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What is sustainable coffee in coffee farming in the 21st century?

Is Sustainable Coffee possible? Is sustainability a real challenge
for coffee farmers, suppliers & consumers?

PurelyCoffeeBeans reckons we have enjoyed good coffee at very reasonable prices from a burgeoning industry that supplies perhaps one of the world’s favorite drinks for years.

But there are challenges on the horizon for different types of coffee beans on many fronts to the future of our favorite drink.

Unsplash: Different types of sustainable coffee beans cherries freshly picked
Credit: Rodrigo Flores on Unsplash

To bring yourself up to speed… check out these links:

What will I learn about…?

Coffee Sustainability: what is sustainable coffee exactly?

The concept of sustainable coffee is rather nebulous at best, however. I shall attempt to define it in three broad categories:

  • I. the cultivation and process of green beans
  • II. purchasing, distribution, processing of those beans
  • III. final destination preparation for coffee drinks and dry coffee

This article hopes to explore the issues of coffee sustainability and ask what we can do to make sure that everyone can continue to enjoy this wonderful product.

It also looks at the role of humans and whether coffee is sustainable for coffee farmers!

What is FairTrade Coffee?

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FairTrade Coffee helps to bridge some of the gap between the farmers and the consumer, like you and me. The general goal is to help farmers and their workers earn equitable rates for coffee beans. But it’s not just for farmers’ incomes, FairTrade coffee aims to support both producers and appropriate practices.

In European countries, many coffee drinkers put considerable effort into buying what are known as Fairtrade coffee brands. It’s a simple concept: that by buying FairTrade Beans, you will end up putting more money into the hands of the farmers than via conventional purchasing systems or the free market.

FairTrade Origins

Fairtrade Coffee is a social movement that is market-based, helping small independent growers of various crops and producers of crafts and other handiworks.

It is intended to help these people become economically independent by supporting their businesses in the growing stages.

This program pays its suppliers a higher price than is usual in order to encourage responsible environmental practices and social standards.

FairTrade Certification

When you buy organic fair trade coffee it will be labeled either “Fair Trade Certified Mark” or “International Fairtrade Certification Mark”. It is required to come from “Flo-Cert” inspectors and producers who are certified through specific standards.

Fairtrade certified products must not come from child labor, unsafe workplaces or any violation of the United Nations charter regarding human rights. These coffee beans are grown without destroying forest canopy, thus preserving an important part of our global environment.

Early Coffees: *Ahem*

Though wrapped up in the issues and history of social injustice, the results of the first FairTrade coffees were less than spectacular. The coffees that were initially sold just did not match the regular quality standards, in terms of packaging, product quality, and distribution.

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 FairTrade Coffee in the 1990’s… but couldn’t bring myself to.)

Organic Just Tastes Better 

Then in the 2000’s many well-known coffee companies in Europe started to purchase and sell much higher quality FairTrade Coffee. 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 FairTrade Farmers everywhere.

Organic fair trade coffee is shade-grown and free of harmful chemicals or pesticides. Many coffee lovers say that they can discern the difference in body and flavor. They like the fact that not only do they get a superior cup of coffee but by paying the farmers a fair wage they are contributing to the farmers’ local communities.

Because they can get a fair price for their goods, these producers are able to educate their children and afford access to health care and decent shelter. With more money, too, the farmers can also invest in their own businesses for the first time. Meaning even better coffee beans.

FairTrade: From Farm to Coffee Cup

After hand-picking the coffee beans, growers sell them to a roaster who also meets Fair Trade requirements; they live up to working and wage standards outlined by Fair Trade Certification.

The FairTrade Coffees then end up in your favorite coffee shops where you can buy them in your favorite drinks, or take them home and make great coffee at home.

When you see the product on your stores’ shelves, you know that you are getting ground coffee and coffee beans that are completely natural and free of many of the harmful practices of large corporate coffee plantations.

Now, doesn’t FairTrade Coffee leave a much better taste in your mouth when you know the coffee growers and roasters get a decent price, too? Especially, if some of the recent coffee you’ve been drinking has a more bitter taste of coffee fraud.

Is growing Coffee in Taiwan possible?
Taiwan’s History, Environmental & Cultural Challenges

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Surprising to many, including PurelyCoffeeBeans, is the fact that Taiwan has a history of coffee growing. During colonial times, regular shipments of coffee to the Japanese market took place. Rediscovering coffee has coincided with a greater interest in 3rd Wave Coffee trends, which focus on natural roasting, fruitier flavors, simpler extraction processes.

After Taiwan’s political control was handed back to the Republic of China and the arrival of a new political class with different tastes, coffee production switched over to tea production or the coffee plants were ripped up in favor of other crops.

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These days, coffee growing in Taiwan is slowly increasing though total volumes are minuscule by comparison with formal coffee regions. Still, there is an upsurge in coffee growing here, and much of the mountain tea growing areas may be suitable to growing coffee, too!

Miniscule Volume: High Prices

But overall coffee volumes are minuscule compared to even third tier coffee producing countries. And if you buy ‘Taiwan coffee’, it’s may be mixed with beans from Indonesia and/or Vietnam so it’s hardly pure!

Drying coffee here presents a challenge due to the high levels of humidity; and blending/roasting are still not on a par with international levels. However, Taiwanese are very inventive, creative, and hardworking. Standards are rising fast.

https://taiwan-scene.com/coffee-in-taiwan-how-an-island-of-tea-drinkers-came-to-love-the-bean/

The coffee growing regions currently include:

  1. Taichung,
  2. Pingtong,
  3. Nantou,
  4. Yunlin,
  5. Taidong,
  6. Chiayi,
  7. Hualien,
  8. Kaohsiung, and
  9. Changhua

… as Taiwan Scene notes. For a little more on the history of coffee growing in Taiwan, check out the article in Taiwan Topics from the American Chamber of Commerce, “Taipei Coffee Culture” by Jules Quartly.

https://topics.amcham.com.tw/2015/01/taipei-coffee-culture-rich-robust-and-satisfying/

I was surprised to find farmers attempting to grow coffee here in Lowland Tamsui despite the challenges. There’s a farmer who only lives about 20 kms from my home! And I’m told that my brother-in-law has tried to grow some in the mountains.

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Cup of Taiwan domestically grown Arabica Coffee from 丹品咖啡園 (Danping Coffee Garden)

Who knows, eh? But serendipity is amazing. Just on the morning this post appeared, my wife came home with about 2lbs of coffee cherries from her garden near our home. So we are looking for ways to dry coffee beans quickly to avoid mould issues in Taiwan’s typically humid atmosphere.

Specialist Coffee Shops in Taipei

In the meantime, you can find some excellent (if expensive) coffee from around the island at the following coffee shop in Datong District.

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San Coffee (森高砂咖啡館) is located at No. 1, Section 2, Yanping North Road, Datong District, Taipei City, 103. It’s near the Dihua Shopping Area, so a trip there can easily be combined with a fine coffee! I should really add it to my recent post about cafes in Taipei!

Coffee Exhibitions & Trade Shows

There is an upcoming Coffee Trade Show that I plan on attending. It’s well worth visiting to discover what is going in the Taiwan coffee scene.

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The local coffee scene is a fast developing one with vast improvements in both quality and availability of coffee everywhere. Of course, you can still stumble upon the nastly stuff… but there is less excuse now than ever when a decent coffee shop is often less than a few minutes away by MRT!


