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What Is Fruity Coffee? What You Need to Know

pouring coffee

Fruity coffee has a solid group of fans due to its unique and flavorful taste. These coffees come in many different varieties from all over the world. In fact, many of the underlining notes of fruit depend on where the beans are grown, harvested, and roasted.

Many coffee lovers that have never tried this type of coffee may be a bit hesitant expecting it to taste like the fruit used to describe it. Not to mention, there are many misconceptions about this particular java that could have you shaking your head when asked if you’d like to try some.

To shed some light on fruity coffee, we have shared details on the brew, how it’s made, what to look for, and most importantly, what to stay away from. Keep reading below for a full account of why you should give this coffee a chance the next time you are in your favorite cafe.

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True Fruity Coffee

The first thing you should be aware of when looking for a good coffee with fruity notes is to steer clear of anything that contains fruit oils. Spraying coffee beans with fruit oil became popular in the 1960s when the price of beans went through the roof.

Farmers that were unable to produce quality beans would, in turn, use sub-par coffee and spray them with fruit oils in an attempt to cover up the less than stellar taste. Unfortunately, the unsavory flavor was still present with the added layer of fake tasting fruit.

Since the 1960s, coffee suppliers have found more innovative and taste-friendly ways of adding fruit oils to their beans. That being said, they are still not an authentic fruity coffee. To find the real thing, you want to skip the grocery store and head to specialty coffee shops where they carry the good stuff.

coffee and beans
Image Credit: skeeze, Pixabay

How Coffee Becomes Fruity

It’s interesting to point out that fruity coffee is not that uncommon. You have likely had it before even if you didn’t realize it. If you have ever had the sense of apple, strawberry, or pineapple in your brew, you were probably sipping on a coffee with some fruity notes. Keep in mind, a single coffee bean can consist of over 1,000 flavors with some more prevalent than others.

How fruity coffee is made has to do with several factors that mostly centers on environmental factors, but the handling of the beans is also important.

Factors That Affect the Taste of Coffee Beans

Coffee beans are grown all over the world. They come from Brazil, Panama, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Indonesia to name a few. Each region produces different forms of cherries. More important than the location, however, are the environmental and handling factors. This is especially true of fruity-flavored brews.

  • Altitude: Coffee plants are usually grown at a high altitude. As the climate of the country is typically warm, the higher altitude allows the plant to focus on producing cherries as the air is cooler. Volcanic peaks are a popular location. The harvest’s produce cherries that have a fruity tang and brighter nuance.
  • Climate: As we mentioned, coffee is typically grown in warmer climates, but that is not all that plays a role. The humidity and rain levels are also key as they signal to the plant when to cherry. Blooming too early or too late will cause the beans to have a distorted taste.
  • Soil Composition: The make-up of the soil is important to the proper cultivation of coffee plants. Specifically, the nutrients in the soil. For example, volcanic peaks often have nutrients that other soils don’t have due to the chemical-make-up of the underground magma.
  • Harvesting: The process of harvesting cherries differs from farm to farm. While some use mechanical pickers, many still use the tried-and-true hand-picking method. The most important aspect here is not so much how the cherries are cultivated but when. Picking them too early will make the beans have a “green” (think green banana taste) flavor. Conversely, gathering them too late is likely to dry them out, make them brittle, and contain a more bitter taste.
  • Processing: To put it in the simplest terms possible, processing refers to the amount of time the cherries are left to dry after harvesting and before roasting. Though it may seem like a small part of the entire process, it is a crucial element. When it comes to fruity coffee, in particular, a controlled dry time is essential for beans that have a balanced flavor. They also will develop more fruity notes as the beans soak up more of the cherry’s sweetness. Processing times can be anywhere from six days to almost two weeks.
  • Roasting: How the beans are roasted is the last step but also plays a crucial role in the fruity outcome of the brew. Light to medium roasts tend to maintain more of the citrus and sweet notes than bolder coffees that have a more acidic essence.
harvesting coffee cherries
Image Credit: Adam Keough, Flickr

Tasting Fruity Coffee

To recap a bit on the information above, if you are looking for a naturally fruity coffee, you want to find a specialty coffee shop and choose a bag that has a medium to mild boldness. On top of that, the fruity accents will be at their prime during the bean’s peak time. Peak time is two to three weeks after roasting, so ensure you are buying fresh beans for grinding.

