What makes gourmet coffee "gourmet coffee?"
It's the choice, select gourmet coffee beans. And it's the roast. And the blend. And the grind. And sometimes the flavoring. And it is certainly the freshness. That last one eliminates most grocery stores' so-called gourmet coffees.
Take a quick tour through coffee creation and if you still feel like ordering "expresso" or Vienna-grown coffee beans, read it again.
There are basically two types of commercial coffee beans. The first is Robusta (coffea robusta) from which most everyday and instant coffees are made. They need few special growing conditions so the focus is on quantity and low cost, rather than quality.
The other is Arabica (coffea arabica)
coffee beans. Gourmet coffees are made from hand-selected Arabica
coffee beans, which grow only at high altitudes in tropical or
sub-tropical climates. (Yes, they're picky, but it does such nice things
to the coffee beans.) Of these, the choicest, most select gourmet coffee beans are "Certified Organic" beans, grown without chemicals of any sort.
This next section is much easier to understand if you look over Basic Gourmet Coffee Terms first.
Major Coffee Growing Regions
There are many countries that grow arabica coffee beans, but only three major growing areas. Each area produces its own range of coffee flavors and characteristics, although they overlap some.
Roasting the green coffee beans to perfection is vital to any gourmet coffee. It's what develops the coffee bean's true character. And it's much more art than science. The process and timing varies from one bean to the next as moisture content, size, quality, desired darkness, and even the weather all come into play. Some gourmet coffee beans should never be dark roasted, for instance, and some, never light.
It takes a master to do it right. That's why coffee houses employ "roast masters."
Some common coffee roasts are:
As you can see, American, Vienna, French and Italian roasts only refer to a degree of roast and have no connection to geography.
terms or the degree of roast may vary slightly from one coffee house to
the next. For instance, some add another level of dark roasted coffee,
like Espresso Roast, to the menu. But everywhere, American and
Cinnamon are light roasts, Italian Roast is very dark, and everything in
between is, well, in between. That should make it a little easier to select gourmet coffee, wherever you shop.
The darker the roast, the less acidity remains in the coffee. This is just one reason gourmet coffees are sometimes blended with other gourmet coffees.
The goal, though, is always to create a pleasing combination of tastes, body, acidity, finish and aroma. Most coffee houses have their own special signature blends, but it's not easy. It may take 20 tries to get one worthy of commercial marketing. They work, we benefit.
Flavored Gourmet Coffee:
Another common blending is the infusion of non-coffee flavors into the roasted coffee beans. Common flavors include chocolate, vanilla, almond, hazelnut, cinnamon, caramel, even bourbon, rum, amaretto, apple, and pumpkin spice.