How to Choose Coffee Beans That Taste Delicious

By: Molly Apel
May 13, 2020

How to Choose Coffee Beans That Taste Delicious

  • If you’re brewing more coffee at home, you’ve likely encountered the challenge of buying coffee — where do you start?
  • Coffee flavor depends on five variables: variety, region, roast, grind and storage.
  • Follow this guide to choose the right coffee beans to brew into your perfect cup of morning deliciousness.

In quarantine, you’re now your own barista, on top of being your own hair stylist and chef. If you’re used to grabbing coffee on the way to the office, you probably appreciate your local coffee shop more than ever (and if they’re open for take-out, visit if you can!). But if you want to make better coffee at home, you have options. It all starts with the beans. This coffee guide will make choosing coffee way easier.

From variety and region to roast and grind, here’s a breakdown of the factors to help you buy coffee beans that will make the perfect cup of coffee, whether you’re shopping online or at the grocery store.

What are the different types of coffee beans?

Variety of coffee beans

There are as many varieties of coffee bean as there are wine grapes. To make it easy on us, the coffee industry depends mostly on varietals that fall into two categories — Arabica and Robusta.

  • Arabica has the delicate flavor and low acidity of coffee you’ll find at most coffee shops. For an easy-drinking everyday brew, go with Arabica beans. You’ll find this information on the coffee packaging.
  • Robusta beans can be grown in harsher climates with less water, which makes them more economical to grow. That said, these beans also have a more acidic and bitter flavor — not what you want in your perfect cup.

Where is the coffee grown?

Coffee beans and coffee berries

If you’ve tasted a variety of coffee, you know that different coffee regions deliver wildly different flavors. When you’re buying coffee, the flavor will depend largely on where it was grown.

Seem like a lot of information to go over in the coffee aisle? Don’t worry, this coffee guide has you covered:

Here are some characteristic flavor notes of the broader coffee-growing regions:

Central America

  • Smooth
  • Fruity
  • Subtly nutty
  • Bright, acidic (not sour)

South America

  • Slight sweetness
  • Mellow
  • Hints of caramel and honey (especially Colombian coffee)

Asia

  • Woody
  • Earthy
  • Low-acidity

Africa

  • Hints of wine, berry
  • Fruity, floral
  • Ethiopia’s trademark is its strong blueberry flavor

Single-origin coffees with a light to medium roast will allow the coffee’s unique regional characteristics to shine through.

Another consideration when choosing the perfect coffee bean is elevation. Read the package and look for coffee grown at high altitudes, which develops a richer and fuller flavor than coffee grown closer to sea level.

How do you choose a coffee roast?

Closeup of French press coffee maker

What coffee guide would be complete without an in-depth explanation about roasts and what they mean?

Coffee is roasted to bring out the flavor of the bean. To complicate matters, coffee isn’t all roasted the same amount. Lighter roasts deliver the flavor of berries, caramel, chocolate, spice, or even floral notes. Darker roasts tend to bring out a stronger toasted flavor that can overpower the lighter regional flavors.

It’s a common misconception that the darker and more bitter your coffee is, the more caffeine it has. That’s not true. Roasting burns off caffeine, so light roasts pack more of a punch than dark roasts. One roast isn’t necessarily better than the other — it all comes down to preference.

Light

Light roast means the coffee beans were exposed to heat for the least amount of time, and the finished product is light brown in color. Coffee beans pop at around 380°F to 400°F, known as “first crack,” then again between 435°F and 450°F, “second crack.” Roasters remove light roasts from heat just past the first crack.

Light roasts retain the regional characteristics of the bean. The flavor profile is smooth, bright and not bitter at all, as long as brewing temperatures stay below 205°F. A light roast also delivers the highest acidity, which in coffee speak isn’t the same as sourness. No coffee should taste sour. (If your coffee is sour, it means something went wrong at some point in the production process.) Instead, acidity refers to the bright, vibrant quality of coffee.

Medium

Roasters remove coffee beans from the heat source just before the second crack to get a medium roast. Medium roasts lose a bit of acidity and take on a more roasty-toasty flavor. This flavor overpowers some of the regional notes, although the regional characteristics still come through to a degree. Medium roasts have a little less caffeine than light roasts, and more than dark roasts.

Dark

To achieve a dark roast, coffee roasters heat beans to second crack and then some. High temperatures extract a lot of the natural oils, so beans take on a shiny, dark brown character. The roasted flavors come out, and the resulting coffee can taste bitter.

Since dark roasts cook the longest, they have the least amount of caffeine. As far as flavor goes, a dark roast cup of coffee doesn’t have the bright acidity that lighter roasts have, and you can barely detect regional characteristics. People who appreciate the roasted quality over subtle regional flavors will favor dark roasts over light or medium.

What about Bulletproof Coffee Beans?

Bulletproof Coffee Beans next to Chemex

Bulletproof Coffee Beans are 100% Arabica beans, available in four different roasts: light, medium, medium-dark and dark.

They’re tested for toxins, which is a big deal when you drink coffee every day — you want coffee that tastes good and makes you feel even better.

Bulletproof Coffee Beans deliver in the following ways:

  • Grown in direct partnership with Rainforest Alliance Certified farmers to ensure sustainable operations
  • Single-origin beans grown on high-altitude estates in Guatemala or South America, depending on the season
  • Delicious whether you drink your coffee black or enjoy Bulletproof Coffee

Learn more about what makes Bulletproof Coffee Beans different.

With your new coffee knowledge, you’ll know what to look for when you’re shopping for coffee beans. The best way to figure out what coffee beans work for you is to taste a wide variety. Sip dark roasts, try a new variety of beans from South America and pay attention to whatever makes your taste buds happy.

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