but less time than the natural method. Semi-washed beans are becoming increasingly popular due to their unique flavor profile and the reduction of defects in comparison to natural beans.

Geographical Regions Producing Green Coffee Beans

Latin America

Latin America is a unique region that produces some of the world’s best green coffee beans. The region is known for its high-quality Arabica coffee, which is grown in countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. The majority of the coffee grown in this region is shade-grown, which means that coffee plants are protected by tropical trees that provide a suitable habitat for birds, insects, and other wildlife.

This method of farming helps to promote biodiversity and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, the region’s diverse microclimates, altitude, and soil composition create unique flavor profiles that are highly sought after. For instance, Colombian coffee beans are known for their mild, well-balanced taste, while Brazilian coffee often has chocolatey notes and a heavy body.

Costa Rican coffee, on the other hand, is known for its bright acidity and floral aroma, while Guatemalan coffee has a complex flavor profile with hints of citrus, chocolate, and spice. Furthermore, Latin American coffee growers are committed to sustainable farming practices and have implemented several environmentally friendly initiatives such as water conservation, organic farming, and fair trade policies.

Africa

Africa is home to many notable coffee-growing regions, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The continent produces a diverse array of green coffee beans with unique flavor profiles and characteristics. Ethiopian coffee, for example, is known for its floral and citrus notes, while Kenyan coffee is characterized by its bright acidity and fruity flavors.

Tanzanian coffee often exhibits a delicate body and wine-like aroma, while Ugandan coffee is known for its full-bodied richness. The coffee beans grown in Africa are typically high-quality and have a reputation for excellence in the specialty coffee market.

Asia

The Asian region is home to a variety of green coffee beans that are known for their unique taste profiles. The most popular types of coffee beans in Asia are grown in Indonesia, India, and Vietnam. Indonesian coffee beans, particularly those from Sumatra and Java, are famous for their low acidity and full-bodied flavor. These beans are processed using the wet-hulling method, which gives them a distinct earthy and spicy flavor.

Indian coffee beans are grown in the southwestern region of India and are known for their mild acidity and nutty flavor. Unlike Indonesian coffee beans, Indian beans are processed using the dry method, which involves drying the beans in the sun. This gives them a fruity and complex flavor profile. Vietnamese coffee beans are also a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts.

The country’s warm and humid climate is ideal for growing coffee, and its beans are known for their smooth and chocolatey flavor. Vietnamese coffee beans are usually roasted dark and used to make strong, rich coffee. These beans are often blended with other types of coffee beans to create a unique flavor profile. Other countries in Asia, such as Thailand and the Philippines, are also known for their coffee production, although they are not as widely recognized as Indonesia, India, and Vietnam.

The taste of Asian coffee beans is influenced by a range of factors, including the altitude at which the beans are grown, the climate, and the soil conditions. For example, Indonesian coffee beans grown at high altitudes tend to have a higher acidity level compared to beans grown at lower altitudes.

Similarly, Indian coffee beans grown in wet and tropical regions tend to have a brighter acidity level compared to beans grown in dry regions. Understanding these factors is essential for selecting the right type of green coffee beans for roasting and brewing. Overall, Asia is a diverse region with a rich coffee culture and a variety of unique green coffee beans to discover.

Oceania

Oceania is a region of the world that encompasses thousands of islands across the Pacific Ocean. The countries of Australia and Papua New Guinea are the largest in the region and the primary producers of green coffee beans. Oceania coffee beans are grown in high altitudes, and the tropical climate and volcanic soil create the ideal environment for coffee plantations.

The coffee from this region is highly sought after due to its unique flavor profile. The coffee beans are typically wet processed and have a floral, fruity, and bright profile that is recognized worldwide. Each country’s coffee beans in Oceania have their own unique flavors that can be attributed to the distinct soil, climate, and altitude conditions.

Papua New Guinea’s coffee beans, for instance, have a smoky and spicy flavor due to the volcanic soil in which they grow, while Australia’s coffee beans have a sweet and chocolatey taste that is the result of the bean’s long exposure to the sun. Overall, Oceania coffee beans represent a unique and highly sought-after variety of green coffee beans that offer a distinct flavor profile that can only be found in this region.

Flavor Profiles

Fruity

One of the most sought-after flavor profiles in green coffee beans is fruity. This flavor profile is characterized by fruity and sometimes tangy notes that are reminiscent of berries, citrus, and stone fruit. Some of the most common flavors associated with the fruity profile include blueberries, strawberries, lemons, and apricots. In addition to these primary flavors, there may be secondary notes of floral or nutty flavors that add complexity to the coffee. The fruity profile is often described as bright, lively, and acidic, making it a favorite among coffee enthusiasts who prefer a more refreshing and vibrant brew.

There are several different varietals of green coffee beans that are known for their fruity flavor profile. Some of the most popular are the Pacamara and Bourbon varietals, which are grown in Central and South America. Ethiopian coffee, which is known for its fruity and floral notes, is another popular choice among coffee lovers. The growing conditions and processing methods used for green coffee beans can also play a role in the fruitiness of the flavor profile.

For example, beans that are grown at high altitudes or in volcanic soil may have more pronounced fruit flavors due to the unique conditions in which they were grown. In terms of roasting, the fruity flavor profile is best preserved when beans are roasted to a medium level. Roasting too dark can diminish the bright and fruity flavors, resulting in a more bitter and earthy taste. When brewing coffee with fruity notes, it’s important to use the right brewing method to bring out the best flavors.

