The Best Coffee Beans – Buying Guide

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Best Coffee Beans

Coffee grows all over the tropical world, and there are many different varieties even in a single coffee-growing region. Picking the best is relatively a tough task in practical. With over thousand types of coffee varieties, a buyer is often confused as which one to pick and which to leave. So he is commonly found hunting the best coffee beans over the web.

We spent so much time to buy a perfect coffee machine. But, do we spare some real time for coffee beans? It’s the main ingredient in coffee brewing. The wrong ones can disturb the whole coffee experience, really! I hope that has already happened and that’s why you are here.

A Matter of Taste

There is no point in buying coffee beans according to what you are “supposed” to like. Try few new beans and roasts and you will closely know your own preferences. Excellent beans are grown all over the tropical world, and no country or region has a monopoly on quality.

Coffee Beans Taste

Some people prefer a sharper, fruity, more acidic coffee while others prefer a mellower, earthy flavor. The beans themselves have underlying flavors, and the roasting, grinding and brewing process make their own contributions to the final taste.

Anyways, we have eased your work and have come out with some of the finest coffee beans from all over the world. Let’s now move on to that first.

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Do You Know, What Is Coffee?

Most of us have not seen coffee in its original form, before the roasting process. We’re so used to going to the store and picking up either instant coffee crystals, ground coffee beans, or coffee beans that have already been roasted.

Your favorite beverage actually comes from a tree; although some argue that it is a bush. The scientific name for the tree is, Coffea. The coffee tree grows fruits that are sometimes referred to as cherries due to their aesthetic appearance.  The round fruit grows in bunches and generally take approximately 7 to 9 months to mature.

Coffee Plants

Inside of the cherry are two flat seeds, which are the coffee beans. So figuratively speaking, coffee beans are actually the seeds or pit of the fruit.

Climate For Growing Coffee Beans

The ideal climate for successful coffee growing are tropical environments that have nutrient rich soil, along with minimal pests and diseases. Excessive heat can cause the fruits to ripen too fast. It can also attract unwanted pests.

Continents Within The Coffee Belt

The average temperature in which coffee growing has been stated to be the most successful, are temperatures ranging between 64° F and 70° F. Any temperature  above 73° F, runs the risk of ruining the coffee crops.

The prime geographic locations that guarantee optimum quality and best results for coffee growing are collectively referred to as, The Coffee Belt. The Coffee Belt is a set of locations, spread across 5 continents, that form a band from East to West, stretching across the middle of the Earths equator. The locations are also known for their tropical weather. The countries within these continents actually provide the majority, at least 70% of the coffee that we drink one a daily basis. Here’s an example of where the original Coffee Belt plantations were located, that was comprised in the 19th century. Each continent, and the countries within them include:

  • South America: Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia.
  • Central America: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Panama.
  • Africa and Arabia: Burundi, Con, Ethiopia, Kenta, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
  • Asia: India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
  • Islands and Others: Australia, Dominican Republic, Hawaii, Jamaica, Puerto Rico.

Today, there have been many more countries added to the original Coffee Belt. Each area has its own specialty whether it’s a certain type of bean or flavor. It should also be noted that coffee is highly regulated under strict quality and improvement requirements, to ensure that coffee is not only available to those around the world, but also available at a fair price and of optimal quality.

Harvesting Coffee

The process from planting a coffee tree until it is ready to be harvested is approximately 3 to 4 years. For this reason, coffee crops are planted on a rotational basis. This ensures that there will be a continuous flow of coffee beans being harvested, in order to keep up with supply and demand.

Coffee harvesting

There are two types of harvesting methods. The first method is called selective harvesting. Selective harvesting is when you only pick the ripe cherries off of the tree. You can tell that they’re ripe by squeezing them, if they’re slightly soft and are bright red in appearance, then they are ready. You’d leave the remaining cherries attached to finish their ripening process.

Harvest by stripping is for more large-scale, commercial crops. Stripping actually creates a great deal of waste as it does not pick and choose which cherries to harvest. Machines are used to remove all of the cherries, even those that are far from ready.

