A Buying Guide for the 10 Best Coffee Beans

Coffee is not merely a drink, but a lifeline, for many. They simply cannot function without having that freshly brewed cup of steaming goodness, first thing every morning.

Coffee drinking has been dated as far back as the 15th century and it is said to have originated in Yemen. And coming to coffee beans, Arabica and Robusta are considered the pioneers. Coffee lovers would argue that any day with bad coffee is still better than one good day with no coffee at all. But, why settle for bad or mediocre coffee, when you can literally get the best coffee there is??

It’s the coffee bean that brings life and flavour to every cup of coffee, be it a cold brew, a French press or whichever one of the other brewing methods you may use.

In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about buying the best coffee beans.

Choosing the best coffee beans- tips:

When it comes to choosing the best coffee available in the market, there are certain things to consider. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or an amateur coffee drinker, the flavor and taste are subject to individual variations and remember to always choose a bean that suits your taste, rather than simply pick one from a countdown list of the best beans available. So, go through these key features to look for, in coffee, and decide on what pulls at your heartstrings! There are basically 4 types of coffee beans in the world. 

These are the things to consider while buying a bag of whole bean coffee.

Arabica or Robusta?

Arabica:

Arabica beans are considered the best for the following reasons:

  • A more aromatic, sweeter and richer taste
  • Higher quality, as they contain 18% of essential oil
  • More difficult to grow, hence, more expensive

Robusta:

The Robusta beans hold a position lower than Arabica for the following reasons:

  •  Slightly of lesser quality
  •  Harsher, more bitter taste, as the percentage of natural sugars, is lesser than Arabica.
  •  Clinching factor: Has a higher caffeine content than Arabica.

So, if you’re more into the taste, quality and smoothness, go with Arabica. You get it as 100% Arabica coffee, or blends. The best coffee will always have Arabica in it!

Whereas, if the caffeine-kick is your main priority, go for a blend with more Robusta in it, or if you’re very bold, a 100% Robusta. Robusta is best preferred for instant coffee. Most, cheap grocery store coffee blends, would contain Robusta in them.

Single origin or Blended?

Single-origin means, they all come from the same coffee estate or country. These are a testament to their place of origin and are generally more expensive. They’re also seasonal and often more difficult to buy. If black coffee is your forte, single origin beans are the way to go.

Blended whole bean coffee, on the other hand, contain beans from many different places. This is a good option for those who like to explore different tastes and combinations of coffee. Blends are cheaper and easily available and taste best with milk.

Although, with blends, you might have to do a lot of taste testing, to finally find that one good blend which makes your coffee taste like soul-soothing magic.

Roast date:

It is universal knowledge that anything that’s fresh, will always taste good. Coffee also follows the same rule. Always make sure to check the roast date printed on the packaging.

Anything roasted within 7- 8 days is considered to be good and fresh enough.

Assessing the freshness of coffee beans can also be done based on the smell and taste of the coffee. However, this technique is crude and also requires a lot more expertise and coffee drinking experience and isn’t always reliable.

Older coffee tends to be more bitter and also loses its aroma over time.

Roast type:

The taste of coffee, as well as its bitterness and acidity, vary, depending on the roasting method of the beans. The beans can be roasted in many different ways, but here are the basic roasts:

Light Roast Beans

  • Roasted for the shortest time and at a relatively lower temperature range
  • Light brown coloured
  • Dry surface
  • Highest caffeine content and acidity
  • Most single-origin beans would be of light roast, so as to retain the authentic flavor of the bean itself.
  • Medium Roast Beans

  • Brown coloured beans
  • Dry surface
  • Medium caffeine and acidity levels
  • Considered to offer the most balanced flavor of coffee, in general
  • Dark Roast Benas

  • Roast at very high temperatures
  • Dark brown beans
  • Oils found on the surface of the beans
  • Lesser acidity and caffeine content
  • Have a fuller, richer flavor and a bold aroma
  • Ultra-Dark Roast Beans

  • Black beans
  • Oily surface
  • Least acidity and caffeine content
  • Often have burnt or smoky undertones
  • Dark roast coffee beans are generally named after European countries, due to the fact that, that’s the type of roast preferred there. The French roast is considered the darkest roast and has pronounced smoky undertones. They’re also preferred for use in a French press, due to its oil content. You can easily roast coffee beans at home even if you don't have any prior experience. 

