Nobody likes weak coffee. We've all had it, that cup of hot brown liquid that tastes more like wash water than coffee. But what makes a coffee strong? The answer is surprisingly complex, mostly because when it comes to coffee, “strong” means different things to different people.
Some are talking about the caffeine in the coffee, the bigger the buzz, the stronger the coffee. Several factors contribute to how much caffeine is in a cup of coffee, roast level (lighter has more), brewing method (ounce for ounce, espresso has more caffeine than drip coffee), and most importantly the variety of coffee brewed. Coffee comes in two main varieties, Arabica and Robusta. Robusta contains twice the caffeine of Arabica. Unfortunately, Robusta doesn't taste as good. A cup of 100% Robusta coffee tends to have a flat flavor, with a subtle undercurrent of burnt rubber. Blending in Arabica coffee improves the flavor. Our customers who want extra caffeine in their coffee choose a Personalized Blend that combines high-caffeine Robusta with intensely flavorful Arabicas.
Which brings us to the second quality that folks look for in “strong” coffee, flavor. Many coffee drinkers are looking for intense flavor when they ask for strong coffee. Some seek the bold, full-bodied complexity of a dark-roasted Indonesian. Others prefer an intensely bright coffee, like many grown in Africa. Still others want a big, rich flavor, not too lively or bold, but intensely coffee, like a good coffee from Colombia.
The most important factor, though, has nothing to do with the beans. When it comes to coffee, strength is in the brewing. No matter the variety, origin or blend, any coffee can be brewed weak. There are three factors, all of which need to be right for coffee to be good and strong:
Temperature of the water: If the water is too cool, too little of the coffee will dissolve, and the coffee will be weak.
Grind: If the grind is too coarse, too little of the coffee will dissolve, and the coffee will be weak.
Amount of coffee: Use too little coffee, and there won't be enough of the good flavors to dissolve. The brewed cup will taste both harsh and weak.
For specifics on how to brew good coffee (they vary by method) check out our Brewing Coffee page
Have other questions about coffee? Just Ask the Roaster.