When it comes to coffee, everyone has an opinion – from casual coffee drinkers you meet in a cafe to the retailers who sell beans in bulk.
These experts of varying degrees will suggest what types of coffee beans to buy and why. They will recommend various countries that export coffees. There are dark beans and light beans, green and brown beans, costly exotic varieties and cheaper branded beans.
So how in the world do you make an intelligent choice? We’ve got you covered. Here is a quick primer on how to buy coffee beans.
Don’t be squeamish. This is a hands-on experience. Smell the beans and handle them as well. If you can, taste before you buy. Trust your instincts: if the beans smell great, go ahead and buy them. If not, discard them.
Select the right variety. There are two varieties of coffee beans: Coffee Arabica and Coffee Robusta. Always opt for Arabica. They are higher quality.
Beans should be uniform in size. This allows for an even roast. Otherwise, smaller beans will roast faster than larger ones.
Avoid beans that are uneven or dull in color. There may be other issues in the processing and drying, such as a lack of bean density separation to permitting bean pulp to be present in the tanks.
Make sure the seller separates lots of beans. Beans of different varieties and from different geographic areas should be kept separate during harvesting, processing, and cupping.
Arabica beans should be even and bright — not dull and uneven. That might mean drying or processing was not performed correctly.
Look for whitish or faded edges. The white color is a sign that this part of the bean has higher moisture than other parts of the bean. This usually happens when beans are not dried properly, or they may have been stored in a humid environment. The result? A bland, boring cup of coffee.
Look for a little pink skin on the beans or inside the crack of the beans. It may suggest a defect, which you can determine when ‘cupping.’ These beans may be sold as specialty — since some areas do not consider this a serious defect. Be wary of them.
Find out the region. Geography makes a big impact on the taste. For example, beans from Brazil have a mild acidity, and a dry, spicy, sweet flavor, while beans from Java have high acidity and a mellow, smooth, smoky flavor.
Look for brownish tinges on green coffee beans. This is a result of harvesting over-ripe coffee cherries. But be aware: brown silverskin, which is attached to the bean, is not considered a defect.
Green beans shouldn’t be fragile. This is a sign that the beans have been over-dried or dried at too high of a temperature.
Also, avoid green beans that are pliable. This is a sign that they haven’t been dried correctly. This can allow for mold growth.
Don’t be afraid to ask. One of the best ways to learn about coffee beans is to hit up those experts mentioned earlier. Coffee is a complex subject, so dive in. If you find a bean you like or hate, learn more about it. This will help you better identify other coffee beans to try in the future.
Remember, your selections will only improve with time. Filter out what people tell you, and enjoy the experience. Follow your own instincts and taste preferences to make your own choices.
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