Dear Internet user,
I'm ready to take the plunge to make better coffee, and I have all my equipment picked out, but where can I actually buy the beans? Should I just buy them at the grocery shop, or is there something better I should get? Is there a way to try different coffees before buying a ton?
The best part of waking up
Dear best part of waking up,
You are absolutely right, good coffee starts with the beans. Make no mistake, the brewing method is important. That's why we've talked about how to brew the perfect cup, how to get the most out of a drip generator, shown you impressive beyond drip coffee makers, talked about how to make good coffee on a budget, and even the best way to make your coffee portable. Yet the key to a good cup starts with the beans you take with you.
Luckily, you have tons of options, both online and in your neighborhood. Even most small towns these days have at least one decent coffee shop, and as long as you know what you're looking for, you have plenty of options and ways to find the best beans for you.
Learn to judge a grain by its cover (and when you can't)
The label on your coffee bag can tell you a lot, and it can certainly tell you a lot about the freshness, type and quality of coffee inside. You won't be able to learn everything, of course, but it can certainly lead you in the right direction, and a little knowledge can take you the rest of the way. Here are some things to look out for:
- Buy whole, freshly roasted beansWe've mentioned the importance of grinding your own beans enough times before that's a given. Whole beans will be harder to come by, but you have control over the grind, which is important depending on how you prepare it, and your coffee will retain its natural flavours and oils much longer than if you buy pre-ground. Seriously, once you start grinding, you won't go back. Check out this lesson from our morning coffee school to learn more about this topic.
- Roasting date versus expiry dateYou might struggle to find a bag with its roasting date on it, but when you do, support that roaster. Most commercial roasters don't put dates on their bags at all, usually to disguise where the coffee came from and when it was roasted and packaged - this allows them to mix and match batches that were roasted at different times, from different sources . Remember, a best before date is better than nothing, but a roast date is better. Remember that most of the flavour of the coffee is in these oils, and these oils dry out and disappear quickly the longer it takes between roasting and grinding.
- Choose the right type of beanThere are tons of different types of beans, but you will see the two biggest varieties: Arabica and Robusta. If you have a choice, choose Arabica. Robusta is well known for its bitter, earthy taste and is often used for instant coffee. Arabica is, for the vast majority of people, what you are looking for. Beyond that, you'll see tons of geographies and coffee varieties, from Java to Kona to Sumatra. Experience. There's no single rule to tell you what's good here, there are just too many variables. Explore different regions and tastes - this is where you should try to have fun instead of trying to focus on what's good or bad.
- Keep an eye on the sourceAs we said, the geography must weigh on your taste buds, but the source can tell you a lot. Look for a single source or geography in the same bag. Big roasters don't mind because they will blend and match - which is the cheapest for them. A single source may cost you more, but it is worth it. If you see a bag with a specific geography, like "Sumatra Mandheling", for example, that means all the grains in the bag come from the same part of the world. If you also see "single estate", it means that all the grains come from the same farm and the same place. Can you see why this might be a good thing?
- Choose the right type of roastWe've said before to keep an open mind about the type of roast, but let's sum it up: unless you're making espresso, you probably don't need an espresso roast unless you already know you like the flavor. If you hate the deep, strong flavor of coffee, you might consider a light roast. Most people prefer, and usually drink, a City roast or a Vienna roast. City is lighter, Vienna is more common. If you have a choice, start with Vienna - it's probably what you're used to drinking and you can get around from there. This Coffee Crossroads guide goes into the subject of roasting in depth and hits some of the types of roasts you may not see very often.
With all this knowledge, you should be in a good position to look at a label and say what you are getting into. Of course, there's no way of knowing whether you'll actually as a coffee just by reading the label. However, you can tell that a coffee with an old roast date or a rapidly approaching expiry date won't be as good, or a pre-ground or general bag from a huge coffee 'producer' won't be as good as something you'd get fresher from a real roasting company.
