The 10 Best Coffee Beans In the World (whole bean coffee)

There are literally thousands of choices when it comes to choosing good coffee beans. If you choose the wrong ones, you won't be brewing amazing coffee.

Here's a list of the best coffee beans...for different use cases. There is no #1 best bean because a great choice for one brewing method is a terrible choice for another. Whether you like a strong tasting espresso or refreshingly floral filter coffee, there is something for everyone on this list.

Read on with us as we travel the globe and answer the question: what are the coffee beans for you?  (P.s. - this is quality coffee only. You won't find brands like Lavazza or Starbucks here).

Where Do You Buy The Best Coffee Beans?

The best coffee comes from people who care. Who cares about coffee as much as you do?

The FIRST answer is local roasters. When you buy coffee directly from a (good) local roaster; you're buying high-quality, fresh roasted product from someone who cares. Your first step in buying great coffee is to start exploring any roasters nearby and trying their coffee.

best coffee beans in a packet

Don't have access to a great local roaster? Or can't be bothered spending a weekend finding one? The next best thing is ordering from an online roaster. What’s important is that you choose a company who clearly says that they only roast coffee AFTER it’s ordered. You don’t want them roasting coffee 2 months in advance of shipping it.

"[We are] committed to the highest quality and we fresh roast and ship the next business day after you place your order" - Volcanica Coffee Co

While there are many places you can find the best coffee, there are many places that you should definitely not buy coffee from. Avoid buying from:

  • The Grocery store (often sell low-quality beans with a long shelf life...the exception here is Whole Foods and other artisan stores)
  • Amazon - it’s the question of freshness. It is often roasted ahead of time so it could be packaged, shipped and stocked in the warehouse. Just do your research.

Even if the Amazon listing says “Fresh Roasted,” it might be 6 months old, as that is fresh in comparison with many of the other store bought beans. Yikes!

PRO TIP: purchase via a coffee subscription service. They source, roast and send you high-quality coffee on repeat (2019 customer favourite = Atlas Coffee Club).

How to Choose Good Whole Bean Coffee

Ok, you know where to buy great coffee; now its time to learn how to choose between the options. Here is a 2 minute crash course in coffee bean terminology to help you choose confidently.

Sometimes coffee bags are covered in words that don’t mean anything to us. Let’s decipher some of those for you.

Arabica beans vs Robusta beans

Arabica vs robusta beans

Arabica beans are far superior to Robusta in terms of flavor and quality (1). Often grown at higher elevations; giving the beans more time to develop their favor. Robusta beans contain more caffeine than Arabica. They are also much more disease resistant and produce a higher yield. That is why farmers still like to grow robusta, even though they sell for a much lower price.

Robusta is grown for companies that produce instant coffee and other lower quality, grocery store blends. You probably won’t see a roaster advertising their Robusta coffee. Stay away from it if you love great coffee.

Acidity and Bitterness

Acidity vs bitterness in coffee beans

Coffee is naturally acidic, but this is not a bad thing. Acidity is good becuase It gives coffee its natural flavor. But different beans have different levels of acidity and some people are sensitive to these acids. The acidity present in coffee has more to do with taste as opposed to pH (2), though many claim acidity in coffee to cause digestive issues.

  • Coffees from Africa are typically characterized by a higher acidity, with fruity or floral tasting notes.
  • Coffees from places like Brazil or Sumatra tend to have a much lower acidity with cocoa and nutty notes.

Acidity is greatly influenced by growing altitude. Coffee's grown at lower altitudes generally have lower acidity levels.

Bitterness is the result of brewing. Overly bitter coffee IS badIf you extract too much out of the ground coffee, the result will be a harsh, bitter finish. This usually happens when your grind size is too fine, or if you over-brew your grounds. The particles are smaller, so the water can touch more of the coffee, and ultimately extract more of it.

So in summary: Bitterness in coffee is something you can avoid by brewing properly. Acidity in coffee is natural and cannot be avoided. But you can “cover” some of the acidity with a dark roast, or by choosing low-acid beans.

Single Origin vs Blends

Single origin vs blends in coffee

Many coffee companies offer single origin coffees as well as blends.

