All coffee is not alike, and there are times that you'll want to choose one over the other. Columbian coffee is typically sold as a breakfast brew or an all-purpose coffee. French roast coffee is darker and more bitter, although it does not necessarily have more caffeine than lighter varieties.
There are two main varietals of coffee:
- Arabica: Grown primarily in Latin America, Africa and the Pacific. Arabica varieties tend to be sweeter and more acidic than robusta coffees. They grow at higher altitudes and have lower yields, which makes them more expensive. Arabica coffees are generally considered to be higher quality than robusta.
- Robusta: These coffee varieties are grown exclusively in the Eastern hemisphere. They are easier to grow than arabicas, making them less expensive. They are the mainstay of inexpensive pre-ground and instant coffee, although some robusta varieties are prized for espresso.
Columbian coffee is always an arabica variety that tends to be richly flavored with acidity that ranges from quite mild to balanced, making it an easy coffee to drink.
Coffee varietal isn't the only defining characteristic to be aware of when choosing your favorite beans. How the beans are roasted can have an even greater effect. There are several roast levels recognized in the coffee industry and used by home roasters to describe the degree of caramelization the sugars in the coffee have undergone. They range from the lightest, or least caramelized, City and City+ roasts to the darkest Vienna and French roasts. The roast level can highlight the characteristics of the beans or emphasize the flavor of the roast:
- City - City+: The lightest roasts possible. At this stage, the coffee's flavor is determined primarily by the varietal.
- Full City - Full City+: The roasted flavors of the coffee begin to come out at this stage. Chocolate, caramel and bittersweet notes predominate.
- Vienna - French: The darkest possible roast. Beyond a French roast, the coffee beans are completely carbonized. At a French roast, the coffee is very bitter and may taste burnt.
Columbian coffee can be found at any roast level, although it is most often sold at a Full City - Full City+ roast level.
The right coffee depends on your mood. If you want a coffee that can stand up to cream and sugar, or you're making espresso, a French roast is a good choice. If you just want a simple cup of black coffee in the morning, you can't go wrong with a good Columbian.