Tell me about Four Other Kinds of Sustainable Coffee

Organic Coffee: Sustainable Coffee

Organic Coffee aims to avoid using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other compounds commonly used in modern farming. Organic means that the coffee is 100% naturally sourced, naturally grown, and produced.

Shade Grown

Shade grown coffee plants were originally grown in the shade of trees, but with recent advances in coffee plantations, more hardened coffee plants were introduced, with the inevitable increase in unsustainable practices. Shade grown coffee is a throwback to traditional techniques.

Non-GMO

Coffee rust disease has been decimating coffee crops across Latin America for years. GMO varieties have been cultivated for increasing coffee plant yield, fighting disease (like coffee rust), and to deal with water shortages, cold in the higher elevations, insects, and help with weed killer. Naturally, customers are apprehensive about the Franken coffees, and seek out non-GMO coffee sources.

Natural Process: Sustainable Coffee

Most coffee cherries, once picked, are wet processed to remove the outer fruit and skin. Dry processing involves letting nature take its time to dry out the beans, and it doesn’t require advanced machinery or power. It is often done in areas where there is less chance of rain, too.

The beans are turned occasionally to ensure that they dry out properly. It may take four weeks to dry out the beans properly. The farmers are waiting for the right level of moisture in the beans for proper storage and further processing into coffee.

How can I buy sustainable coffee? What is the future for sustainable coffee?

Other kinds of sustainable coffee available in the marketplace also include Rainforest Alliance, and Direct Trade. You can find them from good retailers, large Internet stores, and local roasters, too.


Links


What are the different types of coffee beans, find out here!

Signature of PurelyCoffeeBeans in calligraphic brush style

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What are the best espresso beans? 10 tips to buy the best espresso beans!

Choosing the best espresso beans for your morning jolt, as PurelyCoffeeBeans knows, is a matter of personal taste and of knowledge.

Types of Coffee Beans Darkly Roasted
Espresso Roast Photograph by PurelyCoffeeBeans.com

There really isn’t anything especially magical about espresso coffee beans, but when you are drinking your morning espresso, you will notice the difference because of the blending and roasting which differs from other types of coffee beans.

What will I learn about making espresso?

Fresh, Roasting and Storing

Espresso Photography Shots

What are the best coffee beans for making espresso?

Espresso beans are coffee beans that have been dark roasted and designated to make that type of espresso drink.

While light roasts aren’t suitable for espresso, or most medium roasts for that matter, dark roasted coffee beans are quite suitable for making espresso coffee. You can read more about coffee roasts. You can also learn about how to roast coffee.

Which are the best coffee beans for espresso?

The best espresso beans are dark roasted because darker beans offer more sweet notes.  The minute amounts of sugar inside the beans caramelize, making the espresso slightly sweeter and avoiding a bitter aftertaste.

5 tips to buy the best espresso beans!

You won’t really be able to know exactly which are espresso coffee beans until you try them. But there are some basic clues to buy coffee beans that can help:

1. Where you buy them: Avoid buying espresso beans from places where stock turnover is low, or where storage isn’t the best. If you do find espresso coffee beans in your local store be careful that they are not old.

Some beans are sold from bins and it’s essential that they be freshly roasted; air is one of the coffee beans’ worst enemies, robbing them of all the special properties that make espresso so tasty and satisfying.

2. Check the facts on the pack: If you buy espresso beans in a bag be sure to check the roasting date so that you don’t get beans that are old enough to have lost their flavor; also, what hints about the contents do the roasters provide – single estate, multi-regional, traditional blend?

3. Watch the price: Typically, when you buy coffee beans you’ll notice that some blends are roasted dark for a reason – the coffee beans aren’t the best quality, so over-roasting masks the poorer flavor. These coffee beans will typically be cheaper than you’d otherwise pay. So don’t be too cheap if you are looking for the best espresso beans! It’s worth the difference!

4. Look, smell, and taste: Buying the best espresso beans should also be a sensory experience:

  • i. When you look, what do you see? The different colors and depths of colors can stimulate or depress appetite?
  • ii. What about the smell or lack of smell? Can you detect an aroma that pleases you or turns you off completely?
  • iii. What about the taste? Try a coffee bean in your mouth. They are edible, and eating one may help you to determine whether it’s the best espresso beans.

5. Try before you buy: Would that you could… In some stores, you do have the opportunity to try different types of coffee before you buy them home. While commercial coffee brands are pre-packed to certain standards, so you’ll already know what to expect, trying varietals or single-estate coffee beans may help you discover better quality coffees!

What do typical espresso-based drinks look like?

Where can I buy the best espresso beans?

Finding the best espresso can be difficult if you don’t have a local shop that roasts their own beans.  You will rarely find beans of the quality you need for good espresso in your local grocery store.

Those beans are commercially produced and bagged, sometimes reaching the store weeks after they are packaged.  In fact, by the time they are loaded for shipment they’ve already lost most of the qualities that would make a good cup of espresso.

I’ll be including a list of the best espresso bean stores online and offline that I find, in the meantime, why not share which stores you like or don’t like!

Online Sales: Prompt and Freshly Roasted

Thanks to the internet, you also have access to roasted beans from all over the world.  If you order on a Saturday you will more than likely receive your beans in the following few days at the latest.

Most roasters use ground shipment; few of them offer faster delivery by air.  If they are packed properly, however, they will arrive in good condition with all the freshness you want for a good cup of espresso.

Why should you always buy fresh espresso coffee beans?

Thanks to the internet, you also have access to some of the best espresso beans roasted all over the world.  If you order on a Saturday you will more than likely receive your beans on the following Friday at the latest.

Most roasters use ground shipment; very few of them offer faster delivery by air.  If they are packed properly, however, they will arrive in good condition with all the freshness you want for a good cup of espresso.

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How do you roast your own espresso coffee?

You do have the option of roasting your own beans, which isn’t that difficult once you learn the process and perfect your timing and skill.  Roasting machines are fairly inexpensive and if you don’t have access to a nearby shop that roasts their own beans you’ll want to consider this option.

Of course, you’ll find that you will be looking for quality green beans that you can use. Be careful to roast only enough beans to last for a few days to a week; freshly roasted beans will retain the quality needed for espresso for only a short time.

How do you store espresso coffee & beans?

Be sure to store both your unroasted and roasted beans in airtight containers in a cool, dry place—not the refrigerator or the freezer where condensation can ruin the beans.  It is also best to grind only as much as you need for the day, although some people prefer having a few days’ coffee ready for the espresso machine.

I find that even leaving the coffee beans in a sealed bag tends to let the flavor slowly diminish over the days that I don’t store the coffee beans well. This is more so, if you are storing coffee that is already ground. For more storage tips, check this article.

How do you make the best espresso coffee?

Depending on the grind of the coffee beans, you may find that you have a number of choices for your espresso coffee about how you prepare the final cup. The most obvious way, of course, is using a proper espresso machine.


It tends to result in a much better extraction for the espresso, with a fuller flavor, a delightful crema, and a satisfied coffee drinker! Whether you roast your own beans, buy them locally or order from a roaster’s internet site, nothing beats freshly roasted beans when it comes to a good cup of espresso, made with the best coffee beans for espresso.

