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Common Coffee Myths and Misconceptions

Common Coffee Myths and Misconceptions

Are espresso beans different than regular coffee beans?

There is no fundamental difference between espresso beans, and “normal” coffee beans. Any bean can be used for espresso or for another kind of coffee preparation, but there are some caveats. Naturally, like grapes or tobacco or barley, a coffee's flavor depends on where its grown, the elevation, the temperature, the amount of sun and many other factors. All of these contribute to the different proteins, acids, minerals in the coffee that are developed when roasted. During the cupping process, tasters and roasters (that’s us!) evaluate the base flavors in the coffee and decide how this coffee would taste best. During roasting, the flavors are developed and accentuated to the desired taste. Some beans taste great roasted light or dark, and some beans are suited for only one roast level.

The key is to be intentional when picking and roasting beans. Espresso is commonly drunk either straight up or mixed with steamed milk and maybe some syrup. To stand up to the flavored syrups, you need a strong and very roasted espresso. Our Milano Espresso Blend is selected, roasted, and designed to be paired with milk and sugar to craft a balanced drink. Likewise, our Midnight Lotus is made to be drank by itself, saturated with dried fruit notes and layered chocolate. If we were to take one of our lighter roasted single origins like Costa Rica or Guatemala, it may not work out the way we would like.

  • Dark-roasted coffee beans are more porous and absorb water more effectively in a puck of espresso.
  • Light-roasted coffee beans are less porous and take longer to absorb water.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get delicious espresso from light roasted coffee, it just means that you’ll have to be very specific and intentional about pulling the shot.

Natural, Anaerobic Fermented, or Washed?

When thinking natural process, think dry. In the natural process the coffee cherry is harvested and laid out in the sun immediately on raised beds to dry. In a perfect world, all coffee cherry is harvested at their peak ripeness. Coffee is a very labor-intensive crop because cherry ripens inconsistently. This drying may take up to two weeks, during which the evaporation causes all the fruit-pulp sugars to concentrate onto the fruit and ferment. Once fully dry, the fruit around the bean is removed.

The natural process is very common in places like Costa Rica, Brazil, and Ethiopia. It can be more affordable for the grower because it doesn’t require more machinery, however the results can be inconsistent for this very reason. Natural coffees taste concentrated and woody with lingering notes of layered fruit and sugar. Think funky-fruity-ferment-y.

So, if the coffee is fermented anyway, what does anaerobic have to do with it?

Anaerobic process means deprived of oxygen. This can be done in a vat, bag, or any container with a 2-way valve to release the oxygen. This allows the beans to be fermented for longer without the unpleasant tastes of overfermentation, and gives the producer increased control and consistency over the beans.

Why wash the beans, anyway?

Washed coffee beans go through a wet processing method, as opposed to natural beans, which go through a dry processing method. At the end of the day, that’s all this means. These are all different processing methods that suit different origins and produce different flavors from the crop. Washed beans are the most common because it’s affordable at a large scale. After the coffee cherry is picked, instead of being laid out on raised beds or sealed in an oxygen-free bag, the cherry is delivered to a wet mill. The wet mill floats and washes the fruit to sort them, and then moves them through a machine that takes all the pulp off the fruit. It is then fermented in tanks to break down the remaining mucilage and then washed again. Once squeaky clean and pulp free, they can be dried. This process is not the same in every origin either. We’ve summarized it, but “washes” can mean different things depending on the mill, country, and grower etc.

Which Has More Caffeine: Light Roast or Dark Roast Coffee?

Turns out caffeine is pretty stable! Bean for bean, there is no fundamental difference in the levels of caffeine in dark and light roasted coffee. This myth comes from a weight difference most likely. Light roasted beans, because they’re roasted for less time, have a greater water content and thus, weigh more. If you were to weigh out 1lb of light roast and 1lb of dark roast, you would have an estimated 90 grams more in the bag of dark roasted coffee.

What does this mean for the home brewer? If you measure your morning brew by volume (scooping your coffee) then light roast will have more caffeine. If you measure by weight, then dark roast will have more caffeine.

Is Single Origin Coffee Better Quality? More Reliable? What Gives?

Is single origin always better? Not necessarily! We’ve written in the past about our direct trade relationships in our Uganda blog; ultimately, single origin does not always mean more ethical. Practically, single origin is more a description of taste than it is of ethics. Coffee from one place will have specific and limited taste profile, and this is good or bad depending on what you want. The benefit of a blend is being able to add acidity from one coffee, chocolatiness from another, smooth body from a different one, and so on. Some single origin coffees are very distinct and remarkable, and some need a little help and are better for blending. Single origin coffee is not necessarily better or worse, it just depends on application and desired results.

Dispelling the Myths

Fret no longer, coffee lover! Now that these ancient coffee myths and misconceptions have been dispelled form your mind, order with confidence the next time you’re in a café. Coffee is to be loved and savored by all, and the Dude is happy to keep you informed in all thing’s coffee

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