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How to choose coffee?

Updated: May 24

How to choose coffee?

Finding good-quality coffee to brew at home has never been easier—even

without a specialty coffee shop close to home. Many coffee roasters sell online

and offer brewing equipment and tips on how to make the most of their beans.


Supermarkets rarely treat coffee as the fresh product that it is, so you will have more luck buying good, fresh beans from a local or an online shop that specializes in coffee. However, navigating through all the options and exotic descriptions can be a diicult task. Do a bit of research before deciding who to trust as your coffee supplier. Look for a few key points such as how the beans are described and packaged, rely on your taste buds, and be open to compare and experiment until you find the coffee provider that gives you the quality you want.

If you buy loose beans from a store, ensure you know when the beans were roasted. Coffee is best protected in containers with lids—unless stored airtight it loses its vibrancy after a few days.

Buying less means buying fresh. If you can, buy only the amount of beans you need to brew for a few days or a week at a time. You can often buy as little as 31⁄2oz (100g).


A lot of coffee is sold in attractive packaging that actully offers very little useful information about the product you buy. The more relevant information you find, the better the odds of buying a good-quality product.


The bag should have a “roasted and packed” date on it, and not just a “best-before” date. Most commercial coffee companies will not tell you when the coffee was roasted or packed, but instead operate with best-before dates that are anything from 12 to 24 months into the future. This is not in the best interest of the coffee, nor you, the consumer.


The label should tell you what species and/or variety the coffee is, where it was grown, and whether it is a blend or single origin (see pp30–31).

Roast level

An indication of roast level is useful, but the language used to communicate roast is not standardized. “Medium roast” could be any shade of brown depending on who you ask. “Filter roast” generally indicates something on the lighter end, while “espresso roast” is a darker version. However, it is not uncommon to find filter beans that are darker from one roaster than an espresso roast from another. A knowledgeable retailer can advise you on which roast you might like.


Ideally, you should be able to find the name of a cooperative, washing station, hacienda, finca, or fazenda, as well as the name of the farm owner or manager. The more traceable a coffee is, the better are the chances that you are buying something of quality that was traded at a sustainable price and has been handled with care all the way from producer to retailer.

Expected flavor

There should be information on how the coffee was processed and what the flavor should be like. Even information on altitude or presence of shade trees can be indicators as to the quality of the beans inside.

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