Coffee can be hot or cold, but it’s a brewed beverage that comes from roasted “beans” or seeds that come from the coffee plant. Even though there are different types of coffee beans, the coffee plant itself is a shrub that is native to several subtropical regions in Asia and Africa, but you can now find it growing throughout South and Central America too.
Today, types of coffee beans come from plants that grow well in over 50 countries around the world, primarily in the Bean Belt where the growing conditions are the best. This includes places in the sub-Saharan and tropical regions of Africa, including Liberia and Ethiopia; Southeast Asia, like in Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines; and South America, where Columbia and Brazil lead the world’s coffee production.
Once workers harvest the berries from the plant, they remove and discard the flesh to leave only the type of coffee bean behind. Before they roast them, the beans are a greenish-gray coloring and are called green coffee. At this point, the beans are shelf-stable, and they get shipped and sold green.
24 Types of Coffee Beans
Different types of coffee beans vary in the shape, size, flavor, and color, depending on the conditions and region where they were originally planted and grown. The range of unique aromas and flavors between the different regions is as expansive as the variety of wine you can purchase. It’s a very good idea to experiment with a range of different types of coffee beans until you find the perfect one for your tastes.
1. Arabica Beans
Did you know that over 60% of the types of coffee beans in the world are made out of Arabica beans? They’ve very common and popular for a good reason too. The beans are grown at very high altitudes, and this growing environment allows them to get the perfect amount of rainfall and shade to develop a delicious, full body of flavor. These trees are on the small side, and they don’t get more than six feet tall. They’re also low-maintenance, and this is one of the reasons why you find them growing all over.
This type of coffee bean is slightly acidic but bright, and they come in a range of tastes and aromas to suit different tastes. A lot of them come with a lower acidity level, and a few popular varieties include Caturra, Typica, Bourbon, and Blue Mountain. If you sample this coffee where you find salinity and sweetness on your front palate, you’ll get a better taste overall. This type of coffee bean is always best when you serve it with a drip or pour-over coffee maker hot due to the fact that the taste will diminish if you serve it when it’s cold or loaded with creamer.
2. Bourbon Beans
French monks first developed this type of coffee bean, and you get a soft caramel undertone with a fruity flavor profile. It’s a very popular choice throughout Africa and in the Americas, and these beans will produce a lot bigger quantities when it’s time to harvest them compared to other coffee bean trees. However, the trees are more prone to having issues with disease than others. This is a predecessor to many types of coffee beans that you can purchase today.
3. Catimor Beans
This is a laboratory-created type of coffee bean, and it’s a hybrid that comes from the Caturra family tree, and the natural mutation Bourbon bean from Brazil contributes to it. However, today, you can find this coffee tree growing in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and India. The Catimore beans will give your coffee a very unpleasant taste profile, and it can even be sour if they don’t go through processing. However, when you get the correct roasting procedure, you can easily improve the flavors.
4. Catuai Beans
Developed in Brazil in the 1950s and 1960s, this type of coffee bean has several variations to it that help to expose you to the best qualities that come with drinking Brazilian coffee. You’ll get a slightly acidic taste with sweet undertones each time you drink it.
5. Caturra Beans
This type of coffee bean is a mutant variety of the Bourbon bean, and it’s been around since it was first developed in Brazil in the 1930s. However, it grew much better later when it was planted in Central America and Columbia’s higher altitudes. If you drink the coffee these beans produce, you’ll get a very light body with a citrusy, bright taste. Additionally, this type of coffee bean is a predecessor for several varieties, including Catimor and Maracatu.
6. Excelsa Beans
Recently, this type of coffee bean was reclassified as a Liberica coffee bean type because it grows to a very similar tree and thrives under the same growing conditions. However, the actual coffee you’ll get is very different. It has a much fruitier taste than Liberica coffee types, and you get a very tart acidity that makes it a very popular addition that adds a complex layer to blended coffees.
Today, this type of coffee bean usually only makes up 7% of the current coffee market. However, when you look at the appealing flavor profile and the fact that it’s almost as productive and resilient as Robusta, the appeal grows. Many people regard this coffee as being poor quality. This is actually due to the poor processing and growing practices than the actual bean. With the correct care and processing, you can get a speciality-grade coffee out of it.
