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Differences in coffee

What are the differences between the different coffees? What do I have to look out for to find the coffee I like best? What do the terms in the description of coffee mean? Below we try to summarize the most important answers to these questions.

Arabica und Robusta

The biggest differences in coffee are due to the origin of the coffee, the soil, the altitude at which it was grown, the experience with which the farmers work in the country. But also from the type of coffee plant and the way the picked coffee cherries are processed.

Origin of the coffee

Coffee is grown around the equator - and has been for centuries. Coffee is grown in more than 90 countries around the world, the largest being Brazil (35% share), Vietnam (14%), Indonesia (7%), Colombia (6%) and Ethiopia (5%). Although certain flavour characteristics are attributed to individual countries, in fact this is far too easy, because within the individual regions the regions differ in some cases massively (as in the case of wine). A great overview of the growing areas can be found in the coffee atlas.

With the origin the soil makes a big difference as well as the microclimate (heat, humidity). And the height at which coffee is grown. With the Arabica, the higher it was grown, the better the beans. There are various names for this, for example: Hard Bean (HB) for coffees grown between 1,200 and 1,500 meters and Strictly Hard Bean (SHB) for coffee grown even higher. Usually you will find in our shop coffees with these quality ratings.

Size of the coffee beans

Die Grösse der Bohnen wird teilweise auch mit einem Qualitätsrating verbunden. Geschmacklich hat die Grösse jedoch kaum einen Einfluss, daher haben wir die Bohnengrössen auch nicht angegeben in der Beschreibung. Für Dich als Röster ist aber wichtig, Dich auf die Grösse der Bohnen zu achten und dementsprechend die Röstzeiten etwas zu verkürzen oder zu verlängern.

Varieties

This is the place to go. I'm sure you know there's Arabica and Robusta. Correctly, we should be talking about Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora. These are two completely different types of coffee, actually like apples and pears. Besides Coffea Arabica and Coffea Canephora there are about 120 other species of the genus coffee, but only Arabica and Canephora (and to a lesser extent also Coffea Liberica) have a relevant economic significance. 

Each of these types of coffee has a large number of varieties, some of which are massively different in taste (for example, Catuai, Bourbon or Heirloom in Arabica or Conillon, Old Paradenia, or Robusta in Canephora).

Kaffee Ernte

Coffea Arabica

The most popular and widespread type of coffee with an enormous variety of flavours, which is mainly due to the fact that it has more oils than Robusta, for example. Grows at higher altitudes, has a higher sugar content but a lower caffeine content than Robusta. Good filter coffees are usually pure Arabicas. In espresso it is often blended.

The most common varieties of Arabica are: 

Typica

The primal variety. Produces coffee of high quality but with a comparatively low yield. Depending on the region, coffee has trade names such as Criollo, Sumatra or Arabigo.

Bourbon

It originated on La Réunion and today widespread. Is appreciated for its pronounced sweetness, complex acidity and balanced body.

Caturra

It is popular in the growing countries, because the yield is quite high and the coffee can be harvested easily because the plant is not so high.

Catuai

Developed in Brazil as a high quality bean with a good yield.

Maragogype

Is a cross between Arabica and Liberica with very large beans that taste mild and low in acidity.

SL-28

A high quality breeding from Ethiopia. The coffee has a strong fruit impact of blackcurrants.

Geisha

An aromatic, fruity top coffee with a clear jasmine note, which is popular in all coffee championships.

Coffea Canephora (Robusta)

Robusta, the most common variety of Canephora coffee got its name because it is ... very resistant, less sensitive than Arabica and can be planted well even at lower altitudes. The taste of Canephora is rather woody, with little acids for heavy body. Cheap coffee (for example Instant) is usually Canephora. High-quality coffee of this kind (for example Parchment from India) is often used in espresso mixes in order to reduce the acidity of the espresso and to emphasize the body. It also makes the crema last longer and contains more caffeine.

Coffea Liberica

It would have been nice - a resistant coffee with high yield and high caffeine content. Only unfortunately with getting used to taste. Depending on the degree of roast and variety, the aromas of fruity and floral notes (strawberry, jackfruit, mango, banana) to the lactic range (mascarpone, fresh cream). The coffee is actually only suitable for light roasts. For dark roasts, the notes go in the direction of very sweet blue cheese and ripe cheddar (thanks for the precise flavour description, Owe!). If you have the opportunity, then try out the coffee.

Harvesting methods with coffee

As with wine, the coffee harvest takes place once a year in most growing areas and not only the farmers, but also the roasters are always curious about the quality of the latest coffee harvest.

Mechanical harvesting

In large growing areas and especially in the lowlands, the coffee cherries (in each cherry, there are usually two seeds or coffee beans) harvested with machines. Although this is inexpensive, but it will be harvested at the same time ripe, unripe and overripe fruits, which are then sorted out hopefully. 

Strip-Picking

This is a hand harvest, in which, however, all fruits of the tree are collected at the same time and later sorted out. Due to the cost pressure of bulk coffee, this method is widely used, but here too immature, ripe and overripe fruits are thrown together.

Hand picking / selective hand harvesting

Only the ripe fruits are harvested by hand. A lot of work, as the workers have to go through the plantations several times until they have harvested all the fruits. This is reflected in the price - but also in the quality of the coffee.  

Preparation of green coffee

Since the topic is very extensive, you will find the information in a separate post.


Ingo Albrecht Kaffee

More questions? We're here for you.

Do you have any further questions about the roaster? I'm a trained roaster and a member of the Specialty Coffee Association and the Roasters Guild of Europe, working with the machine every day. Please contact me at any time.

Telephone +41 76 261 97 17 or Email ingo[at]roastrebels.com

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