The 10 Best Coffee Beans
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in August of 2015. Get your java fix every day without the sticker shock of an overpriced artisan latte from a barista by choosing from our selection of coffee beans. They can help you customize your drinking experience, and we’ve included options for all palates, whether you seek something eye-opening and super strong or a milder and low-acid variety. You'll find both whole-bean and ground options, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 01, 2020:
We wanted to give this list a good tweak during our latest update to ensure it was aligned with evolving tastes, but we still maintained our balance between dark, medium, and light roasts. All the options listed here are in their whole bean form, but many are also offered ground for those who don't own a grinder. Just be sure to brew it fairly quickly if you want the freshest experience possible. Many come in special foil-lined or layered bags with air vents to ensure they stay fresh, but once you open the pouch and let oxygen in, you'll slowly start to lose that immediate flavor and aroma. It helps if you store your coffee in a cool, dry place with no direct sunlight.
When Koffee Kult Dark Roast became unavailable we supplanted it with Valhalla Java, a caffeine-packed option with a bold bite. And while we love a good cup of Kona coffee, we felt the need to say goodbye to Imagine 100% Kona due to unsatisfied reports of over roasting and bitterness. In its place, we added Eight O'Clock The Original to provide something for those who want a reliable, consistent, high-quality brew that's not too strong or overly light for their daily serving.
Also joining us today is Bones Favorite Flavors, a sampler pack for those looking to try a few new specialty roasts. These are roasted in small batches by a craft coffee company that doesn't use sugar, dairy, or any common allergens to make them taste great. They also manage to avoid the pitfall many flavored coffees have of tasting synthetic or like chemicals.
Finally, Kicking Horse Three Sisters was suffering from complaints of inconsistent roasting and freshness, so we replaced it with the ever-popular and much-adored Kicking Horse Grizzly Claw, which is a much darker roast. And although we hated to do it, we removed Lavazza Super Crema Espresso today on account of multiple reports of batches of beans being mixed with rocks. As this can destroy an expensive grinder, we felt the need to say farewell for now until the company remedies the issue.
November 07, 2019:
There are thousands of choices when it comes to choosing good coffee beans, and individual preference matters just as much as quality. That's why you'll find a wide variety of items on this list, including options that are perfect for pour-over, cold brew, French press, drip, and more. You'll also find blends and single origin choices, as well as light, medium, and dark roasts. Many are offered in either whole bean or the ground variety, but we'd suggest going the whole bean route so that you can customize your grind to your brewing method of choice.
We let go of illy Medium Roast due to availability concerns, as well as Fresh Roasted Coffee Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, which suffered from complaints of bitterness and a lack of a distinct flavor profile. We opted to supplant them with Bulletproof Energize, a very light roasted choice that lends itself well to additions like ghee butter and cream to make keto coffee. We also added No Fun Jo Decaf, a highly-certified selection, because we felt this list ought to have at least one decent decaf for caffeine-sensitive people.
Death Wish maintains a top spot because it is a consistent crowd-pleaser with a balanced taste that undergoes rigorous quality control. It's also got double the caffeine of regular coffee, so it's a smart choice for those who need a good jolt in the morning.
If you like cold brew, then Stone Street Reserve is ideal, while Koffee Kult Dark Roast tastes great from a Chemex. And for those with discerning tastes who'd rather not empty their wallet, Don Pablo Signature Blend is a high-quality budget choice.
Bean Box Those looking for an affordable coffee subscription service should check out Bean Box, which delivers four new artisan roasts each month at a budget-friendly price. Members receive goods from exclusive small-batch micro-lots and award-winning roasters that have been freshly roasted, packaged, and shipped quickly from Seattle for peak freshness. beanbox.com
Atlas Coffee Club Atlas Coffee Club is a subscription service that allows java lovers to sample single-origin beans from all over the world. The company curates micro-lot coffees from Tanzania, Kenya, Colombia and beyond, then each batch is artfully roasted to explore and accentuate flavors unique to each region. Each month comes with 12 ounces of freshly-roasted coffee, flavor notes, a postcard, and brewing tips. atlascoffeeclub.com
Koa Coffee Estate Medium Roast For a classic taste of Hawaii, try this award-winning Kona coffee from Koa. It comes from a high elevation, single estate farm and boasts a perfect medium roast to showcase the flavor unique to the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano on which Kona coffee beans are grown. It is never mixed with crops of other farms, ensuring its high quality, and every bean is picked by hand. koacoffee.com
Back to Basics
Coffee plants require ample rainfall in the early months as fruit blooms, and less so afterward after the fruit begins to ripen.
