Get to know the different types of coffee beans, learn to identify the characteristics of the various types, see images for each, and discover how many more type of coffee you haven't tasted yet.
Coffee beans are actually fruit seeds found inside bright red berries. The legend goes that 9th-century shepherds noticed that goats seemed to dance after consuming coffee berries. A monk then drank the coffee berries and discovered that it kept him awake at night.
Coffee is next only to crude oil when it comes to the world’s most traded commodity. The global consumption reaches approximately 2.25 billion cups of coffee each day. The best climates for growing coffee beans are known as The Bean Belt. This includes Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Sumatra, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, Columbia, and Ethiopia.
Coffee comes from the Arabic term for “wine of the bean.” “Cappuccino,” on the other hand, is so-called because the drink resembles the clothing of the Capuchin monks.
1. Arabica Beans
Over 60 percent of the world’s coffee is made out of Arabica beans, and they are popular and common for a reason. These beans are grown at high altitudes and therefore, they receive the perfect amount of shade and rainfall to result in a full, delicious taste. Arabica trees are usually fairly small – no more than six feet in height – and they are easy to take care of, which is one of the reasons they are such a commonplace bean to make coffee from.
Arabica beans are bright and slightly acidic, and they come in a number of varieties of both aromas and tastes. Many have lower acidity levels, and some of their varieties include Bourbon, Blue Mountain, Typica, and Caturra.
If you sample the coffee on your front palate – where sweetness and salinity are found – you get a better taste in your mouth, and Arabica bean coffee is always better tasting when you serve it hot or with a pour-over or drip coffee maker, mainly because the taste of the beans diminishes if you serve the coffee with creamer or when it’s cold.
2. Bourbon Beans
French monks developed this variety of coffee beans, and it results in a very fruity flavor with a sweet caramel undertone. Very popular in the Americas and throughout Africa, Bourbon beans produce larger quantities of beans than other types of coffee bean trees, even though the trees are somewhat susceptible to various diseases. It is also the predecessor to many other types of coffee beans found on the market today.
3. Catimor Beans
A cross between two other types of coffee beans, the final result is sometimes a sour and unpleasant taste; however, if the beans are processed correctly those qualities can be reduced somewhat. These strains are mostly found in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and India.
4. Catuai Beans
Developed in the 1950s and 60s in Brazil, the Catuai coffee bean has numerous variations and exposes some of the better qualities of a good Brazilian coffee. The coffee is slightly acidic and has undertones of sweetness to it.
5. Caturra Beans
A mutant variety of the Bourbon coffee bean, the Caturra bean was developed in the 1930s in Brazil, even though it did better later on once it was planted in Colombia and Central America’s high altitudes. These beans produce coffee that has a bright citrusy taste and a light body. It is also a predecessor to many other varieties of coffee beans, including the Maracatu and Catimor.
6. Excelsa Beans
Grown mostly in Southeast Asia, the Excelsa coffee bean is completely different than other types of beans, even though it has recently been classified as part of the Liberica family. It has a nice almond shape and is often used in blends so that coffee can have more taste and oomph.
This is one of the reasons that enjoying this type of coffee bean on the middle and back sections of the palate results in the best flavor. Mostly considered a light-roast type of coffee, this coffee bean has both a fruity and tart taste, and once you taste it you are very likely to try it again and again.
7. Geisha Beans
Geisha beans produce award-winning cups of coffee that feel silky in your mouth and which have a lot of flavors. In fact, nowadays this type of coffee has produced more awards than nearly any other coffee beans on the market.
8. Icatu Beans
The amazing part about choosing Icatu beans for your next cup of coffee is the number of flavors you can taste in them, including plum, chocolate, and berry, which come out fully if the coffee is dry processed. It is a hybrid variety that originated in Brazil.
9. Jackson Beans
Jackson coffee beans grow in Burundi and Rwanda, and the flavor is a little like the Bourbon type of beans. With a delicate acidic characteristic, these coffee beans are a very high-quality type of beans that make a great cup of coffee every time.
10. Jamaican Blue Mountain Beans
Of all the coffee grown in Jamaica, this one is perhaps the tastiest. In fact, the Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is one of the first coffees brought to the New World, and if you look for the JBM strain, you are always going to get a high-quality cup of coffee with a taste you’ll love. The coffee is mildly acidic, light and balanced in flavor.
