Do you prefer to use a drip coffee machine or a French press? Perhaps you use a pour-over method or just a simple Moka pot?
You probably have a specific grind you prefer also, and even if you don’t, the type of coffee you are looking to enjoy will influence the grind you are looking for.
Although you will have preferences regarding the type of coffee you drink and how you make it, those things do not have as big an impact on the resulting drink as does the coffee beans themselves.
If you are not investing in the best coffee beans, it won’t matter how you disguise that fact.
They will still be bad coffee beans.
Grinding them down into a fine consistency and putting them into the most exquisitely cutting-edge and fancy coffee machine won’t make them taste any better, neither will mixing in lots of sweetened cream and chocolate. You will still have awful coffee.
Therefore, the coffee beans you choose are really the first and most crucial decision you make when trying to achieve coffee perfection. If you are new to coffee, though, the marketplace can be a very intimidating place to navigate through.
Don’t worry though, as the team at Best Coffee Beans are here to help. Not only will we highlight the 10 coffee beans we consider to be the best but have put together a practical buying guide that will further help you make the right choice.
Our Top 10 Coffee Bean Recommendations
Lavazza Qualita Rossa Coffee Beans, 1kg
Where else would we look first for some of the best coffee beans than Italy and with arguably one of the best coffee manufacturers in the world, Lavazza. Since its inception in 1895 in Torino, the company has remained in the Lavazza family, with third and fourth generation members now at the reins. In that time, it has advanced and evolved, but always kept one thing consistent – producing quality coffee. With more than 16 million out of 20 million coffee drinking families in Italy choosing Lavazza over the competition, that is a great indication of its quality.
The Qualita Rossa coffee beans are a stunning blend of Arabica and Robusta varieties sourced from Africa and Brazil. Medium roasted, the beans produce coffee with an intensity rating of 5, an aroma that has distinctive chocolate notes and a full and rich flavour that is sustained. This is a really great all-rounder and incredibly versatile. It doesn’t really matter if you are looking to make a simple strong black Americano, a mocha or just want a nice coffee with a bit of milk, Qualita Rossa will always deliver a fine cuppa.
Illy Classico Coffee Beans, Classic Roast, 250g
Sticking with Italian coffee for the next beans we want to discuss, Illy is another brand that has been producing fine coffee made from a distinctive blend of Arabica beans for the best part of 75 years. Illy is a company that really invests in its coffee, from the ground up, literally. It developed the direct trade model for sourcing coffee beans which involved establishing and maintaining long and intimate relationships with the growers.
When buying the beans for their coffee, they pay a lot more than the market value to give the growers a nice profit and also run the Universita Del Caffe to help teach the growers and improve their skills. Why is this important? Because it shows their commitment to people and to making the best coffee possible. The Classico Roast is a stunning blend of fine Arabica beans prepared to a medium roast and packed carefully in nitrogen to help preserve their freshness. In fact, the guarantee from the company is that the coffee beans will remain fresh for up to 2 years if looked after properly. The resulting flavour is balanced and rich with nice hints of chocolate and caramel.
Spiller & Tait Signature Blend Coffee Beans, 1kg Bag
For the next pack of coffee beans, we are staying on home turf with Worcestershire-based Spiller & Tait. Although new to the world of coffee production as a company, both co-founders of the business, David Tait and Simon Spiller have been involved in businesses that serve, wholesale and even roast coffee. The pair used their love and knowledge for the beverage and the beans that are used to create it a delicious blend devised with the British public in mind.
The Signature Blend, their main premium blend of coffee beans had been designed with espresso in mind. However, it is suitable for all forms of coffee preparation. It is the winner of several prestigious awards and when you taste it, you really understand why. There is a smoky richness to its flavour and tasty notes of caramelised demerara and toasted almonds. The blend has been sourced with 100% Arabica beans from India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Brazil and Columbia and perfect at any time of the day.