The benefits outweigh the profits lost due to waste. For example, for coffee growers who have several acres, the cost to hire laborers to go through the entire crop and handpick the ripe cherries would be a tremendous investment that may not provide a return. So, having to discard the cherries that are not yet ripe, is still more financially beneficial than the alternative option of hiring people to pick by hand.

Processing The Cherries

Now that you’ve harvested the cherries, it’s time to remove the coffee beans and prepare them for roasting. You should do this right away because they will spoil if you pick them and set them aside with the intention of getting to them later. There are 2 main methods that you can use outside of factory processing in order to complete the task.

Pulp the Berries: To pulp the berries, you will need to slightly squeeze them until the beans pop out. Try to avoid using a tool such as a knife, as you don’t want to take the chance of piercing the bean. The beans may have somewhat of a slippery or slime-like consistency to them, which is totally normal.

Discard Fruit and Begin Fermenting Process: Discard the fruit and place the beans in a basin of water for a few days. This fermenting process will help to separate the slime from the bean. After a day or two, take a clean hand and gather any debris and skin that may be floating around on top and discard. Then use your hands mix the beans around in the water. If the beans feel a bit rough, then they are ready. This step will also help to separate the tan parchment-like layer from the bean. Drain the water and rinse once more with clean water.

The beans are than roasted in batches to their suitable levels and are packed for the market.

Now that you know much about coffee, let’s head over to our favorite beans!

The Best Coffee Beans – Our Favorite Picks

If you don’t have a good roaster in your area or don’t want to try those, the other best option is to buy coffee beans online. This opens numerous options to choose from and even delivers freshly roasted beans. If there is something wrong, the customer care is always there to help. You can even just buy unroasted beans from your local are and roast by a home coffee roasting machine. It’s a little tedious, but the most fresh.

Here are our favorite picks from all around the world. Though, there are numerous options that we could have included, but these coffees are most popular, easy to find, and good to start if you are getting into gourmet coffee for the first time.

#1 Ethiopian Coffee Yirgacheffe

Ethiopia Yirgacheffe

Origin: Ethiopia

Roast: Light & Medium

Ethiopia is the place where coffee growing started – in fact there are still cloud forests in the country were wild coffee trees grow. Ethiopia still produces some of the greatest coffee bean varieties in the world, including the popular beans from the Yirgacheffe region.

Yirgacheffe is about 6000 feet above sea level, making it a perfect environment for growing the finest Arabica beans.

The beans from this region are wet-processed, which means that the pulp of the cherry is removed before fermenting and drying.

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Yirgacheffe is a delicate, sweet-tasting coffee with a bright, vibrant acidity. The aroma has both floral and spice notes and the body is light to medium. You may notice a hint of nuttiness or even chocolate in the finish.

This coffee is usually roasted light to medium-dark. Lighter roasts allow the delicate floral notes to shine through while darker roasts accentuate the sweet, spicy and nutty tastes. A balance of these flavors is achieved with just the right medium roast.

#2 Hawaiian Kona Coffee – Crema de Kona

Hawaiian Kona Coffee

Origin: Hawaii

Roast: Medium or Medium Dark

Hawaii is the only US state with a commercial coffee industry. The climate of the Kona Coffee Belt on the Big Island of Hawaii is a bit cooler than in most coffee-growing regions. This, combined with the rich volcanic soil and altitude (lower than typically seen with Arabica beans -between 800 and 2500 feet above sea level) give Kona its distinctive flavor and characteristics. These are great espresso beans, if you are into that.

Kona beans come in six grades: Kona Extra Fancy (the highest), Kona Fancy, Kona No. 1, Kona Select and Kona Prime. Any lower grades are not allowed to bear the Kona name.
Beware of Kona Blends: these contain a minimum of 10% Kona beans and often consist mostly of cheaper beans from Colombia and elsewhere. They may be fine coffee, but they are not genuine Kona.

