How to Choose the Right Coffee Beans
As beginners, it’s not that easy to know how to choose the right coffee beans. And I know what I’m talking about!
My name is Anne-Sophie and I’ve been a coffee expert at Maxicoffee for 5 years now. I used to be a complete novice before being introduced to the coffee world!
How I failed my entry in the world of coffee beans
Like many, I ended up buying a bean to cup machine (combining an espresso maker, coffee grinder and milk frother into one unit). I wanted to opt out of machines using coffee pods to go towards eco-friendly espressos.
I quickly bought myself an expensive bean to cup machine, feeling already proud of this first step, and eager to show off my delicious espresso to my friends.
However, It Didn’t Go the Way I Thought it Would!
The reality was that I was drinking coffee that I bought randomly in store or online for months on end, and they were either too bitter, too acidic or too flat. Overall, they were not good.
Worst of all, I could see my friends dreading asking for coffee at my place! I got so lost trying so many different coffee brands! By the end, I ended up not even knowing what I was looking for.
As a result, I felt like I invested in an expensive bean to cup machine for nothing, apart from deterring myself from drinking coffee.
Thankfully, I ended up meeting with coffee aficionados and learned from them. I found the key to finally choosing the right coffee beans. Ones that I actually like!
So, today I am going to give you a few tips on how you can easily choose the right coffee beans for you.
Why is choosing the right coffee beans not as easy as choosing the right coffee pods?
Many of us were equipped with a coffee capsule machine for a while. Their biggest advantage is that the type of coffee they use is quite unoffensive: there are rarely surprises, or risky picks with coffee pods! You can choose the taste and the intensity of your coffee easily. It is usually indicated with just the colour of your coffee pods, and your espresso will almost always be topped with a nice crema.
However, you might be surprised to know that the consistency of the coffee pod is not actually a sign of quality. Rather, it reveals the bland, sad truth!
The Similitudes with Oenology
Let’s talk about oenology:
Coffee is a lot like wine. Both are historic, agricultural staples (see below coffee cherries) that offer a wide array of flavours based on many environmental parameters, such as: geographical location, the altitude of its terroir or soil, its sun exposition, the yield of the harvest, the beans’ drying method and the roast.
That’s why coffee beans will offer you more choices and more aromatic discoveries than a simple coffee pod, which will always have the same taste, usually indistinguisable from each other.
What’s the World’s Best Coffee?
A lot of people keep asking me to guide them towards the world’s best coffee. Let me tell you, I have disappointed many, because it’s simply mission impossible!
The idea of a “good” coffee is 100% subjective because it’s something entirely personal and sometimes cultural. A good coffee is above all the coffee that is just right for you.
The best coffee that you ever tasted is probably linked to a specific moment in your life, an atmosphere, someone in particular or a childhood memory. In my case, I remember vividly trying this spoonfull of sweet coffee sitting on my grandfather’s lap in the city center of Lisbon. It’s my madeleine de Proust moment, a beloved, vivid memory that I still cherish to this day.
We don’t all value a cup of coffee in the same way, but that’s a good thing! There is a multitude of coffee aromas (more than with wine or whisky) and we won’t have the same sensitivity or sensibility for the same flavours and aromas.
Your check-list for choosing the right coffee beans
When writing this article, I realised that there is little information on ‘how to choose your coffee beans’. Depending on the brands, the bags are often hard to read and offer little information: only a vague notion of country origin but nothing else…What about the roast?
How can we decide on what beans to choose if we can’t compare them?
So here is my checklist to help you in your search:
The Importance of the Roast’s Colour
The roasting process is the art of grilling the green coffee beans at a high temperature. The roasting process acts as a developer/booster of aromas. Therefore, the coffee beans can lose their aromas and specificity without the proper roasting process.
There are several roasting methods but here is what you need to know: if the roast is not dark enough, the coffee beans might end up being too acidic. On the other hand, if the coffee is too dark, almost burnt, these beans will be too bitter. Depending on the roast, the taste of coffee will be altered in this way.
