Any chef will tell you the key to a delicious meal is high-quality ingredients.
That is what you will hear baristas say when you ask them their secret to a flavorful and aromatic cup of coffee.
Of course, other things matter, too.
However, getting the best coffee beans is the crucial first step to making a magical cup.
Are you interested to learn their secret?
Here are nine things to look for when buying coffee beans.
The coffee bean packaging can give you a lot of information about what you are buying.
However, a more important packaging detail is how much it can secure coffee bean freshness.
Ideally, you will want coffee beans packaged in a vacuum-sealed container with a one-way valve.
The valve promotes degassing while preventing outside air from getting inside.
You do not want your coffee beans to grow stale or taste odd because they can absorb odor molecules from the air.
Degassing is also crucial to ensuring your coffee beans’ full flavor and aroma profile.
2. Coffee Bean Variety
There is a good chance your taste buds are keen on the Arabica variety because of sweetness, crisp acidity, and mild bitterness.
They are your choice if you do not like to put too much caffeine into your body.
On the other hand, if you are the type of person who loves strong and bold, Robusta is perfect.
It has a powerful caffeine kick, tough on the tummy, and a biting bitterness.
Not strong enough for you?
You may want to try Liberica beans.
They taste like Robusta but stronger and with a hint of smokiness.
If you are yearning for an extra-thick body and flavor, your go-to bet is Excelsa.
3. Single-Origin or Coffee Blend?
Similar to terroir in winemaking, coffee beans bring with them the characteristics of the land where they grow.
The soil nutrients, climate, and terrain all contribute to a coffee bean’s unique flavor, essential oil, and aroma characteristics.
Single-origin coffee comes from only one farm, location, or geographic area. They often have exotic flavors with extreme levels of diversity.
These beans may only be available seasonally.
On the other hand, coffee blends feature beans from multiple locations, farms, or geographic regions.
For example, you can have a coffee made of beans from Guatemala, Indonesia, India, and Ethiopia in one packaging.
These coffee beans are available all year round.
Also Read: Best Coffee Subscription Boxes
4. Regular or Specialty?
It is often not enough that people get their ordinary coffee beans.
Some people now look for specialty varieties with unique flavors infused during the roasting process.
Many coffee beans today have hints of flowers, spices, and fruits in them.
Others may offer coffee beans with delectable notes of cinnamon or sinfully delicious aromas of milk chocolate.
What is more fascinating is that specialty coffee growers use their unique farming skills to incorporate these interesting flavors into the coffee plant and not only through careful roasting.
5. Coffee Processing
Did you know that coffee bean processing can also impact its flavor and aroma profile?
For example, naturally processed coffee beans have exotic fruity flavors, rich sweetness, heavy body, vibrant aromas, and low acidity.
These beans undergo minimal processing, requiring only the sun to dry.
On the other hand, wet-processed coffee beans have a light body, flavor clarity, and high acidity.
They also tend to have more fascinating flavors than dry-processed cherries.
The beans undergo a one to five-day water immersion, removing the cherry skin and separating the beans from the cherry.
Honey-processed coffee beans offer exceptional sweetness with medium flavor clarity, acidity, and body.
It is almost similar to wet processing, except that the water immersion is shorter to avoid the complete removal of the mucilage.
6. Coffee-growing Region
The National Coffee Association says that the world has more than 50 coffee-growing countries.
Each coffee-growing region offers coffee characteristics that set them apart.
For example, Mexican coffee beans have an exceptional flavor depth, pronounced sharpness, and wonderful aroma.
Guatemalan coffee has hints of chocolates or spices in deep and complex flavors with a medium-to-full body.
On the other hand, Colombian coffee is famous for its delicate and aromatic sweetness.
Ethiopian coffee beans are popular for their full-bodied taste and down-to-earth yet full aromas and flavors.
Coffee beans from Indonesia have mild acidity, a full body, and rich flavors.
If you want a slightly acidic coffee with a good balance of aroma and flavor, Vietnamese varieties are perfect.
7. Roast Type
Lightly roasted coffee beans have the flavors of the farm of origin. The acidity is crisp and the body is light.
You can also distinguish its sweetness and fruity and floral flavors.
It is not bitter, either.
Medium roasts still retain the flavor characteristics of the farm of origin.
However, they are a bit bitter but pleasant.
The aromas are rich and rounded, with a medium body, smooth acidity, and hints of caramel or honey sweetness with fruity and floral flavors.
Dark roasts, like French roast are quite bitter but still pleasant.
The sweetness is that of dark chocolate or molasses and its flavors can be woody, earthy, or deep spicy.
It has a heavy body, deep and rich aromas, and mellow acidity.
8. Fresh Roast
Always check the “Roasted On” label of the coffee beans, not the “Best Before” date.
It is essential to pick only freshly roasted coffee beans to ensure maximum flavors and aromas.
Pick bags as close to the Roasted-On date as possible.
You might also want to factor in degassing, often requiring a few days to a few weeks to complete, depending on the roast and coffee bean variety.
9. Coffee Trade
If you believe in equality, fairness, and justice, you might want to choose coffee beans with a Fair Trade label.
However, it is crucial to remember that such a label is not a guarantee of flavor quality.
Some coffee manufacturers prefer trading directly with farmers, cutting the middleman.
You should find their products more affordable than others.
Learning the nine things to look for when buying coffee beans is the crucial first step to making flavorful, rich, full-bodied, and aromatic caffeinated beverages.
While roasting, water temperature, and brewing process are essential factors, getting the best possible coffee bean is an absolute must if one wants a coffee worth every penny.