Bourbon Coffee: An Arabica Bean Variety
You may have heard of Arabica and Robusta coffees. But did you know Arabica beans can be further divided into even more coffee bean types? Read on for more about Bourbon coffee beans and how to bring out the best in them.
Where Did Bourbon Coffee Come From?
Bourbon coffee is a type of Arabica coffee. Yes, we’re talking about coffee bean — not a coffee drink that comes with bourbon whiskey. As a quick primer, there are four major species of coffee beans, also known as coffee bean varietals. These are:
- And excelsa
While most people have heard of Arabica coffee, you may not know that these beans can be further divided into two main subspecies: Bourbon and Typica. Both of these subspecies have further genetic mutations, which create even more specific varieties — like Pacamara coffee beans. Here are some known Bourbon mutations and subvarieties:
In the 1700s, Christian missionaries brought bourbon beans from Yemen to current-day Reunion Island. From there, these beans gradually spread out to Brazil and the Americas around the 1860s, where they quickly became the coffee bean variety of choice because of their excellent cup quality and yield (1).
- French Mission
- Kenya Selected
- Semperflorens coffee
Bourbon Coffee Taste and Flavor Profile
Bourbon coffee bean varieties have a broad range of flavor profiles, thanks to their unique terroirs (2). However, according to Amber from “Coffee on the Brain”:
The bourbon coffee bean is a bit sweeter, with a nice, crisp acidity.
It’s relatively difficult to find coffees with 100% bourbon coffee. But single-origin coffees made with Caturra and Catuai varieties—which are direct genetic descendants of bourbon coffee—are pretty common.
For a great explainer on the bourbon coffee bean variety, check out this quick video.
Best Brewing Methods for Bourbon Coffee
Within the bourbon coffee subspecies, there are myriad kinds of coffee, all with their own unique flavor profiles. But generally speaking, any brewing method you choose for this coffee bean variety should highlight the bourbon bean’s natural sweetness and acidity. So, the French press, coffee siphon, and pour-overs are all great options.
Check out our excellent piece for more on how not to murder your beans. Learn about how to pick the best flavor profile, brew method, and bean origin for your morning coffee routine.
If you’re looking for a well-balanced cup with a rich sweetness, then bourbon coffee is the perfect choice. Grown mostly throughout Central America and Brazil, these coffee bean varieties pair well with the French press, coffee siphon, and pour-over brewing methods.
What’s your favorite bourbon variety?
Yes, the most common types of bourbon coffee is red, orange, and yellow bourbon beans (3). While all three varieties of bourbon coffee share the same general flavor profile, the final cup’s flavor will ultimately be determined by the beans’ roast level, brew method, and country of origin.
No, bourbon coffee beans do not contain any alcohol. Their name comes from the original name for present-day Reunion Island, Ile Bourbon.
Yes, you can buy green coffee beans that have aged in barrels originally used for aging bourbon. You can definitely taste the bourbon in the final cup, but it can contain trace amounts of alcohol (4).
- Arabica Coffee Varieties | Bourbon. (2022). Worldcoffeeresearch.org. https://varieties.worldcoffeeresearch.org/varieties/bourbon
- Tark, S. (2018, March 23). What Is Terroir and How Does It Affect Your Coffee? Perfect Daily Grind; Perfect Daily Grind. https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/03/what-is-terroir-and-how-does-it-affect-your-coffee/
- Bourbon/Borbón (Red, Yellow & Orange) | Mercanta. (2015). Coffeehunter.com. https://varieties.worldcoffeeresearch.org/varieties/bourbon
- Earley, M. (2016, April 14). Bourbon Barrel Coffee FAQs – Just Coffee Cooperative – Fair Trade Organic Coffee. Just Coffee Cooperative – Fair Trade Organic Coffee. https://justcoffee.coop/bourbon-barrel-coffee/