7. Geisha Beans
Geisha types of coffee beans produce award-winning coffee that can come with a huge amount of flavors and feel very silky in your mouth when you drink it. Today, this type of coffee has gotten more awards than nearly any other type of coffee bean on the current market.
8. Icatu Beans
The nice thing about choosing this type of coffee bean for your next cup of coffee is that you’ll be able to taste a surprising amount of flavors in each cup, including berry and chocolate. These flavors really come out when the coffee gets dry processed. It’s a hybrid coffee bean that is originally from Brazil.
9. Jackson Beans
Traditionally, this type of coffee bean grows in Rwanda and Burundi, and the flavor you’ll get is very similar to the Bourbon-style coffee beans. It offers very delicate acidic characteristics, and it’s a very high-quality type that allows you to get a fantastic cup of coffee each time you use them.
10. Jamaican Blue Mountain Beans
Of all of the types of coffee beans you can find growing in Jamaica, this is one of the best. It has a very rich history too as it was one of the first coffee types to get brought to the New World. If you take the time to look for the Jamaican Blue Mountain strain when you shop, you’re guaranteed to get a high-quality cup of coffee with a very nice taste. It has a very balanced flavor that is light while being mildly acidic.
11. Jember Beans
Just like several banana types, this type of coffee bean comes from Indonesia as a hybrid variety. You may hear this coffee bean referred to as S795, it’s a very rich and full-bodied choice with a flavor profile that has layers of maple, caramel, and brown sugar all seamlessly blended. It was originally developed in the 1940s for the hardiness factor, and it’s a combination of the S228 and Kent coffee beans.
12. Liberica Beans
Liberica types of coffee beans only make up around 2% of the world’s coffee crop. However, this was once a much more important bean when diseases wiped out most of the Arabica bean supply in the world. Since Arabica has made a strong comeback, the production of this type of coffee bean has dropped. However, this may change again in coming years due to the fact that climate change makes it very hard to produce Arabica plants that can handle the changes.
You’ll get a very unique flavor profile with this type of coffee bean, and it pairs fruity and floral notes with a very deep smokiness that many people call woody. It has a very full body like Robusta coffee, and this makes it popular for people with more selective tastes. When done correctly, Liberica beans can offer a very unique coffee drinking experience.
The trees for this coffee bean get a lot taller than Arabica and Robusta trees, and this makes the coffee beans harvested from these trees more irregular in shape. They do very well in well-drained soils in lighter shade, and they can do well in much poorer soil conditions than the Arabica can. This plant is a native to West Africa, but you can now find it grown mostly in the Philippines and Malaysia.
13. Maracatu Beans
As a hybrid that is a cross between the Maragogype and Caturra coffee beans, this is a very large type of coffee bean that thrives in higher altitudes in Central America. The coffee you get is very fruity and acidic.
14. Maragogype Beans
This type of coffee bean is a native to Brazil, and it’s another example that routinely gets very large. This is why many people refer to it as the Elephant Bean. It has a very buttery and heavy flavor to it, and you can get floral undertones with hints of citrus.
15. Mocca (Mokha) Beans
You’ll find this type of coffee bean growing in Hawaii and Yemen. It has a surprising chocolate chip flavor, and the beans are much smaller than traditional coffee beans.
16. Mundo Novo Beans
This is another type of coffee bean that falls into the hybrid category, and it is very nicely resistant to most diseases to make it very hardy. If you use a lot of fertilizer with the correct modified soil, you get a great flavor profile. There are also many different varieties available, and they all vary between the types.
17. Pacamara Beans
Pacamara types of coffee beans originated in El Salvador in 1958 as a hybrid plant. You get a fantastic balance between citrus and floral notes, and there is a slight acidity to it that balances out the sweetness very well.
18. Pacas Beans
As another mutation type of coffee bean that originated in El Salvador, this plant is a very rapid bean producer that does very well when you plant it at high elevations. It is acidic and sweet, and you get very nice floral and spicy undertones.
19. Pache Beans
This type of coffee bean grows very well throughout Guatemala, and you can get two unique varieties, including Pache Comum and Pache Colis. They offer a very smooth taste with heavy production per plant, and they have a solid reputation as a blender coffee variety.
