Written by: Garrett Oden
The world’s best coffee is out there, but it may not be where you would expect. With a little knowledge and some direction, I’ll show you how to find it.
Hint: it’s not at the supermarket.
There’s a lot of bad coffee in the world (sadly), and much of it is disguised as great coffee. Much of finding great coffee is being able to see past the deception of bad coffee, so let’s begin with reading
Know How To Read Coffee Packaging
The best coffees in the world can be spotted by the packaging - if you know what to look for. Here are some elements that let you know that the coffee roaster is highly concerned with freshness and quality.
“Roasted On” Date - Roasted coffee has about two to three weeks of peak freshness before the nuance, crisp flavors begin to decline. A clear display of the exact date the coffee was roasted lets you know that the roaster is highly concerned with transparency and freshness.
Flavor Descriptors - Roasters that provide specific flavor descriptors for their coffee are roasters who are confident and not afraid of being called out for fake flavors. These roasters want to empower you to taste the nuance in coffee.
Origin Transparency - Roasters that pull you into the story of a coffee’s origin are proud of their sourcing practices, farmer partners, and coffee. The more transparent a roaster is, the more likely they are buying very
Of course, these three items don’t guarantee that a bag of coffee holds true liquid gold. Some roasters provide this information before they develop the roasting skills that lead to the world’s best coffee. Always look for these items anyway!
Here are a few things you should avoid. If a roaster includes these items on his coffee packaging, I guarantee you: it won’t be among the world’s best.
“Gourmet” or “Premium” - These are buzzwords with no substance. Some of the world’s lowest quality sells with these words on the packaging. Though “Premium” grade coffee is a high grade of green coffee, coffee advertised this way is never what you expect.
“Best By” Date - Coffee bags with this kind of date are deceiving you. No coffee is in its best condition for 3 or 4 months. Ever.
Cliche Flavor Descriptors - The easiest way to describe over roasted, ashy coffee is to say it tastes like dark chocolate (accounts for the bitterness), citrus (accounts for the acidity), and nuts (accounts for bad flavor - sometimes). If you see these flavor descriptors, the coffee was probably not roasted to perfection.
For more information: How To Read Coffee Packaging Like A Pro.
Buy Coffee From The Right Places
Supermarkets aren’t interested in coffee freshness or quality, no matter how well they treat their produce section. With coffee, they want sales. Stale, pre-ground, unethically sourced - it doesn’t matter to 99% of supermarkets.
Here are the places you want to look for stellar coffee.
Your Local Coffee Shop
If your local coffee shop sells packaged whole beans, you may be in luck. Check the packaging and use your critical eye to see if it meets our standards.
Sadly, some coffee shops still sell terrible coffee. If they sell it pre-ground, avoid at all cost (not to be confused with batch-grinding coffee for customers who buy whole beans). If they scoop coffee out of giant bins, stay away (it’s never fresh). If you don’t like the way the coffee tastes when they brew it, why are you even there in the first place?
If the coffee packaging checks out, along with the coffee shop’s values on freshness and quality, excellent! Hopefully, it’s a great source of coffee beans.
Your Local Roaster
It should go without saying, but you cannot get fresher coffee than buying it from a coffee roaster. You can find roasters selling their own coffee at their own coffee shops, tasting rooms, or public events like farmer’s markets.
As always, give the packaging a quick check to evaluate the roaster’s values and quality standards. Newer roasters may not have all the information you’re looking for on their packaging. Luckily, they’re right there, so ask all your questions!