Complete Guide to Buying Coffee Beans

Buying Coffee Beans

Coffee has become a stable morning beverage and has been for hundreds of years. Since it became popular, coffee has become a delicacy to many across the globe, with different beans representing unique tastes and different levels of quality.

The standard cup of coffee in the U.S., for example, is usually purchased in a bag or container, with the coffee beans already ground, but some prefer to do this themselves.

Some of the best beans currently in the world are:

  • Kona
  • Blue Mountain
  • Kenyan AA
  • Yirgacheffe

There are many other great beans out there, which we’ll cover more in-depth later on.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at where you can buy coffee beans, what the top ones are that are available for purchase, and how to pick them as well. We’ll also take a look at what are the best machines are for the grinding process and more.

Where to Buy Coffee Beans

Where exactly you purchase your beans will determine the quality in terms of what you are getting. There are a few outlets that are most commonly used when buying coffee beans.

Grocery Store

Grocery stores are one of the most common places you’ll see people buying coffee beans. It is convenient for shoppers to pick up their coffee, and depending on the store; you can find some pretty decent roasts.

Coffee typically at a grocery store in bean form will not be premier quality, though. However, if you aren’t exactly needing the strongest and most tasteful bean, then this may be a good option for you.

Speciality Shops

Depending on what they carry, you can find some of the world’s best beans at a speciality shop. We won’t get into what exact beans you can find because for one, we’ll be discussing that soon, and two, all shops are different.

No, Dunkin and Starbucks are not the type of shops I’m referring to. Usually, these speciality shops will offer a dining/drinking area and serve as a way for you to buy products as such as beans also.

They offer a great environment and if you have one around you, I’d recommend taking a stroll inside, as the experience is worth it alone.

There are some good stores however that you may be able to find, such as Peet’s and Dunn Brothers.

Online

Ozone coffee bags

Now we enter the best way to purchase the top-of-the-line beans, online shopping. Let’s face it, anything you can think of to purchase can be found online, and coffee beans are no different.

Personally, I feel this is the most effective way as some beans can be challenging to find in-store. Some of the best websites include:

There are many more websites that offer a variety of beans, but these three are a great place to start.

Best Coffee Beans

Now that you know where to purchase them, let us find out what exactly are the best coffee beans currently available on the market.

Kona Beans (Hawaii)

One of the best coffee beans you’ll find today is the Kona bean. It is also one of the most popular, due to its availability in the States, as it is produced there. Kona beans won’t cost you a fortune, either. You’ll certainly pay for the quality of the bean, but the pricing isn’t too horrible, even at the highest grades.

Due to its popularity, there are quite a few varieties of Kona beans that are just looking to cash in on the name. For example, there are many “Kona blends” that use hardly any genuine Kona and use poor quality coffee to fill in the rest of the blend.

Grade

The quality of the coffee for Kona is broken up into 8 bands. If you are wanting top-of-the-line Kona, then you’ll want to make sure you are purchasing at the top of the band. The divisions are:

  • Extra Fancy
  • Fancy
  • No. 1
  • Select
  • Prime
  • No. 3
  • Natural Prime
  • Mixed Natural Prime

These are in order from the best quality to the least, and when it comes to coffee, you truly get exactly what you pay for. Overall, the Kona bean has quite a bit going from it. From being made in the USA to being considered one of the most respected coffees in the world, it is certainly worth your time.

Remember though, there are many cheap “blends” that will try and sell their product with as little as 10% of authentic Kona at nearly the same price, so just be wary.

Kona Roasts

Let’s take a look at some of the top Kona roasts that are available and discuss some of their differences.

Voncanica Coffee

One of the premier roasts for Kona beans is Volcanica Coffee. This is one of the best you’ll find, and it costs $90 for a 16 oz bag. It is in the extra fancy band and is dry milled, as well as 100% pure Kona coffee.

These beans fall underneath the extra fancy category due to their large size, low bean defect, and also their colour. Overall, Voncanica has quite possibly the best roast for Hawaiian Kona coffee with this product and all for the right reasons.