For a little Sunday morning reading over your coffee, Food Republic’s George Embiricos takes a few minutes to show, describe and link to the definition of Espresso.

https://www.foodrepublic.com/2015/04/10/what-exactly-is-espresso/

How do I tell the best espresso beans?

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You won’t really be able to know exactly how good a batch of espresso coffee beans are until you try them. But there are some basic clues that can help:

1. Where you buy them: Avoid buying espresso beans from places where stock turnover is low, or where storage isn’t the best. If you do find espresso coffee beans in your local store be careful that they are not old. Some beans are sold from bins and it’s essential that they be freshly roasted; air is one of the coffee beans’ worst enemies, robbing them of all the special properties that make espresso so tasty and satisfying.

2. Check the facts on the pack: If you buy espresso beans in a bag be sure to check the roasting date so that you don’t get beans that are old enough to have lost their flavor; also, what hints about the contents do the roasters provide – single estate, multi-regional, traditional blend?

3. Watch the price: Typically, when you buy coffee beans you’ll notice that some blends are roasted dark for a reason – the coffee beans aren’t the best quality, so over-roasting masks the poorer flavor. These coffee beans will typically be cheaper than you’d otherwise pay. So don’t be too cheap!

4. Look, smell, and taste: Buying the best espresso beans should also be a sensory experience:
i. When you look, what do you see? The different colors and depths of colors can stimulate or depress appetite?
ii. What about the smell or lack of smell? Can you detect an aroma that pleases you or turns you off completely?
iii. What about the taste? Try a coffee bean in your mouth. They are edible, and eating one may help you to determine whether it’s good quality espresso beans.

5. Try before you buy: Would that you could… In some stores, you do have the opportunity to try different types of coffee before you buy them home. While commercial coffee brands are pre-packed to certain standards, so you’ll already know what to expect, trying varietals or single-estate coffee beans may help you discover the best quality coffees, like Coffee Review recommends!



What are the different types of coffee beans, find out here!

Signature of PurelyCoffeeBeans in calligraphic brush style

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8 Steps to Buy the Best Coffee Beans – Follow this simple guide

If you love the freshest and best coffee in your cup, you need to buy the best coffee beans that you can. Nothing else will do! Right?

Let's Buy the Best Coffee Beans

Just going to your local supermarket and buying coffee beans isn’t always enough if you’re wanting to buy the best coffee beans — in fact, you could be sabotaging your coffee when you buy some coffee brands.

So what are you going to do to make sure you are buying the best coffee beans?

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I earn commission from any qualifying purchases.

Welcome to PurelyCoffeeBeans! Let me pour you an iced coffee! It’s getting warm outside!

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What will I learn about how to buy the best coffee beans?

1. When I buy the best coffee beans, should I only buy freshly roasted?

While coffee can be kept for several years with the proper storage, it is quite perishable once it is roasted. This is because roasting extracts the oils that give coffee its flavor, body and aroma.

To buy the best coffee beans, ensure that they are freshly roasted so you get the full bouquet and flavor of the finished product. The easiest way to get the best coffee beans is to find a store that roasts on a daily basis.

What type of roast makes the best coffee beans?

What type of roast do you prefer? Dark roasts such as Italian or French roast can be quite good but all too often large commercial manufacturers dark roast for purely financial reasons. Lighter roasts allow more of the flavor to emerge, particularly in the fruity, aromatic coffee beans from Africa.

You can buy the best coffee beans at this local roastery in Taipei
Local roastery checking beans after roasting. (c)Kenneth Dickson 2020.

For the very best cup, be sure the beans are freshly roasted and don’t discount their appearance or their aroma.

Ask your knowledgeable barista if you want to buy the best coffee beans

An expert barista or coffee expert should tell you when the beans were roasted, where they are from and how the coffee will taste. Most shops will allow you to sample their fresh roasts if you’re not sure whether you would like it.

If you can’t find such a specialty shop and must depend on your local supermarket, you can still buy good beans. Avoid purchasing from bins that have beans that are broken, cracked or visibly impaired.

Bins should have a date on them that tells you when the roasting was done; pre-packaged bags of beans usually list the date on the bottom of the bag.

… or why not to buy pre-ground coffee!

Actually, most of this article presents arguments not to buy pre-ground or prepackaged coffee in the supermarket, or indeed anywhere. It’s similar to buying a car from a magazine or a pair of shoes on the Internet… You can’t always be sure what’s actually in the bag when you open it!

Should I buy green coffee beans?

If you are buying green coffee beans yourself to roast at home, pay as much attention to the quality of the beans as you can. Though green beans do keep longer than roasted beans, it’s important to make sure that they are stored well and aren’t discolored (due to molds or damp), damaged by poor handling or insufficient drying of the beans.

 

buy the best coffee beans with the help from Coffee Geek!Photo by (c) Coffee Geek on Unsplash

Also, after roasting, you’ll notice that the weight of your coffee is less due to the removal of moisture from the green coffee beans. Roast Magazine’s article, “BAKED BEANS: Observations on Water Content During Coffee Roasting” by James Davison,” suggests weight loss of around 12.5%, about 80% of which is due to water loss.

If you purchase approximately 15% more green coffee beans, that should give you 1lb or 1kg of light roasted coffee beans. You should read much more about how to buy green coffee beans at Buying Green Coffee Beans.

2. Can I buy the best coffee beans? Are they 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.

3. Is single origin coffee or a multi-origin coffee blend better?

Is it single origin or blend? 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 buying single-origin beans equates means that you can buy the best coffee 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!

4. Which is better for coffee farmers? 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.

5. What is the difference between regular coffee and organic coffee?

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.

6. Is it better to buy whole bean or ground coffee?

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 beans’. 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 once opened
  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!

7. What is the benefit of grinding your own coffee?

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…?

8. If you buy the best coffee beans, how can you tell if the coffee beans are still good?

If you are buying the best coffee beans that you can see – they are unbagged, or in clear containers, ask the barista or store owner if you can inspect a small sample of beans. You will be able to see the beans’ color, quality and condition with your own eyes:

Check for the following signs of bad quality:

  • Broken, mashed or shreds of beans may indicate either over-roasting of the beans or poor storage. In either case, you won’t be getting the best out of these beans!
  • Check for uneven roasting or discoloration of the roasted beans. In short, the beans should ‘look’ delicious and enticing. If they aren’t, put them back!
  • You can also smell the beans in your hand: look for a roasted smell. If you smell stale beans, or there is no smell, then the beans will not make a decent cup of your favorite brew, for sure!
  • You can even taste the beans if you want to. It’s not harmful, and the beans will release some of their flavor or aroma in your mouth. Of course, it won’t taste like a cup of coffee, but at least if it tastes bad, you’ll know!
  • Also, check the size of the beans is similar (esp. if you think you are buying beans from one locale.
  • Lastly, determine the roasting date. You don’t want beans that have lain about the store for months in the summer heat or that haven’t been stored properly! Each day that passes means that roasted beans lose a little more of the flavor that makes them so desirable!

Once you have experienced the smell, colors, feel and taste of the best coffee beans, you will know what to look for, and what to avoid in your choice of coffee beans!

Where can you buy the best coffee beans?

Still no luck? Then see some of the best whole coffee beans available42, ask around, check out some gourmet coffee shops 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 our damndest to help you buy the best coffee beans!


