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What’s The Deal With Fruity Tasting Coffee?
Written by: Garrett Oden
When’s the last time you tasted notes of apples, strawberries, or pineapples in your coffee?
Believe it or not, these flavors aren’t just possible, they’re actually fairly common—if you know where to look for them.
Fruity tasting coffee is everywhere in the specialty coffee world. As we’ve discovered these unique, sometimes odd flavors, we’ve learned to love them—they’re exotic, fascinating.
But not everyone is big on fruity coffee—and we get it. They can be weird.
Still, fruity coffee isn’t something that should be dismissed immediately. It has quite a bit of value, even to regular coffee lovers. Let’s take a look at fruity tasting coffee’s deal.
What Makes Coffee Taste Fruity?
Coffee is a plant, and like all plants, its flavor comes from a variety of sources. Here’s a look at some of the things that affect coffee flavor dramatically:
- Soil Composition — Nutrient-rich soil tends to produce more flavorful coffee than nutrient-weak soil. The more nutrients a coffee plant can get, the healthier it becomes, and the more flavor the coffee cherries give to the beans within.
- Climate — Weather patterns, including humidity, rain, and wind, help a plant know when it’s time to flower, produce cherries, or go dormant. When the plants get a balanced annual cycle, they produce balanced cherries. When the climate goes haywire and causes the plant to produce cherries early or late, the resulting coffee isn’t quite as tasty.
- Altitude — High-altitude coffees generally have brighter acidities than coffees grown at low altitudes. Our brains often interpret this brightness as a fruity tang and crispness.
- Harvest — Cherries that are picked before their ripe tend to produce coffee that tastes “green” (yuck). Cherries picked when they’re over-ripe tend to make the coffee taste fermented (yuck again). Cherries that are just right when they’re handpicked are balanced, vibrant, and flavorful.
- Processing — Controlled processing helps bring out balanced flavors. The natural process in particular produces fruity flavors because the coffee beans are dried inside the cherries for days or even weeks, soaking up the sugary, fruity goodness.
- Roasting — Coffees that are roasted at a light to medium range often have fruity tasting notes. If roasted darker, however, those fruity flavors decay and become bitter and carbon-y. And since super dark roasts were the standard before specialty coffee, it’s no wonder why fruity coffees seem so new and odd.
Fruitiness isn’t just a flavor that hipsters made up to make coffee more weird or exotic. Fruity flavors actually do develop at the farm and are brought out during roasting (and coffee cherries are, in fact, a fruit).
No Flavor Oils Required
Now, let’s be completely clear about something: these fruity flavors we are talking about have nothing to do with flavor oils.
Back in the 60’s, when the price of coffee shot up dramatically, toasters started spraying low-grade beans they could afford with artificial flavor oils. This kept roasters from going out of business and covered up the bad flavors of low-grade beans.
However, these beans never really tasted great. Those raspberry and cinnamon sprays always tasted fake, even the “natural” ones.
When we talk about fruity coffee here at JavaPresse, we’re NEVER talking about flavor oils. Well grown, processed and roasted coffees have rich exotic flavors on their own, no oils required.
How To Taste And Enjoy Fruity Coffee Like A Pro
There’s something very important we have to remember about exotic coffee flavors: They are nuanced. The coffee will have the same ‘coffee’ flavor you know and love, but little changes here and there are what we are talking about.
So, a coffee with a tangerine acidity won’t taste anything like orange juice. It’ll probably just have a slight citrus tang and a sweetness that makes your brain interpret those flavor notes as similar to orange.
Nuance. Remember that. Nuance.
The most important question you need to ask yourself when you’re tasting coffee is: What does this remind me of?
Let’s walk through some of the things you want to look for when you’re trying to taste fruity coffee:
- Acidity — High-altitude coffees particularly can have an acidity that reminds you of a crisp fruit. Sometimes the prevailing acid is citric acid, reminding you of a lemon or orange. Sometimes the more noticeable acid is malic acid, which is tangy like a green apple or grape.
- Aroma — Some coffees, especially natural processed coffees, have really vibrant aromas that smell quite fruity. Your retro-nasal taste receptors interpret these aromas as flavors when you swallow. Common aromas in natural process coffees include blueberries, strawberries, and flowers.
- Sweetness — The actual sugars in a coffee can be noticeable and come across as a gentle sweetness. Sometimes this sweetness is like honey or caramel, but when it’s just like a hint of regular granulated sugar, it can pair with an aroma or acid to add to your brain’s interpretation of a fruity flavor.
These aren’t all the sensory elements that contribute to a coffee’s fruity flavor, but these are the main ones. Aftertaste, mouthfeel, and even bitterness can also lead to a fruity flavor, but not as often.
Where To Find Fruity Coffees
You won’t be finding rich fruity coffees at your local supermarket. Those beans are almost certainly low-grade, too darkly roasted, and stale. Those nuanced fruity flavor notes are delicate, and they’re the first flavors to go as roasted coffee ages.
You really need to drink coffee within 2-3 weeks of being roasted to really experience those fruity notes at their peak, which is why it’s so important to buy coffee that’s sent to you immediately after being roasted.
I know just the place you should look.
Our JavaPresse Coffee Club sends you freshly roasted, specialty-grade beans the same day they are roasted. That means you get the beans on your doorstep within just 2-3 days of being roasted and can enjoy them at their finest and freshest stage.
We even have some stellar fruity coffees in our lineup.
- Easy Street (Brazil) — a sweet, tangy note of lime
- Crimson Trail (Colombia) — sweet strawberry aroma and tang
- Rhythm Hill (Burundi) — smooth, sweet peach with a creamy body