There are different things you can do to influence the flavor of your coffee but nothing beats choosing the right coffee beans. That’s why you need to invest time in choosing the best coffee beans. In this guide we outline how to choose which coffee beans to buy.
Some coffee beans have a short shelf life so you should keep this in mind when buying, some even lose most of their flavor if they’re not stored properly.
Here are some tips you can use when choosing what coffee beans to buy:
1. Check The Roast Date before you buy coffee beans
No coffee beans will retain its flavor for life, forget about what the advertisers say. The difference in taste between fresh coffee beans and six-month-old coffee beans will easily prove this point.
Bean roasting plays a role in reducing shelf life. Coffee beans undergo degassing after roasting. In degassing, carbon dioxide is released from inside the bean. It usually takes place within one week of roasting.
Carbon dioxide in water is acidic so its release oxidizes the oils in your coffee and this will change its flavor.
There’s no perfect roast date but you should make sure you don’t brew with coffee beans that’s been sitting for more than two weeks after roasting.
The dates differ with the type of coffee too, pour over coffee requires that you use coffee beans that are closer to the roast date ‘cause they’re still fresh at that point.
Espresso coffee works best with beans that are closer to two weeks after the roast date.
2. Look For The Roaster Identity
When you’ve been buying coffee beans for a while, you can spot a pattern if you’re attentive. You can get to know the roasters that are good and avoid the bad ones.
There are many roaster competitions around, so if you can get one that’s highly rated it usually guarantees you a better experience.
Coffee terms like light-roast coffee and dark-roast coffee are very important so if you can identify a roaster that actually produces light-roast coffee it helps you cut through the fluff.
Light-roast coffee beans have a higher acidity, more flavors, more caffeine and little oil on the surface of the beans.
Dark-roast coffee beans have more oils on the surface of the beans so oxidation is increased and the flavor is diminished.
Good roasters will specify the technique they used while roasting.
3. Know The Origin Before You Buy Coffee Beans
Coffee doesn’t grow everywhere so it makes sense that even where it grows, some regions will produce better coffee than others due to the nature of the soil profile.
Altitude, sunlight, and rainfall influence the growth of the coffee bean so will affect the final flavor of the coffee.
Your coffee bag should tell you the region your bean was produced from and if that detail is hidden, it should raise a red flag.
Let’s look at some of the popular regions and the kind of coffee you’re likely to get:
• Hawaii coffee beans
Kona coffee is its most popular variety. It’s popular for its rich flavor and floral note.
Varieties of the Arabica coffee come from Colombia and they’re famous for their coffee beans that show a good balance of acidity and body.
• Brazil coffee beans
Many full-bodied coffees come from Brazil and they’re famous for their longer coffee beans making them perfect for espressos.
It’s Africa’s largest coffee producer. You can expect coffee that’s fruity with heavy bodies and wine-like notes.
It’s the fourth largest coffee producer in Africa and common for its coffee beans with full flavor.
Most of the coffee is grown in the open and processing isn’t advanced in Kenya so that’s responsible for their richly flavored coffee.
Another advantage of actually buying coffee beans is that you can avoid buying blends that are produced during roasting.
Buying coffee beans from Brazil which will most likely be from a single farm gives you single-origin coffee, and if you want to experiment yourself, you can create your own unique blends by combining coffee from different regions.
Morning blend coffee beans is a term used by roasters to suggest that you’ll enjoy that coffee better if brewed in the morning.
4. Look At Tags Like USDA Organic
Organic products are all the rage now, if you care about rewarding farmers that protect the environment where their coffee beans are planted, USDA organic coffee beans look like something you’ll like.
Farmers here grow coffee while minimizing pollution so they don’t use many of the common pesticides or employ techniques like ionizing radiation.
There’s a list of chemicals approved for this kind of farming so organic coffee may have chemicals but not as much as the ones that are grown mainly with fertilizers.
Crop rotation and biological control of weed are some agricultural practices used.
USDA organic coffee doesn’t guarantee coffee beans with improved flavors or bodies, it only describes how the coffee is grown.
5. Search For Some Coffee Terms
There are some terms used on the bean bag that might confuse you when shopping for good coffee beans. Look at some of them:
• Ground Coffee
This is basic, if you’re looking for coffee beans, you shouldn’t buy a bag that reads ground coffee, simple.
Check if the store has a grinder you can use in-house, most coffee stores offer this option, and manual grinders aren’t that expensive anyway so you should get one.
Buying ground coffee may give you grinds that are consistent but you’ve lost control over a large part of the flavor at that point.
• 100% Pure Coffee
This is another claim made by a lot of roasters, and most times it’s an exaggerated claim. 100% pure coffee is used to describe 100% Arabica or Robusta coffee, the two main varieties of coffee beans.
Most commercial roasters don’t make coffee purely from one variety, that’s because it’s expensive to grow the richly flavored Arabica coffee so most roasts have a touch of Robusta.
Small-scale roasters don’t usually make this kind of claim on the package and it doesn’t even matter ‘cause you’re more likely to get coffee beans of a single variety from them.
• Shade-grown Coffee
Coffee plants grown under a canopy of trees is coffee that’s shade-grown.
Roasters use this tag to show that they try to protect biodiversity while farming but it doesn’t really matter as no organization actually checks this.
A farmer can consider coffee beans grown under scattered trees here and there as shade-grown coffee and that tag makes its way to the package.
• Self-Serve Coffee Beans
Good roasters are going to preserve the freshness of their coffee beans by storing them in airtight containers and away from sunlight.
A store that provides self-serve coffee beans (which is short for we don’t really put much effort into keeping our coffee beans tightly locked and we do this so you can scoop away) is a shop you shouldn’t be buying from.
• Use-By Date
Some packages opt for a use-by date which is more like an expiry date and not a roast date, don’t buy this type of coffee if you’re looking for fresh coffee.
Yes, it expires six months from now, but how much of its flavor would have been lost between the roast date (which you don’t know) and the day you’re at the store.
How Much Coffee Should You Buy?
You don’t need to buy coffee in bulk except you run a café or you’re planning a camping trip for many people.
Monitor yourself for a week and calculate how many cups of coffee you consume. 30g of coffee beans per two cups of coffee is a good unit so if you drink six cups of coffee weekly, you know you need 90g of coffee beans.
How To Store Your Coffee Beans
After buying your coffee beans, you need to preserve them, if you bought 90g of coffee beans for a week’s use, you need to keep it as fresh as possible for that long.
Here are a few tips you can use:
1. Store In An Airtight Container
When you buy coffee beans, the should come in a container. This tip is really important if your coffee beans came in a paper bag or just any kind of plastic. You should get an airtight container and store away from sunlight.
2. Keep It Dry Too
When you’re ready to brew, take out the coffee beans that you need and return the rest into the sealed container before you start brewing.
Coffee beans need to be kept dry and vapor from your heater can ruin them if you keep the container near your brewing area.
3. Don’t Keep In The Fridge or Freezer
Storing coffee beans in these places makes them lose their flavor and keeping the beans dry is important too, you won’t get this in the freezer as water can seep through the bag.
How to choose which coffee beans to buy?
Now you have a clear idea of what types of coffee might suit your tastes, why not check out our range of single-origin coffees? Or perhaps you’re more adventurous with a blend?
If you’re still unsure, check out our coffee matching quiz to find out more.