What Are The Best Coffee Beans?
Coffee Education / May 24, 2018
When people think about where to buy the best coffee beans, their minds narrow in on a package or a label. But there are different factors to look for when it comes to choosing the best whole bean coffee. A lot it also depends on where coffee beans grow, how they are roasted, for how long they’ve been roasted before being brewed, how they are ground and finally how they are brewed. All of these elements together give coffee beans their unique flavors.
A lot of that depends on you too.
You have your own unique taste palate and certain coffee flavor preferences. For example, do you prefer light, medium or dark coffee? And what flavors would you most likely go for? Fruity, nutty, or a citrus taste? At the same time, you may not have a favorite yet, or you’re open to trying new flavors. The best way to learn anything is by trying it right? In fact, we recommend it. If at the end you’re still unsure about what coffee beans you prefer, select one that sounds good to you and see where that takes you!
So, grab your favorite cup of coffee (hopefully it’s whole bean!) and kick back and relax. With our expertise to back it up, we’ll walk through some fun discoveries about coffee beans (your friends will be impressed) to help you arrive at a conclusion that’s unique to you. We’re happy that you’re here! Let’s begin.
Why Whole Beans?
Before we get into the specifics of what makes the best coffee beans, we can’t stress enough how important it is to buy whole beans.
Whole beans are hands down fresher and the end result more delicious than pre-ground coffee. Why? After coffee beans fully grow, they become delicate and begin to age. It’s important to keep them as fresh as possible. One way to do this is to just leave them the way they are. Pre-grinding coffee beans take out the flavor, oils and the wonderful aroma of the coffee bean. That’s why we recommend grinding your own coffee.
And most people buy pre-ground coffee because they don’t know what to do with coffee beans or how to buy them. So, our first tip here is that no matter what you decide, always buy whole beans. Now, let’s get to some other important factors to help you find the best coffee beans.
When coffee is roasted, carbon dioxide is formed inside the coffee beans. After the roasting is complete, the carbon dioxide is released. This happens for about two weeks until oxygen takes over. This process is called degassing. We want you to know why the roast date on your coffee beans affects taste, so bear with us!
Once the oxygen makes its way into the coffee bean it begins to react with the oils. This is where the magic happens and flavors begin to form. This is the oxidation process. After oxidation, roasters will use airtight bags to keep the coffee beans fresh and stamp the roast date. We recommend that you use the coffee beans no longer than 3 weeks to get the most out of each sip.
Types of Coffee Beans
There are four main coffee beans in the world: Arabica, Robusta, Excelsa, and Liberica. The most popular–Arabica and Robusta together make up 90 percent of coffee consumption worldwide. The two others are not as popular but still found in certain places especially online. Knowing what flavor you prefer will help when you’re buying coffee.
Arabica coffee beans are soft, sweet, and fruity with high acidity compared to other varieties. Arabica is considered the superior for its smooth taste and rich flavor. Most types of coffee drinks are made with Arabica.
Robusta coffee beans are earthy, rich and bitter as it contains twice as much caffeine than Arabica. Robusta is used for making many types of espresso drinks, instant coffee and is used as a filler in house blends as well. Cafe Bustelo is an example of a Robusta coffee.
Excelsa and Liberica
Excelsa is tart, fruity, and dark and used for blending because it adds a stronger character. Excelsa is not commercially available though. You might be able to find it online but we’d recommend sticking to Arabica or Robusta for its wider availability.
The Liberica coffee bean is rare just like Excelsa so you won’t find it as easily as you would Arabica or Robusta coffee beans. You may run into some luck if you search for it online, but we can’t guarantee it will be fresh. When roasted, Liebrica it is marked by its smoky, nutty and dark chocolate taste.
To find out what your coffee bean preference is, we recommend that you visit a local coffee shop and ask for samples of Arabica and Robusta. You can even ask them if they are single origin or blend (we’ll get to that next) to learn more about where your coffee comes from. You can do this at different coffee shops. When you’ve tasted something you like, ask them who roasted the coffee beans and purchase one of their bags. And as we stated earlier, you can also just buy different coffee beans each month from different places (make sure there’s a roast date) and experiment on your own!
Single Origin VS Blend
Coffee beans are sold either single origin or blend. If they are single origin, this means they were sourced from one only country or sometimes even from one single farm. Single origin coffee is not blended with other coffee beans when they’re roasting. Because they come from one place, single origin coffee beans are only available at certain times of the year. Single origin coffee is more expensive because it is not as available as the blended coffees. And it’s not as available because single origin coffee only grows seasonally. Blended coffee on the other hand, is grown and produced year-round.
The term” blend” is essentially what it sounds – meaning that the coffee beans come from different places all over the world and are roasted together to produce certain flavors.
