How to choose coffee beans

How to choose coffee beans
How to choose coffee beans

It can be a complex task how to choose coffee beans. Wide range of options are available in the market. With different species of coffee trees, labeling systems, and growing conditions, it can be difficult to know what to look for. In this guide, we aim to simplify the process of choosing coffee beans, by highlighting key factors such as labeling, growing conditions, grain size, hardness, and shelf life. Additionally, we also shed light on the difference between single origin and blended coffee, allowing you to make an informed decision. Whether you prefer light coffee with milk or strong espresso, this guide will help you find the perfect beans for your taste buds.

Coffee is made from two main species of coffee trees, Robusta and Arabica. Although there are about 80 species of coffee trees found in nature, Arabica is the most widely cultivated and accounts for two-thirds of coffee production due to its rich aroma and bright flavor. Robusta, on the other hand, is less commonly used on its own but is often blended with Arabica to add body and strength to the final product.

Robusta is a hardy and fertile tree, while Arabica is more delicate and susceptible to disease and the cold. For this reason, efforts have been made to create a hybrid that combines the fertility of Robusta with the flavor of Arabica.

It’s important to note that Robusta is a coffee for everyone and is no less superior than Arabica. There are many fans of high-quality Robusta, as good coffee is subjective. So try different varieties to find your perfect match.

How to choose coffee beans based on labeling

There is no universal standard for bean quality classification, but each country has its own labeling system to identify the product’s characteristics.

There is no universal standard for bean quality classification, but each country has its own labeling system to identify the product’s characteristics.

Growing conditions for coffee trees

Wild coffee trees grow on mountain slopes, producing some of the finest grains despite the harsh and rocky soil. The best varieties are collected from wild and semi-wild trees in Ethiopia, considered to be the birthplace of coffee.

For high-mountain Arabica with a distinctive sour flavor, look for the labeling of SHG (strictly high grown) or HG (high grown). High-quality coffee is also marked as ORGANIC, indicating that it was harvested from certified plantations without the use of chemical fertilizers.

Coffee tree

Grain size

In general, large grains are a sign of high-quality Arabica. Grains that are 8mm long are considered very large, 7.5 to 6mm are large, 6mm are medium, and 5.5 to 4mm are small. Different labeling systems are used in different countries, such as “A” for large grains in India, “AA” in Kenya and Tanzania, and “AAA” in Peru. In Indonesia, the labeling system uses “S” for small, “M” for medium, and “L” for large.

It’s important to note that grain appearance is not always a reliable indicator of quality. For example, coffee from Ethiopia and Yemen is often small and unassuming, but its taste is excellent due to traditional growing and processing methods.

coffee grains


The hardness of the grain is another factor that indicates the quality of Arabica. Harder grains are labeled as HB (hard bean) or SHB (super hard bean).

Shelf life

Coffee has a standard shelf life of one year, and it should be stored at a humidity of 50% and a temperature of 25°C to preserve its quality.

The rules for choosing coffee beans are not set in stone, as different varieties have unique characteristics. In some cases, extended storage can lead to new coffee variations, such as Aged  or matured. Aged coffee is stored for 6-7 years, resulting in decreased acidity and increased smoky notes and thickness. Monsooned coffee, on the other hand, is stored in high-humidity conditions and has a taste reminiscent of aged coffee.

The roasting process, which takes place between 220°C to 250°C for 4 to 25 minutes, also plays a major role in the final taste of the coffee. Roasting reduces the acidity content and removes unpleasant aftertastes and viscosity, while enhancing flavors such as chocolate, fruit, bread, and nuts.

When deciding on the roast level, consider your personal coffee preferences. Low roasting is best for making light morning coffee or coffee with milk, while medium and strong roasting is ideal for filtered coffee and French press. The highest degree of roasting is perfect for Oriental coffee and espresso.

Coffee: mixed and single origin

Coffee is a diverse product, with grains from different crops varying significantly in taste and characteristics. This variation is due to factors such as temperature, rainfall, and humidity, making each harvest unique. By blending beans from different harvests or plantations, a range of exciting flavor combinations can be created. Roasted coffee beans are sold in two forms: single origin and blended. Let’s explore the differences between the two.

Cup of coffee

Single origin coffee (varietal). This type of coffee consists of beans sourced from a single plantation, allowing you to fully experience the taste specific to that particular type of coffee. However, as the taste of beans can vary from year to year, this option may not provide consistent flavor.

Blended coffee. These sorts typically consist of 5 to 12 different varieties of coffee, combining beans to produce a consistent flavor profile. These blends are often used to make espresso, with mixtures containing 10-20% Robusta providing a cost-effective option.

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