How to Choose the Right Coffee Beans - Balance Coffee
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How to Choose the Right Coffee Beans

How to Choose the Right Coffee Beans

Choosing coffee beans can be a bit of a minefield – there are so many different varieties and options to choose from! In this post, we’re going to break down all of the different aspects of coffee that can affect flavour, and what to expect from each one. By using these guidelines, it’ll be much easier to choose a coffee that you’ll love.

Espresso vs Filter

Firstly, let’s explain the difference between espresso and filter coffee. In theory, they’re the same: pour hot water over coffee grounds, water passes through the grounds and a filter of some form, and falls into a vessel. However, with espresso coffee, hot water is forced through finely ground coffee under pressure (9 bars to be exact) to create a concentrated drink, whilst with filter coffee, water passes through a coffee filter or is immersed in the coffee grounds. The differences are actually extremely large. For example, espresso is a very short measure of water being passed through the grounds (between 30-60ml) whereas, the water quantity used for filter coffee is up at around 250ml. These differences have a huge contrast in body and flavour and therefore on what you may or may not prefer to drink.

Sage Coffee Machines

Espresso shot being pulled

Filter coffees tend to be more complex, with a softer acidity and a sweeter, cleaner brew. Espressos are more intense, concentrated and have a heavy body – this is why they are paired with lattes, flat whites and other milky coffees. When choosing a coffee, you therefore need to think about whether you prefer drinking a more complex black coffee (this will be filter) or a punchy coffee with milk (this will be espresso). Of course, both give you different results and you may wish to alternate. For example, founder James has a flat white in the morning because it’s more filling, then in the afternoon he’ll often to switch to filter coffee to enjoy a different flavour experience.

If you’re not sure which you would like more, it’s definitely worth experimenting! You can try our filter coffee and espresso taster packs.

Brewing method

However, you can’t just split coffee into espresso vs filter. It is also important to think about the specific brewing method that you’re using or choose or alternate with.

  1. Hario V60 – firstly, there’s home barista favourite, the Hario V60. This is a pour-over method of coffee brewing that involves pouring hot water through coffee in a paper filter, which then drips into the glass server through a large hole. It allows you to have the most control, creating a bright, clean and complex cup of coffee. For more about the V60, you can read our blog post here!
  2. Aeropress – circular shaped filter papers fit easily into the base of the Aeropress, coffee and water is added, then pressure is applied to the top of plastic tube by hand as you squeeze the coffee into your favourite mug. The Aeropress creates tasty coffee with a medium body finish as a result of the pressure created by the device.
  3. Cafetière – another common coffee brewing method is the cafetière, also known as the French Press. The cafetière produces a full-bodied cup because the immersion brewing steeps the coffee and extracts the flavour for a longer period of time, in comparison to other brewing methods.
  4. Moka pot – otherwise known as a stovetop, when a moka pot is placed on a stove, the water heats up and generates steam. This increases the pressure in the bottom chamber and pushes the water up through the coffee grounds and into the top chamber where it is ready to be poured.The coffee it creates is more intense, heavy-bodied, and good for making faux-espresso drinks.

A moka pot is good for making espresso-like drinks

Processing

Speaking of different processes, it is also important that you understand the different ways that these will affect the flavour of the coffee when choosing coffee beans.

  1. Natural process – this is when coffee is dried with the cherry still on the bean. This allows the sugars and flavours of the fruit to impart themselves on the coffee bean. Naturally, this makes naturally processed coffee beans to have a much fruitier flavour and aroma, creating wine-like complexity and characteristics. If you like your coffee to have fruit flavours, then you should definitely choose a naturally processed coffee.
  2. Washed coffee – also known as wet processed coffee, this is when coffee beans have the outer section of the cherry removed, and then are fermented before being washed and dried. This results in a coffee with bright, complex acidity and a great clarity of flavour.
  3. Honey processed – honey processed coffees can literally taste like someone has added brown sugar or honey to your cup. However, honey isn’t actually involved – the name comes from the stickiness of the coffee beans that occurs during the process. In many ways, honey processed coffees are a balance of natural and washed coffees, as they’re fruity, but not in an exaggerated way like some naturals.

Blend vs Single origin

Finally, it’s also worth trying single origin coffees and blends. Both of these options can create a fabulous coffee, although single origin coffee beans are most popular in the world of speciality coffee right now. They’re particularly interesting because you can really explore the unique flavour profiles associated with particular countries and regions. For example, Nicaraguan coffees often have rich yet subtle flavours, balanced sweetness, with notes of chocolate, citrus and florals. Whilst coffees from Zimbabwe have more of a citrus acidity, and woody and sweet flavours. You can see what single origins we currently have in stock here!

On the other hand, there is a reason that coffee blends exist. They make for very well balanced coffees particularly with milk based drinks. Often using single origins with milk doesn’t work so well as the inherent fruit notes tend to get lost in the milk, for example in flat whites. For our blends, our expert coffee roaster brings together two single origin coffees to create a taste experience that is out of this world! For example, our Stability Blend uses a mix of Brazilian and Peruvian coffee beans to create a well-balanced coffee full of chocolate, almond and sweet berry flavours. If you want to read more about the tricky technique of blending coffees, we’d recommend this article by Perfect Daily Grind.

Clearly, there are many different variables to explore in the world of coffee, and aspects to think about when choosing coffee beans. One of the best ways to try them all is through a coffee subscription – you can check out ours here!


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