Coffee beans aren’t hard to find. They’re available at all the major supermarkets, gourmet stores, specialty shops, and cafés.
The trouble when buying coffee is the wealth of choices – bags and bags of beans available for fresh roasting. It can seem impossible to make the best choice.
Here’s some inside knowledge to help you. Just follow these 10 top tips.
- Always buy freshly roasted coffee. No matter where you shop. Check the bottom of the bag for the date in a supermarket, or ask a salesperson about the roasting day. Most specialty shops will roast coffee daily.
- Trust your instincts. Avoid bins with splintered or broken beans. Great beans always look and – most importantly – smell very appealing.
- Taste before you buy. When you can. If you can’t, then at least give them a good whiff. Ferment and smoke damage can be easily detected.
- Feel the beans, too. Fragile beans may have been over-dried or dried at too high of a temperature. Or you may find the opposite problems: pliable beans that were not dried enough (and may be vulnerable to mold growth).
Know your flavor profile. This is just a fancy way of saying “your personal preferences.” For example, do you prefer a light or dark roast? French or Italian roast are terms used for darkly roasted coffees. Some enjoy them, but the high temperatures of the toast can result in some of their attributes being burned away or disguising the beans’ shortcomings.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to coffee flavor. Do you enjoy coffee that’s mild? Full-bodied? Floral? Nutty? The more you try, the more you’ll know.
- Start with the 3 main flavor categories. To understand what you like and dislike, ask someone to direct you to beans that are bitter chocolate, beans that are nutty sweet, and beans that have an acidic fruit flavor. Most people favor one of the three.
- Invest in storage and equipment. Fresh coffee tastes better. So don’t buy the good stuff and then let it lose its luster once you get it home. Buy protective jars and equipment to keep it at its peak. And throw the coffee out once it is past its “Best By” date.
- Look for green coffee beans that are uniform in size. You want to make sure they roast evenly. That’s simply not possible if you have both small and large beans in the same batch.
- Avoid beans with uneven coloring or faded edges. These can be signs of problems with drying, processing, or storage. You want beans that look vibrant and uniform in color.
- Avoid the supermarket. In the beginning, you may need more guidance to ensure you find the right beans and blends for your tastes. While some specialty supermarkets may be able to offer you this kind of expertise, they are less likely to than a shop that specializes in coffee.
You may not be an expert, but now the next time you’re buying coffee, you can feel confident that you have an insider’s instinct in making the purchase.
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