Coffee Beans Are Seasonal, Too—Here’s How To Transition Your Caffeine Routine for Spring, According to a Coffee Expert

Photo: Stocky/ Jeff Wasserman
By the time April rolls around, many of us are starting to to tackle our spring cleaning tasks, emptying the nearly impossible-to-close junk drawer or finally putting away the coats piling up in the mud room. But for a coffee expert, spring cleaning has an entirely different meaning.

Instead of your conventional cleaning routine, coffee pros consider spring a time to completely switch up their brewing routine to welcome the new season. We recently caught up with Genevieve Kappler, a coffee expert, roasting technologist, and the director of coffee and brewing at Roasting Plant Coffee, who shared that coffee is just as seasonal as the fruits and veggies you stockpile at the farmer’s market—and that what you’re brewing at home should be adjusted accordingly.

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More ahead on how to transition your coffee-making routine come springtime.

Why to consider switching up your coffee routine seasonally

First and foremost, it’s important to note that according to Kappler, the best type of coffee is the freshest one. “Making the best coffee starts with good beans that are freshly roasted. Using coffee that was roasted in the last week or so—or between seven and 10 days—is the best way to ensure a full-flavored, smooth cup of coffee,” Kappler says. This means that in order to get the best coffee year-round, roasters and retailers must constantly adapt to the different coffee seasons around the world.

Coffee plants vary depending on the time of year, just like other crops. “We schedule our sourcing trips based on seasons. These differ from one coffee-producing country to another based on their location, but they're all typically within the so-called ‘coffee belt’ areas that are sandwiched between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn,” Kappler says.

Aside from geographic location, many factors determine when coffee cherries will reach maturity and become ready to harvest throughout the year (which vary from year to year and location to location).

According to Kappler, four main contributing factors affect coffee seasons:

  • Altitude: higher elevations mature the slowest due to temperature, and they're usually the most complex aromatically with more body and acidity
  • Rain: the amount of rainfall can make harvest unpredictable, especially considering climate change
  • Trees: the various species of coffee trees all have different maturation time. The amount of shade they receive will impact this, too
  • Climates: the microclimates in each location can vary dramatically in a single area.

“We must constantly keep track of these elements to plan our sourcing visits to the farms we work with,” Kappler says.

When it comes to sourcing the best beans available based on their seasonability, Kappler looks to three central regions in the spring: the Caribbean (Jamaica), Easter Africa (Ethiopia), and Central America (Costa Rica, Mexico, and Guatemala). Early in the season, she sources Caribbean-grown Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee from Clifton Mount Estate. “Not only is it arriving fresh from the origin, but the flavor fits with the season—it’s bright and beautifully balanced, the cups blooming with citrus, juniper, lemon blossom, and almonds,” she says.

When it comes to sourcing the best beans available based on their seasonability, Kappler looks to three central regions in the spring: the Caribbean (Jamaica), Easter Africa (Ethiopia), and Central America (Costa Rica, Mexico, and Guatemala).

Kappler also recommends a floral Ethiopian Guji Uraga coffee that’s “fully-washed processed” to highlight its “clarity, pristine citric acidity, delicate floral and sweet fruit notes that are light and aromatic.” As the season progresses, Kappler then looks to source beans from Central America: First from Costa Rica, and by the end of spring, from Mexico and Guatemala.

How to make the perfect springtime cup of coffee

Aside from choosing coffee beans that are in season, Kappler also adjusts how she prepares coffee at home in spring. “With spring and warmer weather on deck, my cold brew gear is out,” she says.

To make it, Kappler uses an airtight glass container filled to the top with freshly ground coffee and purified water, which she makes sure to fill to the top to minimize oxidation. Then, after about 24 hours, she strains the mixture to enjoy it within 24 hours of preparing it.

On the flip side, Kappler prefers a pour-over method when she is drinking her coffee hot. “I gravitate more towards clarity in the cup to bring forth more of the fruits and florals. So I use a pour-over style with a paper filter, like a Chemex or a v60,” she says. “The paper filter preparations tend to be cleaner as they result in less sediment in the cup, fewer grounds, and a reduced oiliness retained by the paper. Simply put, in the spring, I trade a heavier mouthfeel for more clarity. She compares this to swapping a warm winter jacket for a light one, musky perfume for a floral one, or a chocolaty coffee for a citrusy one come spring. “To put things into perspective, in the winter, I favor chocolate, caramel, and spicy notes and love a more rich deep heavier mouthfeel for which French press would be my go-to,” Kappler says.

An RD shares the benefit of drinking coffee:

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