- The American coffee experience
- What makes a good quality coffee bean?
- How to look at a coffee package
The American coffee experience
Even if there’s not a one-size-fits-all coffee bean, the urge is always there. On any given day, Americans will prefer drinking coffee to any other beverage, except for water. They’ll lift 400 million cups of coffee a day and not just for the morning kick to prepare for a busy day. Drinking coffee is now an experience in itself.
Before we dive into the right coffee bean flavor for you, let’s see what the average consumer looks like. They will start with a 9-ounce cup of medium roast coffee every day at home, sweetened (or creamy) and caffeinated. They will have one during a meal and another one between meals, with a total of 3 cups a day. Their preferred brand will be Folgers most likely, and Starbucks will only come second by a wide margin believe it or not.
Stats may be a good starting point, but they’re not enough. You will want to create your own coffee experience which will start by selecting the right beans. There will be some trial and error until you find the one that fits you best, but here’s a quick guide to set you on the right path.
What makes a good quality coffee bean?
Drinking coffee is a multi-sensory experience and it’s important to consider these different senses when choosing the right coffee bean for you.
Visually, the coffee bean’s appearance will tend to be either light or dark depending on the roasting method. However, both can be equally good quality.
- Lightly roasted beans: they’ve been roasted for less time and they usually look drier than the dark ones (but should not look powdery). These beans have a smoother taste and depending on how they’ve been roasted, they exhibit different levels of acidity. Like Black Rifle Coffee Silencer Smooth (Light Roast)
- Dark roasted beans: since they’ve been roasted much longer they’ll release more oils to the surface making them look shinier. Their taste is more bitter and bold. Similar to Kicking Horse Coffee, Grizzly Claw, Dark Roast
You should also look for whole and undamaged beans. Avoid those that have been fractured, cracked, or broken into pieces. Now, if it’s just one or two like that it doesn’t matter. You should worry if it’s more than ¼ of the bag.
The smell is as important as the appearance. A good quality bean will show no signs of rancid, sour, or “off” smells. In addition, if they smell too raw (woody-like) or a little bit burnt, you’ll know that the roasting has not been done properly. Take time to feel them and trust your nose buds.
The taste will come after when the beans have been already mixed and ready for your first sip. As a rule of thumb, test your coffee black first to get an idea of the flavor and quality. After the first sip, add your usual additives and try again. If these overpower the coffee’s flavor, beans are not doing their work. Additives should enhance the flavor, not mask it entirely.
Both smell and taste are heavily influenced by the bean’s freshness level. As with any other fruit, it can go bad so it’s important to use beans that have been roasted no more than a month before to maximize its flavor. Good quality beans always have a date printed on their package showing when they were roasted. Don’t confuse it with the “use by” date. If it only has a “use by” date, move on. Remember, coffee is at its peak flavor within days of roasting.
Pro tip: ask the vendor for the bestselling bean to start your palette tasting. These are the most replenished ones so they will tend to be the freshest.
The old and stale coffee will certainly have a flat and weak flavor while the fresh one will emanate a delightful taste from the first to the last sip. To be on the safe side, try buying smaller packages so that you have enough for one or two weeks. You’ll be consuming freshly roasted coffee more frequently.
Once you have these guidelines into account the rest is up for trial and error until you find the right one for you.
How to look at a coffee package
Here’s a quick overview:
- Type of bean: there are 4 types of beans (Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa) with different flavor profiles depending on their processing method and roasting level. In general, Arabica will be sweeter, light body, and fruitier. The other three will taste more bittersweet, earthier, and full-body. You can also find blends between these but start with one type of coffee to appreciate the differences.
- Caffeine content: every bean type has a different caffeine level with Excelsa having the lowest level (1g per 100g of bean), followed by Liberica (1.23g/100g), Arabica (1.61g/100g), and Robusta (2.26g/100g). Knowing how much caffeine you want can also help you decide which coffee bean to buy.
- Altitude: beans are grown at different elevations ranging from 1970 feet to 5000 feet. The rule of thumb is that the higher the altitude the more pronounced and distinctive its taste. Beans grown at a lower altitude are usually lightly roasted since they’re not very robust.
- Roast level: there are three main types (light, medium, and dark). The light roast tends to be fruitier, with floral notes and a lighter body. The medium ones are less acidic, sweeter, and have a smooth finish. Finally, the dark roast is bitter, a bit spicy, and offers a full-body experience.
- Roast date: beans release a significant dose of CO2 a few days after roasting which can bring high acidity and sourness to the fresh beans. Thus, you will be better off drinking coffee from 5 days to a month after roasting.
And if you’re still unsure, here’s our selection of the 3 best coffee beans in the market. One for each level of roast. And each one from a different country with a rich history of coffee production. You can’t go wrong.
Light roast, high caffeine and dark roast. Enjoy!
To discover further recommendations from us, take a look at our Quick recommendation of the Top 3 Coffee Beans Morning Experience.
Don't forget you need a quality coffee maker. We've hand picked some Best Manual Coffee Makers: Featuring Aeropress Chemex Hario and more.