Choosing the best coffee beans is a fluid process. It’s about as simple as defining “good coffee”.
While there are specific guidelines to determine quality, it largely depends on you at the end of the day.
Below, we’ve put together a wide selection of coffee beans that can be considered “best” regardless if you enjoy a light, medium or dark roast.
In case you’re still undecided after going through our picks, we’ve followed it up with a simple guide on understanding roasts, flavors, and other preferences.
Now, if you’re in a rush here’s the top three picks:
The 12 Best Coffee Beans In The World
For this piece, we want to tease before we explain so here’s a quick list of high-quality coffee beans, which we consider some of the best in the world:
These coffee beans were a recent top pick on the list of our favorite light roasts.
When it comes to light roast, it’s the least ‘burnt’ of all roast levels. This means that you retain more of the flavor from the original coffee beans. It also implies that you maximize a light roast selection by taking it black.
Why did these beans beat out other great coffee selections?
For the intro, your hit with a raspberry flavor that’s complemented with this coffee’s tea-like body. Your first perception of sweetness is a reminder of a ripe mango.
Did we say first? Yes.
As the coffee swooshes through your mouth down and your throat, it morphs into a creamy, sweet, cookie finish. It’s another amazing feat of nature, considering that this is supposed to be a light-bodied cup of coffee.
You can play with brew times, brew methods, and brew temperatures and keep getting different, but consistently good coffee. If you like having fun with your coffee beans, this pick will make sense for you! Remember that whole beans are always better than grounds!
When it comes to medium roast beans, you’ll see this with how versatile your cups are. Small adjustments optimize them to be taken in as black, but with more tweaks here and there, they can also work well with milk.
For this selection, it’s sweet and bright. These bright, fruity notes typical of Ethiopian brews naturally work together to enhance each other.
From your first sip, you get citrus notes boosted by the beans’ medium roast body, while mellowing down to a pleasant tea-like finish. If you prefer your coffee milky, it’s fun to experiment with an iced latte for this pick.
We label this as the best selection for medium roasts, especially if you take your coffee black. So consider that variable when deciding if this bag of coffee beans is for you.
If you enjoy more floral and fruity brews, check out our list of Ethiopian coffees to find similar picks.
This is the second “best pick” from our best dark roast list, making this current list an all-star selection.
Dark roast is a totally different beast. It boils down to a specific preference for those who like it. There is a market for the bitter finish, heavy body, and straightforward coffees. Low acid content is also a plus if it suits your taste.
Sumatran beans are known for these qualities. This pick makes high-quality coffee that’s complex, meaning that it falls under the medium-dark roast category.
Medium-dark has the qualities that dark roasts are known for, with more flavor complexity. In the realm of good whole bean coffee options, it’s always best to grind on demand to preserve as much flavor as you can.
Sumatran Mandheling is easily considered one of the best coffee beans for this roast level, and natural flavors can easily cut through milk. They are also balanced out well with chocolate, so this would be a delightful ingredient for a good mocha.
When taken black, it has a strong, punchy taste that’s good for those who like to be woken up by their taste buds.
Related read: Coffee From Sumatra
There’s a good chance that you’re vaguely familiar with “Blue Mountain Coffee”. That’s because it’s one of the best sources of coffee beans in the world!
In case you haven’t heard about Blue Mountain Coffee, these beans are grown in the highest mountain range in the Caribbean, exceeding 1400 meters above sea level. Arabica coffee beans grow best at higher elevations, and this premium bag of beans is a prime example of this.
Wiith the higher elevation, the coffee plant matures slowly and focuses energy into producing more beans as a means for survival.
The slower growth means that acids and sugars have more time to increase in content and complexity inside the arabica beans.
What about the flavor notes?
These medium roasted coffee beans are woody with some gentle floral notes captured in a mild body. It’s easy to appreciate and clean in flavor and finish.
The “best” of anything can shine without any frills. The same holds true for the best coffee beans. This is why we’ve labeled this bag of beans as the best premium single origin. Experienced drinkers will taste the difference, and beginners will have a new baseline for comparison.
