It used to be a trip to the corner store netted a single choice or maybe two for the coffee lover. One-size-fits-all in a can to go, thank you very much. With the appreciation for coffee hitting an all-time high, this is no longer the case. Choice, of course, is good for the consumer, but what might not be so good is the fact there are so many choices one's head might spin in trying to make a selection.
Even most grocery store coffee aisles today include a huge variety of cans loaded with pre-ground beans, jars of instant coffee and even bags and bins full of roasted, beans ready for grinding at home. So, how does a consumer pick something that might suit their individualized coffee palette? Knowing what the names mean can be a huge help. Since some locations can carry dozens and even hundreds of different coffee flavors, the primary factor is the underlining roast.
Coffee names in general give clues not necessarily to the bean's type or origin, but to how the roasting process has been handled to produce different, distinct flavors. American blends, for example, tend to be lighter, more watered down coffees. Typical fare in homes, offices and restaurants, these blends can be quite good, but they don't offer the full-bodied flavors of some of the others. Names of coffee that sound European generally contain a darker-roasted coffee, but even here the variety might vary. Italian coffees tend to be roasted longer and darker and have bolder, stronger flavors than their French counterparts. Names of coffee that derive from tropical destinations tend to describe the locations where the beans are from and not necessarily the roast, which means the flavors might be hard to determine.
Mexican coffee, for example, still pertains to one of two types of beans, which of course can be roasted to produce an array of flavors. Shoppers will even find coffees named after the flavors added to them, like vanilla or mint, estate names that describe the grower and brand names that don't sound very coffee like at all. In general, look for clues about the roasting quality to figure out the flavor inside the bag, can or glass jar. If the roast is light, the flavor will be less strong.
Medium is a full-bodied mix that won't overpower. Italian or dark, darkest roast is a strong cup of coffee that's meant to be drunk in moderation. As the coffee craze continues, the number of choices consumers find themselves with is mind-boggling. But, with a little coffee know how, just about anyone can find a roast they enjoy.
Paul Duxbury writes extensively on Coffee. You can read more of his articles at Gourmet Coffee