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Golden rules of buying coffee: Tips to enjoy coffee like a Pro

Updated: May 7

Today, with the help of James Hoffaman's video, I want to help you buy good coffee. Labels on coffee can sometimes overwhelm you with all the different words and information. Here, I'll advise you to ensure you enjoy that cup every morning.

Buy traceable coffee:

When it comes to buying coffee, aim to find beans from distinctive sources like a cooperative or a farm. Historically, coffee was sold solely based on its country of origin, but that's not enough information to gauge its taste any more.


Simply knowing that a coffee is from Costa Rica doesn't necessarily tell you much about its flavor profile. If you can't pinpoint where exactly a coffee is from, it's not traceable.


Adding traceability from the farm or cooperative all the way to the consumer comes with a cost. And that cost is often passed on to you, the consumer. However, this added expense is typically only undertaken for coffees that are exceptional in terms of quality and taste. There's no point in keeping a coffee traceable if it doesn't taste very good because it lacks the value to justify the investment.


But here's the thing: traceability is like a little shortcut to quality. Generally, if you're willing to spend a bit more on coffee, you're likely to get better quality and better-tasting coffee, and more of that money is likely to go back to the producer. So, it's worth investing a little more for a better coffee experience.


Where you buy will impact the information!


When it comes to buying coffee, there's a big difference between what you'll find in a supermarket and what you'll get from a specialty coffee roaster.


Let's start with the supermarket option. It's definitely cheaper and convenient. You can pick up a bag of coffee along with your groceries without much hassle. Supermarkets typically offer the lowest prices around. However, here's the catch: they don't treat coffee like fresh food. They often don't care about when the coffee was roasted; instead, they provide a best-before date.


Supermarkets usually buy coffee from a single supplier through a centralized distribution center, which then finds its way onto the shelves. This process can take months from the coffee being produced to being sold. So, freshness becomes a real issue. While you might stumble upon some decent coffees that are traceable and well-roasted, the trade-off here is freshness.


Supermarket Coffee
Supermarket Coffee



When buying coffee, prioritize freshness. Coffee loses its aromatics and becomes stale over time. While it may still be safe to consume, it won't be at its best. Look for the roasting date on specialty coffee bags, as they typically provide this information. However, supermarkets often display a best-before date instead of the roasting date, leaving you unsure about the coffee's freshness.


Now, let's talk about tasting notes. When you see descriptions like "caramel notes" on a coffee bag, it sounds delicious, right? But sometimes, these words can be misleading. People might assume they're buying a flavored coffee, as if caramel has been added to the beans, leading to confusion for the customer.


In reality, tasting notes on coffee bags usually come from a comparison test. If you're only buying one bag and can't compare it to another coffee, you might not notice all of those flavors. It's important to remember that these notes are subtle hints within the usual coffee flavor; it's still coffee.


When it comes to roast, a medium to light roast will deliver more flavor, showcasing the uniqueness of each coffee with a bit more acidity, less bitterness, and pleasant sweetness. On the other hand, a dark roast will taste more bitter, with less acidity, and fewer nuanced flavors.


Whole bean or grind beans?

Opting for whole coffee beans offers better value for money. When you grind coffee, the clock starts ticking. You might only have one or two days to enjoy it at its best. While it may still be safe to consume after that, it won't be the same as when you first bought it. Whole beans, on the other hand, last much longer, preserving their freshness and flavor for an extended period.


In the world of coffee, you'll find different flavor profiles depending on the processing method used.


Clean, non-complex flavors are often found in washed coffee. This process involves removing the outer layers of the coffee cherry before drying the beans.


On the other hand, fermented coffee, if the beans were ripe and dry inside the fruit, can exhibit fruity and funky notes in the descriptions. If you prefer tropical notes like pineapple, mango, or oranges, look for coffees that have undergone this process. This type of coffee can taste quite different from the usual coffee flavor and may not be to everyone's liking. If you're not a fan of fermented fruit flavors, it's best to avoid this kind of coffee.


For something in between, consider honey-processed coffee. In this method, the ripe coffee cherries are pulped to remove the outer skin, but some or all of the mucilage—the sticky layer surrounding the beans—is left intact during drying. The fermentation of sugars in the mucilage during drying can impart unique flavors to the beans, providing a balance between clean and fruity notes (Learn more about our process).

Buying good coffee involves considering various factors such as traceability, freshness, roasting, tasting notes, and processing methods. Prioritize traceable coffee from reputable sources, choose freshly roasted beans, understand tasting notes, and select the right processing method for your preferences.


Remember to look for roasting dates on the packaging, opt for whole beans for better freshness, and explore different processing methods to discover unique flavor profiles. With these tips in mind, you'll be well-equipped to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee that suits your taste preferences every morning.

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1 Comment

CelestE. Another superb blog post, although you summarized James Hoffman's video "A Beginner's Guide to Buying Great Coffee" pretty closely at points and didn't give him credit which also denies your reader "traceability" to his body of work... :( As a former teacher and part time editor, I can see the value in this post BUT there is really no fault in telling the audience you are basically combining a fantastic video synopsis with your personal experience and elevating Mr. Hoffmann's work by giving a direct (and agreeable) example of what he's trying to say. In fact, by adding him directly in your article it will rank higher as an informative blog post and therefore higher in the SEOing. A…

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