A Beginner's Guide to Buying Roasted Coffee

Photo by Charlie Solorzano on Unsplash

If you are new to coffee, you might be wondering about the best coffee origin, what brand of coffee to buy or where to buy good coffee. 

Here are five things to consider before buying a bag of roasted coffee. Whether you’re buying from your local café, grocery store or a random roastery that you found online, these principles will help you to find the perfect coffee.

1. Roast date

Freshness is essential in brewing delicious coffee. It is recommended that coffee is brewed between one to four weeks after roast. Coffee that is consumed immediately after roasting would result in a bitter flavour, whereas old coffee (i.e. an extended period of time between roasting and consumption) will result in a stale and flat flavour. However, the freshness of the coffee can be extended if it is bagged in a nitrogen flushed seal package.

2. Packaging

The type of packaging determines how fast coffee is oxidised (Oxidation occurs when the chemicals change due to the coffee being exposed to oxygen). Seal, nitrogen flushed, and vacuum seal bags are some of the examples of packaging that slows down the oxidation process significantly. However, it's not enough. It has to be resealable after opening to keep the freshness.

Further, roasted coffee releases carbon dioxide, and unless it has a way out, the bag will be inflated. This problem can be solved through using a one way valve system. Ensure that special attention is given to the two way valves, as air can come in and out from the packaging and encourages oxidation process.

3. Origin

Knowing coffee origin is not only useful to know the natural flavours, but also it can be used as the first signpost for a sustainable product.

If a coffee roaster or café can tell you where they source their coffee (such as the origin, region, the farmers/ cooperative/ washing station), then chances are that they're getting their coffee from a trusted green beans buyer who cares about coffee farmers.

Remember that coffee farmers work really hard to produce great coffee. So buying coffee that is sourced ethically also helps the farmers financially.

4. Whole beans

Grinding the coffee just before brewing gives you the best result. Once the coffee is grounded, the aromatic compound (i.e. the flavour) is degraded at a faster rate. Thus, it's better to buy coffee as whole beans.

If you don't have access to a good coffee grinder (including spice grinder), buy your coffee in a small quantity and ask your local café or roastery to grind it just enough for one to two days of brewing.

Luckily, excellent grinders are also extremely affordable! Here's my recommendation for automatic grinder and hand grinder. Disclaimer: I'm not getting paid for the endorsement.

5. Roast degree

Roast degree is essential for determining how much of the natural flavour and quality of the coffee will be expressed when it is brewed. This is determined by measuring the colour, but care should be taken when roasting, because it’s a tricky process! A darker coffee roast will most likely have a diminished flavour and quality, eventually leading to a more bitter and burnt flavour. On the other hand, really light roasted coffee will fail to express the real flavour and quality, eventually leading to a vegetal and sour flavour. While it seems challenging to achieve an optimal coffee roast, the results will definitely pay off!

Photo by Kyle Ryan on Unsplash