    Acidity and bitterness:

    • Acidity:

    Light roast coffee has higher acidity. The roasting process reduces acidity, with the dark roast beans having the least amount of acidity in them.

    Another factor that influences the acidity of coffee, is the altitude in which the beans were grown. Higher the altitude, higher the acidity and vice versa.

    So. If you want to buy a bag, with low acidity, check on the type of roast and the region of origin.

    • Bitterness:

    This is subject to individual errors. Over grinding and over brewing produces very bitter coffee. The brewing process needs to be done correctly to prevent your coffee from tasting bitter. But then, hey, if bitterness is what you wanted, go right ahead.

    Country of origin:

    The following countries are known for cultivating and producing the best coffee beans in the world; Brazil, Columbia, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Jamaica.

    So, if your cup of coffee is made from beans originating from one of these places, rest assured that it’s going to be the best coffee you’ve ever had.

    Certification:

    FTC: Fair Trade Certification

    This was an initiative started based on ethical values, to ensure that labourers were provided fair wages, safe working conditions and to ensure that no child labour was involved in the production process.

    The entire process of producing a bag of whole bean coffee involves manual labour. Right from coffee cultivation, harvest, roasting, to the packaging. Hence, companies make sure that they’re following fair trade, as it helps them expand their market.

    For the consumer too, a certificate of fair trade on the packaging means good quality coffee, that can be enjoyed better, knowing that no forced labour went into their production.

    Organic coffee:

    Organic beans are grown in a pesticide-free environment and in soil that has also not been contaminated with chemicals.

    The USDA Organic certification follows a strict protocol and high standards. A product needs to be at least 95% organic to gain their approval.

    It offers superior quality and the assurance that no synthetic interventions have been made in the cultivation process, to produce genetically modified coffee beans.

    Now that you know all that you need to consider before choosing a bag of coffee beans.

    let us move on to the list of the top 10 best coffee beans

    1) Lavazza Whole Bean Coffee:

    Lavazza Super Crema

    An Italian coffee brand, that brings to every coffee lover, the best coffee beans that are medium to dark roasted. Lavazza has been renowned for making exquisite blends using beans from all over the world.

    They have both Arabica and Robusta and their flavor and taste remain unmatched.

    A variety of Lavazza beans are available, each packaging a different roast, blend and undertones. If you’re looking to make espresso, Lavazza should be your choice hands down, because let’s face it, the Italians introduced the world to espresso and their coffee beans definitely wouldn’t disappoint.

    Lavazza has been in this business since 1895 and let’s face it, millions of satisfied customer reviews can’t lead you astray!

    Pros:

    • Impeccable quality
    • The best coffee beans for espresso
    • A variety of roasts available
    • GMO-free certification

    Cons

    • Not organically grown coffee
    • Stronger brews have been known to cause stomach discomfort

    2) Death Wish Organic Whole Bean Coffee:

    This coffee is called a death wish for a reason. This brand boasts highly caffeinated, dark roast whole and ground beans and holds the title of the world’s strongest coffee.

    Their official website even offers a full refund to anyone that doesn’t agree that this is the strongest coffee that they’ve ever had. And they clearly back up their claims with some kick-ass coffee which is so smooth and full of flavour.

    This dark roast doesn’t possess the bitterness of many other equally dark roasts. So, if you’re an amateur or a beginner, looking to get introduced to dark roast, buy a bag of the USDA certified, Death Wish whole bean coffee.

    This brand of coffee has also maintained a certain amount of mystery around its name by not disclosing where they get their beans from. While this must be a concern for some, rest assured, it is some A-grade coffee and experts have speculated it to be a mix of Arabica and Robusta beans.

    All in all, this is good coffee for all the caffeine junkies out there.

    Pros:

    • USDA Organic certified
    • Highly caffeinated
    • Chocolate and cherry undertones
    • Very long shelf life

    Cons:

    • Highly caffeinated, so can’t be consumed by all
    • Improper or wrong brewing can cause sleep deprivation or palpitations in some
    • Minimal aroma.

    3) Koffee Kult Coffee Beans:

    Koffee Kult is a gourmet coffee producing, family-owned company that comes highly recommended, for their quality dark roasts. They are known for their impeccable service, immediate shipping and the freshness.

    Their beans are roasted just before packaging and get shipped within 24 hours of order placement.

    The roasting is done in Hollywood, Florida and they import beans from coffee capitals like Columbia, Guatemala and Sumatra for making their noteworthy blends.

