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How we select coffee beans for our Nitro Cold Brews


 

We’re super proud that every single drop of Nitro Cold Brew coffee you drink is made by us, by hand, in Hackney. It’s the only way to guarantee quality, consistency and freshness for all you thirsty people!


You can’t make great coffee without great coffee beans.


We source the finest in-season coffees, roast and brew them ourselves to have control over the entire process and to guarantee the quality that we expect when drinking Minor Figures coffee.


1. Coffees have seasons? 

While we eat fruits and vegetables from all over the world, all year round in the UK, they only grow in certain regions at certain times - the same goes for coffee. There are two main seasons, May-October and November-April when coffee is harvested across the world.

How we select our coffee beans - Blog - Coffee seasons with harvest time per location

Credit: The Captain's coffee


You’re only as good as your last coffee.
— Giles, Master Brewer

 

3. How we select our coffee

We use different coffee beans to make our Nitro Cold Brews (Latte, Mocha, Black) so we gather a selection of in-season green coffee samples. Our selections are driven by what flavour profile we desire. Things that contribute to a coffee’s flavour profile: 

  • Origin/ Region
  • Coffee Species
  • Varietal
  • Processing (washed/ natural/ pulped natural/ honey/ etc)
  • Seasonality
  • Handling (bagging/ storage)
  • Roast

You can make good coffee bad
but not bad coffee good.


Origin/ Region

It impacts the flavour by way of soil ‘Terroir’, geography, altitude, climate (sun, wind, rainfall).  For example - High altitude coffee generally grows slower and contains less caffeine, which leads to more complex, characterful flavours and less bitterness (from the reduced caffeine content).

Ethiopian coffee often has stone fruit and tea-like flavours, while Kenyan coffee can taste just like blackcurrant and many Brazilian coffees taste like chocolate, nuts and caramel.

How we select our coffee beans - Blog - coffee farm

Coffee species

The two most popular species of coffee are ‘Arabica’ and ‘Robusta’. We use only Arabica because the high caffeine content of Robusta, about twice that of the Arabica leads to too much bitterness for our tastes.

Characteristics associated with good, high grown arabica coffee include acidity, fruit flavours and sweetness. Robusta grows readily at low altitude and can be characterised by it’s harsh, bitter taste.
 

Varietal

Varietals? Think of it in wine terms. Both Chardonnay and Reisling are types of grape, but have key differences when it comes to how they look and taste. The environment a particular variety of grape or coffee is grown in has a big impact on the flavours it will exhibit. 

It is widely believed Arabica originated in the highlands of Ethiopia and all the varietals on the image below are either the result of naturally occurring mutations or hybrids created by us to increase disease resistance, crop yield, and tolerance to stresses. 

How we select our coffee beans - Blog - coffee varietal trees to better understand what you're drinking


Processing

After the ripe cherries are picked they must be processed, this process can be described as washed, natural, or pulped natural/ honey.

A washed coffee is dried having had all of the cherry fruit removed from the bean, the result is a cleaner flavour with a truer representation of what flavours are found within the bean - one for the purists.

A natural coffee is dried with the cherry fruit left on the bean, leading to exceptional sweetness but sometimes inconsistent flavours.

A pulped natural/ honey coffee has seen some but not all of the cherry fruit removed and can lead to high sweetness whilst offering a cleaner experience than a natural coffee.

How we select our coffee beans - Blog - coffee fruit while still on the tree


Seasonality (Freshness)

Some coffees age better than others but we try our best to get the freshest coffee we can depending on crop harvests. An old coffee can lose its vibrancy and taste a bit ‘woody’. The aging process can be exacerbated with poor storage conditions. 

Handling

We work with excellent green bean importers who have long-established and proven networks in transporting green coffee from origin and can guarantee the quality of the coffee they supply at all stages. We look for coffee that is packed in ‘Grainpro’ bags to protect the coffee against moisture damage, insects, moulds, and preserve its freshness.

My job is basically to not fuck up all the work done beforehand. — James, Head of Production


Roast

This stage plays an important role in enhancing and showcasing the inherent flavours that a particular coffee has. We will look into this process in more detail in another blog post.

We must roast the coffee sympathetically. To us this means a ‘light’ roast. It is very easy to undo all the good work done at the farm, roasting too dark will introduce undesirable ‘roasty’ flavours that mask the true flavour of the coffee.

How we select our coffee beans - Blog - coffee beans at different stages of the roasting process

 

4. What flavour we’re after in our Nitro Cold Brews

We use different beans throughout the year based on what’s in season, so the taste of our Nitro Cold Brews will change accordingly. You can find out more about the coffee we used on the back of the can. Through experience, we have managed to narrow the selection criteria for the Latte, Mocha, and Black Nitro Cold Brew, although we keep an open mind for alternatives.

Black – we want to showcase a vibrant, floral & fruity coffee. Often we find ourselves selecting washed Ethiopian coffee from the Sidamo Province as it offers everything we love in a black coffee but we are open to anything that tastes great cold! 

Mocha/ Latte – we want a coffee that compliments the oat milk and chocolate. There is no point using a high acidity, floral coffee with oat milk or chocolate. So we usually opt for a coffee that is sweet, nutty, and chocolatey. Often this happens to be a pulped natural Brazilian coffee.


 

 

How we select our coffee beans - Blog - the Minor Figures Nitro Cold Brew Black Mocha Latte on a bed of ice ready to be drunk on a hot summer day



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