by Matt Gibson
The wide world of coffee is always expanding. New coffee companies and small-batch roasters are popping up at higher rates than ever before. That’s because the search for premium coffee has become a much more popular quest in the modern world. With the rising popularity of the pour over and french press brewing methods, more and more people are seeking out higher quality coffee beans than ever before. Serious coffee enthusiasts buy small batches of single-origin whole coffee beans and grind them at home just before brewing. The days of overproduced, pre-ground, budget blends are slowly fading away, while the demand for high-grade coffee beans is steadily rising.
So what is the best coffee that you might be able to find at your local grocery store? Well, considering how everyone’s tastes are different, not to mention the ever-expanding wealth of top-quality choices, that’s an impossible question to answer with any kind of definitive clarity. That being said, there is still an easy way to lead you in the right direction. Instead of telling you the exact coffees to buy, this article will tell you what to look for when selecting high end coffees, and we also include a few tips for getting the most out of the coffee you choose.
Here are a few major brands that are available at most grocery stores around the country that you can start with. Starbucks, Peets, Gevalia and Illy.
The best coffees are grown in the highest available altitudes across the globe. Growing coffee in the mountains is a costly undertaking, as you have to pay laborers to tend to your crops, high in the mountaintops, where the slopes are steep and footing is never sure. Producing coffee in the best possible growing environments means paying more for labor costs. After the coffee is harvested, it is typically graded and separated into different price brackets based on the quality of the cherries produced.
In Hawaii, one of the most beloved regions to produce and export single-sourced coffee beans, there is a hierarchy of coffee growers. At the top of the food chain is the coffee which is produced in the Kona Island Coffee Belt, a small strip of premium coffee growing land, high in the mountains, which is 30 miles long and only two to three miles wide. Only the coffee beans that are grown in this tiny stretch of farmland can bear the honorable distinction of being called Kona coffee. Kona coffee beans are then graded strictly and divided into different classes.
Kona coffee exists in two types, type I beans have two beans in each cherry, whereas type II beans have one round coffee bean in each cherry. Type I beans can receive one of five different grades, the best of which is called Kona extra fancy. Extra fancy single-origin 100% Kona coffee beans is amongst the finest coffee that you can find on the market, and its price will reflect that quality. Below Kona extra fancy beans are Kona fancy, Kona number 1, Kona select, and Kona prime. Type II beans are rare and highly sought after as well, as they only make up about three to five percent of a particular crop of coffee beans. Type II Kona coffee beans are either classified as peaberry prime or peaberry number 1 beans. The grade that the coffee beans receive will let growers know what they will charge for the beans produced. The better the grade, the more expensive the beans.
So, is single-origin Kona extra fancy the best coffee beans money can buy? And can you find them at your local grocery store? Perhaps, and maybe. Single-origin coffees grown all over the world each bring their own distinct qualities and flavors to the discussion. There are Kenyan and Guatemalan coffees that are as good or better than many high-ranking Hawaiian coffees on the market. What is the best one is up to your personal tastes and preferences. However, Kona coffees, especially the ones with the highest grades, are amongst the finest coffee beans in the world.
Whether or not your grocery store is well stocked in single origin coffees from around the world is another story. Many grocery stores have excellent selection when it comes to coffee, while others may only have big brands in stock. If your grocery store has a limited selection of quality coffee available, you may want to consider looking for another store to meet your coffee needs. If you live in the middle of nowhere, you can always look online and order your coffee directly from the coffee roasters themselves. The selection online is massive, and you can easily get lost for hours trying to find the most loved single-origin coffees from around the world.
Getting the best coffee beans is just the first step to enjoying the best possible coffee. You also need to know how to get the most out of the coffee beans that you purchase. Here are a few important tips to getting the best possible java from your coffee beans.
- Buy small batches of single origin coffee beans. The smaller the batch, the less likely you will be to allow the coffee to go stale. Another great thing about small batches, is that when you run out, it’s time to try a different coffee with a new and welcome supply of complex flavors and aromas.
- Don’t grind your beans at the store. Don’t grind them ahead of time at all. Wait until you are just about to brew your coffee before grinding your beans so that you get the freshest brew possible. Invest in a Burr grinder for a perfect, even grind that doesn’t alter the composition of the coffee beans during the grinding process. Blade-based grinders create too much friction during the grinding process, which can burn the coffee grounds, or alter their chemical composition. Burr grinders use pressure to crush the beans, which keeps them from getting too hot during the preparation.
- Use the right brewing technique to get the best cup of joe possible from your beans. Why would you do all that research to find the best single-origin beans, pay the premium costs for the highest grade of coffee beans you can get, just to brew the grounds in a lackluster machine, like a standard drip brew coffee maker. Brewing high end coffee in a drip machine is a waste of good coffee. To really get the best cup of joe from your top-of-the-line beans, get a pour over device, or a french press.
- If you are new to pour over or french press brewing, take a few minutes to watch a YouTube video or two to learn the proper way to brew using your new device before diving right in to brewing. Those who have a bit of experience can teach newcomers a lot about how to properly brew coffee with these devices.
- Once you find a single-origin coffee that is out of this world, don’t stop your search. Sure, you can come back to a favorite anytime you want, but the point of the search is to find many favorites along the way, so always push yourself to try a new origin country or a new brand. Considering how many options you have to choose from these days, there’s an endless supply of good coffee to choose from.
- Once you are ready to brew your first cup, do a bit of research about coffee tasting and learn about how to better appreciate the subtle nuances of flavor, aroma, aftertaste, body, and mouthfeel which you can experience each time you try a new coffee.
- If you really want to experience the taste of good coffee, you should probably move away from altering the flavor of your brew with excess additives, such as cream and sugar. Though cream and sugar can work wonders when taming down mediocre coffee blends like those churned out for the masses by big corporations, these additives will only detract from the complexities of flavor and aroma that top-rated single origin coffee provides.