Buy Great Coffee Beans For Beginners: The Perfect Way to Start Your Day

Last updated on January 15th, 2024 at 06:49 pm

How To Buy Exceptional Coffee for Newcomers?

This post is about helping you to buy great coffee more easily, more enjoyably. The joy of coffee is the diversity of flavor. Because of that, there are so many options if one wants to try out every single great coffee on the market without prior knowledge to fit your taste

To help my readers to buy great coffee, particularly for new coffee lovers:

First, I am going to discuss the rules of buying coffee; 

Second, I will talk about where to buy coffee. 

And last, I will explain the meaning of some words used on the label of a bag of coffee.

1. Rules for buying great coffee

i) Buy fresh.

Coffee, after roasting, declines in a steady way. Over time, it loses its aromas evaporating into the atmosphere. Also, it may develop some unpleasant flavors while the coffee sitting in the pantry. Things go stale because of the oxidation, and so does coffee. 

How is coffee dated?

Typically, coffee will be dated in two different ways.

Specialty coffee marks a roast date, the date on which it was roasted, and that is very useful. Based on that, one can know how old the coffee is exactly. 

However, if one buys coffee in a supermarket, one may find a “best-before” date is marked instead. This is often 12, sometimes 18, or even 24 months after the roasting date. So, the “best before date” does not tell the buyer when the coffee was roasted. 

This is a choice from supermarkets. Thus, where one buys coffee will impact the information that one gets from the packaging. 

When coffee is being roasted, a lot of CO2 comes out. Different brewing techniques require different freshness of the coffee. For example, espresso, fresher is not always better. Because there’s a lot of CO2 in the very fresh coffee beans when one tries to brew espresso, a lot of gas comes out and this pressurized environment can make a disrupted brewing process. 

Therefore, many people rest the coffee for seven to 10 days, sometimes two weeks or longer, to make it a little easier to brew for espresso. The freshness is less of a concern a day or two for filter coffee though. 

Ground coffee vs whole bean.

I always prefer whole-bean coffee. Here are the reasons: first, it is better value for money. Ground coffee often is packed in a protective atmosphere, but once that bag is opened, the air gets in. Then one might have one or two days to enjoy it at its best. In comparison, whole beans last much longer than pre-ground coffee. That is why whole beans are better value for money. 

Second, grinding coffee is one of the great pleasures of life. The morning coffee grinding ritual adds more aroma and joy to the coffee hobby and refreshment. 

If it is a light and medium roast whole beans, the coffee may last four to eight weeks after roasting, compared to pre-ground coffee which lasts only a day or two once the coffee is exposed to air. If the coffee is a darker roast, it may last for four to six weeks maximum, because darker roasts go stale a little bit quicker.

This picture shows the coffee beans from whole bean to very fine ground right to left. Buy whole bean coffee is one of the simple rule for buying great coffee that you can enjoy for a long time.
Grounds VS Whole Beans

ii) Buy great coffee with traceability.

Buy coffee from as distinct a place as one can, being a single farm, or a cooperative of growers. Historically coffee was just sold by country of origin. As much as wine, coffee has huge variation within just about every single producing origin of flavor or style. 

Only knowing what country the coffee is from isn’t that useful, besides its little traceability. Traceable coffees add cost, that is why only tasty and good quality coffees are sold in a traceable fashion. To merit a premium price, there’s no point in keeping a coffee that doesn’t taste very good traceable. That’s why traceability is a nice little shortcut to quality. Generally, spending more buys better quality, better tasting coffee.

iii) Buy Great Coffee Seasonally.

Different countries around the world harvest coffee at different times. Thus, the raw coffees arrive at the consuming countries at different times of the year.

Raw coffee lasts longer generally than roasted coffee, and a roaster may carry coffee from a few weeks to ten months. Most of the time roasters carry coffee all year round. For example, they may have an Ethiopian coffee bean for twelve months of the year, but that coffee is not very good because the raw coffee can be a little bit old.

Because of that, specialty coffee shops embrace seasonality, which means one coffee from one origin for six months of a year, and another for three months of a year. If a specialty coffee shop changes its shelf stocks regularly, the consumer will get the best possible experience because the raw coffees are nice and fresh.

2. Where To Buy Great Coffee

Usually, there are three kinds of places to buy coffee:

i) The supermarket.

The supermarket has a couple of big advantages. 

First, supermarkets are incredibly convenient for most people. 

Second, things there are generally cheaper in supermarkets. Supermarkets are hyper-competitive. They use their size and scale to negotiate a thin profit margin buying price and sell the products to the public at a quite low price. However, supermarkets do not treat coffee like fresh food.

Because of the sheer volume and quantity of supermarkets buying, the supply chain becomes quite long, freshness is difficult to achieve at individual store level. Supermarkets may buy from a single supplier that goes into a centralized distribution center, then eventually goes to the individual supermarket, goes on to the shelf, and works its way slowly forward to the front of the shelf. A bag of coffee beans can take months from its being produced to it being sold in supermarkets. 

That is why supermarkets give the consumer a “best before date”, so when the consumer picks up one of these bags of coffee beans, one might think “I still have 8 months left”. Supermarkets do not want consumers to think about when that coffee was roasted. 

There is nothing wrong to buy coffee at the supermarket if the price and the caffeine are one’s main concerns. Occasionally one still can find good quality, tasty coffee in a supermarket.

ii) A coffee shop, or a shop in one’s neighborhood.

