We constantly get asked this question “What are the best coffee beans in Melbourne or Australia.”
The answer is very subjective but it can be whittled down to two main factors.
Coffee beans from the Arabica species offer a superior flavour profile than the Robusta species. Within the Arabica species you then have a number of ‘varietals’ some of which you may recognise by their names. For example, Geisha, Pacamara, Bourbon, Sidamo etc. Often varieties are named after their specific sub-region which makes things a little confusing. In essence, a coffee aficionado should realise that within the Arabica species there are many varieties some of which are historically indigenous to a particular coffee growing region. There is much variation within these varieties and their regions each year. So what may be good one season could be sub-standard the next.
Much like grapes and other organic fruits, coffee beans respond to periodic weather variation. This weather directly affects the concentrations of essential oils within the plant and thus the coffee ‘cherry’ which consequently affects the fibrous coffee bean itself. This seasonal variation will ultimately have a direct effect on the coffee taste each growing season.
Quite simply, make sure you purchase high quality coffee beans. Each year coffee graders or ‘Q graders’ grade the coffee around the world and give it a quality score out of 100. Anything above 80 is fantastic. Some more expensive beans get grades above 90. Expect to pay top dollar for these beans because the flavours when properly roasted can be amazing. Cup of Excellence (C.O.E) coffees are consistently graded as the highest coffees from particular regions every year. While there is a bit of corruption within this tight coffee grading circle, you can generally be assured of a very high quality coffee if it has a COE grading.
When the coffee bean is roasted, heat is applied to the coffee beans over a period of time typically ranging from 10-20 minutes. During this time, the way heat is applied has a large affect on the resulting roasted coffee bean. Too short and the bean doesn’t caramelize enough. Too long and the coffee bean will dehydrate and turn to ash developing a burnt taste. All coffee beans vary in their density, concentration of essential oils, natural sugars and fibre. This varies with each new coffee growing season.
Roasting coffee beans is an art and good roasters have the skill to make a very low quality beans taste amazing. Good quality roasters will develop what they call ‘roast profiles’ specific to certain batches of beans. This is their own specific roast formula which they use to roast particular beans. With that said, it’s difficult to make a high quality bean taste terrible. At the end of the day, the quality of the beans will strongly outweigh the positive differences a skilled roaster can make to the bean.
Good roasters will roast your coffee beans somewhere between first crack and second crack. City roast is the lightest roast, then there is City Plus and then Vienna etc. Basically, they refer to how strong you want the caramelisation process to occur. Much like cooking a steak, the top can form a nice brown crust until you keep cooking it and it turns to charcoal. The same occurs when roasting coffee. Aim for a City roast if you want a delicate ‘fruit driven’ bean and extend the roast to a City+ if you want a stronger taste.
Ironically we spend just as much time trying other people’s coffee than our own. Here’s a list of consistently good quality coffee brands from which you can be reasonably assured of a good quality coffee. Note sometimes their brand name supplies to a number of cafes. If you have a specific taste in mind please contact us for some recommendations. Coffee tasting is extremely subjective.
There are many more brands in Melbourne, we could go on all day. Contact us if you have a specific requirement and we can advise accordingly.