The two main questions to ask yourself before bean buying are:
- What coffee do I enjoy? Mild or full-bodied? Nutty? Smooth? There are many different kinds of coffee to choose from.
- What roast do I like? Different roasters treat their coffee to lighter or darker roasts. French and Italian are dark roasts while Central America produces beans suitable for light roast.
If you are a serious coffee drinker you may want to research your nearest speciality shop where the salespeople know their beans and can help educate you and you can try before you buy. This will help you determine what kind of coffee and roast you like. Trust your senses and go with what suits you. Remember good beans look and smell appetizing.
Ask when the coffee is roasted - many specialty shops will roast coffee daily.
If you're buying coffee in the supermarket, check the bottom of the bag for the date the coffee was roasted, or a best before date.
Look at labels - estate beans are grown on a single farm. Some beans are blended. Flavoured coffees are infused with liquid such as chocolate, vanilla or nuts but don't often use the highest-quality bean.
If you are buying bagged coffee in a supermarket 100% Columbian or Hawaiian are a good choice.
Store coffee beans and ground coffee in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. If you won't use the beans within a week, or ground coffee within a few days, you can freeze it.
In summary there's no right or wrong answer to what beans you should buy - it's a lot down to personal choice and how much you can afford to spend. By learning more about the kind of coffee you like, the roast you require and by buying the highest quality beans you can afford your cup should overflow with good coffee.
A guide to the coffee-growing regions:
- Arabian: Ancient coffee often called mocha it has a medium to full body, rich flavour and chocolate tones.
- Brazilian: A medium to moderately dark roast that's sweet and smooth
- Colombian: Dark roast, full-bodied, fruity and acidic
- Costa Rican: Dark roast, dry and medium-bodied
- Ethiopian: Dark roast, sweet, medium-bodied and fruity
- Hawaiian: Medium roast, delicate, dry, sweet and subtle
- Kenyan: Moderate to dark roast, dry and acidic
- Central American: Many areas produce beans suitable for light roasting