The pleasure of sipping a good espresso at the bar starts a long way away and is all enclosed in the coffee beans. As every coffee lover knows, the essence of a good piping hot cup of coffee can be found in the tiny berries used to make it.
This is why we have decided to take you on a journey during which you will explore the types, characteristics, structure, shape and everything else there is to know about these precious fruits of the Coffea plant: ready to go?
The coffee bean: structure and shape
The coffee plant grows small red berries called drupes, which look something like cherries, and are composed of various layers:
- exocarp, which is the skin of the berry;
- mesocarp, or pulp;
- parchment, the first layer of the bean;
- silver skin, the second layer of the bean.
Like a jewel closed within a treasure chest, beneath all these layers we finally reach the bean itself.
Although the structure of the drupes is practically always more or less the same, the colour and shape of the beans vary depending on the variety. For example, whereas the Robusta quality is round, the Arabica bean is visibly longer and more oval. Both are decisively darker than the fine Kopi Luwak variety.
How is the coffee bean obtained?
The very first step is the harvesting of the berries, and this is already a delicate phase: it is important not to harvest any green berries, as these are still unripe.
After harvesting, the drupes are immersed in water to separate the pulp from the stone inside: this reveals the coffee beans which are still green and rather small. When roasted, they will later take on their characteristic brown colour and become larger, thanks to the heat.
Types and characteristics of coffee beans
Approximately 60 species of coffee plants grow around the world, but only about twenty of these produce fruits that can be used to produce coffee. The drupes all have different characteristics which are based on climate and temperature: the tropical belt is where most of the production takes place. This is where the largest coffee producing countries, are found, such as Brazil and Guatemala.
Of the many species of coffee, only two are effectively the most suitable for use in coffee blends: Arabica and Robusta. Another one that also deserves a mention is Kopi Luwak.
Arabica, the variety used to produce the most coffee in the world
No less than 70% of the coffee produced in the world is made with the Arabica variety, the finest quality of all, due to its intense yet sweet, delicate taste. A 100% Arabica coffee like the one contained in the Caffè Aiello capsules has a low caffeine content, distinct fruity notes and is enhanced by a refined aftertaste: a true delight for the palate.
Robusta, the queen of caffeine
Compared to the kind made with Arabica beans, the coffee made with the Robusta variety is stronger and more bitter: it also contains about double the quantity of caffeine. Robusta coffee beans give the drink a pronounced creaminess and a full body, all characteristics that later provide a real boost for those who drink it.
Of all the nations with plantations of Robusta, the largest producer is definitely India, where the beans grow amongst the monsoons.
Famous as the “most expensive coffee in the world” (one small cup can cost no less than 70 dollars), Kopi Luwak is a unique quality due to its particular production method: the beans come from berries which have been partially digested by a small animal, the civet. The fact that this coffee passes through its intestine appears to make it very sweet, with a wonderful aroma and a chocolatey aftertaste.
Processing coffee: the real difference
Regardless of which coffee beans are selected and used in a blend, what really makes the difference is how the fruits are processed. For example, Caffè Aiello performs a dedicated, specific roasting process on each raw single-origin bean to enhance its organoleptic characteristics, only passing to the blending stage later on. Care, attention and a strong passion: discover the production process used to create the delicious Caffè Aiello blends.