So what differentiates good and awful coffee? There are major differences to the coffee beans themselves, how they are processed, and other factors. If you are a serious coffee person, you really should understand what makes the best (and worst) cup of brew:
The Microclimate Where The Beans Are Grown
Coffee beans come from all over the world. Different types of coffee beans grow best in different microclimates around the world. If a coffee grower plants Geisha beans in a microclimate that is not good for it, the coffee beans will not be good. The best coffee growers match the variety of coffee bean to the microclimate. This is where buying single estate coffee from a highly reputed coffee grower can really pay dividends.
How the Coffee Is Described by the Brewer
If the coffee company is using really generic terminology such as bold or smooth, it usually means that the coffee isn’t being grown by a high quality single estate or single origin grower. Single estate coffee growers take time to really develop the subtle flavor profile of the individual coffee bean. This will be reflected in the language that sells the coffee on the package.
How Much Time For Drying Process
After the coffee beans are picked, there are various ways to dry out the beans on the inside. They can either be laid out and dried over weeks, or mechanically dried. High quality beans from single estate sources will ensure no mold grows. Low quality beans are just left to sit in the sun because the higher labor costs are not worth it.
How Long It Is On The Shelf
Good single estate coffee bean sources will feature coffee beans that are fresh from the source, often within days or a week. A low quality producer of coffee has coffee beans sitting on the shelf for weeks.
How Much Coffee the Roaster Buys
There is a direct link between quality and quantity at the coffee farm level. The very highest quality coffee lots on earth are not available for the mass coffee producers to use. Small, single estate coffee companies can produce coffee beans in very small lots with a very specific flavor profile.
Roasting Process Hides Defects or Emphasizes Good Characteristics
Any coffee roaster can make coffee that is really well roasted and dark. This is how mass coffee producers hide bad coffee. Getting really complex, fruity or caramel flavors requires very high quality coffee beans that only are provided by single estate or single origin coffee growers.