    Their coffee tastes extremely smooth and have cinnamon undertones. They even offer tours of their facilities, if requested.

    The best part about family-owned companies is that they work directly with the coffee farmers and have good ties with them and this promotes fair trade.

    They’re passionate coffee lovers and it shows in the quality of their product.

    Pros:

    • Raving customer service reviews
    • Premium medium to dark roast beans
    • 100% Arabica coffee

    Cons:

    • Not organically grown
    • They don’t mention the date of roasting on the package.

    4) Lifeboost Coffee Beans:

    Lifeboost is a US-based coffee company that has quickly garnered global attention with its low-acidity coffee beans.

    Their gourmet coffee beans are single origin and come from Mt. Kilambe of Nicaragua, which is a protected area, with lush rainforests and wildlife, hence any farming done in this region completely prohibits the use of any pesticides or chemicals, thereby guaranteeing that this coffee is 100% organic.

    On top of all this, Lifeboost supports fair trade and donates a portion of their profits to preserving the Nicaraguan rainforests and its wildlife and has affiliations to the LLC associates.

    They offer a huge range of flavoured coffee too, which are Starbucks-worthy and would even make Starbucks seem lacking. They have light, medium and dark roasts as well.

    It’s definitely the healthier choice of coffee out there and is a good and guilt-free buy, all things considered.

     Pros:

    • 100% organic
    • Shade-grown, handpicked coffee beans
    • Free from mycotoxins
    • Very low acidity in all of the roasts

    Cons:

    • On the pricier end
    • Beans are sourced only from Nicaragua and not from anywhere else.
    • No blends available.
    • Some coffee addicts might miss the acidic kick.

    5) Kona Coffee beans:

    One of the best coffee beans has its origin in the Kona island of Hawaii, which has the best weather conditions for coffee cultivation.

    They are Arabica and come as single origin or blends. Hawaiian coffee has 8 types of grading with the No.1, fancy and extra fancy grades being the upper limit of the grade scale. Natural prime and mixed natural prime are considered to be of the lowest quality.

    It is always better to go with a single origin Kona coffee bean rather than a blend, as the blends tend to dilute the beans drastically, with some just having a 10% of Kona beans in them.

    Also, watch out for scams in the name of Hawaiian coffee; all coffee beans from Hawaii aren’t necessarily from the Kona region. 

    The recommended brewing method for Kona beans is French press or drip method.

    Pros:

    • Excellent quality
    • Offer light to medium-dark roasts
    • Balanced flavor and rich aroma
    • Mild and smooth
    • Has floral, nutty and herbal undertones

    Cons:

    • Very limited production
    • Expensive
    • No dark roasts available

    6) Indian Monsooned Malabar Coffee:

    This coffee bean is brought to you all the way from India, a land known for its diverse culture, spices and let’s not forget “chai”. India, although known mainly for its tea production, holds a globally recognized position for coffee production as well. It is the fifth-largest producer and exporter of Arabica beans.

    Monsooning is a very special type of processing applied to coffee beans grown along the Malabar coast of India. Both Arabica and Robusta are cultivated and upon harvest, the seeds are exposed to the monsoon rains and wind for a few months.

    This makes the bean lose its acidity. The Malabar Monsooned coffee is protected under the Geographical Indication of Goods Act of India.

    Dark roast is preferred for espressos and the light and medium roast taste heavenly if drip brewed or French pressed.

    Pros:

    • Heavy bodied coffee with a spicy aroma
    • Undertones of nuts, spices and tobacco, true to its Indian origin.

    Cons:

    • Not 100% organic
    • The strength and pungent aroma may not be preferred by everyone

    7) Café Don Pablo:

    If you think artisan coffee, think Café Don Pablo. This is another family-run company that values quality over everything else.

    They are valiant supporters of fair trade and have good relationships with the farmers of all their production farms which allow them to always get the cream of the crop.

    They import the best coffee beans from India, Indonesia, Africa, Asia and North, South and Central America.

    This diverse selection of premium beans makes their blends otherworldly and they have rightfully earned the name of being the artisans of the coffee world.

    Their beans go through a traditional slow roasting process, which brings out the flavor and the aroma. Roasting is always done in small batches and at places near their distribution centres, to ensure their freshness.

    This would make the best gift for any avid coffee lover and if you buy a bag of Café Don Pablo coffee, they would love you forever.

