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A Guide to Buying Fresh Coffee Beans Online

4 August 2021
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Let’s face it, online shopping is unbeatable for today’s lifestyles, or what many are calling “the new normal”.

Of course, there are plenty of good reasons why many still prefer making in-store purchases; you can see the item, feel the item, and at times, even try the item, thus greatly decreasing your chances of dealing with the dreaded buyer’s remorse. But when it’s not convenient to head out or you’re pressed for time, it’s natural to want to make purchases with a few clicks on the Internet.

E-shopping is fast, easy, and you don’t even need to leave home. For hardcore java lovers, you’ll be glad to know buying fresh coffee beans online is 100% possible. You just need to know what to look out for.

Price

a cup of coffee surrounded by coffee beans
The price of a packet of beans says a lot about its quality/cupping score, so pay attention to that. Photo from Bogdan Carmaciu.

Price isn’t just a number when shopping for coffee beans. It’s directly related to a coffee’s cupping score.

So what is cupping, you ask? It refers to a standardised, globally recognised process in which a cup of coffee is evaluated based on aspects such as flavour, acidity, texture, sweetness – just to name a few.

The score ranges between one to 100, and by determining a coffee’s quality this way, a price per kilo can be decided as fairly as possible. A score of around 80 is regarded as pretty decent, but since cupping scores aren’t usually listed on the packaging, you’re better off looking at prices and perhaps doing some quick research on the beans you’re eyeing.

Roast Type

Look for pictures of the beans to identify roast types, which generally fall into two categories: light and dark/medium. You typically want to avoid any coffee bean that is way too dark as they will taste quite bitter.

Light roasts are usually kept for brewing methods that use natural gravity to extract the flavours from the grind (filter coffee extraction), and with this, you get fruitier coffee that’s more acidic.

If you’re going for medium-coloured roasts (sometimes known as ‘espresso roast’), know that they are more suitable for espresso machines (say hello to our sleek Dedica Style Manual Espresso Machine), and not bean-to-cup machines.

If you do use medium roasts for your bean-to-cup machine, you may end up getting a brew that’s highly acidic. Medium roasts are relatively common online, but don’t forget to look at the price, which will tell you if they’re more dark than medium.

Also, remember to look at the roast date. This is very important as coffee loses its flavour over time, so plan ahead to make sure you can finish your beans within four to five weeks of their roast date.

Can’t locate a roast date? Look at other information that might be available, such as a manufacturing or expiry date. This will also give you a good idea of the freshness of the beans.

Coffee Style

a bag of coffee beans
The colour of the beans will tell you about the roast, and it’s usually either light (fruitier, more acidic) or dark/medium (dark is bitter, while medium is best for espresso machines). Photo from Caleb Minear.

How you like and want your coffee is important when deciding what beans to get online.

For example, not all beans create a brew that’s suitable if you add milk to it (if you want coffee with milk, avoid anything with citrus or floral notes), and things like flavoured coffee beans (sea salt caramel, etc.) change the game completely.

Determine your preference first, then click “Check out”.

Blend vs. Single Origins

To put it simply, a single-origin coffee comes from one country, while a blend, as its name suggests, is a combination of coffees (usually single-origin coffees).

A general rule of thumb is that blends (usually washed processed coffee) are good if you like to have your coffee with milk, and other options like natural processed coffees (read the description before buying) are better without milk.

Region/Source

coffee farmers in indonesia harvesting coffee cherries
A region’s climate factors such as soil, altitude, wind, and rainfall play a role in the coffee plant’s health and ability to produce flavours. Photo from Delightin Dee.

Similar to wine, coffee beans from different parts of the world are known for their taste profiles.

If you’re not sure about this bit, coffee from Central and South America is usually quite smooth, clean-tasting, and sweet; coffee from Africa is quite fruity and at times complex; while coffee from Asian is known to be full-bodied and earthy.

Perhaps there’s no harm in buying beans from various regions if you’re in the mood to experiment!

This article features Dedica Style Manual Espresso Machine

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