Coffee connoisseurs tend to prefer the taste of single origin coffee beans. They also tend to drink this type of coffee black – without any sugar or cream. Do you tend to go for creamy latte or macchiato instead? These types of sweet, creamy drinks come from blended coffee beans.
To experiment and begin noticing the difference between single origin and blended coffee beans, the next time you visit your local coffee shop, ask the barista if they carry any site origin coffee and have a sample, or buy a small cup. Try it without sugar or cream. Savor each sip. Do the same with their house blends. What did you prefer? Experimenting will help you arrive at a conclusion about what you like the most. But just because blends are not sought after by the coffee geeks, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good. In fact, roasting blended coffee beans is somewhat of an art form. The taste that comes from mixing a variety of coffee beans produces more flavorful notes, smoothness and fruitier aromas.
Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries around the world. But some of the best coffee comes from Hawaii, Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Indonesia. Let’s take a look at why these countries make the best of the best. If you really want to get deep into it, you can also look into where your coffee beans came from to find which ones are the best.
Hawaii grows Kona coffee and it is the most sought after coffee. Because of frequent rains, mixed with vast sunshine, and the mineral-rich volcanic soil in the area, the coffee beans grow in the slopes of the area produce rich and moderate flavors. Kona coffee is hard to find and expensive. To make it more available, Kona coffee is blended with other types of coffee beans.
Columbia is known for producing mild, sweet and well-balanced coffee beans. Why is Colombia such a great place to grow coffee? That’s because Colombia is located in the perfect geographical location to grow coffee. Like, Hawaii — Columbian coffee beans also grow in volcanic soil with a similar climate.
Brazil is known to have a wider range of flavors and have a heavier body than other coffee beans. Brazilian coffee beans at the best for making espresso.
Ethiopian coffee beans are Arabica beans that have rich, complex and winey flavors. These beans grown in small farms throughout in the south, east, and west of Ethiopia. While Ethiopian coffee beans can be pricey, they are more affordable than Kona coffee.
The best coffee beans are grown in local farms in Kenya. The Arabica beans are washed and sun-dried which offers fruity and well-balanced flavors with notes of blackberry, tomato, lemon, and pepper.
Indonesia is the fourth largest producer of coffee. Because it is located along the line of the Equator, Indonesia has the perfect climate for growing some of the best coffee beans in the world.
Coffee Roast Types
Light roast, medium roast, medium-dark roast and dark roast. So many choices. Which do you prefer? You probably already have a preference, but maybe you don’t know what it is yet. The coffee bean roasting process where the flavor of the coffee gets developed. Roasting coffee beans cause the green coffee beans to change in taste. The process consists of sorting the coffee beans, cooling them and then finally roasting them. And did you know that lighter coffee has more caffeine than a darker roast? According to the National Association of Coffee, many consumers assume that the strong, rich flavor of darker roasts indicates a higher level of caffeine, but the truth is that light roasts actually have a slightly higher concentration!
The length of time involved in the roasting process will produce different tastes. Here are the different types of roasts from the National Coffee Association:
Light Roasts: Light roasts such as Light City, Half City, Cinnamon are brown in color and is generally preferred for milder coffee varieties. The coffee beans are not oily because they are not roasted very long to produce them.
Medium Roast: Medium roasts like the American, Breakfast, and City roasts are brown in color with medium acidity and body, as well as a rounded flavor.
Medium Dark Roasts: Medium dark roasts are rich and dark in color with some oil on the surface. There is a slight bittersweet aftertaste.
Dark roasts: Dark roasted coffee beans produce shiny black beans with an oily surface and a pronounced bitterness. The darker the roast, the less acidity will be found in the coffee beverage. Dark roast coffees run from slightly dark to charred.
Organic, Fair Trade and Direct Trade Coffee
It’s debatable whether organic, fair trade and direct trade coffee means you will get the best coffee beans in terms of taste and quality but we want to tell you what these certifications mean as they may be important to you.
We’ve all heard that buying organic, in general, is better for us and for the environment. In order for food to be considered organic, chemical fertilizers, pesticides artificial coloring and flavors are eliminated from the things we consume. To regulate this, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and private entities like the Northeast Organic Farmers Association, among others, oversee these procedures. However recently, lobbyists have worked hard on loosening the requirement for a USDA stamp on food that allows chemical fertilizers in foods. With that being said, we will leave choosing organic coffee beans to up to you.
Direct Trade Coffee
Direct trade focuses on building direct relationships with individual producers and farmers. This cuts out the middleman like USDA and other groups. Many coffee roasters do it this way because of their dissatisfaction with certifications programs.
Some roasters also prefer direct trade because they are dissatisfied with the third-party certification programs and also because direct trade does not require growers to be part of an affiliation which can bother some independent-minded, successful growers.
In direct trade, coffee roasters visit growers directly at least once every year and perform inspections.
