Many people who drink coffee have noticed that from time to time, it sort of tastes like chocolate. But where does this chocolate flavor in some coffees come from? And what types of coffee have more of a chocolate flavor than others?
Some types of coffee beans, especially those grown in lower altitude regions like the central and south American countries of Guatemala, Colombia, and Brazil, have chocolate or cacao flavor note in them. This flavor is partially due to the darker roast level of the beans that caramelizes the sugar in them during roasting.
In this article, I’ll cover the reasons for the chocolate flavor in some coffees and what type of beans you should buy if you want or don’t want a cacao flavor in your coffee. Let’s get into it!
Coffee’s Different Flavors
Before we get into coffee and chocolate, we need first quickly to talk about the possible flavor notes that coffee can have.
At the end of the day, coffee is going to taste like coffee. But, depending on where the beans are grown and how much they’re roasted, the coffee can have some flavor “notes” in it like fruit, floral, tobacco, chocolate, and more.
Below is a coffee flavor wheel that shows all the possible flavor notes that can be in coffee. If a flavor is next to another it means that they are closely related and are more likely to be found in the same cup of coffee.
As you can see in the upper left-hand corner, nutty and chocolate flavors are very closely related. So any coffee you drink that has chocolate flavor notes in it will likely also have some type of nutty flavor like almonds, hazelnuts, and/or peanuts.
But what causes one coffee to taste like chocolate and another to taste like fruit? Let’s talk about that.
What Makes Coffee Taste Like Chocolate?
The Roast Level of the Coffee Beans
“Second only to the quality of the bean itself, roasting ranks as the single most important influence on coffee flavor” (Scribblers Coffee).
A big influence on the flavor of a coffee is the level to which the beans that were used to make it were roasted.
If you don’t know much about coffee beans, they actually come off the plant soft and green and are then roasted under hot temperatures until they get that hard texture and brown color you see when you buy them at the store.
But not all coffee beans are roasted the same. Coffee beans can be roasted for less time to end up a “light roast” for a medium amount of time to become a “medium roast” or for a long time to create a “dark roast.”
All these roast levels will create different flavors in the coffee, and highlight more or mask more of the flavors that come from where the coffee was grown.
Coffee with chocolate flavor notes is usually a medium-dark roast. This is because too light of a roast won’t allow the sugar in the coffee beans to caramelize enough and bring out the toasted cacao and chocolate flavor notes, and too dark of a roast will “burn” the chocolate flavors of the coffee bean and mask any of the flavors it had in it from where it was grown.
The Origin of the Coffee Beans
The other factor in coffee’s chocolatey flavor is the geographic region where it was grown.
If you’re in search of a bean with chocolate flavor notes, beans grown at lower altitudes such as those grown in the Central and South American countries of Guatemala, Colombia, and Brazil are probably your best bet.
Someone I know who went to Guatemala for a while and drank a lot of their coffee said that the coffee there has such a distinct chocolate flavor that it tastes like they put a little cacao powder in every cup.
If on the other hand you’re trying to avoid chocolate flavor in your coffee, then East African coffees such as those grown in Ethiopia and Kenya will have more fruity and sour flavors instead.
If You Really Want Your Coffee to Taste Like Chocolate…
If you can’t get enough of the chocolate flavor notes in certain coffees and want to drink coffee with real strong chocolate flavor, then I recommend trying a drink called a Caffe Mocha.
A caffe mocha is made by combining 2 shots of espresso (a type of coffee), 1 ounce of chocolate syrup or chocolate powder, and steamed milk (milk that's been made hot and creamy). It’s commonly topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
It’s pretty much a hot chocolate with added espresso.
You can order a caffe mocha at pretty much any coffee shop, or, if you’re lucky enough to have an espresso maker at home you can make one yourself!
This drink is a specialty drink so it’s going to be much sweeter and have a lot less coffee flavor than regular black coffee, but it can be a really tasty treat for lovers of chocolate and coffee.
While no black coffee is going to have a super intense chocolate flavor to it, some coffee beans grown in the low altitudes of Central and South America and roasted to a darker level will have chocolate and cacao flavor notes to them.
If you’d like to learn more about coffee, its different flavors, and brewing tips you can use at home, be sure to check out the rest of my website! Have a great day!