As someone who enjoys trying different types of coffee from all around the world, I know that Africa is known to have some of the best coffee - they pretty much dominate the coffee industry with their coffee production.

The two regions known to have some of the best coffees are Ethiopia and Kenya.

Here, I'll delve into both of these in greater detail and compare their differences from their tasting notes to the growing regions and more!

Ethiopian Vs Kenyan Coffee (Battle of the African Beans!)

There are a number of differences between these two coffee-growing regions, and I'll delve into their flavor profile, growing conditions, and more.

Processing Methods

When it comes to processing coffee beans and coffee production, Ethiopian coffee beans tend to use both the wet and dry processed method, while Kenyan coffee beans predominantly use the wet processed method.

  • Wet Processed:
    When coffee cherries are wet-processed (also known as washed coffees), the fruit is removed from the coffee seeds before being dried. It requires equipment and uses a good amount of water. Through this method, you can taste the unique flavors of the bean!
  • Dry Processed:
    With this method, the coffee seed dries inside the coffee cherry - this is done by picking the fruit and laying it out in the sun. With this, you'll get coffee that has an earthier, heavier body as you're tasting flavors in both the bean as well as the fruit!

Brewing Methods

When it comes to brewing methods, both Kenyan and Ethiopian coffee use fairly similar methods.

The best method for Ethiopian coffee, however, would be the pour-over method, and the steeping method is great for Kenya coffee.

  • Espresso Made With Kenyan or Ethiopian Beans
    For Kenyan coffees, the steeping method is the best way for espresso. You'll also want to grind the coffee bean a little finer and brew stronger than usual.

    For Ethiopian coffees, the pour-over method is recommended to bring out the flavorsome nuances of the coffee.
  • French Press Coffee Made With Kenyan Or Ethiopian Beans
    For both Kenyan coffee and Ethiopian coffee, you can use a French press to create a delicious cup. The method is the same for both. Kenyan coffees in particular would benefit from this specific method as it allows the coffee to steep for some time and develop more flavors.
  • Cold Brew Made With Kenyan or Ethiopian Coffee
    Both Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees are great for cold brew and involve steeping coarsely ground coffee in cold water for about 18 to 24 hours.

How Different Are The Tasting Notes and Aromas?

The tasting notes and aromas are very different when it comes to Ethiopia vs Kenya coffee.

Kenyan coffees have a fruity acidity to them, and some notes that you'll likely taste from this coffee include mandarin orange and bergamot orange.

It also has a rich fragrance to it with vivid flavors and citrus notes.

With these coffees, it's likely you'll either be getting a big and bold flavor or one that's tropical with crisp flavors.

For Ethiopian coffee, they're known for having more floral tones and a blueberry flavor. The taste profile may also have some citrus flavors and blackberry flavors.

Depending on where the coffee is grown, you can also have tea-like flavors with notes of jasmine flower and even rose.

Growing Regions - Climate, Soil and Conditions

Kenyan Arabica coffee grows in rich volcanic soils found in the Kenyan highlands.

It grows in high altitudes (1400 to 2000 meters above sea level) and predominantly in the following regions - Eastern Kenya, Mount Kenya, Western Kenya, and the Nandi Hills.

On the other hand, Ethiopian coffee is mainly produced in three regions - Sidamo, Kaffa, and Harar.

The soil there is nearly perfect, as it's acidic enough for the coffee plants to thrive, and the climate conditions are also ideal.

Acidity Levels - Which Is Higher?

Due to where Kenyan coffee grows, it's definitely a more acidic coffee in comparison to Ethiopian coffee.

The soil, climate, and altitude all play a part in its acidity. Ethiopian coffee has a mild acidity that's pleasant.

Caffeine Levels - Which Is Higher?

When comparing these two great coffees, Kenya coffee farms produce coffee beans that contain less anhydrous caffeine in comparison to the Ethiopian coffee bean.[1]

The difference, however, is quite negligible.

Kenyan coffee offers around 1.12 grams of caffeine per 100 grams, while Ethiopian coffee offers about 1.47 grams of caffeine per 100 grams.

