Why Brew a Certain Way?
You’ve probably noticed that most coffee product pages on various sites offer a recommended brew method. We’ve talked at length about how to enjoy these different brew methods, but what’s the reason that different coffees taste better in different methods? While you might just assume roast level, the real answer is a little more complex than that (though this is a big part of it)! Let’s take a look at why and how we recommend different brew methods for different coffees.
Varietals and Origins
The two most common species of coffee plant are arabica and robusta beans. However, within these species there are dozens of different varietals that have different tastes and climate preferences. For example, bourbon varietals tend to be sweet and complex with a sparkling acidity. On the other hand, caturra varietals offer more citrusy flavors.
Of course, different varietals also tend to grow better in different soil and climate conditions, as well as at different altitudes. All of these different factors have an effect on profile and flavor, which is what truly gives different origins their unique character. The next piece of the puzzle is a little less complex, but not entirely so!
Natural, honey, washed, anaerobic, and more, these are all processes used to remove the cherry and mucilage from the coffee bean. We’ve talked at length about different forms of processing, so we’ll focus here on how these processes can affect a preferred brew method.
A natural or honey process tends to lead to more complex, strong flavors. While there are naturals that can work in a variety of brew methods, the complexity of these flavors tends to work best in a brew method like pour over that allows for more separation of notes. Washed coffees, by contrast, tend to offer a balance that is perfect for something like drip. There are always exceptions to these concepts, of course, as none of this can be described as a “rule”. Further, roasting can have a big impact on flavor as well.
Origin, varietal, processing, and more go into a roaster’s thought process when preparing to roast green coffee. Experienced roasters will be able to combine the information and aroma of a green coffee bean to work out what might be the perfect roast level for a coffee. Lighter roasts tend to be more delicate, with bright and complex flavors. This roast level is perfect for beans that carry a lot of flavor from their cultivation and processing. In turn, these roasts tend to perform best as pour overs, or very carefully pulled espresso shots.
Darker roasting techniques tend to trade some of the flavors of the beans for roastier, earthier tones. Some coffees are complemented by this, but regardless we tend to prefer these darker roasts for a stiff drip brew or a press. Many also enjoy a darker roasted coffee as espresso.
Coffees in the middle tend to be pretty versatile, offering delicious results across different brew methods.
We consider all of these factors when recommending a brew method, but of course, there’s also a lot of taste testing going on! If we suspect a great espresso might work well in a press as well, we’ll brew it up and see how it goes! It is helpful to know all of this though, as your palate is unique, and you might find that you love a light roast in a press, or a natural processed coffee as a drip brew. So get to experimenting!