Types of Coffee: What’s the Right Mix for Your Team?

Do you know this person? The one who scans the many types of coffee listed on the coffeehouse menu, and eye rolls everyone else’s order. Then asks for “just coffee”?

Is there such a thing as “just coffee” anymore? Happily, yes. And, as long as there are diners, road trips and mornings around the campfire, you won’t have any trouble finding a good ole cup of Joe. It will look like the coffee cup emoji on your phone, smell like grandma’s kitchen and taste like it did the day you poured your first cup. It will be just coffee and no doubt perfectly delicious.

But good news for those who want to broaden their coffee horizons, or have to keep an entire office happy… You have options! We can walk you through what’s new, and what’s tried and true. Plus, help you find the right mix without having to stock 40 different flavors. (Unless that sounds fun, in which case we can help you find the right 40!)

We also have some tools you can use to learn more about what types of coffee the people in your office prefer.

Coffee beans 101

It all begins with the beans.

The most common types of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. They both come from coffee plants, but the Arabica bean is considered a higher quality bean. It’s more expensive to produce and leads to a more flavorful and aromatic cup of coffee. That’s why it’s the go-to choice for most premium brands.

On the other hand, its edgier cousin Robusta, comes with a slightly harsher taste. It’s also less expensive to produce, but has a higher caffeine content.

All in all, every type of coffee bean start out green and soft, a little chewy. The good stuff happens once the roaster gets ahold of them.

Whether they’re working in a small batch or a high-tech processing plant, coffee pros know just how long to roast a bean to bring out the best flavor. And, presto, change-o! Green coffee beans are transformed into a variety of roasts. They range from light to medium to dark, depending on the technique and timing of each process.

Roast ‘em if you got ‘em

The National Coffee Association has a helpful infographic that looks at the most common types of roasts and their characteristics. Here’s the scoop:

  • As roasts go from light to dark, the taste goes from low acidity to high. That means the darkest roasts are the most bitter in flavor.
  • Light roasts are lightest in color, have no oil on the surface, and might have a fruity or cinnamon taste that makes them good for drinking black.
  • Medium roasts, the most common in the U.S., are slightly sweeter than light roasts and have a more balanced level of acidity and bitterness.
  • Medium-dark roasts have a slightly oilier surface and are more bitter than acidic. Here you’ll find “city roasts” that have more bitterness than acidity and “full city roasts” that are more full-bodied and bitter.
  • Dark roasts are the most full-bodied, have an oily surface, and are the most bitter of the roasts. You’ll taste less of the original flavor of the bean and more of the roasting process with these. That makes them a good choice for adding milk products. This is also where the bolder French or Italian roasts fall, including espresso.

Tasters’ choice

Once you’ve got a handle on the types of roasts, have some fun exploring the flavors you might want in your office.

The World Coffee Research organization recently published their Sensory Lexicon, which looked at three main coffee qualities – flavor, aroma and texture. In an effort to come up with what they call a “universal language of coffee’s sensory qualities,” researchers identified 110 types of coffee attributes. Plus, a taste intensity scale to help measure them.

The report breaks down the qualities you’d expect to see, such as sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It also includes some qualities you might never think about in a cup of coffee. Anyone up for some raisin or whisky overtones? What about pea-pod, papery or pipe tobacco?

And if that’s not enough flavor information, you check out the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) website and look for the Coffee Taster’s Coffee Flavor Wheel.

Then, to see what your own crew is looking for, print or email our coffee and tea survey to get their feedback.

Types of Coffee - Survey link

Taste buds and types of coffee

It’s true. There are so many types of coffee and lots of opinions. It may seem impossible to please everyone. Don’t despair! You just have to keep showing your people that you’re listening to what they want with a good variety.

Some of our customers who face this all the time shared their wisdom:

  • Jessica, an office manager and receptionist, says she gets “comments from [co-workers] via Google messenger” and monitors favorites before placing her coffee order.
  • Liz, a senior associate, tracks which coffees are “most used and requested” and then gives the people what they want.
  • Carol, a senior manager of corporate services, takes a more cautious approach. She says budget cuts often lead to a dial-back of premium coffees. And, it’s a lot harder to take away something people love. “You will hear the complaints!” So, she chooses the basic crowd- and budget-pleasers.

Another way to look at it

It’s helpful to think about coffee across these four categories:

  • National brands
  • Local/craft roasters
  • Espresso roasts
  • Your coffee partners’ private label brands

Here you can see what the attributes are, and what coffees might best fit your budget.

Must-knows and must-haves

It’s also important to have the right equipment for proper coffee brewing and serving.

  • Coffee pots/air pots – These are good for all break rooms, especially if you’re trying to serve large groups and keep coffee hot for long periods of time.
  • Single-cup – These machines allow people to pick their favorite flavors and pop in their own pod when they want that fresh-brewed experience. Good for smaller offices and executive break rooms.
  • Bean-to-cup – This brewer grinds and brews coffee fresh every time. It also gives people maximum control over the flavor of their cup of Joe and lets them feel like they are the barista.
  • Espresso – These machines are among the fastest growing market segment. And with options like cappuccinos, lattes, Americanos, mochas and other espresso drinks, it really creates the coffee shop experience. 
  • Creamers and syrups – Fresh cream sends a message that you’ve got an elevated, coffee house vibe, though you can still stock some favorite flavors within your budget.

Whatever size your office, whatever preferences your people have, we can help you find just the right coffee products to keep them happy and coming back for more. In fact, here’s a guide that may help with that:


Get in touch today so we can clink coffee cups to a bolder, richer, more flavorful break room coffee experience for all!

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