I know how to buy coffee. I think…
It makes me happy that people look for me to be a “resource” when it comes to all things coffee. There are so many different types of coffees out there, roasters, brands and all of the other packets of information that can confuse you. With all of that in mind, let me give you a few quick coffee buying tips when you’re out shopping or (ahem… online shopping) for your whole bean coffee fix. I want give you some tips on how to buy coffee.
Coffee Buying Tips #1
Be on the lookout: ORIGIN INFORMATION
Some roasters like to include the various information about the regions and origins of the beans they offer on an ongoing basis; there are some beans that I am ALWAYS going to carry, and there is an absolute reason why, ask, I’ll tell you… I love to tell you stories that help you understand, “why”.
Every coffee has a story… Or should have one!
Look for roasters who include information about the region and country their coffee comes from, the elevation, processing, and even the varieties of coffee, and even if the roaster doesn’t have all of the beans in a blend listed, they at least should be able to speak to the beans in the blend and to help you understand what the beans are in the blend, what they/what you should taste and why. I’ve roasted A LOT of coffee by hand, and dude, I’ve written algorithms based on the bean profiles.
In a conversation about a blend, we can spend some time talking about flavors that you like. After we’ve figured it out, we should be able to find what you’d like best. Darrin’s Coffee has a goal to be as transparent as possible. We use very high quality coffee, and it comes through. Every time.
WHAT TO AVOID: RUN RUN. RUN… AND RUN OUT OF THE DOOR: When you see the label “100% ARABICA COFFEE”
“100% Arabica Coffee”, yes, it’s true that 100% of Arabica coffee is considered Specialty Grade. When I roll into some places, some of the fast food variety, the coffee they offer is touted as 100% of Arabica coffee. With that in mind, I bet your next question is, “what is the other kind of coffee out there, and what is it used for?” Well, that is what’s called Robusta and it’s in what’s called “Office Coffee”.
So what’s the difference?
Let me preface this description with this statement, CAFFEINE IS SOOOOPER BITTER. There are two types of coffee, Robusta and Arabica. Robusta has about double the amount of caffeine and 60% less natural sugar and sweetness of the Arabica bean. So guess what? Robusta is the bitter stuff. There’s a difference between bitter and burnt. Bitter is bitter. Burnt is what happens when would be inferior beans are brought to the lowest common denominator. Let’s leave it at that. 😉
Coffee Buying Tips #2
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: ROAST DATE
You want to look for a roast date listed on the bag, which should ideally be within the last few weeks. At Darrin’s Coffee 9 times out of 10 the Roast On Date will be within the past week, at the most. I recommend brewing within 2 – 3 weeks of being roasted to get the most flavor out of the coffee. This is a great indicator that the coffee will be flavorful and that the roaster cares about the quality of their product. If you have a coffee that you’ve purchased from me and it’s more than 3 weeks old, bring the coffee back. I’ll trade you out for some new stuff. Now “be cool” about it, haha! But, even more important, if it’s not a coffee that you’re a fan of, bring it back and let’s work to find something that awesome!
If a roaster includes a “Best by” date, the coffee might not be as fresh as it should be. “Best by” dates are fine if accompanied by a roast date, but without a roast date, you can assume that the coffee is months old and has likely been stale for a long time. Milk has a “Best by” date, imagine eating a dozen donuts that have a “Best by” date as opposed to “Baked on” date. Big difference right??
Coffee Buying Tips #3
The best coffee comes from “Small Batch” coffee roasters that carry various single origin coffee’s every season. These roasters often only carry single origin coffees for a short time and their blend components can change frequently. This is a good thing, because it means they are buying newly harvested coffees throughout the year and roasting them super fresh so your coffee tastes best. I work to keep “true” to the blend with the highest quality beans possible. The name “Darrin” is on every bag or cup that walks out of the door at this Indiana Coffee Roaster. I really try to take pride in what I do, with every roast. With that in mind, the numbers of actual “blends” that I carry are at a minimum. But baby, those blends are going to be consistent.
WHAT TO AVOID: “THE BIG GUYS… PRIMARILY, the Pre-Ground Stuff, This is why…”
Everyone remembers the red can of pre-ground coffee that sat in granny’s cabinet growing up. My experience with my family was Chicory. Large, national brands carried at every gas station and grocery store in the country can’t afford to buy the best coffees in the world, so they buy the cheap stuff and guess what? These coffees were harvested years ago, roasted months ago and completely flavorless today; AVOID!!!!!
I’ve written a blog post in the past about a chemist named Suzana Nixdorf. In her study she found that a large majority of preground coffee from the larger producers contained corn, barley, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, acai seed, brown sugar or starch syrup. It was even discovered in the same study wood, twigs, sticks, parchment, husks, whole coffee berries and clumps of earth. WOW. That in itself should make you want to buy coffee directly from a small batch roaster.
Now that you’re armed with these tips, you’re ready to buy some coffee! Even with a bit of knowledge, it’s always helpful to ask for guidance from someone who is more familiar with the coffee selection. When you come to Darrin’s Coffee, feel free to not only ask me, but also ask any of the barista’s that are currently working. A benefit of working at Darrin’s is that you receive a bag of coffee a week. The goal is that everyone in the shop should be able to speak intelligently about anything that’s on the shelf on any given day!
We will help!!!
I know this isn’t an exhaustive list, not even close… I want to set a starting point to make your coffee buying experience, that much better. And no matter what, at Darrin’s Coffee I believe, “Everyone deserves to drink great coffee…” So it’s in my best interest to make sure you know how to buy coffee.