Best Coffee Beans Recommendations
July 13, 2021 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations for websites or stores where I can purchase really good coffee beans.

I did do an Ask search, but the most recent question I found was about Espresso Beans from 2017.

I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes and so I'll be giving up my beloved soda and even more beloved energy drinks, which have been my main source of morning wakefulness since my early twenties, in favor of coffee. I work from home, so making coffee at home is way more convenient and cheaper, and I do have the tools to make a pour-over, french press, or cold brew (preferred method). I do not actually own a drip or pod coffee machine at the moment.

Based on the recent FFP on caffeine, I know there's many, many coffee loving MeFites, so I am looking for good coffee bean recommendations. Either online or in store. Past coffee experience mostly consists of Starbucks, Dutch Brothers, and whatever was available at Costco.

- Willing to try out any level of roast, but generally I steer away from flavored coffees. I like to add my own flavors, if craving them.

- Since I don't anticipate drinking more than 2-3 cups a day, I'm willing to shell out for really good stuff and Fair Trade if needed.

- Also in need of any good coffee bean storage tips you swear by. Should I really be keeping them in the freezer?
posted by sharp pointy objects to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
When I want to treat myself, I subscribe to Old Bisbee.
posted by 10ch at 10:57 AM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yes Plz
posted by primethyme at 10:59 AM on July 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

I like the Just Coffee Cooperative. They are worker-owned and source ethical beans, as well as making several quality single-origin roasts and blends.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:00 AM on July 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

Metropolis Coffee has some great beans for a reasonable price. I don’t know if they are still as good as their peak, but Intelligentsia Coffee had some amazing varieties in the day… (Coffee I miss from my time in Chicago, both are award winning.)
posted by rambling wanderlust at 11:07 AM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

good coffee bean storage tips you swear by

Coffee is perishable. Buy only what you can use up in two weeks and store it in an airtight container away from sunlight, at room temperature. The fridge is extra bad due to moisture; the freezer is less bad than the fridge but still bad.

Where are you? Your best bet for fresh coffee is to find a local roaster. Beans packaged for retail may not be labeled with a roasting date, giving you no idea how fresh they are; even if they have a date they may be well past their prime by the time they get to your store shelves. That said, for my taste the best mass market beans I could find when I spent a while trying were from Stumptown, and they can often be found at my local supermarket within a month of roasting, by which time they aren't yet too degraded. Stumptown has a whole range of roasts; my favorite is Homestead, which is a light-medium blend. I skip over bags roasted more than a month ago.
posted by fedward at 11:09 AM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

The source of the beans isn't near as important for flavor as minimizing the time between roasting, grinding and brewing. For the best coffee, learn to roast the beans yourself -- it's not hard, fun, even (but smokey). Green coffee beans have a shelf-life of years, but they can be difficult to purchase retail.
posted by Rash at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

You want Olympia Coffee Roasting. Fair trade, working directly with small farms. Overall good business and good coffee.
posted by museum nerd at 11:38 AM on July 13, 2021

I used to buy locally roasted small batch beans at something like $22-25 CDN a pound, back around 2005-2010 until the roaster moved away due to high rents.

Eventually I ended up discovering Kicking Horse brand of beans. They're Canadian, but I think they also sell in the US. I've tried a bunch of their roasts and they are all consistently low acidity which is a chief criterion for me, and the other qualities are fine (mouthfeel, depth of flavour, etc.).

It's my preferred brand now, and I favour the 454 Horsepower roast. Typically retails for $18 CDN a pound whole bean, but they'll go on sale for $11 or 12 and I'll stock up based on how much I have in my pantry and expiration dates.

Every time I've moved since, I've checked out roasters local to me and I can't justify the price premium.
posted by porpoise at 11:42 AM on July 13, 2021

I’m a fan of Cuvée Coffee, roasted in Austin, TX.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Coffee expert James Hoffman on whether you should store coffee in a freezer.

