About Buying Coffee Beans..
While there is no guarantee that you will definitely love the coffee that you brew from that bag of beans you are about to buy, here are some tips to help you choose, or narrow down which coffees to buy, and which to avoid.
Firstly, it is important to note that while most coffees are labeled either for FILTER or ESPRESSO, there is no hard and fast rule that says a FILTER coffee can only be used for FILTER methods, and the same goes for ESPRESSO labels. Basically, any coffee can be used for brewing on a Filter/Pourover method, and any coffee can be used to make an Espresso on an espresso machine. So why are the coffees labeled 'Filter' or 'Espresso'? This is generally to make it easier for anyone to make a simple purchase decision. If you are using it on an espresso machine, get our espresso blend - we designed this for espresso drinks, and we're using this across all our cafes! Having labels helps the buyer narrow down his purchase decision from the variety of choices he may be presented with. This is the simplified solution. However, as you begin to brew and buy more and more coffees from roasters, you may start to be more discerning about what you are actually buying.
ESPRESSO ROAST or FILTER ROAST?
See, a roaster designs the roast profile based on how they want this coffee to turn out.
For most cafes, the espresso drinks sold comprise largely of milk based espressos such as lattes and cappuccinos, with long blacks and espresso shots taking a smaller percentage of the orders. A roaster has to ensure that the coffee he roasts for the Espresso bar will be able to go well with the addition of milk..ie. this espresso will have to cut through the milk. In order to do so, he needs a roast that is usually much darker, deeper, and with more body so as not to be lost in all that milk. This roast is usually roasted longer, with more development, than the same coffee he roasts for Filter. That same coffee, if it were to also be roasted for his Filter Bar, would then usually be roasted much differently from his espresso roasts. With Filters, the extraction is different, and (usually!) no milk is added to this filter brew. A filter roast, will then be designed to showcase the inherent flavours/qualities of this coffee. In order to do so, the roast cannot be too dark, as a darker roast would bring out a lot more roastery flavours, musking the beans’ actual flavours. Hence, a Filter Roast, is usually roasted much lighter, with a shorter development.
So really, an Espresso Roast generally just means a Darker, Deeper, Roastier Coffee, usually with lower acidity and higher body. This espresso roasted coffee can also be brewed in a Filter/Pourover method for a darker coffee of similar characteristics.Which means then, that a Filter Roast, generally means, a Lighter coffee, usually with higher acidity and lesser body. This Filter Roast coffee can also be used to extract an espresso or a long black. However, as I mentioned above, this Filter roasted coffee was not designed to complement milk, so you may want to add very little or no milk to this coffee even. Straight up (filter roast) espressos would usually be much brighter, and punchier.
Note that I am using the terms ‘generally’ and ‘usually’ so as not to generalize every roastery out there.
BLENDS OR SINGLE ORIGINS?
What is a Blend?
A blend is any mixture of at least 2 types of coffees. It could be a blend of different coffees from the same origin in different processing methods, or it could be a blend of different coffees from different estates/origins/farmers..etc or it could even be a blend of the same coffee roasted differently.
What is a Single Origin?
A single origin, as its name suggests, is a crop or lot of coffee that comes from a single place/farm/estate/farmer/region/cooperative.
Why create a Blend?
A blend is usually created as a form of Identity for that particular roastery. A house blend is usually rather consistent with its flavour profile and that unique flavour profie is what their customers enjoy and return for. A blend’s coffee components may change with each season based on the season’s harvest, but usually, the blend’s profile would be similar as that is what customers associate this particular blend with.
Blends can also be created for special occasions, for eg. Christmas, Valentine's Day, ...etc Taste profiles would be created specially for these occasions to reflect this particular holiday's association. For example, taste notes popular with Christmas blends may include gingerbread, caramel, cinnamon, cranberries, nuts, cocoa, pumpkin..etc tastes that are familiarly associated with this season.
Blends can also be created for well, FUN! To add a little variance to a cafe's daily offering, a cafe may choose to serve up a deeper, darker blend, alongside a lighter, fruitier blend.
Why serve Single Origins?
A single origin allows us to enjoy a taste profile that the producer of that particular lot of coffee has created by the way he farms, harvests and processes his coffee. Specialty Single Origins are coffees that cup at and above 80 (out of 100), and the cup quality of that lot is determined by certified Q graders. Tasting single origins also help us appreciate how the processing method, and varietal as well as region lead to different taste characteristics as well as flavour profiles.
You may have seen these words ‘Natural/Sundried’, ‘Honey’, ‘Pulped Natural’, Washed, Semi-Washed on bag labels next to the name of the single origins or blends. Processing is how the raw green unroasted coffee beans are retrieved from the coffee cherries. A same lot processed using different methods will result in an overall different cup profile.
This is a rather long topic so generally, here’s a rough idea:
Washed – Cleaner, lighter bodies, may be more acidic.
Natural/Sundried – Heavy body, usually sweeter and fruitier, murkier, usually lesser acidity.
Honey – (White/Yellow/Pink/Red/Orange/Black) – In varying levels of body and acidity and clean feel, between Washed and Natural. The lighter the color descripter (White) the closer it is to a Washed. The darker the color description (Black), the closer it is to a Natural. Pulped Naturals are similar to Honeys, as are Winey processes…etc.
Producers of specialty coffees are always coming out with new processing methods to create different flavour profiles for their coffees, so it is no surprise to see a new processing method labeled on a coffee. Project Origin is one of such producers that has been actively developing new processing methods.