If this catches your eye, you may earn a new coffee understanding badge by choosing 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain.
Peaberry coffee beans are a good kind of mutation. 1 bean grows in the place of 2 in the cherry of the coffee plant. What does this mean? Well, you end up with the flavors and sugars meant for 2 beans, all rolled in one. It’s a pretty amazing feat of nature!
If you want a taste of the famous peaberry variety, this is our top pick on this list for you.
In terms of flavor, it’s sweet, round, and chocolatey. These are delightful flavors to be taken in your black coffee, and with milk. In fact, you’ll end up using less added sweeteners when you invest in the best beans.
Another dimension to purchasing these types of coffee beans is fair trade. By supporting best practices, you lift up the entire coffee industry by encouraging farmers to keep doing what they do well with more profit.
With good whole beans, you boost everything up all the way to brewing!
This selection by Volcanica Coffee is fair trade certified. So if peaberry interests you, and chocolate entices you, this could be an excellent first pick.
Panama Geisha Coffee is the safest to recommend to experienced brewers looking for something different and delightful
It’s a hit-or-miss with new drinkers because it tends to be light and bright compared to your usual drip dark roast beans. Which is a testament to how varied tastes and preferences can be for all of us. So set expectations according to the expected flavor notes.
Jasmine tea-like aromas with a light body are unexpected in a cup of coffee. After that cool intro, you get a citrus mandarin note with a mango sweetness that floats down to a mellow, sweet, lingering finish.
Panama Geisha is among the best coffee beans in the world. If you’re looking for the most premium quality whole beans, you definitely won’t find these in a grocery store. So when they’re available online, it’s best to buy directly from the source. Especially as these beans are roasted on demand, unlike most choices available via Amazon.
On a more personal note, these beans are directly responsible for inspiring me to go deeper into my coffee career. A master barista prepared them for me black, bringing out the bright tea-like flavors (that blew my mind) as pour-over and espresso. You can infer that these beans work well using any brew method.
Even if they’re pricey, this is definitely a taste of quality coffee. If budget permits, you may want to look into these for a different type of coffee experience.
If you’re looking for an organic, USDA certified, fair trade coffee, Lifeboost is your go-to. They are proud of their shade-grown coffee beans that are grown with exceptional care.
Their company’s “why?” is simple, straightforward, and relatable, just like these dark roasted espresso roast beans. What do I mean? Well, they focus on not just the output but the entire process, from paying farmers what they deserve to taking care of the environment via organic farming practices.
With chocolate and caramel notes, some acidity, and some sweetness, these Nicaraguan beans are familiar but markedly better than what’s available at the grocery store level. The best coffees to push when it comes to espresso are the simple ones so that people can immediately compare them with their usual cups.
You can extend the brew time a bit when drinking a black espresso-based coffee using these beans. It has no trouble cutting through the fat and the sugars with milk, even helping them shine through more with each sip.
If you enjoy espressos, this is a good choice relative to how simple brewing espresso coffee is with these beans. Simple routines that have lots of essential aspects you keep track of while brewing need getting used to. If you have the equipment, this is a fun type of beans to experiment coffee with too!
Related read: Coffee For Espresso
Hawaii is the source of some of the best coffee beans in the world. These are high-quality, shade-grown Arabica beans grown on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano.
As a veteran coffee-producing origin, they have laws and practices that are industry-leading under fair trade. These rules and regulations protect their farmers and their products from being over-worked and overused, a step towards maintaining world-class quality!
These medium-roast beans are smooth, with a sweet intro and a clean finish. The flavors indicate high quality, and you have to try the best that Hawaii has to offer.
Because this blend of their highest-graded coffees is a delight to experience, try it with a French Press. The grind size required for this brew method allows the parameters to extract the flavors that make this coffee special. Whole bean coffee bags will also keep fresh longer than ground, so choose depending on consumption.
Try it as hot and iced! Remember to shorten your usual ratio a bit to make space for those ice cubes without diluting your cup of coffee.
Related read: Kona Coffee From Hawaii
Cold-brew is a totally different animal.
