Choosing the right coffee strength for your office

What does coffee strength actually mean?

Everyone has their favourite type of coffee. It could be a strong cappuccino, it could be a weak flat white or many number of variations and combinations in between. But what does weak or strong mean in the context of coffee? Is it a measure of caffeine, flavour, texture or something else? If you want a strong coffee, do you buy strong beans? Are you better off with a darker roast? Is there an industry standard? Is there a coffee strength guide? At Sprout HQ, we’re often asked how coffee strength is measured and how to choose a blend that suits everyone in the office. So, we thought we’d share a Q&A about coffee strength to help provide some insight. Grab a cup and take a look. Qu 1: Can we buy stronger coffee beans? Of the two types of coffee bean, Robusta and Arabica (of which there are lots of varietals), Robusta beans contain twice as much caffeine as their Arabica counterparts. This makes Robusta a useful addition to coffee blends, like Perk in Progress, where it adds a nice caffeine kick to the smoother, sweeter Arabica flavours. Coffee brands that shout about their unsurpassed caffeine levels generally use Robusta. Most instant coffee is made using Robusta, so if you’re after a stronger caffeine hit, crack open the instant – it could be your caffeinating friend. Qu 2: Does a darker roast mean a stronger coffee? A darker roast may mean a stronger flavour but it doesn’t mean it has more caffeine. In fact, when the same coffee bean is roasted for longer, the size and weight of the bean changes and the caffeine content is actually reduced. So, a light roast could very well be stronger caffeine-wise but have brighter, fruity, floral, citrus or generally more delicate taste. Qu 3: Is coffee strength related to brewing method? For sure. If we’re talking about flavour then one of the most important factors in determining coffee strength is the extraction and brewing method. The grind, the dose, the volume, the water temperature and pressure, the pour rate… there’s a complex combination of variables directly impacting the taste in your cup. (For clients using one of our automatic espresso machines, we adjust these variables for you to deliver your perfect beverage settings and consistently great coffee, every time.) Some experts say that strength is a case of how ‘concentrated’ or ‘watery’ coffee is and that coffee has no ‘strength’ as such until it’s brewed. Then it’s determined by the ratio of grounds (or total dissolved solids – TDS) to water, when strength can be expressed as a percentage of the total brew. In sensory terms, we talk about ‘mouthfeel’ which is the thickness or texture when you swish it round your mouth. So, a coffee can be called weak if it has a thin-bodied mouthfeel. Just another measure to throw into the mix! Qu 4: Is an espresso the strongest type of coffee? In terms of coffee solubles dissolved in water, an espresso is the strongest of coffee drinks. With grounds compacted and hot water forced through them under high pressure, it brews quickly making a rich coffee with a thicker mouthfeel than an instant coffee or the Americano for example, which is a shot of espresso diluted with a little hot water. A standard single shot of espresso uses roughly 7-11 grams of coffee in a 30mL shot. This is often diluted by the addition of milk (see next question). Qu 5: Does milk affect coffee strength? Over 90% of Sprout clients drink milk-based coffee so we develop our blends accordingly – strong enough that the flavour cuts through the milk and smooth enough that they can enjoy a nice espresso without milk too. Perfect.

Strong coffee can mean thicker, more concentrated, more caffeine or more taste

While some crave the caffeine and others thirst for a deeper, richer taste, each person enjoys something a little different from their coffee and in the end, it’s a personal thing. Hopefully, we’ve busted the myth that dark means strong and strong means caffeine, and that actually, strength is not such a useful term when it comes to coffee!  

What makes a perfect blend of coffee for you?

We find most people prefer a well-balanced blend – our most popular is Bean Good, a Fairtrade coffee that’s ‘medium strong’ in terms of caffeine content and flavour. But we offer a range of blends and can even create your own to match the taste preferences of your office. So, if you’d like to find out what the perfect coffee tastes like for the people in your workplace, let’s get the conversation (and the coffee) flowing. We’re ready to help find the right products and blend for you.