WHY COFFEE BEAN QUALITY IS IMPORTANT
We have all tasted a quality cup of coffee. The beverage delivers smoothness instead of bitterness, with a smattering of sweet and rich notes throughout. You inhale a distinctive aroma, which then carries into your first sip. The experience provides a degree of complexity, making you want more. But it’s still simple and straightforward, no matter if you prefer your coffee black or with cream and sugar mixed in.
We’ve also had poor or low-quality coffee before. The source or location doesn’t matter. Instead, a sip revealed a watery, burnt or bitter beverage, perhaps with a metallic or chemically aftertaste following. The beverage wasn’t invigorating, and you likely put it down before finishing it.
New Orleans Roast™ strives to provide quality coffee in every cup. Since 2008, we have selected the top 1% of Arabica beans, including from Direct Trade sources. We then roast these in small batches right in the city. Freshness takes precedence, as this factor, along with beans and roast, directly impacts the coffee’s quality and taste.
In the U.S., coffee remains the predominant drink of choice. In fact, based on figures from the U.S. National Coffee Association’s National Coffee Drinking Trends report, over 60% of Americans have at least one cup of coffee per day. As another side of this figure, the gourmet coffee market continues to grow, taking up over 50% of all coffee beverages served.
Yet, while taste is subjective, multiple factors influence the quality of the coffee beans and your brew.
Origins and Growing Conditions
Coffee is grown all over the world, but taste isn’t uniform. What comes from South and Central America varies from what beans sourced from Africa or Asia provide. These aspects cover a spectrum of sweeter to fruity and chocolatey notes, with occasional earthiness. Reflecting this, coffee connoisseurs will seek out single-origin beans to experience a region’s unique flavors.
While origin provides a broader framework, the conditions in which the beans are grown play a secondary factor, from climate and humidity to soil quality. Generally, however, higher altitudes result in a richer flavor, stronger aroma, more acidity and a better-quality coffee overall. Arabica beans, like those in coffees from New Orleans Roast™, are grown at this altitude.
Even so, higher-altitude growing conditions have some barriers that impact coffee’s mass-production: Beans take longer to grow, and the crop tends to be smaller. As an alternative, Robusta beans are grown at a lower altitude. While the beans grow faster, offer a larger crop and contain more caffeine, their quality is considerably less flavorful and less complex than Arabica.
To compensate for these differences, many mass-market coffees tend to mix Arabica and Robusta beans to meet a quota while also providing a degree of flavor. Meanwhile, cheaper, lower-quality coffee uses almost exclusively Robusta beans, resulting in a distinctly burnt, less flavorful taste.
At New Orleans Roast™, freshness is key to coffee quality, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Freshness plays a factor when the beans are harvested: Ultimately, the beans should be picked once they are precisely ripe and be roasted soon after. Direct Trade coffee streamlines this process, creating a straight path from the farm to the roasting facility and preventing the beans from sitting around in storage.
Then, the beans should ideally be brewed within two weeks of roasting. The longer you push this out, the more the coffee has potential to oxidize, which impacts the flavor and reduces the aroma.
For making a pot, flavor is further preserved through whole bean coffee as well. Ideally, you should grind the beans before brewing and then serve the beverage within two hours.
Processing and Roasting
Beans that haven’t been roasted won’t yield much, if any, flavor. Between the farm and having a bag of coffee ready to grind, the beans go through a few preparation steps that influence their taste.
First, the beans are “processed.” Natural processing involves drying out the bean with the cherry still surrounding before the outer layer is removed. “Washed” processing removes the cherry before the bean is dried out. The former brings out the beans’ sweeter notes, and the latter allows for more acidity to emerge.
Roasting, having the greatest effect on the coffee’s flavor, gives beans their distinctive notes and aroma. Timings and temperatures result in a light to dark roast offering varying degrees of depth, acidity and sweetness and allow the beans’ oil to emerge. Learn more about the different types of coffee roasts and how they impact the flavor.
Storage and Packaging
The sooner the coffee is brewed following the roasting process, the fresher it will be. In between these points, how the coffee is stored and its packaging influence the flavor.
In general, packaging and storage conditions need to block out as much moisture and oxygen as possible and allow CO2 to escape. Otherwise, this combination causes the coffee to oxidize, directly affecting the flavor.
For some context, coffee that’s been roasted gives off CO2, and this continues once the beans are packaged in a bag to be sold. Additionally, roasted coffee beans contain 2 to 3% moisture. When exposed to outside sources, the beans will draw in this moisture. A higher moisture concentration, along with the presence of oxygen, alters the flavor resulting from the roasting process. You’ll notice this once you brew a cup.
As such, you’ll see coffee bags designed with a one-way valve, which lets this gas migrate out rather than build up while acting as a barrier against oxygen and moisture. Without this feature, coffee bags tend to inflate.
In one of these bags, whole bean coffee will deliver flavorful, fresh taste up to four weeks after roasting.
Along with everything else listed here, the quality of your coffee can further be affected by:
- The equipment used: Specifically, you want to avoid oils and other residues that could muddy or alter the overall flavor.
- Water quality: Water that’s too hard, has too many chemicals from chlorination or completely free of minerals can adversely impact the flavor of the coffee. As well, if you’re using the water from the tap, cold is preferred to hot.
Experience a true taste of the Big Easy with New Orleans Roast™ coffee. Taste the flavor and freshness from our medium and dark roast beans that build off and pay tribute to the city’s coffee traditions.