Hawaiian Kona beans have delicate taste with light acidity and a slightly sweet flavor. The coffee is medium-bodied with notes of spice and wine and an aromatic finish. Kona also tends to be well-balanced and complex in its flavor profile.

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As with most fine coffee beans, it’s better not to go too dark with the roast. A medium or medium-dark roast brings out the best in these beans.

Kona beans are very expensive, but this is mainly because they are relatively scarce on the market. There are other beans of similar quality that cost much less, but for some compromise on the taste.

#3 Tanzania Peaberry Coffee

Tanzania Peaberry Coffee

Origin: Africa

Roast: Light to Dark

When a coffee cherry produces just one round bean instead of two flat ones, it is called a Peaberry. It is one of the best tasting coffee bean around the world and is preferred by many. Because there is just one bean inside the fruit, people say that Peaberry coffees have a richer, more concentrated taste.

There may be another explanation for why Peaberry coffee is traditionally valued so highly. With older roasting techniques such as skillet roasting, the round shape makes it easier to keep the beans in motion resulting in a better quality of roast.

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Tanzanian Peaberry beans come from the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. The acidity is noticeable without being extreme with aromas of blackcurrant and chocolate. The finish is long and sweet. This is a medium bodied coffee that creates a velvety feeling in the mouth.

Try a medium roast to bring out the natural sweetness of this unique bean.

#4 Sumatra Mandheling

Sumatra Mandheling

This coffee grows on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The name Mandheling refers to the ethnic group that traditionally grew the coffee and not the geographic region. These beans grow in the rich volcanic soil of the Aceh and Lintong regions of the island, at between 2500 and 5000 feet above sea level.

This is a low acidic coffee while still having a bright, vibrant taste. The aroma is a bit earthy, and you may notice flavor notes of herbs, chocolate and licorice with a spicy finish.

Mandheling is a dry-processed coffee, which means that the beans are dried with some of the pulp still on them. This process gives the beans their unique taste, which is moderated somewhat by the process of washing the dried cherries in hot water. The parchment is removed from the beans before they are finished drying, which also contributes to Mandheling’s unique flavor profile and color.

Often you will find that Sumatra Mandheling beans are dark-roasted or medium dark-roasted to bring out the earthy sweetness of the coffee. You will also notice floral notes both in the aroma and the finish.

#5 Kenya AA Coffee

Kenya AA Coffee

Origin: Kenya

Roast: Light to Dark

This is the highest grade of coffee from one of the world’s best coffee-growing countries. Like other African beans, Kenyan AA has rich body and pleasing acidity that may remind you of citrus and berries. Like most African coffees, these beans have a distinctive floral aroma that also carries into the finish. Some connoisseurs claim that Kenya AA beans produce the world’s brightest coffee.

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Kenyan AA beans are grown above 6000 feet above sea level, which is the perfect altitude for Arabica beans. To avoid losing the brightness and floral notes, look for a medium roast. Longer roasting tends to obscure the subtle flavors that make Kenyan coffee so distinctive.

#6 Café Don Pablo Decaf

Origin: Colombia

Roast: Medium Dark

The first pick in our Decaf collection is Don Pablo. It’s been a benchmark in the Decaf category and that is all because of its beautiful composition. It has a hint of natural caramel and cocoa with some citrus notes. The beans are treated in a natural Swiss water process and are medium dark roast.

To ensure freshness, it’s roasted in small batches. The beans are 100% Arabica, are naturally decaffeinated and are Artisan roasted to craft the best.

2LB Don Pablo Colombian Decaf - Swiss Water Process...
  • All Natural Swiss Water Process decaffeinated...
  • Caramel and cocoa with a hint of citrus....
  • Medium-Dark Roast - Whole bean Arabica Coffee...

#7 Kicking Horse Decaf

Origin: America

Roast: Dark

None of the coffee beans collection is complete without the Kicking horse. These are coffee houses with some of the very great selection that has a name. We can stick many of the associated marks like Fairtrade, Certified Organic, Kosher, Shade grown and Arabica coffee.