When I understood this, everything was different, especially the coffee I ended up buying!
A light roast (when the beans are light brown) is generally best suited for filter coffee extraction or longer extraction in general also known slow coffee. Through these filter methods, which includes French Press, Chemex, V60, etc, the coffee will develop more acidic and fruity notes.
For the Italian espresso addicts, try to always go towards darker roasts, which will develop hints of toasted bread and cocoa.
Always Go for a Freshly Roasted Coffee !
Fresher is better! Indeed, once roasted, the coffee beans retain their olfactory and gustatory qualities only for 30 days in a sealed bag. Beyond this date, the coffee beans will slowly become stale and give off ashy aromas.
Generally, you should always check the date when the beans were roasted and always choose a coffee roaster that designates these roasting dates on the package or elsewhere.
How to Choose your Coffee Beans on MaxiCoffee ?
The roasting date doesn’t necessarily have to be on the bag. Because this crucial piece of information isn’t compulsary for all roasters, it can be very tricky to select the perfect coffee beans. We can only guarantee the freshness of our coffee, Cafés Lugat, which is roasted on site with our coffee roasters, who are in direct contact with our logistic team.
Arabica or Robusta? or Both?
Arabica is well known to offer better aromas. As for Robusta, its main quality is definitely the crema obtained with these beans, as well as the intensity of the espresso. If you want an “Italian espresso” I would advise you to go for a 80% Arabica/ 20% Robusta blend.
Therefore, powerful and intense coffees usually contain Robusta beans, with a darker roast, where lighter and more aromatic coffees are often 100% Arabica blend with a medium roast also known as a “robe de moine“, a slightly darker roast (my favorite roast!).
Why the Traceability of Coffee Matters
Coffee beans cultivated en masse on overworked soils won’t offer you a good cup; at the very least you’ll end up with a flat and bland coffee.
In order to get a great cup full of aromas, always pick a coffee with a distinct identity. Many indicators can appear on a bag of coffee: its origin, the altitude of the plantation, its process (washed or natural process for example), etc. These different factors can then change completely your experience in the cup!
Adapt your Coffee Beans to Your Favorite Coffee
Espresso, americano, cappuccino or filter coffee…each brewing method has its specific coffee beans. You just can’t choose any type of beans and I can vouch for that. ;)
100% Arabica beans extracted with a low pressure with a light or medium roast, will be best suited for an americano. However, they will be too acidic for a ristretto. For a strong and intense espresso, you should go with an Italian blend with a darker roast.
You might not know this but, cappuccinos can be enhanced with an Arabica/Robusta blend since the milk will tone down the bitterness brough by the Robusta beans!
Blend or Pure Origin Coffee Beans?
A pure origin coffee is made from a single variety of coffee. It offers traceability and a unique and distinct identity. It is hightly valued by coffee experts but these types of coffee can vary depending of the different harvests.
A Blend is a mixture of different coffee beans. It is usually the norm with big industrial producers but it can also bring a harmonious coffee with a stable taste and strong aromas.
Blended coffee beans can also offer you great surprises…just like a blended whisky!
Just like whisky, blends can reveal unique and unseen aromas! That’s why I would advise to go towards artisanal roasting companies because their blends will offer you traceability and sometimes even labels and certifications, like with organic coffees.
Now you’re gonna drink good coffee!
Now you know everything about quality coffee beans! You’re going to be able to easily understand the characteristics of coffee beans written on each coffee bags and decide for yourself whether it is the right bag for you.
Don’t forget that there isn’t just ONE type of coffee. Follow my advice and allow yourself to experiment with coffee. You’re going to find out quickly what suits you best and you’ll make great findings!
You’ll finally drink good coffee! If you want a starting point, check our large selection of coffee beans on MaxiCoffee.
I sincerely hope I was able to help you understand a bit more of the coffee world. If you are so inclined, go ahead and register to my monthly coffee newsletter to find out more about coffee. Give it a try and meanwhile I wish you to share the right cup of coffee with the coffee!
We value your opinion and comments very much so together let’s share our coffee discoveries!