Naturally sweet coffee. Where does the sweetness come from in coffee?

Coffee (even without sugar) sweet? Let's find out where the natural sweetness of coffee comes from, how to choose the right coffee beans? And tips for making coffee with a sweet flavour profile.

Where does naturally sweet coffee grow?

To be clear, when we talk about sweetness in coffee, I mean sweetness like when you eat ripe fruit. It's not directly about the taste of the sugar itself. We're going to talk about the natural sweetness for whichevery bean of coffee holds more or lesspotential.

Sometimes the sweetness of the coffee is really minimal and/or perhaps overlaid with flavors of bitterness. Every step of the coffee preparation, roasting, processing and growing process contributes to the resulting sweet or unsweet taste of the coffee. And on coffee farms, the search for sweet coffees is just beginning.

The characteristics of coffee that contribute to its sweetness

  • type of coffee
  • variety/varietal
  • growing area
  • harvesting and processing

Coffee arabicais sweeter than robusta. The fruit of the Coffea Arabica coffee tree has a higher sweetness in its genes. Respectively, the sucrose content is about 2-3 times higher than that of robusta. The content of substances such as sucrose, fructose and glucose also varies slightly from one Arabica variety to another. For example, Bourbon has a higher sweetness than Catimor.

The growing region, called terroir, also has something to do with the sweetness in coffee. In fertile soil, at the right altitude, in short, with optimal climatic and other conditions, farmers can grow coffees that are wonderfully sweet in the cup. The fruit of the coffee tree must also be picked at the right time, when the coffee cherry is fully ripe.

Then there is the processing of the coffee, and the choice of method has a significant impact on the flavour profile. In simpler terms, if coffee isprocessed naturally, it is expected to taste sweeter than washed coffee (wet method). This is because during drying in the fruit wrapper of the coffee cherry, the bean still takes on sweetness from the pulp. Wet processing dries the already shelled bean, which will usually have a brighter cleaner flavour, although not as sweet.

Effect of roasting on coffee sweetness

If the quality of the coffee beans allows it, it is then up to the roaster to enhance the sweetness of the coffee with an appropriate roasting style. The idea is to roast the coffee long enough for it to "dry out" and not too long that the smoky, ashy bitter flavours start to emerge.

When coffee is roasted, changes occur in the bean as some compounds degrade and others form. For example, sugar molecules and amino acids react together. This reaction results in the sweet caramel tones of coffee.

As the temperature rises in the coffee roaster, polysaccharides are broken down into simple sugars. These also caramelise. But beware, anyone who has tried making caramel at home knows that a moment of inattention turns the sweet goodness into a bitter burnt mass. That's why roasting must be stoppedat the right moment.

Coffee roasting degree and sweetness

Is light roast coffee sweeter than dark roast beans? On the one hand, you might say that the sugars not consumed by the caramelisation process (the bean acquires its brown colour and enticing aromas are formed) may also be more interesting in combination with the higher acidity of light roast coffees.

But there is just that coffee aroma created with increasing roasting time. It's a fruity and juicy aroma (the aroma of furaneol and ethyl methyl butyrate) that you can smell when drinking coffee. You will also find the taste significantly sweeter. Just like you find the coffee with more body sweeter (again, it needs some roasting time).

How to make naturally sweet coffee?

As with all the previous steps, the final preparation of a scallion coffee canenhance or suppress the sweetness. There is a "sweet point", the sweet point of coffee extraction. This is where you are aiming for in the preparation. You need to create the extraction conditions to reach it.

The recipe for a sweet coffee is the right grind setting on a quality grinder. Keep the other parameters (water temperature, extraction time, coffee dose...) constant when setting the grind coarseness. A basic rule of thumb is that coarser grinds tend towards acidity and fine grinds towards bitterness. Our "sweet point" is somewhere in the middle.

With an adequately set grinder, you can then move on to other tools to enhance the sweetness of the coffee. For example, change the water temperature, add half a gram of coffee, adjust the pre-infusion technique and more.

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