Kicking Horse Coffee, Decaf, Swiss Water Process, Dark...
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  • ORIGIN CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA: Grown in a...

It’s a dark roast coffee with the cupping notes of roasted hazelnuts and it has chocolaty balanced body and a long lasting finish. The origin of beans is Central and South America.

#8 Verena Street Decaf

Origin: United States

Roast – Medium

You might have not heard this name previously, but trust me, it’s one of the amazing decaf available. The method again involves the Swiss water process giving it a full bodied composition without any bitterness. It is brought from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms to protect farmers, wildlife and environment. The important terms include Kosher Certified and 100% Arabica beans.

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#9 Mexican SWP Decaf by Fresh Roasted LLC

Fresh Roasted Coffee Mexican Decaf

Origin: Mexico

Roast: Medium

For the decaf people, this one is our ideal pick. Mexican Decaf is a single origin coffee from Tapachula, Chiapas in Mexico. These are processed using natural Swiss Water method to make the beans decaf allowing the beans to retain their promised quality. The beans are carefully selected and are again, 100% Arabica. The after roasting results are the beans with slightly nutty and crispy finish and the cupping notes are of Cocoa and Walnut.

The bean bag carries certficates which assure them to be under good ethics – USDA organic, Kosher Certified and sustainably sourced. To further reduce the carbon emissions, they roast the beans in environment friendly Loring Roaster. With no additives, no artificial flavors and no preservatives, these guys maintain a good market penetration.

#10 Jablum Blue Mountain Coffee

Jablum Coffee Beans

Origin: Jamaica

Roast: Medium

We absolutely had to include Jablum Blue Mountain Coffee as well. Blue mountain coffee is famous all the way from the small island of Jamaica. We absolutely can see why after having a sip of this delectable coffee. With a rich aroma and indescribable taste, this coffee is regarded as one of the signature coffees of the world. As the name suggest, this coffee plant is cultivated in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica.

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With nature working in its favor this coffee is grown in mineral rich soil at the ideal altitude, having mountain shade and just enough sunlight to flourish. The berries grown in the Blue Mountains take longer than others to mature but if that’s what it takes to produce such a delightful espresso drink we are willing to wait. Handpicked and roasted, this coffee has an intense aroma and an exotic taste. After one cup we were screaming more, we encourage you to treat yourself.

#11 Death Wish Coffee

Death Wish Coffee

Origin: India and Peru

Roast: Dark

For the strong and bold coffee lovers, this one is the way to go. It’s a high caffeine coffee that doesn’t goes bitter. It’s a Fair Trade certified, all natural organic coffee. This coffee when brewed as directed results in almost twice the caffeine content as in a normal cup of coffee. For high caffeine, the brand uses a mix of Arabica and Robusta beans and so it’s not a 100% robusta. The arabica are used to maintain quality whereas the robusta beans are meant for the high caffeine kick.

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Death Wish is often claimed to be the ‘World’s Strongest Coffee’. The skull bones logo on the pack gives it a little scary and shocking glance at first. But if you are addicted to consume strong coffee, this one might be a great try. The pack is available as both beans and ground coffee as Signature blend. They even have started the instant coffee, if you in someway like that.

#12 Black Rifle Coffee Company AK47

BRCC Ak47

Origin: Colombia + Brazil

Roast: Medium

So, we got the chance to taste the BRCC as soon as I got a mail from the company. They actually sent two variations – AK47 and JB. Both of these are medium roast and the beans have the same origin. BRCC is a 200 employee company that excels and is passionate for what they do. The company is lead by Evan Hafer who has his personal experience of decades in roasting to optimal levels for coffee veterans.

The AK47, the name alone says it about how strong it must be. Don’t compete it with the Death wish, but yes, it’s strong. It can wake you up from your blanket of laziness in a couple of minutes. Between the JB and AK47, we personally liked the AK47 more. You would notice flavors of dark chocolate when it first touches your tongue along with citrus notes and rich nutty aroma. The coffee goes well for drip, French and Espresso brewing. You might try other methods too, as their are no limits for experimenting in coffee.

