What to Consider when Buying Coffee.

Buying coffee is more difficult that it use to be. With the maturation of the coffee industry in countless countries, the world wide web bringing us more information, and all the new breeds of specialty coffees; buying coffee can be as confusing as purchasing for your first home.  It seems that there are as many coffee cultivars as good cheeses or good wines. To help you navigate this bevy of choices, below is a list of things you could consider when buying coffee. Out of the list there is one thing factor that stands supreme: Taste.


Taste should always be your first consideration because if you don’ t like the taste, chances are you will not drink the coffee. And if you won’t drink the coffee, why buy it in the first place? Buy coffee you like to drink and you can never go wrong. Do not rely too much on expert opinion as everyone’s taste buds are a bit different and be open minded with new . Try everything.


What does the coffee smell like? Many of the world top chefs say that the smell of the food is almost important as the taste and this thinking should be applied when drinking coffee. With coffee, aroma should come a close second to the taste of coffee. With many coffees, you will have a hard time separating the taste and smell coffee. 


Coffee is not like wine. It does not get better with age. The best coffee roasters bid to get the finest and freshest crop. Make sure you do your part and try to buy their freshest offerings.  The importance of freshness is even more important if you home roast.


What plant type and cultivar is extremely important in selecting coffee. Generally speaking Arabica coffee is superior and that is why some specialty coffees trade at multiples of 25 times commercial coffees.


How the bean is roasted affects the flavor. Understanding what type of roast goes best with certain brewing styles, not the just bean cultivar, will help you avoid a bad cup of coffee. For example, any espresso type drink; that is, coffee extracted via high pressure water, has to be from coffee that roasted is a notch above a full/city roast. This type of roast is commonly called an “espresso roast” because it’s the minimum roast needed to avoid a bitter taste when extracting coffee under high pressure water.

One tip you should remember is most specialty coffees are roasted as a full/city roast. This roasts brings out the best flavor of the coffee without adding extra flavor notes and highlighting the acidity of the coffee. If you are trying different coffees, make sure you use the same roast to get a truly accurate flavor profile. And if you have control over the roast make sure it’s a full/city roast to get a true gauge on the natural flavor.

An in-depth explanation of roast can be found here. (Tri- link to coffee roasting article)


Certain environments produce certain flavor characteristics. The best coffee is usually grown in higher elevations but it is important to remember geography isn’t everything. It is better to buy good coffee in an unknown region than purchasing lower quality coffee in a celebrated country such as Costa Rica. With that qualifier I do want to emphasize that regional differences affect the flavor of coffee greatly and the only the real way to know is to try them!

Social/Ethical Issues

Everyone has different value system. If yours placed great emphasis on environmental, social, or political concerns, by all means incorporate those beliefs into your choice of coffee.

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