Lavazza Crema e Aroma Coffee Beans, 1kg
We’re back on the continent again for the next coffee beans in our guide and back with the most celebrated producers of fine Italian coffee, Lavazza. The Crema e Aroma is another very popular, but far more distinctive blend from the company. Featuring a mix of 40% Washed and Natural Arabica beans and 60% Natural Robusta Beans, the resulting drink is strongly aromatic with notes of nutmeg and peanut.
With these beans, Lavazza used a slower roasting process to develop the deeper and more complex flavour. Although packaged with espresso in mind, as is the case with any coffee beans, they will work well in whatever type of coffee you desire to make. Many customers swear by using this blend of beans for a tasty flat white that is more than a match for Starbucks and Costa!
Coffee Masters Triple Certified, Organic, Fairtrade, Arabica Coffee Beans, 1kg
Back in Blighty for another great British-made selection of coffee beans. Coffee Masters is an aptly named brand, especially if their Triple Certified, Organic and Fairtrade Arabica coffee beans are anything to go by. A complex flavour is produced with light and tantalising hints of chocolate and sweet caramel with a subtle citrus acidity, which is all wrapped up with a nice and spicy kick. We can see why it was awarded the Great Taste Award in 2018 and why so many coffee aficionados rave about it.
However, it is not just the flavour and heady aroma that this blend of coffee beans produces that has us sold. It’s the company’s commitment to doing things the right way. Not only are the 100% Arabica beans organic and Fairtrade-certified from Sumatra, Ethiopia and Honduras, but they are also Rainforest Alliance-certified. Therefore, if you are looking to feel good about what you buy, while enjoying a nice espresso, cappuccino or simple black coffee, these beans are a great choice.
Taylors of Harrogate, Rich Italian Coffee Beans, 454g, Pack of 3
Another family-run and independent company are responsible for the next great coffee beans we want to discuss. Taylors of Harrogate, based in the Yorkshire city of their name, have been in operation and under the oversight of the Taylors family since 1886. The company has strong values and believes in creativity, respect and fairness. However, when it comes to their coffee, there is one value that takes precedence over all others – high-quality flavour. It is always their end goal when developing and enhancing their blends.
Although they are considered pioneers, they still utilize tried and tested methods to produce their roasts, doing it all in their drum roaster. The fruits of their labour with this particular blend, the Rich Italian is designed to transport you to the cobbled streets of Northern Italy and has a refined flavour of almond and dark chocolate. The beans used are 100& Arabica and like the beans from Coffee Masters, these have been certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
Taylors of Harrogate Indonesia Java Jember Single-Origin Coffee Beans, 1kg
Sticking with Taylors of Harrogate for the next coffee beans, we are taking a trip further afield to Indonesia, though, for these extraordinary single-origin Java Jember coffee beans. They may be sourced from Indonesia, but all the ingenuity and innovation still take place within the traditional drum roaster Taylors have used for numerous decades.
This is definitely not a coffee for the faint-hearted, but one for anyone looking for something deeper, richer and stronger with a greater caffeine kick than many others. Although some have found that when they are used in drip coffee machines the flavour is a bit lacking, these beans are great when used to make espresso or French Press coffee. A truly dark roast, this offers a velvety smooth, but ultimately intense and full flavour with lots of chocolatey notes and a satisfying finish. Taylors consider this to be one of the finest coffees they produce.
Coffee Masters Exclusive Master Blend Beans, 100% Arabica Beans, 1kg
Another intriguing offering from Coffee Masters is their highly exclusive Master Blend Beans. This is considered to be among the crème de la crème produced by the company and features a medium-dark roasting of 100% Arabica coffee beans sourced from Brazil, Costa Rica and Honduras. To give some peace of mind while you enjoy a rich and flavoursome cup of your favourite type of coffee, you can keep in mind that this premium blend of beans has been certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
In terms of flavour, it has a full body and rich depth to it with the sweetness of dark chocolate and nice nutty notes and an ever-so-slightly subtle hint of sweet lemon. Coffee Masters have stayed true to their moniker and produced a blend that is perfect any time of the day. Although recommended for those important espressos in your life, it will serve you well and provide you with a delicious filter coffee whether you like to add milk or not.