What are the different types of coffee beans, find out here!

Signature of PurelyCoffeeBeans in calligraphic brush style

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Challenge: What is my coffee caffeine limit? What is too much?

Amazing Facts About Coffee Caffeine Content in a nice infographic

PurelyCoffeeBeans shares important facts on about coffee caffeine in your mug of joe! If you’re drinking too much caffeine or if you would like more! Includes suggestions on where to find low levels of coffee caffeine, and introduces an amazing coffee infographic.

What can I learn about my coffee caffeine limit?

How much coffee is too much for me?

Are you looking for higher levels of caffeine in your coffee?

Challenging your coffee caffeine limit?

So if you’re looking for higher levels of coffee caffeine than you may typically find in Arabica based coffee, you may wish to refer to the Robusta coffee beans page.

61This contains information about robusta coffees which typically have higher levels of caffeine than their Arabica Beans cousin, and also check the map on the types of beans page to find countries where Robusta is grown more commonly: typically, Africa, Vietnam, and Brazil, to name just three.

Why is Robusta the poor cousin?

In general, Robusta beans are considered the poor cousin of the coffee bean, because they tend to have a much poorer taste, perhaps even making coffee unpalatable.

However, Robusta is widely grown, and consumed, and is found in many coffees, esp. cheaper instant coffees. Read “What coffee has the most caffeine?” from the Examiner (link missing). They are used in coffees when the coffee roaster needs either a cheaper product or a stronger coffee with more kick.

It’s typically used in brands of coffee that advertise to those challenging their coffee caffeine limit!

Which coffee has caffeine with a kick?

You will find many of the cheaper coffees in the supermarkets are made mostly from Robusta varieties of coffee beans. That includes freeze-dried or instant coffees, as well as the packs of ground coffees from popular brands such as Maxwell House or Folgers or any of a dozen other coffee brands.

Why? Simply, because of cost. These large companies can order huge amounts of coffee beans, to resell to consumers at lower prices.

Though you will find the prices very attractive, it’s doubtful that you will enjoy what you get because the beans are often over-roasted, giving the beans a burnt or even bitter taste. Much of the character of the coffees has been roasted away in favor of the brand flavor.

Which coffee has lots of robusta beans?

While I cannot give you a definitive answer about how much coffee caffeine you will find in the robusta beans in your coffees, (most manufacturers prefer to boast the percentage of Arabica beans!) or which coffees may contain more caffeine, you could try different espresso or Italian style roasts (some of which make good french press coffee, too), or you could simply add more coffee to the coffee maker.

Try doubling up on the amount of coffee you use, since most coffee drinkers tend to follow general guidelines that result in a weaker brew. This works as long as the amount doesn’t overaccentuate other tones, such as bitterness or acid tones in the coffee.

It’s in the Espresso!

Oddly enough, you may wish to try some of the espresso roasts which are darker roasted as these will typically include a percentage of robusta beans, and perhaps more caffeine to provide a European type ‘kick’ to the morning cuppa. Few coffee companies display the amount of caffeine per 100g on the side of packets, which would certainly help you.

My last suggestion: go to a coffee roaster or serious coffee lover’s coffee shop, and just ask. They may be able to direct you to specific blends/estates/regions that present a coffee more suitable to your requirements.

So how much is too much coffee caffeine? What is your coffee caffeine limit?

If you are looking for ‘less caffeine’ in your coffee, you should be looking at medium roasts of Arabica coffee, for the most part. Don’t be purchasing espresso roast or dark Italian roasts unless they are stated to be 100% Arabica, like Lavazza’s Qualita Rossa, or similar. Most espresso bean coffee contains amounts of extra Robusta for the flavor and extra ‘kick’ it provides.

Amazon’s search did throw up a few good suggestions, but no clue on the actual caffeine content, click if you want to see the results.

Which Asian coffee has lots of robusta beans?

Both Vietnam and India grow quite a lot of coffee, usually robusta beans, so you may wish to try those blends. However, as I said, robusta is usually blended with better tasting coffee to tone down the roughness and caffeine content, so it’s difficult to find a purely robusta coffee.

Six Caffeine Facts

After reading how much Mr. Annapurnaiah Kolluri from the Indian Coffee Board drinks, I realized that there really isn’t such a thing as too much coffee, is there?

Health advisers flip back and forth with their highly qualified opinions about how much is too much. And it’s not really about coffee, but rather the caffeine content that we choose to drink (see Caffeine Content found at PurelyCoffeeBeans.com).

There are some surprising caffeine facts that makes people think they are drinking just large amounts of coffee…

Caffeine Fact #1

Espresso has less caffeine per cup than regular cup. But if you find that you are irritable, or feeling nervous (twitchy!), you may want to switch to decaf in the afternoon or early evenings. Even a coffee lover has to slow down sometimes.

Caffeine Fact #2

The ‘strength of the coffee’ as perceived by many drinkers often relates to three factors: the darkness of the roast, the amount of coffee used, and the amount of caffeine in the particular varietal.

Caffeine Fact #3

Coffee, black or espresso, is a very low calorie food that stimulates the body for a short period after consumption. Typically, the caffeine is processed by the body within an hour or so after consumption, meaning that the effects of a cup of coffee are largely very limited to that initial ‘hit’.

Caffeine Fact #4

One surprising fact: darker roasts don’t necessarily contain more caffeine than lighter roasts.

Caffeine Fact #5

Another: Arabica beans are generally lower in caffeine than Robusta beans.

Caffeine Fact #6

Check out this coffee infographic that introduces a wide range of details about coffee — including its origin, its diverse varieties, and the ways that people drink it.

PrintWand Coffee Infographic

Ever hear of Kopi Luwak? At upwards to $600 per pound, Kopi Luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world—and it’s made from an animal’s feces. Kopi Luwak is made by feeding ripe coffee beans to a palm civet (a mammal that lives in southern Asia). The creature’s leavings are later processed into a pricey variety of coffee with a unique taste.

That’s just one of the facts you’ll find in this coffee infographic from PrintWand. It explores a wide range of details about coffee — including its origin, its diverse varieties, and the ways that people drink it. Read on to learn things about your favorite beverage that you never even thought to consider.

For technical reasons, I’ve split it into a gallery. But…

You can view the full infographic here (it’s large!)

So what is your coffee caffeine limit? How much do you need? Would you like more or less? Drop me a line!


What are the different types of coffee beans, find out here!

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What does Mexican coffee taste like? Do Mexican coffee beans taste good?

Mexican Coffee Beans: Affordable, Quality and Certifiably Organic

PurelyCoffeeBeans reckons, coffee lovers who adore Latin American coffee may not be convinced Mexican coffee is a coffee good enough for their cups! But Mexican coffee beans have been grown since the 1700’s, making it one of the oldest producers of fine coffee beans in the world.

Disclaimer: When you buy through a link on this site, I earn commission
from any qualifying purchases as I’m an Amazon Associate.

cup-of-mexican-coffee.jpg

What will I learn about Mexico’s coffee?

Is coffee from Mexico good? A close up on Mexico’s coffee beans!

If you are curious to know where the best coffee beans are from, let me show you Mexico in more detail. Most coffee is grown in the Southern and South-central regions of the country, and the variation from region to region gives each variety a distinct flavor that is appreciated by coffee lovers who enjoy a mild and light-bodied brew with delicate flavors that tell the story of the part of the country.

