Roaster's Corner

The Types of Coffee Beans and What We Use

Beer has its distinct varieties of hops, malts, and adjuncts. Wine has its regional varietals of grapes.

And much like those, and all the finer things in life, coffee has its own unique varieties as well categorized by four types of beans.

Here’s a look into the four, and what we utilize ourselves for our coffee.

Arabica

TLDR Version:

  • At Press House, we use Arabica for all of our coffees
  • Represents ~60% of global production
  • Due to difficulty growing these beans, and high-altitude growing requirements, vastly recognized as the highest quality type of bean available in the mass market.

Representing around 60% of global production, you’ve most likely interacted with this type of bean the most. If you’re a drinker of our coffee, you’ve definitely interacted with them because that’s currently what we solely use.

The story of how it was discovered is pretty cool, and is really at the beginning of coffee itself. According to many, Arabica coffee beans were first found in Ethiopia and first written about by Arab scholars in modern-day Yemen. It’ll come as no surprise that they were writing about how it was allowing them to work longer and with more energy.

Image courtesy of CNN.

Arabica is the highest-quality standard in the mass market, which is why many brands call it out prominently on the label. For most in the craft coffee roasting space, using Arabica is table stakes and isn’t generally called out unless a specialty sub-species of Arabica is being used, or other types of beans are blended in.

The quality comes from the fact that growing Arabica beans is harder. The plant itself is temperamental and takes great skill to get to yield fruit (“beans” are the roasted seeds).

  • They don’t like harsh climates and cannot survive frost
  • They prefer humidity and shade
  • They’re susceptible to pests

Quality also comes from the high-altitude growing conditions. The fruit grows slower, which packs more delicate and nuanced flavors into the individual bean. Paired with the right sourcing and roasting techniques, we’d argue Arabica coffees are the most-flavorful on planet earth.

And of course, all of this makes it more expensive to grow and purchase.

You’ll most likely see Arabica coming from the following places:

  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Colombia
  • Brazil
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Rwanda

Robusta

TLDR Version:

  • Represents ~40% of global production
  • Contains twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans
  • Given current growing traditions, and the hardiness of the plants, currently Robusta are generally inferior
  • in quality to Arabica.
  • Requires a darker roast to mask off-flavors and bean flavor profiles.

For everything that makes Arabica unique, Robusta is unique for being its opposite.

The plant is hardy and resistant, which makes it easy to grow. But because growers aren’t necessitated to take great care to handle these plants, the quality of Robusta beans is generally far inferior than Arabica.

For all the delicate and nuanced flavors of Arabica, Robusta is one dimensional and requires a darker roast to mask off-flavors. Typically this yields a “burnt tire” aroma and flavor profile.

Overall, the brands using these beans aren’t doing it for the flavor — they’re doing it for the marketing.

Death Wish Coffee, for example, has built its entire brand on being “the world’s strongest coffee.” And they’re probably right.

But we don’t enjoy sacrificing flavor for caffeine — we just make ourselves another cup.

Rare: Liberica

TLDR Version:

  • Represents ~2% of global production
  • Endangered
  • Very difficult to grow
  • Uniquely complex flavor profiles best used in blends, but sometimes presented as single-origin coffees

If you’ve never heard of this, we wouldn’t be surprised.

This endangered coffee type originating from Liberia is hard to come by. And the flavor profile, we’d argue, is even harder to come by. It’s bold, earthy, woody, and smoky. In fact, it’s so distinct that it’s typically used within blends to add dimension.

There’s a current movement to not only save, but expand Liberica’s presence in the marketplace. You’ll most likely see these beans being grown in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Rare: Excelsa

TLDR Version:

  • Represents ~7% of global production
  • “Officially” grouped within the Liberica type, but recognized by many in coffee as separate.
  • Distinctive tart flavor profile

Just like Liberica, this bean originating from Southeast Asia is hard to come by.

This type of bean was recently re-classified within the Liberica umbrella, but many like ourselves, consider it distinctly different.

The flavor profile is complex and can often have the qualities of both light and dark roasted coffees. It’s distinctively tart and dark.

Just like Excelsa, the polaring nature of some of the flavors makes it most-commonly utilized as a dimension within blends. But there’s also a movement to embrace these beans as single-origin offerings.

Get the single-origin coffees that our roaster Paule’s most excited about, shipped within 72 hours of roasting for peak freshness.