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El Salvador Coffee Guide: Flavors, History & Brewing Tips

El Salvador coffee beans

If you are a coffee fanatic like we are, you like to learn all about the different kinds to improve your knowledge and find that perfect cup. El Salvador coffee was once extremely popular but spent many years in decline after the civil war and is just beginning to turn it around. If you are interested in learning more about Salvadoran coffee, keep reading while we look at the history, flavors, and brewing tips to help you get more enjoyment from your coffee while staying better informed.

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El Salvador Coffee History

El Salvador coffee production began around 1870, and it became one of the country’s largest exports. Some suggest it was responsible for up to 50% of the country’s income until the 1980s when internal conflict caused the decline of production. The coffee growers owned much of the land in El Salvador, and they had a powerful influence over the government. Many even considered the coffee industry to be an invisible government that controlled the country.

The internal conflicts of the 1980s resulted in a dramatic decline in coffee production for many years, and the industry struggled to regain its market share, especially with lower-cost beans being produced in other parts of the world and driving down prices. Currently, El Salvador coffee is part of the Free Trade Organization. It works with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to increase wages by producing beans for larger companies.

Coffee plant in El Salvador
Image Credit: HMEDIA, Shutterstock

Salvadoran Coffee Flavor

Coffee beans from El Salvador typically have a full-body taste without a lot of the acidity you might find in other brands, giving the coffee an almost honey-like sweetness. It’s a favorite blending bean because it mixes well with other varieties to help them achieve a softer and smoother flavor. However, depending on the region of El Salvador where the trees grow, you can find a few different varieties, each with unique properties.


Bourbon is a natural variety of beans that you can find in the high mountains of El Salvador. Many consider it one of the higher-quality strains you can find there, and it is responsible for the Pacas strain, which is another high-end bean that El Salvador grows. It has a gentle and pleasing flavor many people enjoy.


Pacamara is a hybrid bean that farmers created to have a larger bean, and it began around 1949. It mixes the native Pacas bean with the Arabian Maragojipe to produce a high-quality, gentle, and pleasing flavor similar to the Bourbon strain but a more complex flavor.

Geisha Coffee

Geisha Coffee is a new strain of bean introduced to El Salvador from Ethiopia, so it may still be a few years before you see any for sale. These beans have a reputation for their unique floral and sweet flavor that fetches a high price in other parts of the world. These beans can impart the flavor of jasmine, honey, and black tea into the coffee.

coffee beans on the girl's hands
Image Credit: Gideon Putra, Pixabay

El Salvador Coffee Processing

Roasting companies purchase most coffee that comes from El Salvador in bulk. They then roast the beans for the desired roast and sell them to different brands that package and sell them. The Free Trade Organization and other cooperatives work to ensure that each farmer who helped to fill the order gets the proper wages for their work. Besides picking the beans, people from El Salvador will wash the beans to remove the mucilage and sun-dry them.

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Salvadoran Coffee Brewing

Select Your Roast

You can purchase Salvadoran coffee in any of your favorite roasts. Lighter roasts allow you to taste more of the bean, and they tend to have less caffeine, while darker roasts tend to impart more of the roasting process on the flavor, with some of the darker roasts tasting burnt. As the roast gets darker, the beans tend to have more oil on the surface, and your cup will contain more caffeine.

Fresh Versus Preground

We highly recommend purchasing your coffee whole-bean and grinding it at home immediately before brewing. Pre-ground coffee can begin to lose its flavor only 30 minutes after grinding, resulting in an inferior cup of coffee. Even vacuum-sealed coffee does not taste as fresh, especially after the first cup.

coffee grinds in portafilter on white background
Image Credit: KATY TOMEI, Unsplash

Own Your Flavor

Another reason to grind your coffee fresh is that it allows you much more control over the flavor. A finer grind will produce a stronger coffee, while a coarse grind will produce a mild flavor. Most people adjust how much coffee they put in the brewing machine, but you can save money by using a finer coffee and using less.

Industry Criticism

According to the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, El Salvador and many other coffee-producing countries use child and forced labor to harvest the coffee beans they produce.

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While coffee from El Salvador is not as popular as it used to be, it’s still easy to find in most grocery stores, and it’s a popular blending bean that helps many brands create a smoother coffee with less acid and a full body. Modern farmers are reviewing better rights and pay than they have in the past, and their popularity may begin to grow again with the addition of the popular and expensive Geisha beans.

We hope you enjoyed reading over this guide, and it has helped answer your questions. If we have convinced you to give this smooth coffee a try, please share our look into El Salvador coffee on Facebook and Twitter.

More bean geography guides like this: Dominican Republic Coffee: Flavors, History, and Brewing Tips

Featured Image Credit: Per Bengtsson, Shutterstock


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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