    Pros:

    • 100% Arabica beans
    • Assured freshness
    • They also produce single-serve cups
    • Reasonable pricing
    • Non-GMO

    Cons:

    • Only blends available
    • Due to roasting in small batches, the taste may slightly vary with each package.

    8) Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee Beans:

    Originating in Jamaica, the Blue Mountain coffee beans are said to make the smoothest cup of coffee ever brewed and is one of the most coveted coffee beans.

    The cultivation is such that, its production is extremely limited. And the demand for Blue Mountain beans is unparalleled. Japan alone buys 80% of their production which leaves only 20% for the rest of the world.

    They support fair trade and the beans are organically grown and harvested.

    They’re typically single origin Arabica beans which make an incredible drip brew, which is to be taken black.

    Every single barrel of beans that are exported are individually checked and approved. A seal of certification will be present in all bags of genuine Blue Mountain whole bean coffee.

    Pros:

    • Internationally protected brand
    • Medium roast beans which brings out the best flavor
    • Available as both single-origin beans and blends.
    • Organic

    Cons:

    • Incredibly limited availability
    • Very steep pricing

    9) Java Planet USDA Organic Coffee Beans:

    Java Planet is yet another family-owned and run coffee roasting company, placed in Tampa, Florida. They are fair trade certified and strive to provide their customers with the highest quality of coffee and service, possible.

    They have been considered veterans in producing organic and good coffee and were awarded the “Tampa Sustainability Award” in 2015, for their incredible work in protecting the environment, wildlife and improving the livelihood of the farmers.

    They import the best quality beans from Columbia, Costa Rica and Guatemala and offer both single-origin beans as well as blends. The blends produce a more exotic flavour and taste and would be the better choice if you are trying to experiment with new tastes and combinations.

    They offer all kinds of roasts, suitable for both hot and cold brews. They recommend using a French press to make the best hot brew and even provide recipes for a cold brew, on their official website.

     Pros:

    • 100% organically grown coffee
    • Shade-grown, hand-picked beans
    • Won awards for their environment-friendly and fair-trade practices
    • Rainforest Alliance certified.

    Cons:

    • Lighter roasts have higher acidity which causes mild discomfort, in some
    • Certification of fair-trade not mentioned in all their products

    10) Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Green Coffee Beans:

    The Ethiopian Yirgacheffe is considered to be the holy grail of coffee, brought to you from the tropical paradise that is Africa. Ethiopia is considered to be the best coffee destination of the world, by coffee fanatics.

    Grown at high altitudes, on the Ethiopian mountain slopes, this bean is classified as Strictly High Grown (SHG) / Strictly Hard Bean (SHB).

    These beans are only of the Arabica variety and are available as both fair trade certified coffee and regular coffee.

    The speciality of this product is the green coffee beans that they export. The beans are never roasted before export, as the shipping and distribution time is long and pre-roasting will only make them lose their freshness before reaching their destination.

    Many stores do sell roasted Yirgacheffe beans, but it is advisable to stay away from them, as their freshness is never guaranteed.

    The beauty of this coffee lies in its roasting and brewing process. A medium roast brings out the full flavor of this coffee. A medium-dark to dark roast is said to make an excellent espresso.

    Now, for the brewing process, a French press or pour-over brew, sans a filter paper is advised, to maximally enjoy, the multifaceted complexity of tastes that this coffee bombards you with.

    Pros:

    • Organically grown coffee
    • Complex undertones with a mixture of floral, toasted coconut, berry or even citrusy notes.
    • Premium unroasted green coffee beans

    Cons:

    • Unroasted beans need to be self-roasted, which can prove tricky if you are an amateur.
    • Dark roasting makes the beans lose some of its qualities

    Things to consider before you buy a bag of coffee beans:

    If you’re a coffee expert, you may know these things already, but for the benefit of those that don’t really know much about buying whole bean packs, here it is:

    Displayed coffee beans:

    We all might’ve come across shops that have different types of beans displayed in clear plastic cases, along the walls or in a tantalizingly symmetrical arrangement in the middle, that may have tempted us a time or two to buy a bag. Never buy from those places. I repeat, never!

    Coffee beans are supposed to be stored airtight, to preserve their freshness. If kept in open plastic cases, that let you scoop out beans or self-serve, rest assured that you will end up with stale beans that will make your coffee taste like an apology.

    Quantity:

    The next important thing is the quantity. All of us tend to buy in excess at times. But try not to make that mistake with coffee. Always buy in small batches so that they stay fresh until they get over. Otherwise you’ll just end up storing a huge amount of beans for a long time and they would invariably end up stale.