Coffee Beans Buying Guide – Things To Consider

First of all, there is no such thing as ‘Best Coffee Beans in the world’ as everything depends on what suits the tongue. Everyone in this world has various preferences and so taste is no way different.

How to Buy Best Coffee Bean

What beans you choose depends on a number of factors. Personal preference is the most important. A single origin may get rave review from the coffee snobs, but if you don’t like the taste, there’s no point in trying to pretend that you do.

Coffee reviewers use a lot of the same language that wine tasters use to describe the flavor profile of a given bean. You may not be able to taste “blackcurrants” or “licorice” in your coffee, but paying attention to the descriptions of coffees that you particularly like or dislike can be useful when you’re trying to choose a new bean. If you like one coffee that is usually described as “bright,” you may like other bright coffees too, even if you don’t quite understand the terminology.

How you plan to use your coffee is also important. You wouldn’t use a high-grade single-origin bean to make a pumpkin spice latte, because the complex flavors will be masked by the other ingredients. Many people will have a couple of different kinds of beans on hand that suit for different uses.

If you’re going to spend money on high quality beans, it’s especially important to use them within 10 days of roasting and to grind them as close as possible to brewing time. Otherwise, the quality of the coffee will have degraded to the point that you’re not really getting what you paid for.

One thing for us might be awesome but for the other person, it might not be the same, it’s a fact. Still, there are few factors that are used to determine bean quality. Here are some of the factors that should be considered before buying the beans.

Types of Beans – Arabica Vs Robusta

Like all agricultural products, coffee has been selectively bred resulting in a variety of different subspecies. All of these fall under the categories of either Arabica or Robusta beans. Although there are good and bad coffees in both these categories, Arabica is generally considered better quality. All of the beans on this list are Arabica.

Arabica and Robusta

Arabica beans grow at high altitude. They are generally considered better quality and harder to grow than low-altitude Robusta beans, and they cost more accordingly. In reality the whole “Arabica is better” notion is a bit of an oversimplification.

There are cheap, low-quality Arabica blends, and even the best roasters in Italy always include some Robusta beans in their espresso blends to improve the crema (the tight foam that enhances espresso’s flavor and mouth feel). It’s also worth noting that Robusta beans contain more caffeine.

However, remembering that Arabica beans are generally higher quality is a good place to start.

Geography Or Country of Origin

Where a bean grows is just as important to the final outcome as the genetic profile of the breed. Altitude, climate and soil conditions all have a profound effect on the flavor of coffee. Weather conditions can change from season to season, which is why single origin coffees can vary so much in flavor and quality.

Coffee Beans Origin

Arabica beans grow best at around 6000 feet above sea level, but there are two beans that grow at much lower altitudes – Hawaiian Kona and Sumatran Mandheling. In both cases the trees grow in rich volcanic soil which contributes to the flavor and quality of the end product.

Different origins have different tastes and which one to pick requires some testing or know how about origins to find the best coffee beans.

  • Ethiopia: This is where it all started. Coffee is native to Ethiopia, and this country still produces some of the world’s best coffee. Ethiopian coffee has a high range of genetic diversity and is mostly still grown using traditional organic methods. Popular Ethiopian beans include Harrar, Sidamo and especially Yirgacheffe. An Ethiopian coffee tends to be fruitier and sweeter.
  • East Africa: Many East African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe produce and export coffee. Kenya is the most famous coffee producers in the region after Ethiopia, producing bold coffees with a bright acidity and sometimes blackcurrant notes.
  • Colombia/Central America: This region produces some of the most familiar coffees to American consumers. Coffee is grown throughout Central America, the Caribbean and tropical South America. The quality ranges from familiar grocery-store brands to Jamaican Blue Mountain, the most expensive coffee in the world.
  • Brazil: Brazil is easily the largest coffee producing nation in the world. Gone are the days when Brazil produced only cheap coffees for grocery-store brands. Now there is a wide variety of both Arabica and Robusta grown in the country, from inexpensive beans to some of the world’s best espressos. These are mostly dark roast coffee and heavy in taste.
  • Indonesia: This is a major coffee-growing country, and the island of Java has given coffee one of its best-known nicknames. Indonesia produces Java Arabica beans, a variety of Sumatran beans and the notorious Kopi Luwak (defecated by civets after eating coffee cherries.)
  • Hawaii: This is the only US state that has the right climate for commercial coffee production. Hawaiian coffees tend to be mild, sweet and floral. The most famous (and the most expensive) is Hawaiian Kona.