Amazon Brand Solimo Coffee Beans, 2kg
If you are feeling a little adventurous and want to try something a bit different, you may want to take a chance on Solimo. It’s fair to say that they are not one of the highly regarded coffee brands with an enduring history and heritage. The company is, after all, one of Amazon’s own. Don’t let that put you off though. Consider the fact that these are 100% Arabica beans that have been sourced by UTZ-certified farmers who utilise better farming practices, that are good for the planet and the local people. It is not the strongest, so if you are looking for a big punch of flavour, this might not be the right choice for you.
However, if you are after a lighter and creamier coffee taste, these beans, which have been roasted, packed and distributed directly from the production plant in Belgium, are an ideal choice. When looking at the customer reviews of this coffee, it is worth keeping in mind that coffee and taste, in general, is a very subjective matter.
Starbucks Blonde Espresso Roast, Whole Beans, 200g, Pack of 6
Last but certainly not least in our guide is the best offering we could find from Starbucks. Okay, so this won’t be to everyone’s tastes, thanks to their opinions on the coffee shop chain as a company. However, we think these Blonde Espresso Roast coffee beans produce a delicious cup of coffee. You just need to look at the various positive comments in the review section to see how many people have been won over. There have even been some people who have noted that while it is stated to have a mellow and soft flavour, and it is supposed to be the lightest espresso roast offered by Starbucks, it still packs quite a strong punch.
The beans are 100% Arabica beans, sourced carefully from across Latin America. As you would expect, Starbucks work with Conservation International to ensure that the beans and ingredients they source for their products, both sold in their shops and through their retail section, are 100% ethical. The coffee is given the Blonde title because the beans of the packs in this selection are treated to a much lighter and mellower roast.
Best Coffee Beans Buying Guide
Now that we’ve looked at the best coffee beans in our opinion on the market, you may still feel unsure of which to choose. To further help you navigate through the many thousands of different coffee beans for sale these days, to find the best for you, we’ve put together an in-depth buying guide. We have tried to cover all of the most important things you need to consider when selecting whole coffee beans.
Understanding The Label
The label, along with any information provided by a site (if you are buying online) or in-store (if you are buying offline), is the key to finding the best coffee beans. Once you know what to look for and what everything means on a coffee bean label, you will find it much easier to pick out the good from the bad.
Always Make Sure It’s Whole Beans
This really should go without saying and we hope that as you have clicked through to a guide to the best coffee beans, you already know it, but you should only ever by whole coffee beans. If you really want to benefit from the freshest coffee and have the means to grind down your coffee beans at home, don’t opt for anything less.
Ground coffee can feel like a convenient and time-saving compromise, but trust us, the time you save in preparation by investing in that type of coffee is not worth the amount you lose in flavour.
The biggest enemy of coffee is the air around us. Once a coffee bean has been cracked open, the oxidation process starts and that means that the freshness of the coffee is compromised. Therefore, the closer brewing the coffee to grinding the coffee beans, the better, the fresher and the tastier the coffee will be.
The date the Coffee Was Roasted
Coffee is one of those products that many people just assume to have a limitless lifespan. When the truth is, it really doesn’t. Now, we are not saying that older coffee beans that were roasted some time ago are less healthy than those roasted very recently, because generally, that is not the case.
However, what we are saying is that fresher coffee beans are always going to produce beverages that taste better than those that have been in your cupboards for months and months.
The moment coffee beans leave the environment they were roasted in, they start to change. Degassing starts, which is the process of carbon dioxide being released that had built up during the roasting process.
Although this is a natural process, once the bean begins degassing, the natural oils inside it that give it the unique flavour notes and aroma you probably bought it for, start to oxidize and the flavour is not quite as strong. There is a lot of debate about what constitutes freshness when it comes to coffee beans. Depending on the method of brewing you use, however, you will still want to try and use coffee for drinks from 4 days to 2 weeks after the date the beans were roasted.
Why did we say it depends on the type of brewing method you use? Well, for example, if you are a fan of the pour-over brewing method, the best time to use coffee beans is during the first week following their roasting as you can benefit from a better and brighter coffee bloom then.