Roast Levels - How Do They Compare?

When it comes to roast levels, Ethiopian coffee typically has a light to medium roast level.

The medium roasts allow the coffee to develop its unique and exquisite taste - specifically the floral notes.

With Kenyan coffee, a medium roast level is typically the best way to develop the different flavors of the coffee.

It allows the coffee's natural brightness to shine and emphasizes the fruity flavors of the beans.

Grading & Certifications - Is There a Winner?

Both Ethiopia and Kenya have a unique grading system when it comes to this quality coffee.

Ethiopians grade their coffee based on the presence of defects. Specifically, they use grades 1-9. For a top grade, the coffee can only have a certain number of defects from the coffee producers.

For Kenya, the grading scale from largest to smallest is AA, AB, PB, C, E, TT, and T. An AA bean is the highest grade from coffee growers.

As far as certifications go, both countries produce beans that can achieve various certifications, including:

  • USDA Certified Organic
  • Kosher Certified
  • Rain Forest Alliance Certified

Price For Consumers?

Ethiopian coffee costs more than Kenyan coffee in general.

As of 2023, the price of Kenyan coffee is between US $2.10 and US $5.60 per kilogram, while Ethiopian coffee costs between US $4 and US $6 per kilogram.


Learn All About Ethiopian Coffee!

The history of Ethiopian coffees stems from the goat herder Kaldi, who discovered coffee after noticing how active his goats were after consuming coffee plants!

Almost all of the first coffee plants can be traced back to Ethiopia, and it's now Africa's largest coffee producer. Coffee grown here is known to be floral, fruity, and delicate.

This coffee is special because it's known around the world to be quality Arabica coffee made with popular beans that have fruity and flowery characteristics.


Learn All About Kenyan Coffee!

Kenyan coffee stems from 1893 when European missionaries imported the Bourbon variety of Arabica coffee from Brazil and planted it in Kenya.[2]

When Kenya gained independence, they continued on this trajectory, and now Kenya produces some of the most popular beans in the world.

With the coffees growing here, you can expect tart, dense, and stonefruit flavors. This specialty coffee has a unique flavor profile that you can't find in other coffee types.

This coffee has a wine-like acidity to it thanks to the soil type and region in which the beans were grown.

In addition, due to the altitude, the beans grow slower, providing more nutrients and developing flavors.


Related Ethiopian Vs Kenyan Coffee Questions

What other coffee is similar to Ethiopian coffee?

Guatemalan coffee is similar to Ethiopian coffee as it has the same fruity taste to it. In comparison, however, it does have a hint of cocoa.

Where does Kenyan coffee rank in the world?

Kenyan coffee ranks as second best in the world - just a couple of slots behind what Ethiopia produces.

Which coffee is better, Colombian or Ethiopian?

Both Colombian and Ethiopian coffee are great, but it depends greatly on your preferences. If you want a more traditional, bold finish, the Colombian roast would be the better choice.


Who Wins This African Coffee Bean Battle?

So, Kenyan vs Ethiopian coffee, who wins? Honestly, both Ethiopia and Kenya produce excellent African coffees, and they're both really different from each other.

While coffee from Ethiopia has a berry-like flavor with floral tones, Kenyan coffee is more citrusy.

My recommendation is to try making coffee at home from both of these African countries and see which one you like more!

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7528046/#:~:text=The%20anhydrous%20caffeine%20content%20of,0.07)%20g%2F100%20g.
  2. https://www.kalro.org/coffee/?q=node/16 

Karmy Widjaja

Author

Karmy Widjaja
Karmy Widjaja, holding a degree in Hospitality Administration, combines her academic background with a profound passion for the world of coffee. Her work is enriched with a wealth of insights, not only about the art of coffee making but also about the broader aspects of the coffee industry. Her quest for coffee perfection is a central theme in her engaging articles, as she continues to explore the vibrant coffee scene in Perth. And when it's time for a coffee break? Karmy's all about a laid-back flat white with almond milk – it's her go-to for a tasty coffee kick.

My favorite drink? I'd go with... flat white with almond milk.

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