Without the use of heat to extract flavor from coffee beans, you get a totally different flavor profile even with your most familiar brew!
The science is in the type of acids you get. The heat dissolves more of the acids when brewing, and quicker. Brewing cold extracts the flavor over a more extended duration, but leaves some types of acids behind, but avoiding the ones that are reactive with your tummy.
Since the brand only works with farms that use best practices, these light roast coffee beans are also USDA certified. Since cold brew is excellent to enjoy on its own, you’ll want the best beans so that you will be brewing the best coffee.
Expect your cup to still have a decent body, with minimal (even zero) bitterness for some. This is a fun pick if you’re looking for a new way to brew using fresh beans. Coffee is a drink for many and a reason to experiment for some!
Related read: Coffee For Cold Brew
Most medium roast drinkers use a hot brewing method. There’s a balance you get between bright flavors and a nutty, chocolatey flavor when you brew hot.
This is why this is our pick for “best low acid coffee”.
It takes the best coffee beans as a result of best practices to create something that’s low in reactive acids like this arabica selection. Naturally, a low acid coffee means it’s less intrusive on more sensitive stomachs. Making these beans great for everyone!
As we noted earlier, Lifeboost is fast-becoming known for its quality selection of farms to work with. They focus more on the scientific process of planting, harvesting and processing to make sure that the end product is good for consumption. The fact that they subscribe to fair trade is also a boost.
With this bag, expect a chocolatey, caramel finish. It’s a sweet coffee even if taken on its own, which again hints at how the sugars took time to develop as the coffee trees matured. These are great on paper in terms of the quality of the beans. Coffee can only be expected to be the best once you read up more on how they do it from farm to cup!
Trying these was a memorable moment, opening the bag of whole bean coffee led to an immediate hit of sunny coconut.
It was lightly roasted, with nutty flavors and a clear taste of toasted coconut! We found the body to be pleasant, a bit full for a light roast even (in a good way). After letting it cool for a bit, and taking more sips I was just blown away with how the flavors were tweaked a bit, but still oh so clear!
Bear in mind that there weren’t any syrups used to flavor these beans, which makes it another fantastic product from nature. This, coupled with the best farming practice yield an incredibly flavorful brew.
It’s clear that buying beans like these, direct from Hawaii, a place of quality coffee, you can expect one of your “best cup of coffee” moments when you brew this at the right temperature and ratio.
Remember to try high temperatures since these are light, and research the ideal ratios for the brew methods you’ll be using.
This is one of the most famous single origins. To get a decaf version is amazing for those who have a hard time with high caffeine levels!
It has a good body, and the intro stands out, with a screaming apple-like acidity and sweetness. As it passes through your palate, you’ll taste a delectable coffee all the way through the finish.
It’s a medium roast, which would be ideal for a wide array of brew methods. I suggest a pour-over method or an SCAA approved drip coffee machine for best results.
You will be hardpressed to find decaf beans of this quality. If you’re on this piece to learn or are looking for a gift for someone who loves coffee but you yourself can’t because of your body’s reaction to caffeine, these coffee beans are for you!
Related read: Our Favorite Decaf Coffees
The Best Coffee Beans Buyers Guide
Here we are!
We put together this “best of the best” list to serve as a guide for a wide range of coffee interests. If you find one, two, or three that match your current curiosities, we hope we set your expectations fairly enough to be able to enjoy your next bean orders.
While there is a scientific and specific way to distinguish good coffee beans from bad ones, it depends on your taste at the end of the day. Your preferred brew methods and what you add to your coffee also play important roles in selecting the best coffee beans for you.
If it doesn’t match your way of doing and liking coffee, you’ll be disappointed by even the best bean. Coffee is highly personal, and with this next part of the article, we aim to illuminate you and your personal preferences a bit more.
Let’s dive a bit into the factors that make up the “best” coffee beans around. What we usually see and experience is the end product. We don’t see all the hard work, teamwork, and perfect conditions that are necessary for us to enjoy these amazing arabica beans that we’ve reviewed here.
You may or may not have experienced how different coffee beans from Ethiopia are compared to Brazil’s coffee beans.
