Washed, natural, red bourbon, heirloom, 1800 MASL, used by, roasted on… what does it all mean?!

We know that sometimes choosing the right beans can feel hard when faced with a wall of coffees and all that industry lingo. So with that in mind, we have come up with a list of 6 things to keep in mind when shopping for your perfect coffee. These simple “rules” to follow will guarantee great brews for your home, office, cafe, man cave, anywhere you brew!

1. Coffee Roast Date

Did you know coffee is a fruit? Well, the seed of a fruit, in fact. When these seeds are roasted well, they bring with them a whole kaleidoscope of wonderful delicate and complex aromas, flavours nuances and attributes. Believe it or not, a fine coffee has more aromatic compounds than a fine wine!

Unfortunately, though, there is a prime or peak time for enjoying the beautiful elixir that is coffee. At The Grounds Roastery, we feel the ideal time for maximum enjoyment is anywhere from 5 to 30 days from roast date for espresso and 3-30 days for filter. After that, there can be a slight decline in overall sweetness and flat flavours can start to emerge whilst the complexity and overall flavour can be hindered. 

So look for the all important roast date from your favourite roaster. If there is a “use by” rather than a “roasted on” date, you can most definitely assume it’s probably way past its best already. 

Somewhat contrary to what we’ve just said, our Roasters and Baristas have noted since switching to our Loring roasting system over a year ago, our Coffees have kept very well for up to 3 months and have still been enjoyable—particularly that of lighter roast coffees. We’re not saying that we recommended it by any means, but the fine folks at Loring have claimed that due to their unique heat application system, coffees will last longer than traditional drum roasters. Cool right?!

The Grounds Roastery Tips

  • Fresh is best
  • No roast date = no good

2. Roast Profile & Your Preferred Brew Method

There are many wonderful ways to extract the elixir from your precious coffee seeds. We’re fans of many different methods from filter to fresh press but, without a doubt, the most popular in Australia is espresso. 

So how does the Roast Profile come into play to how you like to brew your coffee? Put simply choose an espresso roast for an espresso machine and a filter roast for a filter brewer! If you want to know the ins and outs, here’s why it’s important to choose beans based on your favourite brewing ritual…

Espresso Roast” or darker roasts are roasted longer and slower to allow the coffee’s natural flavours, aromas, acidity, sweetness and body to develop. We want to caramelise those sugars and, to get technical, bind those amino acids all whilst keeping the acidity balanced—an all important factor in avoiding a sour cup. Espresso brewing (hot water, high pressure and short water-to-coffee contact time) essentially turns up the volume on everything so we try to maximise the sweetness and body, keeping things super thick and juicy on the cupping table and sweet and balanced when slinging espressos from the bars. And of course let’s not forget that all important crem crem!

Filter Roast” or lighter roasts are roasted shorter and faster to make our coffees shine, pop and sparkle in the cup—the flavours are bright, balanced and sweet. We reckon that a good filter should really allow all the coffees little characters to shine, being layered and complex. The flavours are still there as in espresso but the acidity is brighter and the flavours are more crisp and transparent with the experience being more tea-like in its lightness. The shorter development times are ideal for longer brewing methods, whether there’s a paper or metal filter, to produce a very clean, delicate brew (Think V60 or our preferred Kalita wave) or a more full bodied chunkier brew (think the old school plunger or our preferred Espro press).

The Grounds Roastery Tips

  • Espresso roast = espresso machine
  • Filter roast = filter brewer

3. Blends vs Single Origins

On top of the roast profile there’s also the choice of blends and different origins to choose from. Generally roasters, such as ourselves, develop coffee blends of different origins to make an ideal base for milk beverages. This is because it may not be possible to get the desired flavours and complexity from just one origin so 2 or more must be blended to achieve the desired result for that perfect cappuccino or flat white. In the case of our signature Beanstalker coffee blend, we aim for heavy complex chocolates with hints of dried and pulpy fruits; we reckon is ace for milk coffees.

Single Origins”, on the other hand, are exactly that—a coffee from one region or farm (aka single estate) or small lot on a farm (aka micro lot or nano lot). These coffees are usually chosen by roasters for their unique physical and sensorial attributes and roasted to be enjoyed all on their own. A good place to start if you enjoy black coffees is to start eyeing up something from one region or farm and check that out.

The Grounds Roastery Tips

  • There’s no black and white here, but a good rule of thumb is choose a blend for milk and a single origin if you enjoy your brew black.