Fair Trade Coffee
When coffee is fair trade it means it has been certified as having been produced to certain fair trade standards. These fair trade standards claim to seek greater equity in better trading conditions to coffee bean growers and promote environmental sustainability to ensure that the people involved in the production were treated and compensated fairly.
Where to Buy Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans
The best coffee beans come from the best roasters. So when looking for coffee beans, you should ask yourself: Who’s roasting my coffee beans? And what is their process? This way, you know exactly where you’re getting your coffee from, how it was roasted and by whom. These roasters are our favorites because they are passionate about what they do, and it shows in the quality coffee beans they produce.
You can browse through this awesome list but feel free to look into where you can find some local roasters in your area too. Be curious.
Our favorite roasters’ coffee beans come from all over the world. Some are single origin, others are special blends. You will find have decaf choices, and organic too. Drum roll, please!
Andytown Coffee Roasters
Andytown Coffee Roasters was founded in 2014 by Michael McCrory and Lauren Crabbe. They bring specialty coffee roasting to the Outer Sunset in San Francisco. Their goal is to make specialty coffee a welcoming, comfortable, and extraordinary experience. Coffee beans they roast.
Carabello Coffee started in a garage in the fall of 2009 with a philanthropic vision, a hot air popcorn popper and a few pounds of green coffee beans. From there Justin & Emily Carabello have steadily grown their small business as a way to help fund sustainable change in underdeveloped coffee producing nations. Coffee beans they roast.
Colectivo has been sourcing coffees from origin and roasting every batch by hand since 1993. By developing farmer and co-op partnerships, they are involved in every step of creating a great coffee experience. Coffee bean they roast.
In August 2007, Star Lounge Coffee Bar was established in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago by Jesse Diaz. Known for their imaginative blends, unique single origins, and innovative iced coffee, Dark Matter Coffee is one of the premier artisan roasters in the country. Coffee beans they roast.
Demitasse is an L.A. based company comprised of a handful of coffee geeks from all walks of life who enjoy tinkering with espresso, coffee, and tea. Being a group of coffee geeks turned pro, they love interacting with other home baristas and coffee enthusiasts. Coffee beans they roast.
Frothy Monkey Roasting Company specializes in bringing the finest coffees in the world by expertly roasting and brewing the carefully selected beans. We are committed to the communities we serve, the farmers from whom we buy our coffee, and our Frothy family. Every step in the process, from farming to roasting, to brewing, is done to serve you the very best cup of coffee. Coffee beans they roast.
Founded in 2012 Halfwit started as the brainchild of the team at The Wormhole Coffee, a café in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. Since their inception, Halfwit has sought to discover ways to combine the world of beverage science with the arts of service and hospitality. Coffee beans they roast.
Irving Farm is one of New York’s most beloved hometown roasters with seven cafés, a bustling wholesale business, the only SCAA-certified Training & Education Loft in NYC, a brand new Roastery & Tasting Room, and a green coffee buying program led by Dan Streetman that focuses on direct relationships with farmers, sustainable practices, and a philosophy of quality over quantity. Coffee beans they roast.
Lamplighter is a specialty coffee roasting company from Richmond Va, with three locations open to the public. Coffee beans they roast.
With their mission to “to produce the purest coffee and tea on Earth,” Limitless believes that human potential is limitless and are developing the purest agents of motivation and inspiration for the moments we need them. Coffee beans they roast.
Lineage is craft coffee roaster from Orlando, FL. Beginning in 2012, Lineage that believes that craft coffee should be approachable, yet surprising. Coffee beans they roast.
Founded in 2013, Metric Coffee is roasted on a ’61 Probat UG 15 vintage, built-to-last machine produces exceptionally well balanced, sweet, and clean coffees. Coffee beans they roast.
Metropolis Coffee Company is a father and son owned, Chicago-based coffeehouse & roastery that began in 2003 and quickly become a national award-winning coffeehouse and roastery. Metropolis offers a variety of blends and single origins. Coffee beans they roast.
Muletown believes in creating products that make customers a little better every day. Muletown Roasted Coffee is an approachable and simplified take on small-batch coffee that is ethically sourced freshly roasted and no-nonsense coffee for everyday people. Coffee beans they roast.
Nobletree Coffee is made up of farmers, roasters, and baristas. They offer specialty coffees produced on their own farms and sourced from around the world. By spending the past few years working their farms in Brazil to understand the variables that affect quality, and how to create sustainable practices. Coffee beans they roast.
What began as a pocket square-sized espresso bar in the back of a barbershop is today an emerging coffee roasting company in Brooklyn, New York. At Parlor, we have set out to source and roast coffees with character. Coffee beans they roast.