My suggestion would be to find a nice specialty coffee roaster in your area. Fresh is always best and anything you ship in is already going to be a week or two old by the time you get it. I see you are near Tempe, AZ. A quick search of specialty coffee forums suggests that Infusion Coffee & Tea is the one to try. This is the roastery and cafe run by Patrick O'Malley, who is a coffee expert and founder of The International Barista & Coffee Academy. It sounds like you have world class right next door. Lucky!
posted by forbiddencabinet at 11:55 AM on July 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

Organic, direct-trade coffee tends to be the highest quality stuff. Use whole beans.
posted by aniola at 12:29 PM on July 13, 2021

Nthing the recommendation to buy from a local roaster!
posted by MadamM at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Pachamama does good direct-trade organic coffee.
posted by aniola at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2021

Best answer: Local is absolutely best (there's enough carbon footprint on coffee as it is so I try to keep the roast-to-cup distance as low as possible) and if your location in profile is correct you're not lacking for options. Go to the roaster's cafe and -- best part of buying local -- have them make you a brew like you'd make it at home. Sample light vs medium roasts (avoid dark imo), blends vs single origins.

If you find a bean you love, especially if you have a vacuum sealer, and want to save a little time and money, buy a 2-lb bag and portion out as much as you drink in a week into vacuum bags (for me that's 3-4 aliquots per 2-lb). Freeze all but one and you can keep that one in the regular bag where it'll be totally fine for a week (valved or vacuum canister if you're fancy).

If you stick with cold brew, you're not getting as much subtlety out of the beans as hot. That's fine! Cold brew with cheap beans ground at the cafe was absolutely my gateway. If you want to branch out I've been getting really into French Press recently after watching this, and as percolation goes my Tricolate has replaced my V60 for consistency and ease of use.

You're grinding fresh with a reasonable burr grinder, right? If not, buy whatever is cheap, it'll all taste about the same after a day or two.
posted by supercres at 12:32 PM on July 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

(whoops I thought Hoffmann included the Baratza Encore in that beginner lineup; that's usually my default recommendation, though I've had and used a Capresso Infinity for over a decade, heavily for a couple years there in the middle.)
posted by supercres at 12:39 PM on July 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have been doing a subscription through Trade Coffee for the last year or so and have enjoyed getting to try a bunch of different coffees from different roasters all over the country. They roast and ship fresh, and you can customize for brew method, flavor preference, frequency of delivery, and quantity, As it turns out, one of the coffees I liked best comes from a roaster in my area, so I am actually planning to cancel my subscription in the near future to start buying my beans locally, but might not have learned about them without Trade. It's a good way to sample a lot of different things.
posted by briank at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

A really great tip is just to find a good local coffee shop you like and buy beans from them. But if you're set on ordering, I really love the stuff from Happy Mug Coffee. They're in Edinboro PA, so if you're located in the US midwest or east coast it will arrive really quickly. Their prices are great and they do a lot of ethical sourcing of their beans.

If you're just looking to learn more about coffee in general and want to watch extremely pleasant videos about it, I recommend James Hoffman's channel on YouTube! :)
posted by rossination at 12:45 PM on July 13, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations to go local all! Sounds so silly that I didn't think of it, since downtown Tempe is pretty close by and evidently just littered with independent roasters. I used my lunch break to head down to Infusion on forbiddencabinet's recommendation, and now have two small bags of coffee, one Direct Trade and the other Fair Trade! And sipping on a signature drink that's fresh squeezed lemon, ginger, honey and their house blend. It's like...a caffeinated ginger beer?!?! Probably the most interesting thing I've tried in a long time. I'll probably end up trying out all the locals and some of your online recs! This is great!
posted by sharp pointy objects at 12:49 PM on July 13, 2021 [8 favorites]

Oh last thought-- ask the cafe how far off-roast their beans are when they use them for your preferred brew style.

You can do immersion like FP basically immediately (graders cup beans within 24 hours!) but percolation brew and especially espresso have pretty specific "performance" timelines that vary by depth of roast and origin, usually between a week and a month. Sometimes longer for light-roast espresso (my preference atm, which is a pretty rare animal but becoming more common).

Freezing, to a first approximation, hits pause on roasted bean aging, so I usually freeze them about when I'd start using them (i.e., let sit on the counter for ~10 days, then portion and freeze). When you thaw, especially if you thaw vacuum sealed, let the sealed bag thaw fully before opening or you'll get condensation.