However, if you prefer to drink espressos and espresso-based drinks, you may give the coffee beans a bit of time to rest. Beans that were roasted between 7 and 9 days ago are best for espressos. Whereas anything older than that can be used for cold brews.
When it comes to the freshness of coffee beans, though, you really need to figure out what’s right for you. So, the above should be seen as suggestions more than anything else, rather than hard and fast rules.
Identity of Roaster
If you are not getting coffee beans from one of the branded companies, like the products listed above, you should still be able to find out who actually roasted them. Many roasters become well known within the industry and often have a good name for themselves. You can also find out if they have won awards or other accolades.
Just like with anything, different companies have their own specific ways of doing things and individual roasters have their own techniques and processes they use. Therefore, if there is a roaster named on the label, you may find with a little research that you are definitely getting a good quality bean.
Coffee Bean Origin
The origin of the coffee beans is incredibly important and has a huge impact on the way the flavour of the drinks they produce. The amount of sunlight they are exposed to, the rainfall, soil chemistry and even altitude all play a part. Therefore, pay close attention to the origin of coffee beans.
Coffee beans are grown successfully along the area known as the Bean Belt. This is an area that sits between 30-degrees to the south and 25-degrees to the north of the equator. If you come across a bag of coffee beans that has no highlighted location of origin or you can’t readily find out the information, you might be best looking elsewhere.
There are just over 50 countries make coffee. That number may sound a little intimidating though, so it might be best if you are new to coffee to try the more popular coffee regions and learn what kind of flavour provide you enjoy before trying anything too exotic.
Some of the most popular coffees are highlighted above, to give you an idea of what to expect from beans originating from these parts of the world.
Indonesia may not be the first place that comes to your mind when you think of coffee. However, Sumatran coffee and Java coffee both originate from there, as do mature coffees with a low level of acidity and deep full body.
You will find, due to the landscape that coffee grown unshaded and processed with a special fermentation soak. It is both the growing technique and the processing that give Kenyan coffee it’s characteristic sweet/savoury flavour profiles that call to mind fruits and vegetables like blackcurrants and tomatoes.
Ethiopia is where many people believe coffee originates from originally. Although this has been since proven to be nothing more than an apocryphal story, it is still interesting. None of that takes away from the fact that Ethiopia has incredibly large coffee biodiversity. There are simply too many uncatalogued and wild coffee varieties grown here and a wide array of different processing methods used that it would be hard to try them all. Of the more popular Ethiopian coffees, though, you should expect tea and floral-esque brews and very heavy, fruity and almost wine-like versions of our favourite drink.
Brazil, with its expansive countryside and various altitudes, is a country home to a wide range of different coffee flavours. Generally, the most common and popular tend to have heavy bodies and peanut flavours, making them ideal for espressos and drinks that use espresso as a base. Brazilian coffee also has a lingering aftertaste that remains in your mouth, long after you’ve sipped and gulped it down.
Columbian coffee is incredibly popular and it is all down to the hard work and dedication of lots of small family-run farms that help to produce coffee beans that can be used to create mild drinks with properly balanced levels of acidity and a caramel flavour with hints of nuts.
Kona coffee is the most popular coffee made in Hawaii and is named after the biggest city on the island. Thanks to the regular showers of rainfall, high temperatures and intense sunshine, the coffee produced from Hawaii beans tends to be very rich with nice and gentle aromatic, floral notes.
As there are hugely different climates and processing methods used, it can be hugely enjoyable to try coffees from different areas. Of course, you will have your favourites, but it is always nice to take a step outside of your comfort zone for alternatives.
Fair Trade – What does it Actually Mean?
Fairtrade is something many people will make a point of looking out for when they are choosing products like coffee. You may not have stopped to even consider what it actually means. The truth is what fair trade means on one label will be different from another because there are several fair-trade labels and organisations. Therefore, if you are keenly interested in buying coffee that has come from an ethical, fair-trade source, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the most common labels and what they actually mean.
The Fair-Trade Federation and World Fair Trade Organisation
Both the FTF or Fair-Trade Federation and WTFO or World Fair Trade Organization are groups that hold the companies that have membership through them to incredibly high standards when it comes to fair trade. Whereas the WFTO has 10 basic principles it expects its members to follow, the FTF has 9.