    Use-by date Vs Roast date:

    Most grocery store blends will have a “use-by” date printed on the package, which is the same as an expiry date. But as a coffee lover, this date is useless to you. Only the “roast date” will let you estimate the freshness of the bean.

    Roaster Identity:

    If you’re buying locally, always look for the name of the roasters, printed on the bag. Local roasters will be well established and would have created a good name for themselves, so it’s wise to go with a well-known roaster.

    A few storage tips to keep your beans fresh, for longer:

    Buying a bag of whole beans is just half the battle, the other half lies in proper storage. Imagine spending a mint on buying one of the most exotic and best beans available, only to let it go stale or mouldy because you didn’t store it properly…. Oh, my poor heart!

    Airtight:

    Coffee beans are generally sold in paper bags. So, transfer them to an airtight container. But if you’ve gotten them freshly roasted, do not tighten the lid of the container, as roasted beans give off carbon dioxide which needs to be let out.

    If your beans already came in a bag with a one-way sealed valve or a ziplock, you don’t have to bother transferring them.

    No fridge or freezer storage:

    Yes, this is common advice. But it’s also wrong advice. Freezing or refrigerating them will make them lose their flavor and aroma (Hello? That’s what we pay the big bucks for!)

    Coffee beans are also porous and tend to absorb any aromas found in your fridge. Imagine wanting a fresh cup of coffee but getting a waft of anchovies instead!

    Away from sunlight:

    Make sure to store the beans in a cool, dark and dry place. Just like fine wine, coffee too, needs to be treated with tender loving care.

    FAQs:

    1)Where should I buy coffee beans from?

    Buy local: Shopping local is always the better option. You not only get to support local coffee vendors but they might also know local roasters. Buying directly from known roasters offers guaranteed freshness of coffee and the roaster too may earn better from this.

    Buy online: While buying coffee online, always try to order from their official websites. They even have subscription services and offer great discounts to regular customers. Alternatively, if you live in a place where they don’t deliver, there’s always Amazon to consider. But while ordering coffee on Amazon, be very careful about the seller and the certification and the roast-date.  

    2) Can I grind my beans without a coffee grinder?

    Yes, there are a few methods to try. Albeit crude, they get the job done.

    • Using a blender: Produces uniformly fine powdered coffee
    • Using a mechanical pepper drill: Irregular and unevenly ground beans but it serves its purpose,
    • Meat grinder: Provides a uniform grind

    Recommended read: how to grind coffee beans without a grinder

    3) What’s the most expensive coffee in the world?

    The priciest coffee in the world would be the Kopi Luwak coffee. These coffee beans get passed through the digestive tract of civet cats, dried, washed thoroughly, dried again in the sun and then roasted. One cup of this coffee can cost you a jaw-dropping $35-$100!

    4) Is it dangerous if I swallow a coffee bean?

    Not at all. They’re natural products, especially the organic ones and also contain some essential nutrients. Swallowing a bean accidentally or even eating them is not dangerous, but do keep them away from small children, for fear of choking.

    5) Is drinking coffee good for health?

    Coffee does contain many nutrients and depending on the roast and brand, acidity also varies. Studies have shown that coffee can even be beneficial in preventing heart diseases, to a certain extent. But moderation is key. Too much of anything is never good.

    That’s all folks!!

    To conclude, we’ve given you a comprehensive list of the top 10 best coffee beans available. Each brand comes with its own set of features and limitations which have been explained in detail and you are advised to take all these factors into consideration, before buying a bag of whole beans.

    The term “best” however, is relative and doesn’t really have a clear-cut definition, because ultimately, your version of the best may be very different from mine.

    We’ve also mentioned the best brewing methods for each bean and the proper method of buying and storing them, to ensure that you get the best coffee experience ever.

    So, choose a brand which ticks all your boxes, but rest assured, you can’t really go wrong with any of these above-mentioned beans, as they all come from greatly reputed sources or roasters. Most of them are organically grown in protected areas and offer the most exotic flavor and aroma. Almost all of them support fair trade and some are even affiliated to rainforest alliances or the LLC associates. When you buy from these brands, you’ll not only be helping the farmers but also supporting environmental sustainability!

    And finally, don’t just stop at one type, tickle all your senses by exploring the marvellous world of coffee, one cup at a time. 

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