The Perfect Cup O’ Joe: How to Choose the Best Coffee Beans

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People around the globe consume more than 400 billion cups of coffee every year. Although it’s the most popular drink in the world, that doesn’t mean it’s always the tastiest. The best coffee brands aren’t those you find at the local grocery store.

You want the best cup of joe around, and that means you want the best coffee beans. There’s no such thing as the best coffee bean, but your preferences will lead you to a clear favorite.

You won’t be able to go back to bagged ground coffee after you check out this guide. Here are six things you need to know to find and choose the best coffee beans around.

1. What Are the Best Coffee Beans?

Much of that decision depends on you. Start your search with these two pervasive types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you’ll likely have a preference.

Arabica coffee beans are the most widespread. This bean is known for its high acidity and fruity notes. This differs from the Robusta bean, which offers a bold and bitter bite.

Although there are many other factors that influence the flavor of your perfect cup of joe, it all starts with your choice of the bean. And of course, you are free to experiment and create your own blend between the two.

2. Check out the Roast Date

Fresh beans make a big difference. Once they’ve been roasted, they release carbon dioxide in a process called degassing. This allows oxygen to slip in, which slowly dulls the coffee’s subtle flavors.

In fact, this process is why you should always buy beans whole — never ground. It accelerates the oxidation process and leaves you with stale, flavorless coffee. Preferably, you should grind the coffee right before brewing.

Before you buy your coffee beans, check out the roast date. You won’t find these on generic coffee beans at your grocery store. Instead, you’ll want to head to a specialist coffee shop or directly from the roaster — which I’ll talk about in a bit.

The roaster and type of bean will impact the ideal time you should brew your beans.

In general, you should use your coffee as a pour-over around the end of its first week. It’s perfect for an espresso once the roast date is a bit over a week old. The best coffee beans for cold brew should be aged around two weeks or older.

3. Coffee’s Roast Profile

The roast has a large impact on the flavor of the coffee bean. What the roast? That’s the cooking process that transforms green coffee beans into the hard brown shells we know and love.

When you’re talking about light, medium, or dark roast coffee, that’s the roast profile. Each profile offers a different color, taste, and preferred brew.

If you enjoy filter coffee, go with a lighter roast and a coarse ground. This will translate into an acidic, bold brew.

But let’s say you prefer a good espresso. You’ll want a much darker roast, more finely ground.

Once you know which brewing method you prefer, you’re ready to find the right roast.

Naturally, the coffee maker itself is a key ingredient to getting the most of your coffee beans. If you need a new brewing machine, check out the best single serve coffee maker reviews.

4. Buy Directly From the Roaster

A specialty coffee shop is a great medium to find some of the best coffee beans out there. But once you’ve found a few you love, it’s time to cut out the middleman.

The best coffee beans come directly from the roaster. Why? Mostly because this is how you get the freshest beans, and fresher is tastier.

As an added bonus, buying direct is often cheaper than buying from a store. Many roasters will allow you to buy their coffee beans online and ship them to your door.

Some also specify the best times to brew their specific beans — and this is information a coffee store likely can’t tell you.

5. Coffee Processing

There’s more to coffee than the roast. Before the coffee is ready for the roasting process, the fruit must be removed either through a wet or dry process.

The coffee will remain in water throughout the wet or “wash” process. Once the pulp and cherry are removed, the beans ferment and are then dried by machine or sun. You can expect an acidic flavor profile with softer floral notes.

The dry process, or the natural process, keep the fruit intact while it dries. This gives the coffee bean additional time to leech the sweet flavor of the fruit. Coffee beans that experience the dry process have bolder, fruitier flavors — almost like wine.

Talk with your roaster about their coffee’s processing. And be sure to sample beans from both types of processing to discover which flavors you prefer.

6. Where Do the Best Coffee Beans Come From?

It seems just about everything impacts the flavor of coffee beans. It should be no surprise that the origins of your favorite beans will determine how they taste. This happens because elevation, rainfall, sunlight, and other environmental factors influence their flavor.

Countless countries and regions cultivate coffee. It’d be impossible to cover them all. Do some research on flavor profiles of certain coffee regions, or just taste them yourself!

Ready for the Best Coffee You’ve Ever Had?

Want to know the best part about finding the best coffee beans? You have to do a lot of taste testing. So fire up your favorite coffee maker, because it’s time to get down to business.

Before you can begin your search, you need to know what you’re looking for. Stop on by at a specialty coffee shop and buy a variety of different roasts and blends. Once you figure out your preference, you can start digging deeper into the different roasters, processes, and flavors.

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