Pour-over and French press brewing methods are often recommended for green coffee beans with fruity notes, as they allow the flavors to fully develop and express themselves. Overall, the fruity flavor profile is a popular choice among coffee drinkers who prefer a brighter, more refreshing flavor in their brew. With a wide variety of varietals and growing conditions to choose from, there are plenty of options available for those who wish to explore this flavor profile further.

Nutty

The nutty flavor profile is highly sought after by coffee connoisseurs and is often described as having a rich, toasted, and nutty aroma with a smooth and creamy texture. The nutty taste of coffee can be attributed to the type of green coffee beans used and the roasting process. Some of the most popular types of green coffee beans that possess a nutty flavor profile include Brazilian Santos, Colombian Supremo, and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Brazilian Santos is a mild coffee that is creamy and has a nutty aftertaste.

The coffee beans from this region are known for their low acidity and have a full-bodied flavor. The Colombian Supremo, on the other hand, has a medium acidity and a rich nuttiness that is similar to a hazelnut flavor. The coffee from this region is known for its bold flavor and balanced acidity. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is a highly complex coffee that has a distinct nutty flavor with hints of chocolate and fruit. This coffee has a sweet taste and is highly aromatic, making it a favorite among coffee enthusiasts.

Additionally, the nuttiness in coffee can also be attributed to the roasting process. When coffee beans are roasted, they release oils and sugars that give coffee its distinctive flavor. The longer the roasting process, the more the coffee beans are caramelized, which results in a nuttier flavor. Therefore, lighter roasted coffee tends to have a more acidic taste, while darker roasted coffee typically has a nuttier flavor profile.

The nutty flavor profile is a highly sought after characteristic in coffee, and it can be attributed to the type of green coffee beans used and the roasting process. Some of the most popular types of green coffee beans that possess a nutty flavor profile include Brazilian Santos, Colombian Supremo, and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. Additionally, the roasting process also contributes to the nuttiness of coffee. As such, lighter roasted coffee is typically more acidic, while darker roasted coffee has a nutttier flavor profile.

Chocolatey

Chocolatey is a flavor profile that is often found in green coffee beans. This flavor profile is characterized by notes of chocolate, cocoa, and sometimes even hints of caramel. Coffee beans with a chocolatey flavor profile are often associated with a smooth and creamy mouthfeel that is reminiscent of hot cocoa.

The chocolatey flavor profile is highly sought after by coffee enthusiasts who enjoy a rich and indulgent cup of coffee. It is often a popular choice for those who prefer their coffee with a little bit of sweetness, as the chocolatey notes can be enhanced with a touch of sugar or cream. Some of the different varieties of coffee beans that are known for their chocolatey flavor profile include Colombian Supremo, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and Tanzanian Peaberry.

When roasting coffee beans with a chocolatey flavor profile, it is important to carefully monitor the roasting process in order to ensure that the beans do not become burnt or bitter. Overall, the chocolatey flavor profile is a delicious and indulgent option for coffee drinkers who appreciate the sweeter things in life.

Floral

The floral flavor profile of green coffee beans is derived from floral and herbal notes present in the beans. Like the fruity flavor profile, the floral profile is considered a subcategory of aromatics. Different varieties of green coffee beans have varying degrees of floral flavor profiles, with some beans having a pronounced floral taste, while others have more subdued floral notes. The degree of floral taste can be influenced by factors such as altitude, climate, and soil.

While some floral notes may resemble the perfume-like quality of jasmine, others may have a more herbaceous quality similar to lavender or rosemary. Some of the most common floral varieties of green coffee beans include Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Ethiopian Sidamo, Kenyan, and Colombian. Ethiopian Sidamo, for example, is known for its floral aroma that is often described as jasmine and bergamot, while Kenyan beans are known for their savory and complex floral notes with hints of black currant.

Colombian beans, on the other hand, are known for their floral aromatics with notes of caramel and chocolate. The floral flavor profile of green coffee beans can be appreciated by coffee drinkers who enjoy lighter roasts and are looking for a more nuanced and delicate flavor.

Floral notes can also provide a refreshing contrast to the more robust and earthy flavors found in other coffee varieties. The floral flavor profile can be brought out in different brewing methods such as pour-over, cold brew, and French press. It’s important to note that the taste of floral notes can be affected by brewing temperature and time, so adjusting these variables can bring out different characteristics in the coffee.

The different types of green coffee beans – FAQs

1. What are green coffee beans?

Green coffee beans are unroasted coffee beans that are harvested and dried before being roasted. They are essentially raw coffee beans that have a green color and a mild flavor compared to roasted beans.

2. What are the different types of green coffee beans?

The different types of green coffee beans largely depend on their country of origin, altitudes, and growing conditions. There are several types of green coffee beans, including Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, Excelsa, and Maragogype.

3. What is the difference between Arabica and Robusta green coffee beans?

Arabica green coffee beans are known for their mild and sweet flavor, while Robusta green coffee beans have a stronger and harsher taste. Arabica beans are more expensive than Robusta beans due to their delicate growth conditions and lower yield.

4. What are Liberica green coffee beans?

Liberica green coffee beans are a rare type of coffee bean that originated in West and Central Africa. They have a distinct, unusual taste with hints of floral and fruity notes that make them a favorite among coffee connoisseurs.

5. What is Excelsa green coffee bean?

Excelsa green coffee beans are a type of coffee bean that are often confused with Liberica beans. Similar to Liberica beans, they also have a unique flavor profile with notes of tart and fruity attributes.

6. What is Maragogype green coffee bean?

Maragogype green coffee beans, also known as “elephant beans,” are one of the largest coffee beans in the world. They have a mild, sweet flavor and are often prized for their rarity and distinctiveness.

Hanson Cheng

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