“Whenever I go to a grocery store to buy coffee beans, I am nearly confused on which one to pick and which one to leave. Dark Roast, Light Roast, Italian or Guatemalan, all terms confuse me. I’ve tried a few with great packing but the taste was not that good or I can say that I didn’t liked that taste.”
The above is a common confusion that most of us as a beginner face in buying the best coffee beans. Even if you are having the best coffee maker or the top notch espresso machine, choice of wrong beans can affect your final result. Maybe you are starting to notice that some coffees taste better than others, and cheap grocery store brands just aren’t doing it for you anymore. When you first look into buying better quality beans, you can easily get overwhelmed by all of the new terminology and conflicting advice out there. So an answer to the question “How to Buy Best Coffee Beans?” is tried to be sorted out here. Below are some of the aspects to notice while buying coffee beans.
(Note: We have just made our guide much better. Go to the new Bean Buying Guide)
A Matter of Taste
There is no point in buying coffee beans according to what you are “supposed” to like. Try a few new beans and roasts and get to know your own preferences. Excellent beans are grown all over the tropical world, and no country or region has a monopoly on quality.
Some people prefer a sharper, fruity, more acidic coffee while others prefer a mellower, earthy flavor. The beans themselves have underlying flavours, and the roasting, grinding and brewing processes make their own contributions to the final taste.
Arabica versus 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Like people, who grow up in different regions have different characteristics, the same is applicable to coffee beans too. Different origins have different tastes and which one to pick requires some testing or know how about origins to find the best coffee beans.
Origin 1: Africa/Arabia
Terms Ethiopian, Arabian, African, Egyptian are some that belong to this origin. These are medium bodied; dark Roast is preferred here and the flavors are majorly spicy, wine-like and chocolaty. Examples are Kenya Cruising, Ethiopian Islands and Peaberry Players Club.
Origin 2: Indonesia and the Pacific Island Region
Indonesian, Jamaican and Hawaiian are the major terms used for beans from this origin. These beans are heavy bodied and less acidic. These beans are preferred majorly all over and are roasted from dark to very dark. The flavors are generally earthy.
Origin 3: Central America
Costa Rica, Panamian, Mexican and Guatemalan labeled beans originate from here. These beans vary from light bodied (Mexican) to heavy bodied (Costa Rican). Beans from Central America are mostly enjoyed in the morning with breakfast and are roasted from mild to medium. Few examples are Coastal Costa Rica, Panamian Rainforest and Guatemalan Adventure.
Origin 4: South America
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.
Related: Best Coffee Beans to taste
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.
Now that you have a place to start, enjoy sampling the many different beans that are grown from all around the world. Many roasters would love to give samples for testing and the same is applicable for online coffee stores too. Try Googling the roasters near your area to start testing the samples. Tell them your taste preference and they will also help you out in choosing the correct one. Happy Coffeeing!