Passion House is a small batch coffee roaster and café where they create balanced and complex coffees sourced from farms around the world. The beans are roasting by hand on a vintage 1957 German Probat cast-iron roaster. Coffee beans they roast.
Phoenix Coffee Company, is one of Cleveland, Ohio’s premier coffee roasters with 5 cafés around the city with a vision and a continued effort to nurture communities around great coffee. Coffee beans they roast.
Press roasts their coffee in small batches to ensure the highest quality and consistency. Their beans are sourced by importers that specialize in cultivating meaningful relationships with growers who are committed to quality farming and direct trade in select countries like Ethiopia, Peru, Costa Rica, Brazil, Sumatra, and Guatemala. Coffee beans they roast.
Rev Coffee Roasters was born and raised in a community that doesn’t settle for “decent,” so they never learned the meaning of the word. Sourcing, roasting, and preparing coffee that pushes the boundaries of exceptional quality is kind their obsession. Rev’s mentality toward coffee is in service to every bar in life that could be raised just a little bit higher. Coffee beans they roast.
Ritual has been a pioneer in this delicious shift in coffee consciousness since they opened their doors on Valencia Street in 2005 and started what some call a coffee revolution in San Francisco. Their goal then–and their goal now–is to craft the very best cup of coffee available anywhere. Period. Though they’ve been around for a while, Ritual care and attention are unchanged, including tasting every coffee several times before it goes out to the world. Coffee beans they roast.
Stumptown spends copious amounts of time with coffee farmers in order to ensure they grow, pick, and process ripe and intensely flavorful coffee cherries. Stumptown aims to work directly and transparently with each and every one of their coffee farmers. Coffee beans they roast.
Toby’s Estate Coffee is a small batch roaster located in Brooklyn, New York. We travel the world sourcing coffee, celebrating quality and complexity. As roasters and baristas, we believe that each coffee can tell a story and we strive to share that in every cup. Coffee beans they roast.
In 2007, founders Ryan and Colby built and opened the first Verve cafe on 41st Ave in Santa Cruz, California. Today, Verve has locations in cities from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Tokyo, but their roots remain planted in Santa Cruz, where they roast coffee on vintage roasters and enjoy the endless surf of the rugged California coast. Coffee beans they roast.
To accomplish their mission of ending homelessness and chronic unemployment in the veteran community, Veteran Roasters started a company 16 years ago to provide growth, and most importantly, provide a skill in a burgeoning industry. The craft roasting community has grown dramatically in the last five years, and when we reached out to the owner of a great local roasting house about hiring and training veterans the idea for Veteran Roasters Cup O’ Joe Brand took flight. Coffee beans they roast.
Victoria was established in 1947 by two Italian brothers, Orazio and Carmelo Cantarella, who recognized a need for European foods in Australia. Now, over 50 years later, as well as a major supplier and importer of European food, our company is the largest pure coffee company in Australia and Vittoria Coffee is Australia’s number one pure coffee brand. Coffee beans they roast.
Zingerman’s Coffee Company is a wholesale roaster supplying cafes, restaurants, and
businesses. It was started in 2003 by Allen Leibowitz and the founders of Zingerman’s
Delicatessen, Paul Saginaw, and Ari Weinzweig. In 2008, Steve Mangigian joined as co-managing partner with Allen. A household name in Michigan, Zingerman’s has become synonymous with quality products. Coffee beans they roast.
How to Store Coffee Beans
Now that you’ll be buying coffee beans we want to show you how to properly store them. The National Coffee Association suggests that beans should be kept away from air moisture heat and light. They should be stored in an opaque airtight container at room temperature in a dark and cool area away from the sun. It’s recommended to avoid clear canisters because allowing light can affect the beans.
Buying small batches means they won’t be stored long because you will use them faster. So when you buy coffee, buy just enough to last you for a couple of weeks so that you know you’re always drinking the freshest coffee.
Some people like to freeze food, condiments and other perishables to keep them fresh. Although the NCA is not a huge proponent of freezing coffee beans, they say that if any reason you have to freeze your beans to do it using an airtight container and not a home storage container because they let air in that can cause freezer burn.
We know that was a whole of information. But by now, you’re an expert, right? Well, maybe we’re pushing it but now you know a lot more than when you started. And you especially know more about coffee beans more than you ever did.
Besides the coffee beans we’ve recommended, we hope you remember why buying whole bean coffee is the way to go in the first place. Remember to look out for a roast date, and brew it within 3 weeks for the best results.
Additionally, don’t buy in bulk since this will cause your coffee beans to get stale. Stay away from groceries stores and don’t be afraid to discover new flavors by visiting your local coffee shops and buying a bag of coffee beans you’ve never tried before. Often, that’s when the best discoveries are made. And don’t forget to store your coffee beans properly using airtight containers. As you can see, finding the best coffee beans is all about experimenting and also about having some fun as you go!