A Coffee Guide for the Novice Coffee Drinker

We all have our favorite cup of joe. You may be a macchiato man or a cortado queen, but do you really know where your drink originates from? This coffee guide can help you to answer that question.

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Single Origin (S.O.): A single origin coffee contains beans from one farm - or one small group of farms in close proximity - in a specific country. Flavors are more nuanced because not only do the beans share regional profiles (terroir), but these coffees usually contain just one coffee varietal (just like wine, where varietals - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, etc - have a huge impact on flavor).

In most third wave coffee shops, single origins are prevalent for both drip and espresso because the model of "direct trade" allows the roaster to establish provenance for the bean. They know not only where it came from, but how it was picked, processed and handled. This, in turn, creates a virtuous cycle where quality increases from year-to-year.

Generally, with Single Origins, you get the following information:

  • Producer: the Farmer and/or the farm’s name
  • Region: country specific location (i.e. southeastern Brazil)
  • Elevation: The world's best coffee farms are often found in mountainous regions and these various elevations affect the soil and in turn the taste if the coffee fruit, very similar to the influences on wine.
  • Varietal: The scientific name of the fruit - a few popular examples are Bourbon, Typica and Catuai. 
  • Process: This describes how the fruit was processed and the bean was extracted after picking. For example, a washed process versus a natural process are going to pull different flavors from the fruit and in turn the end result will have different profiles.

Blends: Blends are popular and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. A coffee blend is like a well-refined recipe. Roasters are specialized in combining beans from a variety of origins and developing blends that are unique in themselves with complimenting flavor profiles. The result - a coffee artfully designed to taste delicious.

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Espresso: Espresso is a darker roasted bean. These dark beans are blended and  specially formulated for an espresso shot, looking for certain attributes specific to espresso. The water temperature and pressure pull unique flavors from the grind to produce a specific flavor profile determined by the roaster. Though originally formulated for an espresso machine, espresso blends still taste delicious when prepared as a drip coffee in our Fetco brewers or in any other home brew method.

Post written by New York account manager, Amy Pawelko