Ethiopian coffee beans are usually fruity, juicy, sweet, and light-bodied. While the flavor profile from this origin is a hit in the specialty coffee industry, it’s not the easiest to welcome those who are just getting into “real coffee”.
On the flip side, Brazilian coffee beans are nutty and chocolatey. They are roasted medium or medium dark, which makes their flavor profile and overall register familiar enough to be a safer pick for those exploring quality coffees.
There are so many more origins like Hawaii, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. The list can go on! So what affects the type of flavors that develop in these coffee beans that are regarded as the best in the world?
Aroma makes up 80% of taste. This is why we can’t taste properly when have a cold: our nose is blocked! Given that aroma is an important aspect of taste, what affects the aroma that develops in a coffee bean?
Climate and soil.
If you’ve noticed, the best arabica coffee beans are grown on mountains, at high altitudes. These bring about conditions that make it more challenging for coffee plants to grow, thus causing them to go in “survival mode”. In this survival mode, they focus on producing quality seeds (what we know as beans) to ensure their continued survival. This takes more time and resources to take place.
Coffee beans growing slow means there’s more time for acids and sugars to develop inside the beans. With the perfect conditions, even without additives, you get so much flavor packed into the bean. Coffee is naturally complex, having 3-4 times as many flavor notes possible to discern through different origins than wine!
Other bonuses in nature for coffee beans to become the best coffee beans are controlled sunlight, and soil quality.
Plants feed off of the sun. With lots of sunlight, they grow healthy and happy. Coffee plants need sunlight as well, but in keeping with making it “challenging” for them to grow, shade-grown coffees are the best tasting. This goes back to buying more time for the flavors to develop in the bean before it matures.
Coffee plants are always directly in contact with soil. Soil quality is essential because the nutrients provide a means for the bean’s fats and oils to develop nicely.
If you’ve noticed, volcano-grown coffees are usually highly rated. That can be attributed to volcanic soil being able to hold water better than ordinary soil. This, of course, is a factor besides the fact that these high elevations have microclimates.
With that said, let’s take a look at a few origins to be able to take a closer look at the best coffee beans available today. We will point out some similarities and differences, and give a general list of flavor notes you can expect from each.
Brazil is the one of the largest coffee producing countries in the world. In the specialty industry, we know these beans as having clear flavor notes. They usually end up being nutty and chocolatey, but some places also make beans with fruity notes! Cups of Brazilian coffee often have good bodies, sweet, and low in (reactive) acid.
They’re familiar in taste but clearly better than lower-graded coffee beans. This is why in the specialty coffee industry, it’s good to keep a bag of Brazil ready for brewing!
Colombia is the world’s second-highest producing coffee country but is probably the most well known. They have varying prices and grades for their coffee. From instant solubles to a single origin, they have their name in it! This is why they classify their coffees as Supremo and Excelso.
Supremo is their largest bean in size, resulting in sweet, aromatic, and balanced cups of coffee. Excelso is more acidic, with a heavier body, and more straightforward in terms of taste.
On the consumer side, Colombian beans are easy to love as well. It will almost boil down to availability. Good Colombian roasts move quickly, so it will depend on which is readily available in your area when it comes to Colombia versus Brazil.
Keep in mind that both are top coffee bean producers that make highly-relatable but definitely-better cups of coffee than what’s commercially available.
Some debates about where to get the best coffee beans end with this origin. This is because Panama is home to the famous Geisha or Gesha variety.
This variety has a special place in my heart because it was my introduction to “top quality” beans.
I still remember my first sip of Panama Geisha during a Barista Competition. I was able to experience it as an espresso and as a flat white. Those two servings are still two of my best coffee cups 6 years down the line.
It’s in tropical climates such as what Panama has that coffee thrives, and that is why they carry the Geisha quite well.
Other than the Geisha, they produce coffee with sharp tastes, light-to-medium bodies, juicy, balanced, and sweet. It is tough to mess up your orders in the coffee industry when you use the best Panamanian beans.