You may have heard the names Coatepec, Chiapas or Oaxaca Pluma, all famous Mexican coffees. But when you look at a map of Mexico, you will see that the continent narrows and begins turning eastward.

This area of Mexico is where the majority of coffees are grown, from the lowland coffee grown on in Veracruz on the gulf side of the continent to the Altura Coatepec grown in the mountainous area near the city of Coatepec.

You will often see high-quality coffee from Mexico marketed under these names, while coffee from the opposite side of the mountain range is usually called “Oaxaca”.

The highest quality coffee in Mexico is usually called Chiapas, and is grown near Mexico’s border with Guatemala. There are a few types of Mexican coffee that are considered specialty coffees in Europe, such as Liquidambar, Santa Catarina, Irlandia, Germania, and Hamburgo.

How is coffee in Mexico grown? Hint: Small farmers help!

Most of Mexico’s coffee is produced on small, individually owned farms, hand picked and dried, which means that Mexico is one of the most prolific producers of certified organic coffee, and its proximity to the United States means that the majority of high quality coffee grown in Mexico is shipped directly to the US at a lower price than nearly any other variety.

There is a wide variety of tastes and overtones due to the different growing regions of the country. The results provide a coffee that is not complex and serves as a base for some very tasty blends

Most of the beans grown in the mountains of Mexico have a nutty flavor and pleasingly light body. Depending on the soil and conditions in which they are grown, the beans can also be the opposite with bright acidity and chocolaty overtones.

What are five popular Mexican coffee brands?

Many people prefer Mexican coffee due to its variety of subtle flavors and range of brightness and body. They are reasonably priced so that you can afford to try coffee from many different regions.

Mexico produces one of the few common shelf brands of pre-ground coffee that makes a decent espresso, called Cafe Bustelo. Although not a remarkable coffee, it has a pleasant taste and is reckoned good for everyday use.

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Find Café Bustelo on Amazon! It’s easy to find!

Unfortunately, most of the best coffee is sold to European buyers and is particularly popular in Germany. Some of these are Santa Catarina, Germanis, Liquidambar and Irlandia. If you should ever see these beans or coffee, you will definitely be glad you gave them a try!

Although the United States is generally sold the less premium beans and coffee, Mexican beans are generally good quality with a taste that most people will want to enjoy every day. Have a look at these coffee products from Mexico that are available in the US.

What kind of coffee does Mexico produce?

Drinking high quality Mexican coffee is a little like enjoying a good, light white wine. The coffee has a light body with a dry, slightly acidic snap. Mexican coffees are often favorites among coffee drinkers who like their coffee black, because the taste is not so strong or acidic that it requires cream and sugar to hide the flavor.

Another reason for the enduring popularity of these coffee beans is their moderate price combined with the lighter bodied flavor of the brew. Coffee drinkers who are looking to explore the flavors imparted by regional differences will be particularly fond of Mexican beans, as the great diversity of the country gives notes that can be floral, fruity, chocolaty, and even slightly mossy depending on where the particular bean is grown. You’ll find a lot of varieties in Mexico coffee products.

How do you make Mexican coffee?

The beverage known as ‘Mexican coffee’ takes full advantage of the light flavor of Mexican coffee, and is a gourmet like creation that you can create in your own home. Begin by brewing your favorite Mexican beans, but add two teaspoons of cinnamon to the filter basket as you brew your coffee.

As the coffee brews, simmer one cup milk, one third cup chocolate syrup, and two tablespoons of brown sugar on the stovetop until the sugar disappears. Pour the mixture into cups filled with your cinnamon coffee combination along with a little bit of vanilla extract. You can top it with whipped cream and more cinnamon to make a coffee-shop worthy treat.

Mexican beans create the ideal cup for the coffee drinker who wants a smooth, light cup of coffee that doesn’t need anything to make it taste great. Be sure to try a cup of Mexican Coffee next time you have friends over, and you may not want to spend money at your local gourmet coffee shop ever again!

At PurelyCoffeeBeans, I’ve answered lots of questions over the years. You’ll find the questions and their answers scattered throughout the site! I’m always open to more questions, if you’re frustrated or curious, or you want to review a coffee, why don’t you drop me a line!

This week we welcome…!

Where can I buy Mexican coffee?
I’m looking for a particular kind of coffee!

by Shawn from Visiting Jaurez.

mexican coffee

“I recently took a quick trip to Jáurez Mexico and had the best coffee, in a hospital cafeteria of all places, but forgot to ask what brand of coffee they were using. What is the most popular/common coffee used around this area of Mexico?”

I’m sorry but I don’t know how I can answer this question without knowing more specifics. I’m not sure where you can buy Mexican coffee. You could find a few independent online coffee roasters stores in Mexico in this area, and search their catalogues (this would be easier if you speak or read Spanish). Do a few test orders until you come up with a blend that approximates what you remember.

Mexico grows their own coffee so you might find that it’s not a brand but a particular region or blend of local coffee. I suggest if you can try drinking some of the local Mexican coffee blends, freshly roasted: I’m sure you’ll find several you like.

Lastly, do remember that your memory may tweak the taste factor and it may enhance the flavors you recall especially if there were emotional factors at work as well. In other words, even if you find the same blend, will it taste the same the next time you try?


Good luck with your search, and let me know if you have any success. 


What are the different types of coffee beans, find out here!

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What’s the difference between roast, region & style? I don’t know coffee so I am suffering serious coffee confusion!

What’s the difference between roast, region & style?
I don’t know coffee so I am suffering serious coffee confusion!

do you know coffee?
Can’t identify this coffee?

“I can’t tell the difference …” or …is it considered dark-roast, medium, light, Colombian, French?” I just don’t know coffee!

Disclaimer: When you buy through a link on this site, I earn commission
from any qualifying purchases as I’m an Amazon Associate.

This query was added to a recent Reader’s Question. I already answered that question, but I thought I’d better spend some time sorting out the real coffee confusion for you. Hope this article helps you.

In the world of coffee, terminology abounds making it difficult for consumers to know what they are buying or if they are buying decent coffee at all.

Let’s see if I help you know coffee a little more clearly. I hope I shed a little light on your coffee buying!

Table of Contents: If you want to know coffee, you need to know –

What coffee beans are they? Where do they come from?

There are many varieties of coffee beans grown in the natural world, but in the coffee drinking world, only two types have become prominent: Arabica and Robusta.

In short, Arabica is your first preference because the coffee is smoother, lower in caffeine and generally makes a better cup of coffee. Typically, Colombia grows the best Arabica coffee beans you can find on the marketplace.

However, Robusta coffee has long had a bad rap. It’s true. And for the most part, it’s deserved unless you’re specifically buying quality robusta. For us, though, this is not usually an option.

So, focus on 100% Arabica beans, unless you like Espresso Coffee. There are some 100% Arabica espressos available, but most add a touch of robusta for body and flavor reasons.

If you know coffee, tell me what origin? A blend or single origin?

Many coffee connoisseurs love to talk about coffee origins. Coffee origin refers to where the coffee beans are grown, so you’ll find countries, like Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, etc. 100% of the coffee growing regions are within the tropics. So you’ll never find coffee grown in, say, France or Italy.