Once you find a good caffè, you can start to taste test and see if you can identify the different flavors in the brew.

What to Look For In Fruity Coffee

There are three main areas you want to concentrate on when sampling a fruity brew. Remembering these three factors will help you figure out what you could be tasting.

Acidity

If you detect a lot of acidity in your coffee, it was likely grown at a very high altitude. It’s also probable that it came from volcanic soil. With the acidic taste, it should remind you of citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, and tangerines. It could also have notes of strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry. While those fruits have citric acid, some have malic acid which can translate to apples and grapes.

Aroma

Breathing in your fruity coffee before tasting it will go a long way to identifying the subtle flavors of fruit in the brew. You want to smell the aroma while it’s in bean form, after it’s been ground, while it’s wet, and after you have brewed it. Experiencing the smell will also help with naturally processed beans as they have a stronger scent. Typically, you will find naturally processed coffee to be sweeter with notes of blueberries, strawberries, mangos, and even flowers. Many people are better able to detect delicate flavors through their sense of smell versus their taste.

coffee aroma
Image Credit: fotografierende, Pexels

Sweetness

Coffee cherries are a red fruit that is quite sweet (if you ever have the opportunity, give them a try — they are edible). As the fruit sits during the processing time, some of that sweetness dissolves into the bean causing it to have a slightly sweet flavor. When the natural sugars combine with the acidity in the coffee, it causes a fruity nuance. Keep in mind, the beans can also take on a sweetness that is closer to honey or caramel depending on how it interacts with the aromas and acids in the fruit.

What To Know Before Trying Fruity Coffee

Take a look at some of these fruity-coffee tasting tips:

  • It’s Not Obvious: One of the most important things to remember about fruity coffee is it’s not going to shout the flavor at you. Let’s say you have a strawberry coffee. You will likely detect delicate notes that remind you of the fruit. What you are looking for is the nuance of the flavors.
  • Be Open: To hammer the point in a bit more, you don’t want to be searching for specific fruit flavors, but things that remind you of it. If your taste buds are not that refined, yet, it can help to cleanse your palate before tasting. Try taking a few sips of water or eating some white bread.
  • Close Your Eyes: Although it may seem silly, closing your eyes while tasting your coffee allows your mind to focus on the taste. Be that as it may, you always want to give the coffee a thorough inspection, as well. Beans from different parts of the world (and with different fruity-accents) can appear differently.
  • Try It Black: The best way to taste the subtly sweet and citrus flavors is by sipping on black coffee. Even if it’s not your favorite, you will gain far more knowledge from it, plus you can then add milk and sweeteners that will blend well with the subtle notes.

The Fruit Flavors In Coffee

Like we talked about above, one coffee bean can have more than 1,000 flavors. Some of them are so subtle they are undetectable by the human taste buds. It is no wonder that, with all the different notes, it can be a challenge to pick out the fruity flavor.

That being said, fruity flavors are more dominant than most, so they can be detected with some practice.

Coffee in yellow cup
Image Credit: Dan Gold, Unsplash

Here are the most common fruit flavors that could be present in your brew:

  • Orange
  • Lime
  • Cherry
  • Apple
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Guava
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry
  • Lime
  • Peach
  • Grape
  • Raspberry
  • Tangerine
  • Flowers

When detecting these flavors, you can play them up with other ingredients to bring out the fruit taste.

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Conclusion

Fruity coffee often has a subtle nuance that can take time to detect and appreciate. Remember, if the flavors are overly apparent, chances are you are drinking a brew that was sprayed with fruit oil. To find a naturally fruity bag of beans, look for those that come from reputable farmers who have taken the time to cultivate their crops to the best of their ability.

We hope this article has helped you navigate the wide world of fruity coffees and has opened your eyes to many new brews that could be your next go-to cup of joe. Even trying one at a time will help you find the perfect sweet or citrus beverage of your choice.

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Featured Image: Olle, Pexels

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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