Guatemala is an origin with lots of farms on volcanoes and other spaces with rugged terrain. As you can infer, these mixes and matches result in richly flavored, full-bodied coffees. Some of their coffee plants are grown at up to 4,500 feet above sea level!
In our experience, coffee from this origin tastes chocolatey because of the body, with intros that remind us of spices. Most of the time, we enjoy coffee using Guatemalan beans black, just to be able to notice all the fine aromas that come with them.
Honduras has a tropical climate as well. What makes it unique is how cold it gets up in their mountains. As discussed earlier, these factors (cold and elevation) contribute to harsh environments that allow coffee beans to develop nicely.
Honduran coffee is known to be light-bodied. Remember that light roasts are best taken in black. If beans are roasted light, that means that there is confidence in their quality because they’re best served with a black coffee recipe.
Light roast beans tend to result in water milky coffee cups.
You can expect fruits and chocolate tones from this coffee, along with almond and coconut tasting notes.
Most of the aforementioned origins produce more than one type of coffee. Costa Rica is different in a way that they only mainly produce washed-processed arabica coffee. As a matter of fact, Robusta is illegal. Yup, illegal!
Washed-processed is the faster way to process coffee beans. It places all the pressure on farming because it will only bring out what notes are already in the bean from planting, with no extra contact with the cherry.
The coffees from Costa Rica are usually bright, aromatic, with a light body and distinct sweetness. However, they’re most known to make incredibly balanced cups of coffee.
There’s not enough that can be said about the incredible island of Hawaii. They have fantastic weather, great beaches, and friendly people.
When it comes to coffee, they’re right at the top of the list as well!
The dominant tastes of their coffees are clear and sweet. You can get milk, chocolate, brown sugar, honey, and other sweet flavors. You can expect the perfect amount of brightness with a lingering, memorable finish for their light roasts.
What’s interesting to note about this origin is how they have multiple grading systems for their beans, depending on the number of defects, shape, aroma, etc.
Some brands can put a minimal amount of Hawaiian beans and already make them the main feature on their labels. Their coffee is that good.
This is why whenever you buy whole beans or ground, remember to purchase directly from small farms or companies that engage in fair trade. Coffee as an industry will keep improving if we engage in proper buying habits.
Indonesia is known for its fine-aged coffee. This process adds to the body and lessens their coffee beans’ acidity, the profiles of which are hard to replicate anywhere else.
This origin is most different from those mentioned above because they are rich, dark, and bold. However, it’s important to note that they retain complexity even when roasted dark!
The finish of their coffee is distinct and lingering and is often used to introduce people to specialty as well. With black recipes, it tastes more traditional coffees. With milk, it cuts through quite nicely as well!
Indian coffees are starting to improve in quality and world-wide familiarity. Similar to Indonesian coffees, the difference lies in the intro.
Coffee from India is brighter, with the same heavy body and dark, lingering finish. It’s a joy to experience as well!
One of their most famous roasts is the Monsoon Malabar, where beans are left to soak in the moisture from the monsoon winds—giving the beans a unique, unforeseen set of flavors.
Ethiopian coffees are delicate, light-bodied, and absolute fruit bombs. They are the darlings of the specialty coffee industry.
They have a wine or tea-like texture to them and are highly fragrant. Perhaps not the easiest to sell to a beginner in fine coffees. At some point, these are a must-try. Many of our favorites are Ethiopian coffees!
Just remember, these won’t taste like your typical brews but more fruity!
Similar to Ethiopia, Kenyan coffees are bright and light. Their difference? Kenyan coffees are more floral than fruity!
If you’re interested in flavorful, refreshing cups of coffee, this origin is for you! Kenyan beans are great as pour-overs and are good to have around as well to highlight quality.
You’ve probably heard of Blue Mountain Coffee. It’s on our list above, and the beans reflect the characteristics of the perfect coffee growing conditions on the Blue Mountain range.
It has a smooth, clean taste, with little-to-no bitterness. You’ll find that their coffee is floral, sweet, and nutty all in a well-balanced cup in greater detail.