Our favourite coffees
- VALUE ★ 2 x 1KG coffee beans of the best quality
- VARIETY ★ Coffee blend - Intenso Napoletano (80% Robusta, 20% Arabica)
- QUALITY ★ Barista Italiano analyses, selects and enhances precious coffee. The wisdom of artisan experience for an Italian roast that makes our coffee unforgettable
- ULTIMATE FRESHNESS ★ BaristaItaliano whole coffee beans are packaged in a specific flat decarburization valve, which allows the beans to keep their full freshness and flavor intact for 24 months after packaging
- MADE IN ITALY ★ The unmistakable Italian taste is a recognized value and Barista Italiano offers it in its coffee. Passion for tradition renewed in the quest and challenge to make a special coffee
- COFFEE SELECTION 100% ARABICA BEANS. Café Saula is always looking for the best quality. In this pack of 2 tins of 500 grams each, you will find a 100% Arabica coffee.
- FLAVOURS AND AROMAS. A coffee with an intense flavour, body and fine acidity. A cup with aromas of chocolate, caramel and toast. Long-lasting crema.
- STORAGE. Store in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and heat. Hermetically sealed metal container with one-way vent valve.
- ECOLOGICAL COFFEE SELECTION 100% ARABICA BEANS. Café Saula always looks for the best quality. In this pack of 2 boxes of 500 grams each, you will find a 100% Arabica coffee.
- FLAVOURS AND AROMAS. An aromatic coffee, with body and fine acidity. A cup with floral, fruity and cereal notes.
- STORAGE. Store in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and heat. Packed in an airtight container with one-way vent valve.
- VALEUR 🔱 1KG grains de café torréfiés - Café Extrêmement Fort - Café Hautement Caféiné - Faible acidité avec des notes subtiles de chocolat aux noisettes
- CAFÉ DIABOLIQUE FORT 🔱 Notre mélange caractéristique de 100% Robusta Premium et notre procédé de torréfaction magistral vous offrent le coup de pouce supplémentaire pour des performances optimales et une créativité et une concentration maximales. Ne buvez pas quand vous avez besoin de dormir!
- TORRÉFACTION HAUT DE GAMME 🔱 Notre torréfaction à la pointe de la technologie (en petites quantités à la main) et nos emballages garantissent que votre café arrive frais et délicieux
- NATURELLEMENT FORT ET TRÈS CAFÉINÉ 🔱 Aucun additif ou exhausteur de goût n'est utilisé dans la culture et le raffinage ultérieur des grains. L'ensemble du processus de production est entièrement biologiquement durable
- ROASTERS À CAFÉ BLACK DONKEY 🔱 Le café Black Donkey est soigneusement pensé pour les amateurs de café de tous horizons. Nous sélectionnons uniquement des haricots de haute qualité de Colombie, du Brésil, du Kenya, d'Éthiopie et d'Inde
- SELECTION OF BOURBON COFFEE 100% ARABICA BEANS. Café Saula always looks for the best quality. In this package of 2 boxes of 500 grams each, you will find a 100% Arabica coffee.
- FLAVOURS AND AROMAS. An aromatic coffee, with body and a fine acidity. A sweet and chocolaty cup.
- STORAGE. Store in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and heat. Packed in an airtight container with one-way vent valve.
- Wall calendar in A4 format (29.7 x 21 cm) - also available in other formats on Amazon
- Silver metal spiral as ring binder.
- High quality digital print on 250 gsm paper with cardboard
- Calendar with international public holidays (D, AT, CH, USA, CA, UK, IR, F, I, ES, P, BE, DAN, LUX, CZ, SK, HU, RUS)
- Exclusively in this advertisement you will also receive 1 greeting card and 1 Christmas card each year in long DIN format (9.9 cm x 21.0 cm/300 g/m²) with suitable envelopes (self-adhesive, without window)
- 100% Café Colombien
- Importé de Juan Valdez en Colombie
- 1 kg pack of Lavazza medium-roast coffee beans with a delicate intensity of level 5
- Soft with floral and fruity notes
- Ideal preparation with automatic coffee machines and bean mills
- Lavazza's historic blend, for those who like to enjoy a good coffee every day
- Mixture of Central and South American grains
- ★ Premium stainless steel material: food grade stainless steel knife head for fast and uniform grinding. Very suitable for controlling the roughness to the fineness of coffee beans in seconds. .
- ★ Equipped with transparent lid: this electric coffee grinder equipped with a transparent safety lid, through the transparent lid which can effectively prevent powder splashing, you can observe the grinding process from a coarse to a fine powder to get coarse or fine powder.
- ★ Multifunctional coffee and spice grinder: this coffee and spice grinder can not only to grind coffee bean and spices, but also to grind beans, seeds, grains, seasonings, nuts, etc. DIY your favorite coffee or other food, the best assistant of life ...