Fair For Life
Fair For Life is a non-profit, third-party organisation that certifies each step in the production of something and the whole company involved in it too. Its goal is to establish partnerships between buyers, sellers, employers, workers and producers that are respectful, fair and ethical.
Fair Trade Certified
Fair Trade Certified was once a member of the organisation known as Fairtrade International and was at one time called TransFair. It is based in the US and was in a partnership with Fairtrade International up until 2011 when the groups went their separate ways because although they shared beliefs, they had different points of view on how to meet their goals.
It welcomes members with different levels of income and is not just for the poorer companies and producers. The goal of the organisation was to empower communities and promote their development through a socially conscious and sustainable trade model with the benefit of everyone who is involved in the process, from the farmers through to the customers.
Fairtrade International is an organisation that has the goal of promoting conditions of fairer trade for producers from disadvantaged circumstances and help with the improvement of the economic conditions they experience.
They firmly believe that the poorest producers in the world can experience consistent development when the trade is organised better and more transparent. FLO-CERT is a third-party inspection organisation that works on behalf of Fairtrade International and audits products regularly with that label.
It is debatable whether fair trade certification means the coffee beans are of high quality or not. What having a fair-trade label on coffee beans means is that the environment used, the workers and growers involved didn’t suffer unduly and were not treated poorly.
It is best, given how many different organisations and companies there are offering fair trade certifications, to find those that meet your values best and choose coffee beans with those labels.
Things to Avoid When Choosing Coffee Beans
While ensuring that the above are featured on the labels of coffee beans you are looking at, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are necessarily onto a winning product just yet. There are some things you need to avoid.
Does the Label Have 100% Pure Coffee Written on it?
There are some, believe it or not, coffee beans label that the producers/roasters feel the need to point out that it is made from 100% pure coffee. We recommend that you are very cautious if you come across this though. Why would they feel the need to point this out, unless it was to hide something?
Regardless, we are not actually sure what pure coffee means.
Self-Serve or Scoop Coffee Beans
Obviously, this is not a problem if you are buying coffee beans online, but if you find yourself visiting a shop where beans are not in specially sealed one-way valve bags or airtight containers, be very concerned, If they have coffee beans available in plastic bins like you would see in a store with pick and mix sweeties,
Use By Date
You are more likely to find a use-by date on coffee bought from a supermarket or other general store. However, when you are buying fresh coffee beans, there is no need for a use-by date, because all you really need to know is the date it was roasted.
It may sound like a good deal, spending a bit extra for more coffee. However, you are not going to get the best cuppa. Especially if it is an oversized bag or another form of container. Coffee beans should be bought in a similar way to fresh loaves of bread. Buy coffee beans in smaller batches that will give you and your household enough for a week or so and top up as necessary.
The problem with buying too much at the same time is that there is the chance that the batch will spoil before you finish it, or you will need to just throw it away.
Choosing The Coffee Beans That Are Best For You
Okay, so you now know how to read coffee bean labels. What kind of coffee beans are best for you? The variety of the bean, more than anything else we have noted in this post is what has the biggest impact on the flavour of the drinks you can make. There are basically two main types of coffee beans – Robusta and Arabica. We have covered these beans in a different post which you can look at to find out more information. To summarise though:
Robusta Coffee Beans
Robusta beans are not as flavoursome as Arabica and are basically chosen because their plants are much easier to grow and cultivate. They are also much higher in caffeine and normally used for instant coffee.
Arabica Coffee Beans
Arabica coffee beans are the best when it comes to making a good cup of coffee. Arabica beans are used in the production of more than 60% of the world’s coffee. It has a higher level of acidity, tastes sweeter and much fruitier than Robusta.
How to Choose Your Roast
Another consideration you need to make when you are choosing the best coffee beans is the roast. The curious thing is there are no industry standards when it comes to coffee bean roasts. However, the general categories of roast coffee beans are separated into are:
Although these are not the real names of roasts, and many roasters and producers give their roasts their own names, those names are closely associated with the colour of different roasts. To help you understand better what you can expect when buying specific roasts, we have provided a brief guide to each below.