Some countries like Colombia focus on growing primarily Arabica coffee, the one you prefer; while others grow a mix of Arabica & Robusta, such as Brazil, or Kenya. There are indeed some champagne quality Robusta beans, of a very high quality; but most of the Robusta crop goes to making instant coffee, 3-in-1 coffee, or cheap mass market blends.

If you buy a bag of ‘Latin American Coffee’, you can expect to see coffee beans from any of a number of different countries in Latin America, though most likely it’s a blend of Colombian and Brazilian coffee. And most likely, it’s Arabica (but check!)

If you buy a single origin coffee, you’ll note that the coffee beans usually come from a single region or location. No blending of other country beans are included, however the price may be higher than you’d otherwise expect.

What roast did you say?

The last confusing aspect is … roasting names.

You’ll often here names like French Roast, or Italian Roast; even city or regional names can be used, such as Verona. While these names may sound like the origins we already mentioned, they only refer to a style of roasting, not to the origin of the coffee beans themselves. After all, neither France nor Italy actually grow coffee beans.

While the term ‘French Roast’ may actually denote a style of roasting where beans are roasted very dark, other names may be less than candid about what is actually inside. In short, pay attention to what is actually inside, don’t be fooled by branding names or ‘fake’ names. The term Colombian may refer to beans from Colombia, South American Coffee refers generally to the entire region and whatever bean is grown there.

You’ll even find marketing names, terroir names (like farm, mill, and estate names), flavored coffee, the mystery (usually very romantic) house blends, as well as a whole range of organic and coffee for charity names. Most big brands offer a variety to suit most tastes, preparation methods, and even budgets!

How can I tell good coffee? Help is at hand…

There are good guidelines to help you know coffee and understand what to buy:

  • Don’t pay too little for your coffee, don’t try to buy the cheapest, don’t look for a bargain (there aren’t many due to the costs of processing coffee)!
  • If you do pay too little, you’ll only get cheap coffee beans (and probably unknown roasting date/process/region) and a bad taste in your mouth, because they add too many robusta coffee beans to the mix.
  • Also, be aware that if a particular roast emphasizes vague qualities instead of origin, roast, type of bean… you’ll be looking at a more typical brand.
  • Dark roasts are more often typical of cheap coffee, simply because the roasting process homogenizes the flavor profile so mixing cheaper beans won’t be noticed.

Where can I learn about coffee?

How can I tell good coffee from bad coffee?

So you’re buying coffee beans in the market or coffee shop? Can you really tell good coffee from bad? Well, Dillon Edwards from Parlor Coffee thinks he knows in this video.

how to tell good coffee

He should because he’s spent much of his life working as a barista from Nashville to New York City. He’s also worked for some of the most famous 3rd Wave Coffee shops in the US, like Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and Pulley Collective. His experience shouts his ability to tell good coffee from bad.

Disclaimer: When you buy through a link on this site, I earn commission
from any qualifying purchases as I’m an Amazon Associate.

You can find him working regularly in his roasting company in Brooklyn, New York where he strives for coffee perfection. So yes, he can tell good coffee. And lucky for us, he has made this video to introduce some of his insights into buying the perfect coffee beans.

Coffee Expert Shows How to Tell Good Coffee from Bad

In the video, Edwards gives us a clear explanation of:

  • coffee processing & preparation techniques,
  • coffee roasts (dark roast vs light roast),
  • coffee varietals and regional sources
  • tips on appreciating your coffee

1. Equipment Used

I won’t give you the answers. But his education covers all the basics that you need to know about making coffee in filter. His equipment choices include the Kalita Coffee Cone, Baratza Coffee Grinder, and the Bonavita Gooseneck Kettle.

Obviously, he is using an electronic scale to weigh accurately both the coffee and the water.

2. Techniques used to know coffee

Pay attention to how he pours the water, both the volume, spacing and technique as he soaks the coffee grounds. Learning this kind of technique will enhance the natural flavors of your coffee!

Watch his technique for understanding the flavor profile of each of the coffees, too. That use of extra air can help to determine flavors! Try it in your next cuppa before you add sugar or cream.

3. Knowledge Used

Understanding where your coffee comes from, know coffee and how it is processed, and the relative importance of the cost as related (indirectly) to the quality means that you will be able to buy and appreciate better quality coffee.

I leave you with his thoughts about ‘gas station coffee’:

If you go to a gas station when you’re on a road trip and you have a really piping hot gas station cup of coffee, you could probably get half of it down without noticing it. But as it cools off and it’s sitting in your cup holder, it’s gonna taste awful coffee”.

Dillon Edwards, Parlor Coffee, NYC.

Now do you know coffee?

So now if you know coffee terms like these, you can understand what French Roast Colombian Single Origin High Mountain Blend actually means! Now, perhaps you can banish thoughts like “I just don’t know coffee!” a little faster! Who knows!? You do!

Now you can learn a little more with one of my favorite books about coffee: The World Atlas of Coffee! It’s a wonderful introduction to the world of coffee.


What are the different types of coffee beans, find out here!

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What does Kenya coffee taste like? Where does it come from?

Kenya coffee is quite a bit different at least in the way the Kenyans conduct their coffee business. Most coffee producers in other countries grow their crops and take them to market to sell. This is part of what makes them a little different from other types of coffee beans.

Kenyan coffee waiting for sale
Kenyan coffee waiting for sale

What will I learn about Kenya Coffee blends?


You may be familiar with Kenyan coffee from your local coffee shop or coffee roaster. Kenyan coffee beans are high quality and totally worth trying. But don’t skimp on the price! Otherwise you may be disappointed by the blend. That’s how many of the African coffee blends find their way to your coffee cup.

Is Kenya Coffee Robusta or Arabica? Is it good?

In Kenya, lots are auctioned off to the highest bidder and sometimes the prices can be driven quite high! They can demand high prices because they are sticklers for quality control and their farmers are very precise in their agricultural methods.

What does Kenya coffee taste like?

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Picture of Kenya AA Cup of Coffee (c) PurelyCoffeeBeans.com

Coffee from Kenya is a very bright coffee. This is, it is acidic enough to affect your entire palate. The coffee has wonderful fruity flavors, sometimes with a touch of spice.

Some coffees are wine-like or fruity and some are bright and clean. Kenya’s rich volcanic soil and high mountains of East Africa give its coffee a flavor you can find nowhere else in the world.

Kenya coffee is graded according to strict standards. The grades are important because they indicate the size of the bean; a larger bean will have more of the oils that give coffee its flavor and aroma. Therefore, the highest grades are the largest and most delicious beans. From largest to smallest the grades are AA, AB, PB, C, E, TT and T.

Size is not the only factor used in grading coffee, however. The Kenya Coffee Board also sorts it according to classes based on the quality of the beans. It begins with 1 for the highest quality and goes to 10 for the lowest.

You probably won’t see this number on your package of beans but if you can buy from a retailer that knows the quality grade it is to your taste advantage to do so!

Because of these two rating systems, you could buy Kenya AA beans but get a poor batch because it was rated a 4 on the quality scale.

Research and Development

Kenya engages in a lot of research and development in an effort to produce the best coffee in the world. One of their discoveries has been Ruiru 11, a hybrid coffee that is resistant to disease.

It was considered a breakthrough when first discovered but the Coffee Board’s promotion of it has been marred by rumors of its inferior flavor characteristics. It remains to be seen whether Ruiru can live up to Kenya’s stringent standards for its coffee products.

