Gallery: Know Your Beans: A Field Guide to Coffee

Fully Ripened Coffee Cherry
Fully Ripened Coffee Cherry
The coffee we drink is the seed of a fruit, which, like any fruit, ripens. From green to yellow to dark cherry to raisin brown, coffee fruit experiences a rainbow of a life cycle. Pictured here after the cherry red picking stage, the fruit is now beginning to turn overripe and show its wrinkles.
Cascara
Cascara
Once the coffee seed (bean) is removed from a coffee fruit, the leftover skin and pulp can be dried and used as cascara. In recent years, infusing the cascara like tea (that's right...coffee tea!) has gained popularity. In many mills, however, it is just discarded.
Parchment
Parchment
This dried, unroasted coffee bean has not been fully stripped of the parchment, or the layer beneath the pulp, and is known as "parchment coffee" or coffee en pergamino. Leaving the parchment on after processing can affect the flavor of the coffee, quite often undesirably, but some coffee is roasted within the lingering parchment.
Esmeralda
Esmeralda
This is an example of one of the world's most prized (and pricey) coffees, the Esmeralda Geisha from the Hacienda Esmeralda farm in Panama. This example is roasted by Danish roasters The Coffee Collective, and has a characteristically Scandinavian light color to the super-delicate roast. A lighter roast can express more flavors naturally occurring within the coffee bean.
French Roast
French Roast
"French" roasted coffee is a very dark form of coffee roasting, which produces an intensely aromatic and dark bean due to the high temperature the bean is brought to in the roaster. The coffee bean's natural oils begin to reveal themselves enthusiastically in a French Roast bean, which will appear black-brown and are oily to the touch. Heavily roasted coffees are popular for their "bold" flavor, but retain less of the bean's inherent flavor qualities and more flavor qualities of the roasting process itself.
Decaf
Decaf
This unroasted coffee bean has undergone a decaffeination process known as Swiss Water Process, which removes the caffeine from a coffee bean without chemical treatment. The bean has a slightly darker tint to it than it did before decaffeination.
Pacamara
Pacamara
Pacamara, a hybrid attributed to growers in El Salvador, is one of the largest varieties of coffee beans. This style of bean is known for not only a dramatic potential for nuanced flavor, but for challenges it presents in roasting. Maintaining temperature evenly throughout the large bean can be tricky.
Peaberry
Peaberry
Cute little peaberries are anomalous growths within a coffee plant that are the result of only one seed being fertilized, rather than two. They grow rounded and sweet, and are said to be easier to roast because of their shape. Some people just love them.
Fully Washed Coffee
Fully Washed Coffee
This roasted example of a fully-washed coffee shows a clear view of the coffee bean has developed in the roasting process. Fully washed coffees have their pulp removed before being floated in water and sorted, fermented, washed and dried.
Sumatran Coffee
Sumatran Coffee
Sumatra, known for producing coffees of a particularly "earthy" flavor profile, gets its unique coffee character from the Giling Basah process, a form of wet-hulling the coffee fruit that produces the unusually mottled colors present in this green coffee bean—and a funky flavor you either love or hate.