There are dozens of elements that go towards producing the perfect cup of coffee, from sourcing the beans to roasting them and blending them to create a stunning flavour, making the entire process a delicate art and science.
Here we're going to look at arguably one of the most important factors – flavour. A bean may have been sourced from one of the best lots in the world, but if it doesn't taste good, it's not going to sell.
Therefore, creating the perfect coffee flavour is of the utmost importance for roasters.
At DR Wakefield, we select the flavour of the beans we sell to our roasters through the cupping process, smelling and tasting different samples of coffee to assess a variety of factors, including acidity, sweetness, balance, aroma and aftertaste.
We note down details of the taste of each sample, which can range between earthy, floral, nutty, caramel-like, woody, salty or bitter, to name just a few.
Each bean is given a score from zero to ten, with a higher rating indicating a better flavour.
Although time-consuming, we find this meticulous process helps us ensure we are providing our roasters with the best coffee flavours from around the world, allowing them to create stunning roasts and blends as a result.
The green coffee beans that we at DR Wakefield source can be dramatically transformed in terms of flavour during the roasting process.
Beans are ranked on a scale from light to dark, with significant differences across the spectrum.
For example, the lighter the roast, the higher the levels of acidity, while darker coffee beans are much more oily than their pale counterparts.
Caffeine levels are also affected during the roasting process, with these decreasing as the beans get darker.
In addition, lighter roasts retain significantly more flavour from the original bean than others.
Flavours to expect
Starting with lighter beans, a toasted grain taste can be expected, as this is retained from the grassy aroma of the original green coffee.
A medium roast will have a more balanced flavour, with this also being the case for its aroma and acidity levels.
Medium-dark coffee is roasted until the bean cracks for a second time, which results in the release of more flavours, possibly even ones reminiscent of various spices.
Dark roasts have arguably the strongest taste, with a bitter, smoky and possibly even burnt flavour being present, as the original aroma of the beans will have been lost during the roasting process.
As noted earlier, blending different beans and roasts together can also create unique coffee flavours.
One of the most popular blends in the coffee industry is to combine Robusta and Arabica beans, to merge their respective earthy and fruity, sweet flavourings and aromas – a process which creates an extremely complimentary taste.
This is a great way to create a stunning espresso, but different blends can be used in other ways too, meaning there's a whole world of flavouring options out there.
In addition, Arabica beans are more expensive for coffee growers to produce, so combining them with a Robusta variety can help bring the cost of a particular roast down.
It's not just for the professionals
While the flavour of beans is primarily determined in the roasting, cupping and blending processes, coffee consumers can get in on the action too, adding various elements to a mug of the caffeine-filled liquid to suit their personal taste.
From milk to cinnamon and from cocoa to cherries, there are dozens of ways coffee drinkers can get a cut of the flavouring action too.
Some retailers also sell artificial flavoured oils which can completely transform the taste of a cup of coffee, but it is arguably during the roasting process that the most dramatic changes can be made.
Here at DR Wakefield, we understand the importance of flavour and pay great attention to this through the quality of the beans that we source; we pride ourselves on providing our roasters with the right coffee at the right price.