11. Jember Beans
This coffee bean originated in Indonesia and is a hybrid variety. Often called S795, the Jember coffee beans are full-bodied and rich, and their taste is like a combination of caramel, maple, and brown sugar. It was developed for its hardiness in the 1940s and is a combination of the Kent and S228 coffee beans.
12. Kent Beans
Developed in India in the 1920s, these beans have a very light taste and both floral and spicy undertones.
13. Kona Typica Beans
With a clean, balanced, and rather mild taste, these beans come in many different varieties and grow great on the Hawaiian islands.
14. Liberica Beans
Liberica beans are larger than other types of coffee beans and have a somewhat irregular shape. Its aroma is a combination of fruity and floral undertones, and it has a very unique flavor as well. In fact, many coffee drinkers claim it has a woodsy and smoky taste, unlike any other coffee they’ve ever sampled.
The beans also have a unique history that starts in the late 1800s. When a disease eliminated over 90 percent of the world’s coffee crop, the Liberica plant was what they turned to instead to make their coffee, and it reappeared in the late 1990s to cover many other countries.
15. Maracatu Beans
A cross between Caturra and Maragogype coffee beans, the Maracatu beans are very large and are grown in Central America in the higher altitudes. It is a very acidic and fruity type of coffee bean.
16. Maragogype Beans
This type of coffee bean grows in Brazil and it is very large in size, which is one of the reasons they are sometimes called Elephant Bean coffee beans. It has a rather heavy and buttery flavor with hints of citrus and floral undertones.
17. Mocca (Mokha) Beans
This coffee bean is now grown in Yemen and Hawaii, and it is a small product with a slight chocolate-chip flavor.
18. Mundo Novo Beans
This is a hybrid variety of coffee bean that produces heavily and is resistant to most diseases. If you use the right modified soil and a lot of fertilizer, the taste is just right. It also consists of many different varieties that vary a bit between types.
19. Pacamara Beans
These coffee beans are a hybrid variety that originated in 1958 in El Salvador. The coffee itself offers a perfect balance of floral and citrus flavors, along with a little acidity and a touch of sweetness.
20. Pacas Beans
A mutation variety from El Salvador, these beans produce a lot of stock and do better at higher elevations. It is sweet and acidic with spicy and floral undertones.
21. Pache Beans
These beans grow in Guatemala and have two unique varieties: Pache Colis and Pache Comum. They produce heavily and offer a very smooth taste, enhancing their reputation as a blender coffee.
22. Robusta Beans
If you’re looking for a coffee that goes great with cream and sugar and tastes good even when it’s iced, the Robusta coffee beans are worth trying. They are the second most popular type of bean when producing coffee, and the trees are practically immune from any type of disease. Robusta beans are sturdy and can even withstand high altitudes, especially those where there are at least occasional rainfall and plenty of suns.
Interestingly, the beans’ ability to be resistant to many diseases is directly due to the fact that it has a lot of caffeine in it – to be exact, twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans. For best results, you should drink this type of coffee on the back palate where the bitter taste buds are located. Robusta beans have a low level of acidity and a nice, smooth taste, and some of them even have a hint of chocolate in them.
Of course, Robusta beans have to be grown in the right conditions to taste their best, so if yours has a bad taste or smell, they might not have been grown in these conditions. Always buy coffee made from Robusta beans from a reputable source.
23. Ruiru Beans
This is a wild Arabica bean developed in Kenya and with a very unique flavor that tastes a little like Robusta coffee beans.
These coffees are a strain from Kenya and in fact, they make up nearly 90-percent of that country’s exports in coffee. Typically called “blueberry bombs,” they are high-quality coffees with a fruity wine flavor and a long-lasting taste.
25. Villa Sarchi Beans
This type of bean is a hybrid variety that does best when grown organically. It has a tad of acidity and a medium-bodied taste, as well as undertones of fruit and sweetness.
26. Villalobos Beans
Grown in Costa Rica, this is a mutation coffee bean that grows best in poor soil and higher elevations. It is highly acidic and provides a lot of sweetness as well.