4. Growing Regions & Altitude

Coffee Growing Regions MapSource: http://www.torchcoffee.com/journal/2016/4/13/coffee-growing-regions-map

Coffee growing regions or “origins” generally tend to be around the equator ideally between 1200-2000 MASL (metres above sea level). Different regions have vastly different flavour profiles and it’s always worth noting the region of your coffee.

Central and South America

The Americas were introduced with coffee between the 1600’s and 1700’s. Coffee grows well in the tropical climates of Central America making the industry a big part of life there. 

The Central American coffees are generally known to be very sweet, delicate and crisp whilst Brazil’s are more known for sweet, bigger body, chocolate, nutty and lower acidity coffees.

Arabia and Africa

These are the regions known to be the birthplace of coffee. Arabia Africa and East Africa in particular are home to some of the most diverse and most beautiful coffees in the world. This is of course largely because of the vast range of indigenous varietals, luscious terrain, climate and extremely high altitude.

African coffees are famed for their fruity profiles. Ethiopian coffee are well known for their stone fruits, citrus and floral characteristics whilst Kenyans are known for their berry notes and unmistakable crisp acidity. Burundi have and Rwanda also have their own unique fruit-driven attributes. 

The Pacific and Asia 

Asia’s coffees are harder to generalise as the regions are spread quite far apart but, if one were to generalise, when thinking of Indonesian coffees think of spice, earthiness, and woody herbal notes. Other countries such as Papua Nugini can be very delicate exotic, sweet and fruity.

India and Vietnam are more known for growing predominantly Robusta which is the other main species of coffee known for its rubbery, smokey, metallic flavours and the double caffeine.

Altitude

Believe it or not, altitude plays a big role in a coffees overall taste. To understand how, we need to first look at the plants biology and ideal growing conditions. In general, the higher the altitude, the more difficult it is for a plant to thrive. While this seems bad, it’s actually beneficial for the plants that do survive. These plants produce high altitude coffee beans that are more dense and hard, packed with the sugars and flavours sought after by discerning coffee buyers (and drinkers) alike.

In general coffees grown above 1200 MASL can be considered high altitude but its not till you start getting to above 1500-1600 MASL that those super sweet, delicate notes really start emerging.

The Grounds Roastery Tips

  • The higher the altitude, the more sweetness and delicate acidity.

5. Coffee Varietals

Coffee VarietiesSource : https://counterculturecoffee.com/learn/resource-center/coffee-varieties

Like many other fruits, coffee has a vast amount of varieties all with their own unique physical appearance and qualities. Some coffee growers and producers prefer one varietal over another for their height, yield or disease resistance, for example. Be sure to take note of the varieties when selecting your coffees and you may notice you like some more than others, just like your favourite fruits.

Some of the most common coffee varietals are Typica, Bourbon and Caturra. Some are rarer and more sought after such as the Geisha. Famous for its extremely aromatic exotic, sweet, floral notes, the Geisha coffees usually come with a higher price tag. If you see this one available from your favourite roaster, treat yourself and experience it first hand!

The Grounds Roastery Tips

  • Take note of the varietals you’re drinking, you may just prefer some more than others!

6. Processing Styles

 

Coffee Cherry Diagram

Source: https://counterculturecoffee.com/blog/coffee-basics-natural-sundried-vs-washed-processes

In essence, “processing” is removing the pulpy cherry and drying the seeds (soon to become coffee beans) that can then be roasted, ground and brewed. Processing actually has an enormous impact on the final cup and is very important when selecting your coffee. Some coffee lovers can be quite divided on what process they prefer. There are two main ways of processing coffee: washed and natural.

The washed method involves drying the seeds only once the fleshy skin or “pulp” from the fruit has been removed. Pulpers squeeze the seeds out of the skin and the seeds are then transferred to tanks where the seeds are fermented. Once the fermentation has taken place the seeds are washed and the seeds are laid out to dry. 

The second is the natural process which most commonly involves drying coffee cherries with the seeds still inside, either on patios or raised beds in the sun. To prevent the cherries from spoiling, they are turned and raked throughout the day and then covered at night or during adverse weather. Once the seeds are dried to the desired moisture content they are transported to a dry mill where the coffee is then “hulled” to remove the dried fruit from the seed ready for roasting.

The Grounds Roastery Tips

  • Choose washed coffee for bright, delicate and crisp acidity
  • Choose natural coffee for boozy big fruits and body

So there you have it, the only guide you’ll ever need to bring great coffee into your cafe, workplace or home. Start taking note of what you’re drinking and, most definitely, you’ll notice that you prefer certain growing regions, varietals, roast styles and processing methods in no time.

Want to try some of The Grounds Roastery’s locally roasted coffees? Check out our current range in The Grounds online shop.