20. Robusta Beans
It’s worth trying this type of coffee bean if you’re looking for a coffee type that works well with sugar and cream and tastes good hot or iced. This is the second-most popular type of coffee bean in the world behind Arabica, and the trees are virtually immune from attacks from any type of disease to make them very hardy. Robusta beans are very sturdy, and this allows them to do well in higher altitudes, especially if you plant them in a place that gets plenty of sun and some rainfall.
Also, the ability for this type of coffee bean to be resistant to a host of diseases has direct ties to the fact that it’s very caffeine-packed. In fact, it has two times the amount of caffeine per bean than Arabica beans. For the best taste, you want to drink this coffee on the back palate where you have your bitter taste buds. There is a very low acidity level with a smooth, nice taste. Some will offer a small hint of coconut.
In order for this type of coffee bean to taste the best, you have to grow them in the correct planting zones. If you notice a bad smell or taste, they may not have been in these ideal conditions. You should get these coffee beans from a reputable source.
21. Ruiru Beans
This type of coffee bean is actually a wild Arabica option that originates in Kenya. It comes with a very unique flavor, and it tastes a lot like the more traditional Robusta coffee beans.
These types of coffee beans are actually strains that come from Kenya, and they make up the bulk of the country’s coffee exports at roughly 90%. You may hear them referred to as Blueberry Bombs, and they’re very high-quality beans that offer a long-lasting taste and a very fruity wine flavoring.
23. Villa Sarchi Beans
This is a hybrid type of coffee bean that does best when you grow it organically. It has a medium-body flavor profile with a very slight acidity, and you’ll get undertones of sweetness and fruit.
24. Villalobos Beans
Originating in Costa Rica, this type of coffee bean is a mutation that does very well at higher elevations in poor soil conditions. It’s a very acidic choice, and it gives you a lot of sweetness when you drink it.
Picking Out Coffee Roasts
In order to prepare the green coffee for brewing, you have to roast it first. Coffee beans get roasted with dry heat using constant agitation to ensure every bean gets even heating. The roast ranges from very light golden brown to a virtually black appearance. Varying your roast time has a very big impact on the aroma, flavor, and color of the coffee when you brew it. There are several roasting levels, but you can generally group them into three main categories, including dark, medium, and light.
- Blends – To get very unique flavor profiles, a lot of roasters will create fun custom blends of types of coffee beans with two or more roasting levels. This will give the finished product significant flavor depth and layers of complexity that you can’t get with a single roast.
- Dark – Dark-roasted types of coffee beans get roasted until the sugars start to caramelize and the oils rise to the bean’s surface. Depending on how dark the roast is, the beans can offer an oil appearance or a slight sheen. The flavor of this coffee is usually smoky, strong, and it can be spicy. The original bean’s flavor gets overpowered by the roasted flavor, so lower-quality beans are very commonly used in darker roasts. Even though these roasts come with a low acidity, many people describe them as bitter. Roasts that fall into the dark category include Italian, Viennes, Espresso, and French.
- Light – Light types of coffee bean roasts give you the most delicate, lightest flavors possible, but they can be more acidic. Since you’ll get less of the roasted flavor, the original flavor profile shines in this category. High-quality beans or varieties that have distinct flavors usually get a light roast to allow the original flavor to dominate. The beans look dry since they don’t get heated to the point where the oil gets extracted. A few light roasts include American, Cinnamon, New England, and Half-City roasts.
- Medium – Medium types of coffee bean roasts have a chocolate brown coloring, full flavor, and a very dry surface. You’ll get slightly less acidity than the light roasts, and they offer a slightly sweet and toasty flavor. Due to how well the acidity and flavor balance, this is the most popular roast when you look at the commercial coffee market. Medium roasts are also called Regular Roast, Breakfast, or Full City.
Understanding Caffeine and Decaffeination
Most people prize coffee for the caffeine content. The amount of caffeine you get in a single cup of coffee will depend on the brewing method and the type of coffee bean they used. A lot of the caffeine gets removed during the decaffeination process, you’ll still fine trace amounts. The international standard for decaffeination requires that this process removes a minimum of 97% of the caffeine content from decaffeinated coffee. By European standards, they have to remove 99.9% of the caffeine for it to be considered decaffeinated coffee.
