Strong coffee: what defines it?

The term "strong coffee" can be interpreted in different ways depending on culture, individual preferences and technical context . The perception of the strength of coffee can vary greatly from one person to another and from one region to another, making the definition of "strong coffee" a rather nuanced concept. However, by exploring the various interpretations and practical applications of this terminology, it is possible to outline some distinctive traits that characterize a strong coffee .

Let's start with science: can "Strong" coffee be measured from a technical point of view?

From a technical point of view, the strength of a coffee can be evaluated using the concept defined by the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) in their programs. This concept is based on the measurement of "total dissolved solids" (TDS), i.e. the amount of soluble components present in the drink. Simply put, if the amount of dissolved coffee in the cup is high, the coffee will be considered "strong", while if the amount of TDS is lower, the coffee will be perceived as "weak".

The technical evaluation of the strength of a cup of coffee is based on the use of an instrument called a refractometer. This device measures the refractive index of the drink sample placed above it.

Can a “Strong” coffee be associated with caffeine concentration?

If we move away from measuring TDS, and consider that consumers often confuse the strength of coffee with its body and its bitter taste , we must look to science for answers: which type of coffee has the highest concentration of caffeine in the cup?

First of all, we understood that the Robusta coffee variety, in general, contains more caffeine than Arabica , on average twice as much. But is there a variety of Robusta that is richer in caffeine than the others? Yes, in particular in Indonesia, especially on the island of Java, there are some varieties of Robusta with caffeine contents of around 4.5%.

What is the perception of a “Forte” coffee from a cultural point of view?

A question of toasting…

The sensorial and cultural perception of coffee varies considerably depending on the geographical area of ​​reference. If we consider Italy, in some regions, coffee that is darkly roasted until it is "burnt" is considered strong coffee. Although the choice to roast coffee at very high temperatures may have historical roots in an attempt to mask any imperfections in the quality of the blends, this practice has resulted in the widespread belief that dark roasts are synonymous with "strength" .

strong coffee and the roasting factor

... and of gastronomic tradition

But the perception of coffee is not objective and the preference for blends characterized by bitterness or acidity varies greatly depending on the gastronomic tradition of the reference area.

In Southern Italy, for example, where the consumption of very sweet foods is widespread, coffee blends with a darker roast and those woody and spicy aromatic notes typical of the Robusta coffee variety are preferred.

On the contrary, in Northern Europe where breakfasts and meals are predominantly savory, coffees characterized by greater acidity are preferred, such as Arabica blends extracted in filters characterized by strong floral and fruity notes.

And the tasting? What are the sensory characteristics of a "strong" coffee?

When tasting coffee , the "strength" is often evaluated based on the relationship between the body and the bitter note of the drink .

But how do you distinguish body and bitterness? At the moment of tasting, the perception of the strength of the coffee translates into the evaluation of its sensory characteristics, in particular body and bitterness.

Body refers to the sensation of fullness in the mouth and syrupiness of the drink (for example, water has a very low level of syrupiness, fruit juice on the contrary has a very high level).

Bitterness adds complexity to the coffee profile, with some people appreciating a note of bitterness, while others prefer less intense profiles.

The concept of "strong coffee" is therefore revealed as a journey through science, culture and personal preferences . The strength of coffee is a canvas on which traditions, production methods and individual preferences unfold, creating a unique and multi-faceted world. Exploring the strength of coffee is much more than a technical evaluation; it's an immersion in the stories and tastes that surround this drink loved all over the world.