Been in the US for five years, and after many discussions with customers I realized that many coffee lovers out there have limited knowledge of coffee terminology. We are all bombarded daily with opinions and advice from "coffee connoisseurs" that are usually confusing and misleading. How many times have we stood in line to buy coffee and just stared at the menu, trying to figure out the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans, or between latte and cappuccino. In other words, how do we know what coffee we like and how can we discover what we actually like? To answer these nice questions in very simple terms, I'll try to cover everything about coffee — the main differences, ways of brewing, and also some machinery recommendations (why not ?).
Let's start from the basics — the coffee bean. There are four main types of coffee beans : Arabica, Robusta, and the less common Excelsa and Liberica. I will focus on the first two, because these days it is very difficult to find Excelsa and Liberica beans. Arabica is the most popular type of coffee.That’s because it actually has a sweeter, more delicate flavor, and the coffee itself tends to be less acidic. Arabica beans are farmed in areas with high elevations above sea level, particularly those where rain is plentiful. The interesting thing is that even though it’s the most popular coffee , it doesn’t have as much caffeine as Robusta. While Arabica is more popular, Robusta is cheaper and stronger. Robusta coffee beans have almost double the amount of caffeine compared to Arabica beans—in fact, caffeine is what makes Robusta plants so robust! (So, its name is no coincidence.) This coffee species can be grown in any number of altitudes and climates. Because of its bitter flavor, you’ll typically see Robusta used for espresso drinks and in instant coffee mixes. Of course, there are some high quality —and very flavored— Robusta coffee beans, usually of single origin from small-batch roasters.
In Italian and Greek coffee culture, we believe that you can have the best cup of espresso if you combine the aroma and the flavor of an exceptional Arabica coffee with the crema of a high quality Robusta.
So, if you want a nice balance in your espresso, I recommend a blend of 83% Arabica with 17% Robusta.
In Part Two, we will discuss the main differences between single origins and blends. We will also unveil the secrets (and debunk the myths) behind roasting.