Most decaffeination methods will follow the same basic process. First, you soak the coffee beans in water and this allows the caffeine and other chemicals that impact the flavor to slowly leach out. The extracted liquid gets passed through a filter or it gets mixed with a solvent to strip out any caffeine and leave the good compounds behind. Then, the caffeine deficient, flavor-rich solution gets reintroduced into the types of coffee beans to allow them to reabsorb the flavor.
In recent years, the Swiss Water Method has become very popular because it uses only water to get rid of the caffeine, but it’s a very laborious and long process. Other solvents commonly present in the decaffeinating process include ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide, and triglycerides. Each method comes with disadvantages and advantages, including time, cost, labor, and how it impacts the final flavor.
Tips To Pick Your Preferred Type of Coffee Bean
You do have to know at least the basics about coffee before you go and try to pick one that is going to suit your tastes as there are hundreds of flavors available. Coffee by Sue Thompson / CC BY-ND 2.0
There are several factors that you want to consider when you’re trying to decide on the type of coffee bean that is going to adhere to your tastes the best. There are thousands of different choices on the market, and no two types are 100% alike. So, it can be very hard to narrow down the best pick. The following tips can get you started.
Figure Out The Amount Of Caffeine You Want
Not all types of coffee beans have the same amount of caffeine, so knowing about how much you prefer per cup will help you decide which coffee is best. Excelsa coffee beans come with the lowest amount of caffeine out of the biggest categories, with around one gram of caffeine for every 100 grams of beans. Liberica is next while offering 1.23 grams of caffeine for every 100 grams of beans. Arabica offers 1.61 grams of caffeine per 100 grams of beans, and Robusta has 2.26 grams of caffeine for every 100 grams of beans.
Know Your Preferred Taste
It’s essential that you know what flavor and style of coffee you want before you pick out your type of coffee bean. Just because one particular option is expensive or an expert recommends it doesn’t mean you’ll like the taste. Different bean types, like the big four categories of Excelsa, Liberica, Robusta, and Arabica all have different flavor profiles that excel with specific brewing methods. Each coffee bean type is capable of producing a huge flavor array, depending on the roasting and processing option. So, you should use this as a loose guide rather than set rules.
Generally speaking, if you want a coffee that is naturally sweeter with a bright acidity and a light body, Arabica beans are usually the best pick. On the other end of the spectrum, if you like earthier and more bittersweet types of coffee with a heavy body, Excelsa, Liberica, and Robusta are all good choices. You can also blend any of these with Arabica beans to get a nice balance.
Learn the Broad Categories
Learning the different categories for your types of coffee beans is important when you’re trying to decide which coffee is the best. There are dozens of ways to classify your coffee, including by flavor profile, variety, caffeine content, roast level, brewing method, grind, or additives. When you go into a coffee shop or store to purchase coffee, you need to understand the main features each category has. You want to pick a coffee that you enjoy the flavor and it’s compatible with the brewing items you have at home.
How to Store Coffee
Storing your types of coffee beans correctly can have a huge impact on how the flavor is when you brew it. Oxygen, heat, moisture, and heat are all things that will negatively impact how the coffee tastes. A lot of today’s commercial coffee gets sold in bags that are vacuum-sealed with one-way valves to allow the gasses to escape while locking oxygen out. Once you break the seal on the bag, you have to be very careful to keep your coffee beans fresh.
At home, you want to store your coffee beans in an airtight container in a dry, dark, and cool place. Some people do advocate for keeping your coffee beans in the freezer or refrigerator, but this can bring issues due to the exposure to the excess humidity, circulating air, and rogue flavor absorption.
Once you break the seal on the vacuum-sealed bag or after roasting, you want to use the beans in 14 days or less. This is why you should only buy the amount of coffee beans that you’ll use in this period each time you shop to help maintain the flavor and freshness.
We’ve outlined 24 types of coffee beans and how to use and store them to get the best taste and flavor profiles out of each one. We recommend that you carefully try several different types of coffee beans before you make your final choice to ensure that you get something you like drinking.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.