Good coffee always starts with good beans. Whether you are buying coffee beans at a coffee shop, the grocery store, or direct from the roaster, you will need to know the things to look for on a good bag of coffee.
And it can get confusing. No worries, we listed a few factors to consider when buying coffee beans.
- Go Whole
Always buy whole beans.
We can’t stress this enough. Sure, pre-ground coffee might seem convenient, however, saving time means that you are missing out on so much flavor. And it is not just worth it.
Remember, air is the enemy of an aromatic and flavorful coffee.
And the oxidation process accelerates once you crack the hard outer shell of the bean, resulting in muted flavor. The closer to brewing as you grind, the more flavorful and fresher your cup of coffee will be.
- Roasting Date
You might think that coffee has an infinite shelf life, but they don’t. And you most likely will not get sick if you make coffee using the year-old beans hiding in the shelf, but it definitely will not taste as good.
Once coffee beans leave the roasting environment, its chemistry instantly starts to change. The coffee beans start to release carbon dioxide from the roasting process which is called degassing. As it degasses, all those oil within the bean starts to oxidize, diminishing the flavor of the bean.
While the freshness of coffee bean is subjective, in general, you want to make your coffee between 4 days to 2 weeks from the roast date, dependent on your brewing style.
For instance, if you like pour-over coffee, coffee beans in their 1st week after roasting will get you more brilliant coffee bloom closer to its roast date. However, if you want a good shot of espresso, then you might want to let the beans rest a bit longer, about 7 – 9 days so that tastes better for your next cold brew.
These are just general suggestions. You can experiment and go with the flavor best for you.
Soil chemistry, altitude, sunshine, and rainfall all contribute to the flavor of the coffee bean. Thus, the origin of the bean can be an indicator of how they will taste. And if the bag of coffee can’t tell you where the beans were grown, then you might want to rethink your choice.
Coffee plants thrive along the Coffee Belt. This is the zone between 30 degrees south and 25 degrees north along the equator. Over 50 countries produce coffee, and you might want to start with the more famous ones.
- Colombia: Thousands of small family farms contribute to the consistently mild coffee beans with caramel sweetness, well-balanced acidity, and the occasional notes of nuttiness.
- Hawaii: Kona coffee is the most sought-after Hawaiian coffee type. Between frequent rain showers and intense sunlight, the coffee can have floral aromatics and rich flavor.
- Brazil: The vast countryside with various altitudes, this coffee offers a wider palette of flavors. They are often associated with a heavy body and nutty flavor, perfect for espresso.
- Kenya: Grown without shade and then processed using a fermentation soak, Kenyan coffees offer savory-sweet flavors.
- Ethiopia: Offering massive coffee biodiversity, Ethiopian coffees offer uncatalogued and wild varieties going from heavy and fruity, wine-like coffees to the floral, tea-like brews.
- Indonesia: Sumatran coffee, anyone? How about Java? Indonesia is known for these varieties as well as their aged coffees offering lower acidity and a deeper body.
- USDA Organic
If you’re being conscious about the environment and want the healthiest coffee available, then go with organic coffees like the Nectar of Life with the USDA Organic Label. This means that the coffees are grown in local biodiversity and plantation without turning to the conventional chemical.