There are many things to consider when making sure a cup of coffee tastes great, but starting with high quality coffee beans that appeal to your personal taste is quite possibly the most important.
Your coffee bean selection is the foundation of your beverage. We're taking a look at the questions we need to ask ourselves when choosing a bag of beans—and the various places the answers can lead us. After all, making the right coffee choice can make you the hero of every party... even if it's a daily 7am party for one in the kitchen.
When selecting a coffee, it is important to first consider your audience: Who is this coffee for? While choosing a coffee for yourself can still prove challenging, this becomes even more difficult when you have to take the coffee preferences of others into consideration. More on that later...
If the coffee is for you, decide if you want something familiar that you typically enjoy, or if you want to be adventurous. For example, if you often buy Homestead and want to try something different, yet familiar, try selecting a Single Origin coffee (coffee that comes from one place and shows off the unique characteristics of that particular place) from Latin America like Bella Vista from Guatemala. If it’s adventure that you seek, maybe it’s time to try a coffee from a different origin—if you regularly find yourself buying Latin American coffees, try something from eastern Africa.
When buying coffee for someone else, a good starting point might be considering the types of desserts they typically enjoy. Do they generally go for something with more unique flavors, or are they more of a chocolate cake kinda person? For the folks who are into unique flavors, try something with notes of sweet fruit and flowers like Mordecofe from Ethiopia. If they lean more toward chocolatey desserts, they might enjoy something more subtle, and easy drinking, like El Puente from Honduras.
Finally, when bringing a coffee to share for a gathering, you’ll want to think about the variety of people who are there. If you’re not sure of everyone’s preferences or if there are a lot of differing preferences, it’s always good to play it safe and go for a crowd pleaser. In that case, a blend like Holler Mountain is a great choice. Whatever the situation you find yourself in, comparing the flavor preferences of the coffee drinker with the flavor notes on the bag can be a really helpful way to make the decision a little easier.
It's not just the audience we need to consider; we also want to account for how the coffee will be prepared. If you’ve got a whole coffee set up complete with your own grinder, hot water kettle, scale etc., the coffee world is your oyster! Grab a bag of the latest Single Origin, your favorite brewer and get brewing. However, heading into the coffee-brewing-unknown, you might sometimes find yourself in a less than ideal brewing situation that won’t show off all the sparkling notes your coffee selection has to offer. In that case, look for coffee with deeper flavor notes like chocolate and caramel, perhaps something from Indonesia, like Bies Penantan, or from Central America, like El Injerto Bourbon from Guatemala. Or keep it simple with a blend with similar flavor notes, like Hair Bender. Coffees with these kinds of notes stand out even when the brewing conditions are not optimal.
We’ve discussed a few common situations that you may find yourself needing coffee for, and hopefully you’re feeling better prepared to choose your next bag of beans. If you are still feeling under-prepared for making a decision next time you stop by the cafe, know that a good barista should be able to help guide you through the process. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help and maybe be willing to try something new!
The wonderful thing about coffee is that there are so many options. Even coffees from the same country can taste very different from each other, so if you don’t enjoy one, you may like another. Keep an open mind, check out the flavor notes for some guidance and you’ll find your way to your new favorite coffee beans.
Tl;dr (Shorthand Guide):