In order to determine the best coffee beans in the world we will have to journey to where in the world coffee grows. South America dominates coffee plantations. Brazil alone contributes to more than 40 percent of all coffee production worldwide. Optimally, coffee grows between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, in an area known as the coffee belt. Virtually all the coffee beans you purchase will be grown in this region. Even though the coffee beans are harvested in this region, they may be roasted elsewhere. We will cover roasting in the next section.
The coffee bean is technically a seed, and it is tucked inside the fruit of the coffee plant; much like the stone pit of a cherry. It is called a bean simply because of the physical resemblance. While many varieties of coffee beans exist, the two most common types are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans dominate the market. They lend to a smoother, slightly acidic taste and they are usually, although not always, deemed the higher quality bean. Robusta beans, as the name suggests, tout a bolder and more bitter taste. They contain at least twice the amount of caffeine as their Arabica counterparts.
The taste and quality of the coffee bean depend largely on the environment in which it grows. Coffee plants require ample rainfall in the early months as fruit blooms, and less so afterward after the fruit begins to ripen. For this reason, rainforests prove to be the ideal location for coffee production. As the fruit of the coffee plant is hand-picked, the seeds need to be dismantled from the fruit. The first method of doing so is called wet processing. The seeds are fermented in water for two or three days to get rid off the excess flesh or pulp which may be sticking to the seed. The second method is dry processing, where the fruit is picked from seeds and laid out in the sun for two to three weeks, turned regularly. The latter is the cheaper and lower quality method of processing beans.
The next step in the quest for a quality cup of coffee is roasting. The roasting process heats up the beans at temperatures of 230 degrees Celsius; neutralizing the extreme unpleasant flavor profiles of the bean. The newly roasted bean offers nutty, smoky, or spicy flavors. The length of time that the bean is roasted determines the flavor profile and caffeine content. Beans roasted longer have a shiny black appearance and they boast a bitter and bold taste. Also, they are noted by an oily feel. Light roasted beans, which are roasted for a shorter length of time, tend to be sweeter, smoother, and even floral in flavor. If you prefer a light smooth taste, you will defer from bolder, darker roasts of equal or even better quality.
Contrary to popular opinion, lighter roasted beans actually contain more caffeine. For some coffee consumers, the caffeine content is the most important factor to consider when purchasing beans. A light roast Robusta bean will contain the most caffeine of all. Is the purpose of your cup of coffee an after dinner digestif, or a bullhorn to wake you up? Those requiring more caffeine may benefit from an espresso instead of a regular drip brew.
On The Grind
After the coffee bean is roasted, it is ready for consumption. The beans you purchase will be one of two things, namely, blends or single origin beans.
Single origin beans are for the coffee purist; they may have a harsh taste but there is no question as to the flavor profile of what you are drinking.
Coffee blends are exactly that; a blend of two or more roasted beans to create a unique flavor profile. Think of it in terms of wine: a red blend versus a Cabernet Sauvignon. The experienced coffee roaster will match beans to balance bitterness and take the harsh edge off unrefined beans. A blend could contain several varieties of beans from all over the coffee belt.
A single origin means the bean comes from one location and one location only. Single origin beans can be overwhelmingly bitter and they have a strong aftertaste. Single origin beans are for the coffee purist; they may have a harsh taste but there is no question as to the flavor profile of what you are drinking.
Many coffees arrive in whole bean form; you must grind them yourself or go to a coffee grinder. While inconvenient for some, the benefits of buying whole bean are plentiful. When you grind the beans daily it releases oils, keeps them fresh, and allows you to chose the coarseness of the grind. A coarse grind will not capture as much flavor as a fine grind. The difference in the grind denotes an espresso from a Turkish coffee or latte for example.
Lastly, I strongly suggest against purchasing instant coffee. It usually has limited flavor notes and is rarely fresh tasting. I advise you to buy whole bean whenever possible.