Just what is the best coffee bean? Do you know...?

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There are many contenders for the crown of the best coffee bean... This article takes you through a brief overview of some of the possibilities for the best coffee bean, but I do leave it up to you to decide!

Arabica or Robusta?

However, if you have tried Arabica Coffee Beans, you'll know that they generally produce a smoother, lower caffeine, lower body, and (perhaps) a more refreshing coffee with more delicate flavors.

But its Robusta Coffee beans cousin has a higher coffee caffeine content, more pronounced 'boldness', and a better price. Some blends, such as the Brazilian coffee or Espresso even dare to mix the two beans.

Pre-ground or whole bean?

If you are buying ground coffee, you'll find many choices of roast, bean type, organic and even Fair Trade that may qualify for 'best coffee bean'. But you'll need to take care of the ground coffee so that you can preserve the most flavor in your cup. Some general tips include

  1. Keep the coffee in an airtight canister to prevent flavor loss
  2. Put the ground coffee in the refrigerator (NOT the beans!)
  3. Don't buy packs that are too big, or you will find that the even the best coffee bean tends to become tasteless as time goes by
  4. Try to use the coffee within about 2 weeks at the very most
  5. Buying smaller packs is the best way to keep the freshest coffee

Do try different flavors of coffee, types of beans, and grades of roast as you experiment to find what flavors suit you!

Grinding Your Own?

Of course, I much prefer to buy decent whole coffee beans and well-known coffee brands, and spend the time grinding them myself. This delivers a more satisfying flavor and much fresher, too. After all, that's what this site is all about!

If you are grinding, remember

  1. Don't grind too much at once
  2. Don't overgrind the beans or you'll get coffee sludge
  3. Keep the beans in an airtight canister
  4. Match your grind with your brewing method
  5. Use a decent grinder to get the best quality grind

Once you've experimented with different coffee products, beans, roasts, and grinds, you'll find that the days of the instant coffee jar are long gone! And all for the best, wouldn't you say?

But your quest for the best coffee bean may not be over yet? Have you considered these...?

Single origin or multi-origin?

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Is it single origin or multi-origin? What's the difference? Well, in short, single origin beans will come from a single locality and be mixed with other beans from the nearby farms.

Though the definition can be flexible because it could refer to a single farm, region or even country, the flavor of single origin coffee tends to be more defined and distinctive than the more multi-origin or 'generic' mixes.

For example, Ethiopia Yirgacheffe or Guatemala Fuego would be regional single-origin beans.

Multi-origin coffee is the latest buzz word for blends, though the choice of individual blends may be more carefully done than the larger brands would choose. Multi-origin coffee may even come from different continents as beans are matched for their qualities to produce a more balanced drink.

French Roast, for example, often incorporates beans from several origins, but since the roast is very dark, the flavor of the beans can be overpowered by the roasting flavors.

Good multi-origin coffee brands will detail the individual beans as well as why they complement each other. Look for hints on the packets labels or ingredients labels to find out the beans' origins.

It's really difficult to say whether you'll get the best coffee bean by buying single-origin beans. In fact, many popular choices for coffee incorporate other beans to balance, add flavors, or tone down unpleasant overtones. A good coffee roasting company will be able to blend much more favorable mixes of coffee beans, so I'd encourage you to try both of these!

Free trade or Fair Trade?

Nowadays, many coffee drinkers put considerable effort into buying what are known as organic Fair Trade Coffee brands, as their attempt to find the best coffee bean. The concept is that by buying Fair Trade Beans, you will end up putting more money into the hands of the farmers than via conventional free trade. It's an attractive idea to know that the coffee your sipping has not only made a great drink, but that you have done your part to improve the lot of coffee growers!

Though wrapped up in issues of social justice, the results of the first Fair Trade coffees were less than spectacular as the coffees that were initially sold in European countries just did not match the regular quality standards, both in terms of packaging and product quality.

This may have been the result of the inexperience of organizations, like Oxfam, in procuring, preparing and selling coffee-related products. (Personally, I wanted to like Fair Trade Coffee in the 90's… but couldn't.)

In 2000's many well-known coffee companies in Europe started to purchase and sell much higher quality Fair Trade Coffees. With higher quality blending and roasting, these brands have found far greater acceptance in the marketplace. The quality problems, even for me, have been solved to the benefit of Fair Trade Farmers everywhere.

Organic: ain't it natural?

Left: First Colony's Organic Rainforest Blend.Rainforest Coffee Beans Close-Up

Coffee purists often reckon the best coffee bean is, in fact, organic. While the definition of organic isn't precisely defined in law, some organic farming associations emphasize organic farming techniques, standards and abstinence from artificial pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.

Brands of Fair Trade coffees are often (but not always) organic beans, so check that category when you're shopping. In 2006, the organic crop was estimated at 1% of the full coffee crop. You'll likely find prices higher, and you may not always find a wide selection of beans that are organic. But ask if you don't see what you want.

Where can you find the best coffee bean?

Still no luck? Then see some of the best whole coffee beans available, ask around, check out some gourmet coffee clubs for advice, and keep looking! And don't despair, we'll help to guide you away from some of the worse mistakes, or at least we'll try!

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