The short answer to the question is the flavor of the beans. It is the type of beans that make coffee gourmet. There are two types of coffee beans. The two types are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are the premium beans with the best flavor, a lighter, more balanced flavor, half the caffeine, is less acidic, and with no bitterness.
Premium Arabica beans are grown in areas around the world where the soil conditions, weather, altitude, and location are just right. Regular or Robusta beans can be grown in many different conditions. The Robusta beans are less expensive; therefore, the flavor is sacrificed for the cost. Most of the Arabica beans are grown between the Tropic of Capricorn at 23 degrees south latitude to the Tropic of Cancer at 23 degrees north latitude. Most of the world’s gourmet coffee is grown by about 35 countries within this zone.
Soil conditions for the Arabica beans are an important factor in growing gourmet coffee beans. The acidity level of the soil and the nutrient levels are closely monitored.
The altitude of the gourmet coffee plant is important because in the high altitude the coffee plant will grow slower and produce a better quality. The very best gourmet coffee beans are grown at between 3,900 and 5,200 feet high. The weather, amount of light, the temperature and the amount of oxygen all make the beans grow slowly and become harder. The harder the bean is the better it roasts.
Another thing important to growing gourmet coffee beans is weather. Coffee bean plants like warm sunny mornings with just enough afternoon rain. Too much or too little rain can hurt the bean quality.
The gourmet Arabica beans need to harvested and processed with care. Harvesting is done by hand. Only the ripe coffee beans are plucked and used for processing. The beans are then water processed and sun dried before they are roasted.
The roasting process is what brings out the full flavor of the coffee bean. It is the weight, volume, water content, and flavor characteristics of the beans that determine which type roasting process will be used. Every type of bean will have a different flavor depending on the roasting temperatures. The roasting process varies from very light roast, to light roast, to medium roast, to dark roast, to darkest roast.
When the beans have been roasted they are packed in containers that allow the coffee to breath to maintain freshness and make the best cup of coffee.
To figure out what is truly gourmet coffee, first, read the package and find out if the coffee beans are 100 percent Arabica beans. To appreciate a cup of gourmet coffee, take some time to taste other coffees and compare, make sure you use the freshest beans so you can compare them equally. There are gourmet flavored coffees that are caffeinated and those that are decaffeinated. Tasting the coffee to find the best flavor is as individual as you are!