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One of the most common questions I get asked all the time is how to pick a good bag of coffee. It makes sense, as everyone is looking for that perfect cup of coffee. However, it is a really tough question to answer.
After all, everyone has their own tastes when it comes to coffee, enjoying different flavors and strengths and everyone is at a different point in their journey towards that perfect, most satisfying cup of coffee. But despite the difficulty of this question, I decided I would try to tackle it, anyway. I know, I’m insane!
While ultimately the choice will come down to you, there are many things you can look for to help you find the best bag of coffee beans that you can prepare at home to make a truly spectacular cup of coffee. Let’s examine everything you need to know about searching for that perfect cup so the next time you head out on a coffee mission, you can make the right decisions that will bring you closer to your goal.
What’s In the Bag
First, you need to know what to look for in a good bag of coffee beans while you are out shopping. This will help you eliminate the bad coffee altogether without wasting your money on a bag that simply won’t provide a truly impressive cup of coffee. There are a few things you need to look for in a good bag of coffee:
- Whole Beans – First, if you checked the title of this article, you will know I always mean whole beans. If you don’t have a grinder at home, get one, as whole bean coffee simply provides you a much better experience when you prepare it. If the coffee you are looking at was ground by the manufacturer, avoid it at all costs.
- Roast Date – When buying coffee, you always want to buy fresh. Always look for a roast date on the bag of coffee beans you are buying and buy one that was roasted as recently as possible. If the shop owner tells you it doesn’t matter, leave that establishment immediately, as they don’t know what they are talking about.
- Coffee Roaster – When you are looking at coffee, look for who actually did the roasting. Respected roasters will be well known and you can probably even look up a few of them and find out a little about them before you buy coffee they have roasted. When you find a coffee from one roaster you really like, try the others they make as well. This is a great place to start when you are expanding your coffee palette.
- Where is the Coffee From – When I say this, I don’t mean just the country where it was grown. Many coffee lovers will have a preference in location, but you can go ever deeper with your coffee search. Check to see where exactly the beans were sourced for roasting. The best quality coffee will tell you everything you need to know about it. If a coffee doesn’t, or the owner of the local shop doesn’t know, then chances are they are sourced from multiple locations, meaning you should stay away from that bag.
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What to Avoid in a Bag
Now that you know what to look for in a great bag of coffee beans, it is time to learn what you need to avoid at all costs. By avoiding all of these, you can greatly reduce the risk of getting a really bad cup of coffee.
- Bags That Say 100% Coffee – A bag of coffee really needs to say it is 100% coffee? I would hope that the coffee we buy is 100% coffee. If it isn’t, what exactly are we brewing? Any quality coffee will be guaranteed to be 100% coffee anyway, so don’t waste your time with this label.
- Silly Labeling – If the label on your bag of coffee is filled with a bunch of useful information or spends too much time boasting about how great it is, chances are it isn’t worth your time. Truly good coffee will fill up the space on the package label with details about the coffee, and the more you know, the better chance you have of making a good coffee decision.
- Ground Coffee – If a roaster offers only ground coffee, don’t buy it. When a coffee is ground, it begins to lose its flavor. So if you want fully enjoy your coffee, only buy from roasters that provide only whole bean coffee.
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Know Your Tastes
Now we get to the most difficult and, honestly, arbitrary part of the process. While ultimately there isn’t a lot I can do to help you through this part, I do have at least a little bit of advice to help you find the right coffee for your tastes.
Chances are you already have an idea on what type of coffee you like in general, such as mild or dark. But that is only the beginning. There is really so much more to coffee taste than just how strong or mild it is.
- Set Your Goals – First, you must set your goals for your coffee search. What are you looking for on this search? Maybe you are looking for something with a bolder flavor, or maybe you just want something very mild to help you start your day. Whatever your goals may be, put them firmly to your mind before you start your search for great coffee.
- Decide on Strength – Now, while I said there is more to coffee than strength, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Every different type of coffee has a different strength, ranging from mild to very strong. Which one you begin with depends largely on your own tastes and preferences. This is a great way to find your first roaster to try by matching a roaster and their strength to the type of coffee you prefer. After all, you won’t have a good experience if you only like mild coffee and you choose a dark roast that is very strong.
- Stretch Yourself – While your initial strength levels can help you begin your search for great coffee, don’t let them limit you. Occasionally try other strengths of coffee from different roasters. Who knows, you may find a dark you love from one roaster even if you prefer a mild or medium coffee.
- Discuss with Other Coffee Lovers – One of the best ways I have found to learn more about coffee and what tastes great is by talking to other coffee lovers out there. There are many online groups that are perfect for just that. Chances are someone has tried the coffee you are considering and can give you advice. Don’t take their word for it though, always try it for yourself.
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This is, perhaps, the most important part of the process. Even if you find a type of coffee that you really love, that doesn’t mean your coffee journey is over. You should always continue to try new coffees that you have never heard of before or never tasted, and you should also do this on a regular basis, as well.
While I’m not saying you should try something new and different every day, I do believe it is always a good idea to try new things. Maybe one or twice a month you pick up a small bag of beans that you have never had before and give them a shot. This will help you keep your palette open to new coffee tastes and it will help you discover new coffees that you may never have even considered.
There is nothing wrong with broadening your horizons, and that can include your coffee habit as well. So be brave and pick up a different kind of coffee every once and a while. I’m betting your taste buds will thank you.
In the end, finding the perfect cup of coffee is completely up to you. It is a trial of patience that can be very rewarding, but one that isn’t to be taken lightly. On your journey, you will taste some truly superb cups of coffee, but you will probably also be forced to gulp down some of the worst you have ever tasted. Remember, it is all part of the experience.
Never give up on your search, and even after you find what you believe to be your favorite, never stop trying new types of coffee. You never know, you may just find something you like even more than your current favorite. The point is, the journey never ends. Just remember to follow my advice above and I guarantee you will begin to discover coffee that you love.
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