Koa Coffee

Koa Coffee is also one of the premier brands that offer extra fancy Kona beans. Koa offers a fantastic medium roast that has some of the best quality around.

Even Forbes called their Kona roast the “Best in America”. That is one quite the honour of a respected name. Because of the lower price, many prefer this roast over the other extra fancy Kona beans you’ll find, which typically have a higher price.

Blue Mountain Coffee Beans

Hailing from the land of Jamaica, the blue mountain bean is also one of the most highly respected beans around as well. The bean has a nice, smooth taste and has practically no bitterness to it. It is a sweet-tasting bean, offering a smooth, sweet taste.

What makes this and the Kona so special is that these locations are not particularly known for being a coffee bean hotbed. However, in the small patches, you’ll find them growing in these areas, they are usually exceptional.

It is one of the most balanced cups you’ll drink and between that and its rarity, I believe that makes it a strong candidate for one of the best coffee beans you’ll find.

Overall, there are several great things about the Blue Mountian bean, including:

  • Unique taste
  • Balanced
  • Smooth/Sweet

Blue Mountain Roasts

Now, let us take a gander at some of the best roasts available for the bean, and showcase some of the top ones you’ll find available for purchase.

Volcanica Coffee

Yes, Volcanica offers a blue mountain roast too, known as “Jamaica Blue Mountain” This premier roast will cost you around $110. It is a medium roast and has a perfect balance that is full of flavour. The fruit taste is prominent, and a hint of chocolate and florals also seep through.

This coffee is often considered one of the best in the world, dubbed the “Rolls-Royce” of coffees. Is it worth the large price tag, though? Well, considering everything this roast offers, I’d say it’s at least something you should try once if you are a coffee enthusiast.

Wallenford Blue Mountain Coffee

Wallenford also offers a great, authentic taste that is hard to be matched. You’ll want to enjoy this coffee because of its tantalizing flavour is one of my personal favourite medium roasts around. The aroma these beans offer is intense as well, making it captivating from the start.

From around $80, this is still a premier roast, just like what Volcanica offers. Many prefer this though as again; the price is not as steep and they still over 100% pure Jamaican blue mountain coffee.

Other Quality Roasts

Next, we’ll be taking a look at some of the roasts that are still great quality but are around a more affordable price range. Many of these roasts are made in the U.S. and each has its benefit to them. Although not to the quality as the ones mentioned above, these roasts are much more affordable and still have high-quality attributes to them to earn them a spot on this list.

Death Wish Whole Beans

What I love about Death Wish is that it is an extremely strong coffee and is certified organic. As you’ll read in just a bit, organic blends are absolutely the best you’ll find. The purer the bean, the better the coffee will be.

 Also, I personally love coffee for the energy and focus it provides for my daily tasks. What Death Wish offers is what they claim as “The world’s strongest coffee,” and I wouldn’t argue that to be too far from the truth.

If you want an organic, strong blend that comes in at a great price, this is the perfect choice for you.

Dogwood

Dogwood is one of the most well-known roasts in the north. They offer great prices and offer a solid selection to choose from as well. If you are a lover of cold brew, you are in luck, as Dogwood is an expert in the field.

Overall, the selection they offer and their speciality in cold brew earn them a spot on this list, as well as the amazing range of tastes you’ll find as well.

Big Shoulder

Big shoulder offers a great variety of beans and is yet another specific brand I figured had to be featured. They are also based in the U.S. and offer around the same prices as every other brand on this list thus far.

Between the quality and the taste they provide in their roasts, it is really hard not to consider them one of the best in the United States as a company.

Koffee Kult Dark Roast

Koffee Kult offers 100% arabica that offers some of the strongest caffeine on the planet. The beans are from Colombia, Guatemala, and Sumatra. There is 0 bitter in the taste and is quite low in acidity.

Koffee Kult is often considered one of the best choices for quality gourmet coffees, with good reasoning as well. It is one of those blends that will never disappoint and is a roaster I’d recommend over and over again.

Kicking Horse Coffee

I debated whether or not to include this on the list, but I simply cannot argue that it is not a great product. The price is quite low compared to the others on this list, but a few things made it stand out.

