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Your guide to coffee beans, how to pick the best for you

When it comes to coffee it’s all about the beans, but how much do you actually know about picking the right ones for you? You might discover a new favourite or completely change how you pick your beans to brew. Here’s your guide:

What are coffee beans?

Coffee beans are the seed of the coffee plant, which are used to produce coffee.

Where do they come from?

While the coffee plant originated in the African continent, in modern times coffee is grown all over the world. With demand growing over the last few decades, coffee varieties now come from outside traditional areas. Latin America is one huge producer of Arabica coffee beans, while Indonesia is also known for its extensive Robusta crops.

What are the beans?

The world’s coffee production can be split into two distinct groups. The majority consists of the Arabica (60 percent), which originated in the Ethiopia/Yemen region and the Robusta (40 percent) mostly found in the central and western sub-Saharan Africa.

How are they different?

There are stark differences between the two beans and as well as flavour, availability and price are also important factors that may influence your choice.  

The taste test

The Robusta and Arabica inevitably produce different flavours, so really it comes down to personal preference. The Robusta produces a bitter, burnt taste, while the Arabica – which contains twice as much sugar – is naturally sweeter. It creates a softer, fruiter and has a higher acidity.

If you want less caffeine

Not all coffee lovers can handle caffeine, so if you’re looking to cut down opt for Arabica over Robusta. The beans contain almost double the amount of caffeine as the Arabica beans. Caffeine has a bitter taste, so for those looking for a lighter flavour it’s another reason to choose Arabica.

Money factor

Robusta is the cheaper of the two beans, with Arabica around double the price of its rival beans. Easier to grow and with a more regular yield, Robusta crops can flourish at a low altitude and aren’t so vulnerable to weather and damage from animals. It’s not so easy to grow Arabica beans, which makes them more expensive, which is why most supermarkets will sell Robusta coffee.

Your coffee habits

How you plan to create your coffee is another important factor when it comes to the beans you chose. Robusta is often the choice for espresso drinkers as it’s strong, bitter flavour works well with the concentrated drink or when mixed with milk to produce lattes and flat whites. If you’re looking to cut down on your caffeine or don’t want added sugar, Arabica could be a better fit for you.

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