Light Roast Coffee Beans
Light roast coffee beans have a light brown colour and are only roasted for a short time. These have the highest caffeine content of any roasts and often have names like Cinnamon, Half City and Light City.
Medium Roast Coffee Beans
Medium coffee roast beans are a big favourite in America. For this reason, they are often called American Coffee, even if it is used with Kenya coffee beans. Their colour is a medium brown and they have a dry, non-oily texture and a stronger flavour than light roast beans. Other names used to describe medium roast coffee beans include City and Breakfast.
Medium-Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Medium-dark coffee beans have a much darker and richer colour and also have an oily surface, which gives them a bitter with hints of sweet aftertaste that’s not too overpowering. Medium-Dark Roast coffee beans are often called Full City.
Dark Roast Coffee Beans
Dark Roast coffee beans have a very shiny and black colour that looks attractive. They produce a much more bitter flavoured coffee when they are brewed and have a wide range of hues from dark brown through to charred. Dark Roasts often have other names like New Orleans, French, Italian, Viennese, European, continental and high roasts.
How To Look After Coffee Beans
Once you have gone through the above and have the best coffee beans that meet your preferences and give you the unique taste profile you are after, you need to look after them properly. The next thing you need to do is ultimately the most important for ensuring you get as long lifespan out of them as possible and that is storing them properly.
Avoid the Freezer and Fridge, If Possible
There is a lot of debate about this and we have covered some of this in greater detail here. Many people say you should stick fresh coffee beans into the freezer or fridge to keep them for longer. However, this really doesn’t work.
It’s not just that it won’t help keep your coffee beans fresh, putting them in the freezer or fridge could interfere with their flavour.
Coffee has a porous structure, which is why coffee beans are perfect at absorbing aromatics present during the process of roasting them. However, this is also the quality that means your coffee beans will end up tasting like chopped garlic, onions or whatever else you have in your fridge.
Another huge problem with keeping your coffee beans in your fridge or freezer is moisture. Coffee beans can easily condensate in a damp and cold environment, which can force all the tasty oils that give the coffee its distinctive flavour to the surface. This causes the coffee beans to mature faster and their flavour diminishes quicker.
Further to all this, coffee beans can be affected by freezer burns.
Choose Somewhere Dark, Dry and Very Cool
Coffee beans should be treated like a bottle of high-quality fine wine. Coffee, like wine, does not like light. Although we’re not seriously suggesting you invest in your very own coffee cellar. That might be a bit too much. However, wine storage does provide a very apt parallel for coffee storage. Therefore, the best place to store coffee beans are environments that are dark, dry and cold.
We would suggest a cupboard or even a pantry that is at the opposite of the room to the oven in your kitchen or even in a completely different room, if possible. It makes sense that you would want to keep them close to where the other appliances and items are that you use for making coffee are, but you just need to be careful that they are kept away from areas with high humidity, like where you boil water or make pasta and other boiled foods.
Keep Them in An Airtight Container
The only circumstances in which we would say you could easily ignore the next bit of advice is if you buy coffee beans that come in special foil bags with one-way valves and airtight seals. Those kinds of bags will normally keep the coffee beans fresh for between one and two weeks approximately.
If you get coffee beans in a paper bag, like the products we highlighted above, you need to move them into an airtight, opaque container as quickly as you can once they arrive or you get them home, depending on where you bought them.
Be careful not to tighten the container’s lid too much if you are storing freshly roasted beans as they will be releasing a lot of carbon dioxide. The last thing you want is the container to burst or warp due to the build-up of gas.
Well, there we have it folks, our indispensable and comprehensive guide to buying the best coffee beans. You now have a good idea of what the best products are. When you’ve given them a try and are ready for something new or if you want to go off on your own coffee adventure, you also have all the information you could ever want and need to make sensible coffee bean choices.
If you are still feeling like you need more information, though, please take a look at the other great posts we have published here at Best Coffee Beans.
Happy brewing and drinking!