Coffee shops have some advantages, such as consumers can talk to someone, a salesperson, a store manager, or a barista, regarding the types, brands, or taste preferences of a coffee. Most of the time consumers can get some recommendations from the shop to fit his/her preference. 

A coffee shop’ coffees typically are very fresh, one can buy and take coffee home, then have a delicious cup of coffee. If there is an immediate use for coffee, then coffee shops are perfect to fulfill that need. 

Often these specialty coffee shops serve the coffee they retail. A consumer should have some chance to sample the coffee before buying a whole bag of beans.

CoffeeShop - Copy
Coffee Shop

iii) Online.

Buying coffee from online stores gives the consumer probably the most variety. Online stores are often competitive in terms of price. Most of the time, one is buying directly from a roaster. The seller/roaster will roast one’s coffee after the online retailer receives the order. Often the roasted coffee is shipped on the same day, thus by the time these coffees arrive at the consumers’ doorstep, they are incredibly fresh. 

Nowadays some roasters offer subscription services. Once the consumer subscribes to the service, his/her coffee arrives through the door at a specific time interval, such as one bag of beans every second week, etc. Many people use more than one bag of coffee each month, so a smart way to set up is to have one bag come on a subscription from a roaster, and then buy one bag on top of it from a coffee shop.

3. Decode a bag of buying great coffee.

i) Classification of roast for buying great coffee.

Usually, there are three levels of roast, light, medium, or dark. 

In the case of supermarket coffees, often they use strength, and the range is usually between three to five. Strength to specialty coffee shops means the coffee-to-water ratio. The more coffee is used to brew a cup, the stronger the coffee drink is. 

The most common description of a specialty coffee shop’s coffee bean bag is whether the coffee is used as a filter coffee or as an espresso coffee. Espresso coffee is a little bit darker and deeper than filter coffee. Conventionally, if a bag of specialty coffee does not have any indication of roast on it, it is usually a light to medium roastSame as supermarket coffee, the higher the strength, the darker the roast. 

Generally, the lighter the roast of coffee is, the more acidity the coffee has. The darker the roast, the more bitterness it has, and the less acidity. Specialty coffee’s light to medium roast gives the drinker the taste of a balanced nice sweetness, a little bit of acidity, without too much bitterness; and at the same time, it gives tons of flavor of where the coffee comes from. This is why that light to medium roast is a popular roasting style choice for many specialty companies.

buy great coffee depends on what your taste prefer.
Dark, Medium, and Light Roast

ii) Description of taste for buying great coffee.

Often roasters use descriptive words trying to describe the taste of the coffee and to entice the buyer to buy that bag of coffee. 

Specialty coffee is like wine, except for one thing. The very highest-priced wines are often the most elegant and the most beautiful wines. However, the highest-priced coffee is the most unusual, the least kind of coffee-tasting coffee. More expensive coffee tends to promise a very unusual experience. 

The descriptive words the roasters use to convey some key information to consumers that can help them find the right coffee. If the coffee is light to medium roast, often the roasters use the words “delicate”, “elegant”, or explicitly text like “quite floral”, which all suggest lightness. If they use “creamy” or “rich”, these suggest it is a fuller-bodied coffee. If there are no texture words, it’s often a medium-bodied coffee. 

Some people cannot stand any acidity in their coffee, I am just to be one of these people. However, there are people who love all the acidity in their coffee. These people appreciate the acidic coffee as bright, juicy, and vibrant. Roasters often use fruit words to describe these characteristics of such coffees. Fresh fruit words in the descriptors, like berries, apple, or anything referring to fresh fruits, indicate that these coffees have some amount of acidity. Berry, one may expect some acidity, and citrus fruits should refer to a lot of acidity. For words like “apple” or “pear”, one should expect a good amount of acidity. 

If the words are fruit-related words, but they are cooked fruit words, such as “jam”, or “candied orange”, then I would expect a little acidity. If a description has no fruit words, then I would expect very low acidity from it. If the roasters use other words like “caramel”, “treacle”, “nuts” or “chocolate”, which are non-fruit words, then the roasters are suggesting low acidity for that coffee.

iii) Fermented fruit flavors can be part of buying great coffee.

There are styles of coffee in that whole coffee cherries are sun-dried, instead of the seeds being squeezed out, sorted, and washed before the beans are dried. If the beans are dried inside the fruit, then a little fermentation can happen. The beans going through this process give funky, or unusual flavors that are often described on bags of coffee as tropical fruit, such as “pineapple”, “mango” or even “strawberry”. 

Some people love those easily identifiable fascinating flavors. They are fun to drink for some people but for others not so much. If one’s palate does not like fermented fruit flavors, then one should avoid any naturally dried coffee. 

The safer choice for people who dislike funky flavor will be the bag label has such descriptions as “clean”, “sweet”, “chocolate” or “nuts”, which has no fruit words whatsoever.

SundryCoffee - Copy
Sundry Coffee Cherries

Keep In Touch If You Like My Articles.

I hope this post is a useful guide to help you to buy good coffees that fit your taste. If you like to know about different types of hot coffee brewing, please check out our other blogs, such as “Best Affordable Espresso Machines” or any other blog post by clicking here.

Of course, read more blog posts I post now and then, such as  “Strongest Coffee“.

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