Flavor

Brazilian, Peruvian and Colombian are the terms used in the beans originating from here. The coffee from Brazil is heavy bodied and contains nuttiness in flavor. Beans from Colombia are one of the finest and is extremely balanced, perfect in acidity and has great body. Peru produces light bodied and bright beans that have nutty character and chocolaty aroma. Examples of this origin are Cool Breeze Colombian, Pure Peruvian and Bom Dia Brazil.

There are a number of factors that contribute to a bean’s flavor. Some are determined by the bean itself, while others are produced by processing, roasting and brewing techniques.

Coffee Flavor Spectrum
  • Roast: How long the beans are roasted will affect every aspect of the flavor, aroma and appearance of the bean. Longer roasting produces darker, shinier beans while shorter roasting produces lighter, dried beans.
  • Aroma: The first aspect of the flavor that will hit you, even before you drink the coffee, is the aroma. It turns out that our taste buds are not that sensitive to many different flavors, and most of what we think of as “flavor” is actually coming from our sense of smell.
  • Acidity: A bright or fruity coffee will tend to be more acidic than a mellower bean.
  • Body: What do people mean when they describe a coffee as full-bodied? Some coffees feel light in your mouth, while others feel more earthy and heavy. This impression comes from a combination of the aroma and other flavor characteristics.
  • Balance: An extremely acidic coffee doesn’t taste good, nor does an over-roasted blend. When the various flavor parameters are properly balanced, the coffee tends to taste better and more complex.
  • Finish: This refers to the aftertaste left behind after you sip the coffee. A very low-quality coffee may have a sour, acidic finish, while good coffee may have a finish that reminds you of fruit, nuts or chocolate.

Processing

A lot happens to coffee beans between the tree and the roaster. Some coffee producers are very careful to harvest the cherries at the peak of ripeness, resulting in a higher grade of coffee than a more haphazard approach.

Coffee can be either wet processed or dry processed. With wet processing, the cherry is removed and the beans are washed and usually fermented before drying. The parchment is removed after the beans have lost about 90% of their moisture content.

With dry processing, all or some of the fruit is left on the beans during the drying period. This process creates a different flavor profile. One reason that Mandheling beans taste so different from Kona even though both grow in similar soils and at similar altitudes is the difference in processing techniques.

Grading

Coffee beans are graded according to overall quality before they are exported. Higher grade coffees have to meet stricter standards when it comes to size, shape, color and percentage of substandard beans (fermented or moldy). Different grades of coffee from the same farm can taste quite different, and the price of high-grade beans is also much higher.

Blends Vs Single Origin

When a roaster wants to create the perfect espresso with great Crema, Aroma, Flavor and Body, he or she will probably blend beans from several different origins together. Blending allows roasters to control the outcome, compensate for seasonal differences, and create a product with consistent quality.

Blended Coffee

A single origin coffee contains beans from just one source. No two single origins will taste quite the same. Coffee connoisseurs love to experience the unique flavor qualities of different single origin beans.

Single Origin Coffee

If you are looking for some specific flavor profile like fruity, sweeter or strong, go for a single origin coffee we talked just above here. But else, if you are looking for some complex flavors to sense your taste buds, try artisan blends that mixes various top notch origins to create amazing taste profile. Don’t go for cheap blends that are mixed together to save and reduce the costs.

So, which is better: single origin or blends? It depends what you’re looking for. Blends are much more popular because they are more consistent and reliable. Single origins have a smaller but devoted following with connoisseurs. Why not enjoy both?