For one, the product is organic, which in my books, is a huge plus for any roast. Also, it has an amazing taste and I like the fact it can be brewed in a few different ways.

Overall, I thought I’d include Kicking Horse on here for those who aren’t wanting to spend as much as these other beans but are still looking for high-quality coffee.

Revelator

This roast coming out of Birmingham, Alabama really offers a unique taste in this roast that shows off the southern charm and the welcoming spirit the south provides. It is a great roast and has its roasts originate from Colombia, Peru, Ethiopia, and Burundi.

How to Decide Quality Beans

back of a coffee bag

How does one determine the quality of the coffee? Well, there are a few different factors that go into it. Here are a good few tips when it comes to narrowing down your choices for a high-quality coffee bean.

Date

The fresher the bean, the better. Yes, indeed you’ll want to make sure that the coffee you purchase isn’t close to expiration, or even expired for that matter. Many high-quality coffees will inform you of the bag when it was roasted, which is convenient. Some brands also don’t roast your product until you’ve made your purchase, guaranteeing you ultimate freshness.

It also goes both ways, as some drinks are better when the beans have sat for a bit, such as a cold brew. I’d still recommend getting the beans as fresh as you can though, to ensure you have full control of how you want to drink it.

Origin

Where the beans exactly originated from will have quite a bit to do with the taste and quality it offers. Various areas of the world offer unique tastes and different insights into the vast world of coffee. Some of the most popular locations include:

  • Brazil
  • Kenya
  • Hawaii
  • Jamaica
  • Columbia
  • Ethiopia
  • Mexico
  • Puerto Rico
  • Yemen

There are many more countries that produce great-quality coffee and an entire list can be found here.

Organic Logo

If the coffee has an organic logo on it, then it was definitely raised and farmed well, despite the natural quality of the bean. I think it is always a great sign of a quality bean if this is featured on the bag, and as a big buying point for many.

Sure, the logo may be overused quite a bit to mark up prices, but the bag cannot get that logo without being truly a natural bean, so this ensures the customers that the farmers are doing all they can to provide the cleanest beans they can.

Roast Type

When it comes to coffee, there are four different types of roasts. These roasts include:

  • Light Roast
  • Medium Roast
  • Medium-Dark Roast
  • Dark Roast

Each one of these roasts produces a unique flavour, feel, and look to them, which we’ll explore a bit more in detail.

Light Roast

These beans are a light brown colour and usually are for the people that enjoy the more tasteful coffees, as such as a New England or Cinnamon. If you aren’t huge on the taste of coffee but are seeking a bit of caffeine in your day through a healthy method, this is your best bet.

Medium Roast

A medium roast is the most popular in the United States, by far. It is your standard cup of coffee, offering a good amount of flavour without too much bitterness. It also is a brown colour and isn’t covered in oil as well.

Medium-Dark Roast

Ah, the path between the light and dark side. This roast offers a bit of bitterness to it but has its sweet side as well. It isn’t the full commitment like a dark roast is, but the pinch is after that every sip. These beans are a dark brown colour and feature some oil texture to them.

Dark Roast

The final roast, the dark roast is a dark brown, the almost black bean that offers the most bitterness you’ll find from coffee. The dark roast is my personal favourite, as I enjoy the taste and feeling it provides.

Not everyone prefers a dark roast, in fact, quite a bit of people don’t. It certainly is an acquired taste and is something I enjoy over the other roasts.

Types of Flavours

Besides, there are types of flavours as well. Although roasts have a direct effect on taste, there are also three main types of flavour as well, including:

  • Mild
  • Bold
  • Extra Bold

Mild

Mild is for the people that aren’t too keen on the coffee taste, but again, seek it in a small dosage. I’d always recommend at least a bold flavour to at least enjoy what the taste of coffee offers, but everyone has their own personal preference.

Bold

Bold is your standard taste of coffee, offering a bit more flavour than mild and is considered “normal” for the taste of a coffee. Most people who regularly enjoy coffee tend to go with bold, as it is the most balanced of the three flavours.