Storing Coffee Beans
In case you explore several beans from different coffee origins at the same time, it’s ideal for keeping them in non-transparent, airtight containers away from sunlight. This is during their “prime” period of 2-4 weeks after roasting.
If you end up keeping them past this period, it helps to keep them in a place where the ambient temperature is stable and close to room temperature.
And for those of you who horde, you can place them in a ziplock and freeze. Before brewing, remember to defrost overnight before opening the ziplock. This is to avoid condensation ON the beans as they cool.
Decaf VS Caffeinated
Ah the classic cafe question.
On the surface, it seems simple enough. Coffee has caffeine and is prepped for selling in its natural state. Decaf is a classification of ready-to-brew beans with no caffeine for those who enjoy the taste of coffee or react negatively to caffeine.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that keeps us alert or makes us feel less tired. Unless otherwise labeled, it’s safe to assume that coffee beans have this, whether ground or whole bean.
So caffeinated has caffeine. Does “decaf” have zero of it?
No. You want to remove as much of the caffeine as you can without altering the taste too much. Caffeine has a bitter taste, and bitterness has a huge impact in small amounts, so this factor has to be tiptoed around.
Non-coffee drinkers order decaf for the coffee taste, so it would be silly to produce something that doesn’t taste like coffee!
If you want to learn more about caffeine in general check this link out.
Acidity is Flavor
One of the more confusing terms at the beginning of coffee journies is “acidic”. It’s usually used to refer to a reaction in the tummy (that you shouldn’t get from good beans).
In quality coffees, acid is a positive, complex tasting note that represents a good kind of sour. Other words used to describe the right type of sour are “bright” and “citrusy”.
As far as acidic compounds go, yes, coffee beans have a lot of it in them. Light roasts have the most of the flavorful acids compared to medium roast and dark roasts.
What are the acids in your coffee bean? Chlorogenic, quinic, citric, acetic, lactic, malic, phosphoric, linoleic, and palmitic.
High concentrations of these sometimes get us confusing them with bitterness, which is one of the louder notes you find in coffee.
Bitterness and Flavor
Bitterness is a sharp, loud, pungent taste. It’s highly noticeable by our palates because poison is bitter. So over time, we’ve evolved to be highly sensitive to it, among other tasting notes.
You need the least amount of a bitter substance for it to register. Conversely, you need the most of a sweet substance for it to be perceived by our taste buds.
So why is coffee bitter even with all the acids and sugars? Roasting and caffeine.
The darker you roast, the more bitterness you bring out of your coffee bean. This is why the top bean selections we posted earlier had some dark roast options that aren’t bitter (a sign of good quality).
One important thing to mention about bitterness though is that it highlights other notes in the right quantities and makes you want more of whatever you’re eating or drinking. This is why a well-rounded, balanced cup of coffee has such a strong pull on our senses.
Aside from roast level, caffeine in each bean can add to how bitter your cup is overall because it is sharp on its own.
In nature, caffeine acts as a natural pesticide for coffee trees. This is one of the defense mechanisms in coffee plants.
Since Robusta is grown on flat surfaces, these tend to be homes to more pests. This is why it has evolved to produce more caffeine than the arabica bean.
Coffee cups from the two types have a varying contrast of tastes! Even as you place one whole bean of each side by side, you’ll see how distinguishable they are.
In terms of coffee quality, caffeine has no direct effect on your cup. It is usually accounted for when you try different beans.
That’s unlike acidity, which has the ability to throw the balance off of a bean origin.
Now that you’ve been exposed to a quick list of the best coffee beans around the world aim to try them one by one to see which ones you like most.
Nonetheless, here’s the top three we rated the highest:
Remember to get whole bean coffee instead of ground for as long as you have the proper equipment. Aromatics matter and griding even the best beans will cause most of the tasting notes to disappear by the time you brew if you get them pre-ground.
As you try different origins, take mental or actual notes to mark down if they taste as what’s expected of the origin, or if what you tried is different.
Beans are crucial in terms of being able to make good coffee, but remember to use good water (mineral) with a good grinder (burr) to maximize your bean. Coffee is a product that results from sticking to best practices from farming to brewing, so learn and have fun with it!