Have you ever wondered why two coffees from the same geographic region have distinct flavors? You may notice hints of wine and berry in one and spicy notes in the other. As Ethiopian coffee is one of the most consumed coffees in production, there are many reasons those coffees could taste different depending on location, processing, roasting, and preparation. This article will provide an overview of Ethiopian coffee varieties, bean harvesting and preparation, and roasting methods.
The Origins of Ethiopian Coffee
Ethiopian beans are one-of-a-kind with dynamic flavors, roasting methods, and sourced locations. Just as the beans have a unique flavor profile, they also have a unique origin story.
The legend behind the discovery of Ethiopian coffee begins with a goat herder. That goat herder - Kaldi - noticed the cherries his goats ate made them much peppier. Seeking knowledge of this mystery, Kaldi asked the monks about the cherries. In response, the monks threw the cherries into the fire to cast away any evilness. The monks noticed that the burning cherries gave off an appealing aroma, so they decided to take the beans, grind them, and mix them with water.
This legend marks the first brew in Ethiopia. Since then, Ethiopia has grown as the largest exporter of coffee today, with over 5,000 wild coffee varieties.
The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
Did you know that Ethiopians celebrate roasting coffee? A time-honored tradition, the ceremony originated in the 10th century. Ethiopians consider roasting coffee to be a ceremonial ritual. Each ceremony may last two to three hours. Mainly, these ceremonies act as a social event with friends, children, elders, and those in the local community invited to participate.
During the ceremony, members pan-roast the coffee, grind it with a mortar and pestle, then brew it over an open fire. Although we may place less significance on the preparation process in the United States today, we still consider the act of drinking coffee a social event.
Variety of Ethiopian Beans
We refer to Ethiopian coffee plants as heirloom varieties because they grow in a thriving natural environment. To thrive, coffee plants require perfect soil acidity. Additionally, these specific beans are grown in mountainous areas with just enough rain for nourishment.
There are six areas of Ethiopia with thriving Ethiopian coffee farms. Each of these areas produces unique varieties of Ethiopian beans.
Many believe coffee originated from the region of Sidamo. Located nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, these beans are "high grown." Since we cannot access these Ethiopian coffee farms as frequently, the beans have time to take in the soil's nutrients.
These beans typically have berry, lemon, and citrus flavors, producing a medium-bodied and acidic taste. Guji and Yirgacheffe beans are also versions of Sidamo. Command Coffee offers two forms of these Ethiopian beans - Sidamo and Yirgacheffe.
One of the six heirloom varieties, these Ethiopian beans come from southwest Ethiopia. Since the heirloom varieties often produce full-bodied beans, we notice dark chocolate, floral, and tartness hints.
Famous for its chocolate and nutty notes with wine and berry undertones, Yirgacheffe coffee is one of the best on the market. Like the Sidamo coffee, Ethiopian coffee farms grow the bean at a higher elevation of 6,000 feet. After harvest, the beans undergo wet processing.
Grown in the Eastern highlands, Harar beans are some of the oldest still in production. Ethiopian coffee farms for Harar beans usually harvest them by hand and sun-dry them on concrete slabs.
Noticeable flavors in Harar beans include wine, mocha, and fruity hints. Harar beans differ from Sidamo in that they have a slight blackberry smell with a more balanced profile.
Also grown at high altitudes, Limu beans have low acidity and are often wet-processed. Similar to Harar and Genika beans, these Ethiopian beans have notes of wine and spice.
Grown in the Bench Maji region, Genika beans are unique in shape and flavor. Despite having a small greyish appearance, these beans often pack a chocolatey taste with notes of wine and spice
How To Roast Ethiopian Beans
While Ethiopian beans are famous alone for the flavors they produce, we can only enjoy those unique flavors if we prepare the beans correctly. The preparation process for roasting beans involves three key steps: processing, the prep stage, and roasting.
Wet And Dry Processing
Before roasting the beans, you must process them after harvest. There are two types of processing:
- Wet Processing - This method involves placing the beans in water for sorting. The denser beans tend to sink. When the beans are softened enough, harvesters use eco pulpers to remove the skin and keep the internal bean in a fermentation tank. Afterward, harvesters soak the beans again, place them on a drying bed for up to two weeks, and package them for sale.
- Sun Drying - With the sun drying method, you skip the first wet processing stage. Instead, you place the ripe Ethiopian beans immediately on a raised drying bed for weeks before packaging them.
The Prep Stage
As with most coffees, you must have a clear strategy when roasting Ethiopian beans. Since Ethiopian coffees originate from several regions with many flavor profiles, you may experience surprises during the roasting process. Before roasting an entire batch, try sample batches to test the different flavors and color intensities.
Roasting Temperature And Level
When roasting Ethiopian coffees, slowly increase the temperature and monitor the process carefully. Start with a light roast, which will allow you to estimate the acidity level.
We recommend a fairly low to moderate rate for washed and natural beans when increasing your temperature. Remember, though, that roasting is a delicate process requiring patience and multiple sample batches.
Methods For Brewing Ethiopian Coffee
When brewing Ethiopian coffee beans, there are several ways we typically do so both at home and in the coffee shop.
As a traditional brewing method, the pour-over allows you to control the water-coffee ratio, water flow, and brew size. While it does take up more time in the morning, most coffee lovers enjoy this method for the experience. However, if you lack time for this method in the morning, visit our coffeehouse for well-brewed coffee with quick delivery.
The French press provides a consistent brewing method. As an immersion method, the coffee grounds need some time to sit. However, note that the coffee grounds will be courser than other methods.
Cold brews have risen in popularity in the last decade. Although it requires minimal prep, it does need more time to brew. Cold brews are the best bet for those who enjoy less acidic coffee. To experience a twist on the classic cold brew, try out the seasonal favorite, the Salted Caramel Cold Brew.
Visit Command Coffee For The Best Ethiopian Brews
At Command Coffee, we believe in offering the highest quality coffee, service, and experience. With socially conscious and ethically sourced coffee, we provide premium blends of Ethiopian Sidama, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, and Honduras Santa Lucia. For the best Ethiopian coffee in Indianapolis, visit Command Coffee today.