How much does Kenya Coffee cost?

Coffee from Kenya, like that of many other countries, has price swings according to the country’s weather and political occurrences. In 2006, for example, there was a big shakeup in the local Coffee Board who had some members who were not making sure that financial incentives made it to the farmers.

In 2008 there was a drought whose intermittent rains forced the coffee plants to bloom at inappropriate times and subsequently most of the crop was lost. There are many circumstances that affect both the quality and the price of Kenya coffee.

Is it still worth buying coffee from Kenya?

Nevertheless, Kenyan coffee is a good buy at any price. That kind of flavor is well worth paying extra for if one has to!

Reader Query #1 (Updated 5/16)

“I’m looking for reasonably priced Kenya coffee, but where?”

by Myong from USA

“I am looking for reasonably priced Kenyan coffee. Could you help me to find one or more sources to get the delicious coffee. Costco don’t carry any more.”

Thank you for your query, Myong, to PurelyCoffeeBeans.com in which you wrote that you were missing a discontinued line of coffee beans from Costco Wholesale.

I have the same problem with Costco as more & more customer buy those (wretched) one cup systems, Costco’s range of coffee beans seems to grow ever smaller. I can’t find some that I used to love. Pity.

The other odd thing about your email was that I bought some lovely Kenyan AA a couple of weeks ago, freshly roasted from an Artisan roaster here. They weren’t particularly cheap, but well worth the price, I feel. I’ve also enjoyed some nice Kenyan from Gloria Jeans Coffee (pictured above).


But I’ve never seen any in Costco, I’m sure I’d have bought it by now, but I do know product ranges differ from region to region, store to store, and season to season.

If you would like, check out my links to Amazon.com, who have a decent range of coffee beans generally.

Best Wishes
Kenneth

@ PurelyCoffeeBeans.com


What are the different types of coffee beans, find out here!

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What are Robusta coffee beans? Is Robusta coffee even good?

Robusta coffee, as PurelyCoffeeBeans knows, is the best known coffee you’ve never heard of. Robusta coffee beans are used in a variety of coffee products: including Indian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, and perhaps the most famous of all, Italian espresso.

Robusta coffee beans
Robusta coffee beans

Robusta has a truly awful reputation … but is that the entire story? Read on for more…

What will I learn about Robusta Coffee Beans?

I thought Robusta was junk… so why should I care?

Are you buying Robusta coffee?

Reader’s Questions

Is Robusta coffee even good?

Robusta coffee beans
Robusta coffee beans

While Arabica coffee beans are milder, lower in caffeine, and more expensive, Robusta coffee beans are a popular alternative for many kinds of coffee beans worldwide, especially in Africa or Asia.

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They came originally from Africa, but can now be found planted in the lower lying areas of both South America and many parts of Asia, such as Vietnam and Indonesia.

The Robusta beans tend to still have a bad reputation for cheapness and quality, and that is an undeserved one. For example, you will find quality Robusta coffees in many coffee blends, esp. the best espresso beans for its flavor, no less. Or so argues Oliver Schwaner-Albright in the article entitled ‘Robusta Economy‘ in the New York Times on March 23rd, 2009.

Where do Robusta Beans come from? What are its origins?

Discovered in the former Belgian Congo by botanists, they were first properly described only about 100 years after Arabica. They grow indigenously all over Western and Central Africa.

Nowadays, though, the Robusta coffee90 beans are cultivated in many areas of the world because of their relative ease of cultivation: they do need more water and warmth. But they can grow at much lower elevations; the robusta beans are also produced in much greater quantities; and they are resistant to more pests and disease making it less expensive for farmers to grow.

Robusta coffee beans are harvested from Robusta shrubs or small trees that can grow up to thirty feet high. Although they don’t require as much maintenance as Arabica plants, they do need pruning to keep harvesting at manageable levels for growers and pickers. There are upright Robusta trees as well as spreading (Nganda) varieties.

Which is better? Arabica Beans vs. Robusta Beans?

While Arabica plants are finicky about their growing conditions, Robusta can grow 600-2000 feet above sea level and is much more tolerant of variations in temperature. This hardy plant yields more beans per acre than Arabica and produces its first crop only 2-4 years after planting.

Other differences between the beans that coffee drinkers may wish to remember include:

1. Caffeine Content:

The Caffeine content is much higher in Robusta Beans, perhaps explaining why it’s more resistant to pests, at about 1.7~4.0%. Arabica coffee beans may contain up to 1/2 that amount.

2. Shape:

The beans are shaped differently, too. Robusta beans tend to be smaller in size, and rounder or more oval. Arabica beans are larger and seem more elongated. In appearance, they are pale green in color with a brownish tinge. So they’re easy to spot!

3. Flavors:

Robusta beans contain only half the sugar and about 2/3rds of the lipids than their cousin, the Arabica. This variation may account for the differences in roasting both beans, as well as the perceptions of acidity.

The taste of coffee made from Robusta coffee beans has been described as grainy, harsh and musty; the lack of body is noticeable compared to Arabica coffee beans.

So how can I tell Robusta coffee beans?

Apart from inspecting the beans yourself (impossible if it’s ground or in your cup already!), you may find that Robusta is grown in Nigeria, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Bali, Vietnam, Java, Angola, and India.

If you see these countries listed on the bag or can of coffee or beans you are considering, the beans or ground coffee may include Robusta Coffee Beans. But you will find that Brazil Coffee also contains robusta beans.

One obvious giveaway, of course, is the price. If your chosen coffee is relatively inexpensive, and the origins are not listed, or the brand is a typical supermarket brand, you can assume that the coffee beans include Robusta. Look for clues: the origins, the price, percentages of Arabica beans, the flavors, etc.

Which coffee brands use Robusta beans? Instant Coffees or Classy Coffees?

Robusta Coffee Beans are usually used to make instant coffee because it is less expensive. It an also be found in many generic (store brand) coffee blends, just browse your typical coffee brands, and you will know.

Vietnamese Sweet Robusta coffee beans dream
Vietnamese Sweet Robusta coffee beans dream!

With twice the caffeine of Arabica beans, it’s great at waking a person up if flavor isn’t important! That extra kick of caffeine is what helps open my eyes in the morning! Perhaps it’s why my bag of Arabica beans, while lighter in flavor, tends to have less of a kick than its darker roasted, and cheaper ‘espresso blends’.

And yet, many fine European blends also include Robusta Coffee Beans. Who, I hear you say? Well, the Italians and the French. Surprised?

So is that Robusta coffee in my cappuccino?

The Italians began using high quality Robusta beans in their espressos because of its ability to hold the crema head on a cup of espresso.

It also adds body to the flavor, and provides an additional kick for their morning espresso shot or cappuccino is considered an additional benefit. Typical Italian espresso blends may include up to 15% Robusta beans for coffee drinkers.

While the French can add up to 70% Robusta coffee beans to their blends to make their cafe au laits. That might be why we tend to see the French Roasts as darker coffees with more body.

What are the best robusta coffee beans to buy and try?


Robusta coffee beans then, it turns out, are more than just Arabica’s poor country cousin. In fact, they’re consumed all over the world, are a mainstay for many coffee farmers, and provide a great finish for some of the finest blends in the world!