Extra Bold

Extra bold is coffee that has a strong taste to it and packs a punch after each take. Again, it is what I enjoy the most, as it is the most prominent out of all the flavours. If you are seeking the largest coffee experience you can get, this is your best option.

How to Pick Coffee Beans

With all of this talk of the premier coffee beans found around the world and some of the best roasts you’ll find, I figured it would only be right to talk about how to actually pick coffee beans, which is a more complicated process than you might think.

Selective Harvesting

One of the most popular methods around is selective harvesting. For this, you’ll leave the cherries on the tree to let them become ripen. To see if they are ripe, there are two types of test you should conduct.

  • Visual
  • Touch

For the visual test, you’ll take a look to see if they have the right colour to them. Look for a bright red colour that will have a gloss over them as well.

For the physical test, gently squeeze the cherries to see if they are ready for harvesting. Ideally, these cherries will give in a bit once felt and have a small squish to them.

Be careful you don’t pick them too late, as there is just a good of chance you harvest the cherries too late as there is you do pre-maturely.

Mechanical Harvesting

Quite different from using your hands, harvesting them with a machine is common amongst large farms. These pieces of machinery use a variety of methods to remove the cherries from the trees, such as vibration, brushing, and sweeping.

Each of these methods is effective and it really just depends on what the farmer’s preference is in terms of machinery.

Strip Harvesting

Another by-hand method is stripping the cherries. This is done by removing the branches, typically when the branch has most of the cherries ripe and ready. This type of harvesting is done by large farms typically, as there are bound to be some cherries that are not ready for harvesting.

Once you’ve removed the strips, then the cherries will be sorted from the ripe and unripe. This is to clear out any cherries that are not ready to be fully harvested, which will surely be some.

What Is The Most Effective?

Deciding the most effective is all about how much you harvest and your reasoning behind it. If you are a large commercial farmer, the mechanical route will most likely be your best investment. If you are just wanting to have your supply, selective harvesting will be the route that makes the most sense.

Certainly, the mechanical is the most effective method overall, but the situation in why you are harvesting in the first place will be a large factor as well. I’d say for strip harvesting, It could be done if you are a smaller farmer with not quite the budget yet to expand into machinery, as it can be quite pricey.

How to Roast Coffee Beans

Roasting your own beans is a great feeling, especially when the coffee ends up tasting good as well. There are 10 stages that beans will go through during roasting. These steps include:

  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Steam
  • Initial Crack
  • City Roast
  • City Plus Roast
  • Full City Roast
  • Second Crack
  • Dark Roast
  • Burn

As you can tell, the flavour and roast level all depend on where you stop in the process. You’ll recognize dark roast from earlier, as well as initial crack, which refers to a light roast. Next, let’s discuss how exactly you get to each roast you like, and the process involved.

Light Roast

For an authentic light roast, you’ll want the temperature somewhere between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit.  You’ll want to look for the light brown colour to them, as well as the first initial cracking noises to indicate that they are now in this stage.

Medium Roast

Medium roasts will sit at slightly higher temperatures, needing anywhere from 410-430 degrees Fahrenheit. It may be challenging to time a light roast and a medium roast at first, but they aren’t impossible to distinguish.

For one, the colour will be a “standard” brown if you will, and the time window is much more forgiving at this stage as well, so you have some room for forgiveness. You won’t see much; you shouldn’t notice any oils yet either for a true medium roast.

As mentioned earlier when explaining the different roasts, the medium roast is the most popular in the United States.

Medium-Dark Roast

Again, you’ll want a slightly higher temperature here, with the ideal temperatures being somewhere around 435-445 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a harder roast to time than the medium roast, as the timing is crucial here.

You’ll want to pull before the second wave of cracking and wait for some oils to start to come through as well, but not yet covering the bean.

Dark Roast

Last but not least, we have a dark roast. The temperature here is a bit more forgiving than most but needs to be anywhere from 465-480 degrees Fahrenheit. These are arguably the hardest roasts to perform as well, due to the precision timing needed.

What you’ll be waiting for is the official second crack and most of the beans should have an oily glaze. Make sure to be careful, as these beans will be extremely hot at this stage and can be much easier to burn than let’s say a medium roast.

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