What Do The Beans Mean?
One of the most common questions we encounter from someone shopping our coffees is, "What do the 5 beans mean on the front of your retail coffee bags?" The short answer is that it is a visual scale meant to summarize two coffee components that are colloquially referred to as "boldness". Five dark beans would indicate "very bold" as opposed to one bean. Let's dig into these two boldness components a bit more.
The more body a coffee has the more perceived flavor on your palate. More perceived flavor adds to the first facet of "boldness".
Coffees with a lot of body tend to coat your tongue so that the flavors stay with you longer. Alternatively, coffees with little body are characterized as being "clean". Each green coffee has it's own inherent potential for imparting body which is then directed or "shaped" by the roasting process.
The higher (darker) a coffee's roast level the more the flavor tones become focused toward smoky, burnt and pungent. These dominating flavors and intense aromas are the second facet of the coffee's "boldness" quality.
Roast Level is a product of the final temperature a green coffee was allowed to reach during roasting. Higher finish temperatures translate to darker beans. Take a look at our Visual Guide to Roasting Levels to see the relationship between roasting temperatures, flavor and bean color.
Our 5-bean boldness scale is therefore a visual summation of a coffee's body and roast level. It is possible to enjoy a bold coffee that is not dark-roasted. These coffees are often city to full city-roasted and appear with 3.5 to 4-bean ratings. Coffees labeled at the full 5-bean rating are roasted at Vienna or darker. If you enjoy mild coffees and more bean character look for those labeled with 2 to 3-bean ratings.