#1 – Is Robusta Coffee good even at that price?
Does my favorite coffee brand include Robusta?

by Quora Question from UK

—-

At PurelyCoffeeBeans, I’ve answered lots of questions over the years. You’ll find the questions and their answers scattered throughout the site! I’m always open to more questions, if you’re frustrated or curious, or you want to review a coffee, why don’t you drop me a line!

This week we welcome…!

—-

I was looking at the canister of my favorite coffee brand, one that I purchase regularly. I was wondering if Robusta coffee is included because it tastes slightly bitter now. Is Robusta coffee good? Can you help?

Thank you

Robusta Coffee is often added to espresso because it tends to have a higher caffeine content than Arabica beans. Its flavor also is a little more bitter. Of course, the coffee beans price is cheaper which is why it’s (over-)used in a lot of commercial coffee. So if you don’t see the contents as stating “100% Arabica”, there’s a high probability that it includes Robusta Coffee Beans.

Is Robusta Coffee good? Doesn’t it taste like crap?

In fact, there is some very good Robusta coffee, but you won’t often see them in commercial brands. Italians still make espresso with a percentage of Robusta, to give it an edge & a kick.

I really think the only way to know is it the packet/can/bag says “100% Arabica”. And if it’s instant coffee, I’d expect to see Robusta in there, as a given. So check the canister you bought and see if there are any clues.

There are also variations in the beans, the drying, the blending & the roasting that will cause some variation in the flavor profile, esp. if you’re buying from individual regions or origins and/or from a small roaster. So for your average cheap coffee, few drinkers will find Robusta good or palatable.

Why do coffee companies include Robusta coffee?

The big companies like Starbucks do a much better job of maintaining their standard of roast, but it could be that roasting too long does tend to even out the flavor differences between beans and produce a more general ‘coffee’ flavor.

This could be because of a coffee beans price increase or increase in the roaster’s costs, the coffee may include cheaper coffee beans (either Robusta or Arabica) that exhibit more bitterness. You’d have to tell me the actual brand & blend to know, though.

Recently, a major coffee company in Taiwan was found to be tampering with their 100% Arabica coffee by adulterating the coffee with Robusta Coffee Beans instead. So it really pays to check your coffee beans, that their coffee beans are what you paid for. Unfortunately, for consumers, it’s really hard to verify the coffee beans price without doing a full DNA analysis of the coffee you buy. Check out the other informative answers on Quora.

Consider These Robusta Coffee Purchases


Hope that helps.

Kenneth

#2 – How can I tell if my coffee has a lot of caffeine or not?

by Coffee with a Kick

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I’m looking for a coffee with more caffeine, I like the effects of the stronger coffee! But how can I tell?

Thank you

Dear Coffee with a Kick

What is “caffeine content of coffee”? How much do you need? Would you like more?

You’re looking for a coffee with a higher caffeine content than you may typically find in Arabica based coffees, is that correct? You may wish to refer to my page for information about the caffeine in coffee page.

In general, Robusta beans are considered the poor cousin of the coffee bean, because they tend to have a much poorer taste, perhaps even making coffee unpalatable. However, it is widely grown, and consumed, and is found in many coffees, esp. cheaper instant coffees. They are used in coffees when the coffee roaster needs either a cheaper product or a stronger coffee.

Robusta Coffee: Death Wish Ground Coffee

If you’re looking for coffee with more than a dash of Robusta beans in it, then Death Wish Coffee may be the best bean for you!  This coffee is USDA Certified Organic and Fairtrade (!) which suggests that the roasters do care about the beans they put in those black bags!

The signature roasts provide a caffeine boost, a noticeably bold body and flavor. They’re ideal for your drip coffee maker coming pre-ground, though you may need to follow their specific directions for making the coffee.

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Check Price of Death Wish Coffee on Amazon

Why we liked it!

  • An extra caffeine kick – consume with care!
  • Not a hint of bitterness, but smooth with a bold body
  • Roasted in upstate New York
  • Pleasant notes of cherry & chocolate

What we didn’t like

  • Not clear on packaging how much caffeine!
  • Some buyers were ‘underwhelmed’!

Quote: “A lot of the pre-packaged, freeze-dryed, instant or pre-ground coffee found in grocery stores are of the Robusta variety. Because they are of a lower quality stock, companies like Folgers and Maxwell House can afford to buy huge quantities of this coffee and sell it at a much lower price. Due to the lower quality of these beans they are roasted far beyond the peak point giving the coffee and burnt, sour, bitter taste.

While I cannot give you a definitive answer about percentages of robusta beans in coffees, (most manufacturers prefer to boast the percentage of Arabica beans!) or which coffees may contain more caffeine, you could try different espresso or italian style roasts (some of which make good french press coffee, too), or you could simply add more coffee to the coffee maker. Try doubling up on the amount of coffee you use, since most coffee drinkers tend to follow general guidelines that result in a weaker brew. This works as long as the amount doesn’t overaccentuate other tones, such as bitterness or acid tones in the coffee.

Oddly enough, you may wish to try some of the espresso roasts which are darker roasted as these will typically include a percentage of robusta beans, and perhaps more caffeine to provide a European type ‘kick’ to the morning cuppa. Few coffee companies display the amount of caffeine per 100g on the side of packets, which would certainly help you. My last suggestion: go to a coffee roaster or serious coffee lover’s coffee shop, and just ask. They may be able to direct you to specific blends/estates/regions that present a coffee more suitable to your requirements.

A final thought: Both Vietnam and India grow quite a lot of coffee, usually robusta beans, so you may wish to try those blends. However, as I said, robusta is usually blended with better tasting coffee to tone down the roughness and caffeine content, so it’s difficult to find a purely robusta coffee. Amazon’s search did throw up a few good suggestions, but no clue on the actual caffeine content, click if you want to see the results.

#3 – Which coffee beans are strongest? Which is the strongest coffee?

by Rob from Chicago, IL.

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We are having a debate about coffee beans and how much caffeine in a cup of coffee. Can you tell me which coffee beans are strongest?

Thank you

Hi Rob,

PurelyCoffeeBeans wonders if you are asking about specific beans, I can tell you that there are 2 specific types of coffee beans, Robusta and Arabica, commonly used in coffee these days.

While the robusta coffee bean has far more caffeine in it, once it is roasted and brewed, the flavor can be quite bitter tasting. So it’s typically used in coffee that requires a ‘kick’ such as espresso. In Asia, there are varieties of coffee made with Robusta, as well. But the refined flavors you’re used to drinking in Central or Southern American varietals are missing!

The typical coffee beans you will find for home coffee making is the Arabica coffee bean. Arabica coffee beans are primarily grown in higher altitudes, and in shadier regions than their Robusta coffee bean cousin.

This is partly because of the climate where they are grown, and because the Arabica bean grows somewhat slower, the end result from bean to cup is a more pleasant tasting coffee, but with as much as 60% less caffeine per cup.

You can find some good blends out there that have some of each type of coffee bean in the mix, but for taste and quality the preferred coffee bean is the Arabica.

Have you tried ‘Death Wish Coffee‘? This brand of coffee supposedly has quite a bit of caffeine, is darker roasted, and has attracted quite a few loyal fans! What kind of ‘strong’ coffee are you drinking these days?

Thanks for asking!

Chris


What are the different types of coffee beans, find out here!

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