Freshness (The Roast Date)

Freshness is the single biggest factor in making a great cup of coffee. As soon as beans are roasted they become perishable, quickly losing flavor. Grinding beans makes the quality deteriorate even more rapidly. The best coffee is made from recently roasted beans that you grind at home immediately before brewing.

Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans

The best way to get freshly roasted beans is to buy them from the roastery, or from a local roaster who distributes to retailers in your area. The roasting date should be on the bag. Opinions differ, but generally speaking coffee is best consumed between 2 and 10 days after roasting.

If you’re not able to buy beans this fresh, the next best option is to look for a package with a one-way valve. Beans off-gas after they are roasted, and if they are to be sold fresh, this gas has to have a way of escaping.

Beans that you buy tightly sealed in bags or cans have been allowed to off-gas completely before being packaged – meaning they are no longer fresh and so that’s a good clue to look for before buying your best coffee beans.

Roast

Coffee aficionados often say that dark-roasting beans destroy their unique flavors and qualities, and that high quality beans should be lightly roasted. If you really love dark roasted coffee then that is what you should buy, but save your money and buy less expensive beans: the subtle flavor characteristics that make high quality beans more expensive are smothered with the darkest roasts.

Coffee Roasting Levels

Light roasts are referred to as Cinnamon, Light City or Half City. They tend to retain both their acidity and caffeine content and have a flavor that may remind you of roasted grain. They are roasted until the “first crack” when beans begin to make a popping noise at about 205 degrees Celsius.

Medium roasts are traditionally the most popular in North America. They go by names such as American Roast, City, Breakfast Roast or just Regular Roast. They are roasted to about 210 or 220 degrees Celsius, or just before “second crack.”

Medium-dark roasts are roasted to second crack, which occurs at about 225 degrees Celsius. These are more full-bodied roasts and the oil begins to appear on the surface. Full City and Vienna Roast are names sometimes given to medium-dark roasts.

Dark roasts are roasted beyond second crack to about 240 degrees Celsius. After about 250 degrees the beans start to taste more like charcoal and produce a thin-bodied coffee. Dark roasts go by names such as Italian Roast, Espresso Roast, French Roast, and New Orleans Roast.

Try experimenting with medium-dark and medium roasting levels to see if you can start to detect some of the subtle flavors that distinguish one type of bean from another.

Ethics

Coffee grows near the equator, meaning that some of the poorest countries in the world are coffee producers. Try to buy ethically sourced beans whenever you can, as coffee farmers often suffer due to mistreatment and dishonest business practices.

Coffee Certifications

Fortunately, the best ethical practices – organic farming, shade growing, treating workers well – also tend to produce the best coffees. Certification boards exist to ensure that products are organic, shade grown, child labor-free, fairly traded or grown at altitude.

These certifications are helpful, but it’s also good to do your own research as many non-certified coffees still meet these requirements. Ethiopian coffee, for example, is generally organically grown and Indian coffee farmers are usually well-paid and well-treated.

A word of warning about Kopi Luwak, or civet poop coffee from Indonesia: traditionally this was picked off the ground in coffee plantations where the civets were allowed to live freely. Now it more often comes from civets living in tiny cages in horrible circumstances.

Unless you are very careful about the origin, these beans are almost always the product of animal cruelty. Most coffee experts agree that it is at best a gimmick in any case, and doesn’t really produce a better coffee.

Now, as you know the characteristics to consider when buying coffee beans, it’s time to know as where to buy. With thousands of varieties and options, one can easily get confused or it’s tedious to make a decision with the exhaustive number of options. To get the freshly roasted beans, we suggest you to buy from a local roaster.

Wrapping Up

This list is far from exhaustive, but it should give you a place to start. Once you start paying attention to the variety of flavors and aromas found in different beans, you will get a better sense of your own preferences and will find your best coffee bean. There are so many varieties out there to try and you will never end up trying the whole! Instead, you have to stop somewhere were your tongue sticks.