Run away from anything that has an "expiration date" instead of a roast date. More from the Hoff of course.
posted by supercres at 12:50 PM on July 13, 2021

I think some people roast their own beans using popcorn poppers. If you want an ultra-local roaster.
posted by aniola at 12:59 PM on July 13, 2021

I’ve had really good luck with Kicking Horse Coffee bought whole-bean at the grocery or from Amazon. It’s noticesbly more oily than many other kinds I’ve tried when the bag is first opened, which I have found means more flavor.
posted by epj at 1:04 PM on July 13, 2021

I think some people roast their own beans using popcorn poppers.

I started that way, but really, just a cast-iron pan will do, stove-top. Get some green beans and experiment! The roasting beans make a lot of smoke and a noisy cracking initially, which fades as you near completion. Let 'em cool a bit, then into the grinder for the best coffee. It's easy, but the roasters don't want you to know that. The tool I use (which I call the Scepter) is an old copper toilet float with a hole punched in the far end, screwed onto a long threaded rod. I put a handful of beans in, and twirl it over a gas stove burner next to an open window.
posted by Rash at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2021

I'm looking forward to trying some of the places on Bold & Gritty's list of black-owned coffee businesses.
posted by zamboni at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One of the things about coffee questions like this is that there is a huge discrepancy between the sorts of things that most coffee drinkers are concerned with and what coffee "nerds" (if that's the right term) will say. From your question, you don't sound like you have a lot of experience or knowledge of what you like. It's a bit like asking: what are some really good wines. And the answer is that it depends a lot on what you like.

I was close to this point a year and a half ago but lockdowns gave me a lot of time to try things, and I won't give you specific recommendations, except to get a Bialetti Moka, which is cheap and easy but also very different from press, filter, espresso. (in my experience, it tends to do better with dark roasts).

Some obvious things to shoot for are fair trade, organic, local. Go to roasteries in your area.

But as far as coffee goes, I found so much of what you find e.g. on coffee forums completely unhelpful to start. After a year and half, some of it is a bit more helpful. But I would not start with where the coffee is from or the details of the tasting notes, or whatever. Rather:

1) Light vs. Dark roasts (Generally filter/press coffee uses lighter roasts than espresso/moka, but there are a lot of exceptions. This is the most basic determinant of taste in my view, and trumps origin. Light roasts generally will emphasize fruity flavors. The more recent trend is in favor of lighter roasts, while e.g. Peet's tends -- or used to -- to roast very dark).
2) Different brewing methods. Find out what you like, and which roast level you like with which method.
3) Arabica vs. Blends with some Robusta. (It's common to say 100% arabica as a selling point, and those beans generally are more expensive, but I prefer for my moka some (up to 40% or so) robusta, as I think do most italians for their espresso. Robusta has about twice the caffeine. It is often reflected in what are called "tobacco" flavors).

Maybe all this is old hat to you, but in case it's not: I would have been better off experimenting with these factors first. See if one of the roasteries in your area has a gift pack with smaller samples, like just a few ounces of several sorts of beans. And if possible, try to find a roaster that has a variety of different degrees of roasting.
posted by melamakarona at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Light roast has more caffeine. Dark roast has more flavor.
posted by aniola at 3:23 PM on July 13, 2021

Coava coffee is my absolute favorite. Try the Kilenso.
posted by fake at 4:12 PM on July 13, 2021

Light roast has more caffeine. Dark roast has more flavor.

Dark roast tastes like the roast, light roast tastes like the bean.
posted by supercres at 6:06 PM on July 13, 2021 [2 favorites]
posted by zsh2v1 at 8:14 PM on July 13, 2021

Seconding Yes Plz. A lot of places do "single origin" roasts- All the beans come from one geographical region. This is neat because you can taste terroir and blah blah. Yes Plz, which is run by a few folks who helped kickstart the single origin wave of coffee, actually blends beans from several places to create new and interesting tastes. And it comes with a 'zine!
posted by GilloD at 7:52 AM on July 14, 2021

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