- ★ Easy operation: one button to use, press the button for a while to start and release to stop, works great to control your coffee bean from coarse (10s), medium (20s) to fine (30s) in seconds. With a transparent lid, you can clearly observe the status of the coffee beans grinding inside and check the coffee grade at any time.
- ★ Convenient cleaning: easy to use and clean. Eco-friendly and fast time! You can gift it to provide your friends family or lover.
- PREMIUM JEWEL - Handcrafted jewel in 925 sterling silver and 18K gold plated. Strong and resistant spring. Precise fastening to reduce the risk of getting caught in hair or clothing
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- THE SIMPLE JEWELRY CARE GUIDE - a free guide is provided on how to keep, store and clean your silver jewellery.
Looking for high quality roasters and coffees in your area
Look for coffees and roasters in your favourite region. If you live in an area where coffee is popular, you can have your pick of small local roasters ready to sell you beans directly. Otherwise, hit Japper or Foursquare and scour your neighbourhood for coffee shops that are well reviewed and appreciated. Head over for a cup and see if you can buy a bag of their coffee. Chances are, they have a selection available for sale, and usually that's the coffee they have on the menu too, so you can have a cup to see if you like it before you shell out for a pound.
It's actually my favourite way to find new and interesting coffee, and it gives you a real "try before you buy" opportunity that you wouldn't have otherwise. Some of my favourite roasters (Zeke's and Mayorga are just a few examples near me) are small batch roasters. Others are independent coffee shops that roast their own beans and only make them available in shop. Look around, you might find something you like in your own backyard. Plus, you'll be spending your money with a local business that could use your support.
You may be asking "What about Starbucks or the grocery shop?" Well, Starbucks has killed the fact that they can sell you their coffee in their shops. Whether you like Starbucks or not, it's not the only place you can go to get a good bag of beans - but if you like Starbucks, go there - they usually print dates by date (roast dates if you're lucky) on the bag. Your local supermarket probably has a selection or decent brands, but your selection may be mainly big name brands. However, don't count out the big box stores.
Find world-class roasters that ship online and deliver anywhere
If you can't find a decent cup in your area and the big brands won't do it for you, you still have options. There are tons of high-quality, world-class roasters who are happy to ship their coffee around the world. We've already mentioned some of them, especially Café Intelligentsia, Counterculture, Café Bouteille Bleue, Tonx, Mistobox, and Café CSA.
Tonx and Mistobox are both mainly subscription services that deliver different types and roasts to you on a regular basis. These are great ways to explore new and different roasts, geographies and flavours without spending too much money. If you want to learn more and explore the café, they are worth every penny. One thing to note about both services is that if you find a coffee you really like in one of their boxes, you can order a bag full. If you and your colleagues are starting a small coffee club or just want something better than the office pot, split the cost of one of these subscriptions and enjoy.
CoffeeCSA is still a subscription, but when you sign up, your money supports specific farmers and their operations. It's like being part of any CSA: your relationship is with the farmer who grows the product you love. It's not as cheap as the supermarket, but the coffee you get is amazing, fresh and delivered right to your door. They also have subscription plans tailored to the amount of coffee you usually drink. If you're looking for amazing beans delivered regularly and want to support the people behind the things you consume, these are the people for you.
Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle and Counter Culture are all highly regarded for their incredible coffee. All three have subscription programs, but they aren't necessarily the core of their business. You don't need to know a ton about coffee shops to shop with any of them, but it certainly helps. You probably won't order anything you don't like, and many cafes are content to find what they need in one of these three.
I hope we've given you the information you need to distinguish the good beans from the not so good, and some options to try the next time you want a good cup of coffee. Remember, like any hobby, the outcome is your personal pleasure - you can spend as much or as little as you like, and dive as deep as you like, it's up to you. You don't have to spend a lot of money or buy a bunch of specific coffee making equipment to get a brew you'll love. Likewise, you don't have to settle just because someone else thinks your tastes or choices are too snobby. Do what you like, explore, experiment and have fun.
Previously a tester of household appliances, I discovered my passion for coffee and the Barista world 6 years ago. I now spend my spare time sharing my experiences with my community. I hope you will find some nuggets on my blog 😃
Last updated on 2022-06-26 / Affiliated links