Single origin simply means unblended. It’s a coffee from one specific region, such as an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. A blend, therefore, means it's a few beans, blended into one packet. Duhhh.

"Blends for milk, Single origins for black" - Five Senses Coffee

Blends are designed to produce a balance in terms of flavor, body, and acidity. A roaster might blend a coffee with a full body with another coffee that has very bright tasting notes in order to get the best of both coffees in one cup.

That's what happens when a roaster knows what he/she is doing. If they don't, they may blend to hide poorly roasted beans among normal beans. Stick to roasters that have a good reputation. Beware of companies that blend for the wrong reasons (3).

"One reason coffees are blended in the commercial world might be the use of lower-quality coffee in the blend" - Sweet Marias

The Roast Date

You know that fresh roasted coffee is better. But do you know the ideal number of days to consumer after your beans have been roasted? There's a lot of debate over this topic, but a safe range is: Anything between 8-20 days since roasted is best.

The best roasters include a roast date for their coffee, which lets you know how long it's been since it was roasted.

Most coffee experts agree that whole bean coffee retains its freshness between one week and one month after roasting..

To make the most of the short time your coffee is at its freshest:

  • Buy only what you know you can use in a few weeks
  • ​Brew within 30 minutes of grinding.
  • Keep your whole beans in a cool, dry place (a good storage container)

And yes - your coffee may actually be too fresh. You should allow at least 4 days after roasting because a buildup of C02 (Carbon Dioxide) can negatively affect brewing.

Fair Trade Coffee

Handful of coffee fruit

Fair Trade coffee has been grown and produced to certified standards, which are then upheld across the network of producers, organizations, consumers, and companies. These standards help provide a sustainable income for the farmers and workers who grow and harvest coffee, on an individual and community level. They also reduce the negative impact on the environment where coffee is grown.

Offering better trading conditions to coffee farmers, many of whom live in poor and marginalized parts of the world, helps provide better living conditions for farmers and their cities, towns, and villages.

In short: This is improving the lives of the people who grow, harvest, and process the coffee beans that we treasure. You can learn more about how it works in our article on Fair Trade coffee here.

USDA organic

Organic coffee means that it's grown without pesticides, right? It's a little more complicated than that. There are requirements for growing, processing, and even packaging coffee to ensure that it meets the standards implied in the organic label. And the requirements vary among countries that certify coffee (or other products as organic.

The organic certification by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is representative of the kind of standards and qualifications that represent organic coffee. These include the use of natural rather than synthetic fertilizer, shade-grown coffee crops that rely on bird and animal life as natural pest control for the coffee trees, and even ensuring that coffee roasters have only been used to prepare organically grown coffee beans.

There are so many health and environmental benefits of drinking organic coffee beans. If you want to know more read our article about the details of organic coffee here.

Best Coffee Beans in the World (2019)

Ok, enough with the education. You're ready for the list. Here are 10 beans that you should get on your coffee bean bucket list before you die.

1. Kona Coffee Beans from Hawaii

Information about Hawaiian Kona Coffe Beans

Kona is the largest Hawaiian island and is the best for growing high quality coffee. The best coffee in America in fact, voted by Forbes (4). With an excellent microclimate, the perfect blend of rain and sun, and fertile, volcanic soil, the slopes on the big island just happen to be perfect for growing coffee.

Kona is just a growing region in Hawaii; there are other beans available from the Hawaiian chain of island. 

Here is a detailed overview of Hawaiian coffee, but if you'd like to try some Kona here are the best Kona Coffee Brands.

To get your hands on high quality Kona coffee, you will have to pay a premium. Not only is coffee from here limited in production and highly sought after, it’s grown in the United States where farmers are paid much more than the average farmer in a traditional coffee growing country.

A high quality Kona coffee is worth the money as long as you buy the real thing. Avoid kona blends only 10% of the blend could be true Kona. Always buy Extra Fancy (the grade) as that is the highest quality. With a medium body, low acidity, and rich, smooth taste, this coffee will be an excellent addition to your auto drip or pour over routine. 

>>> CLICK HERE to see our recommendation for true Kona beans.

Specifications

  • Brand: Koa Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: Hawaii, USA
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: Sweet herbs and floral, with overtones of nuts
  • Aroma: Mild, smooth with vibrant acidity
  • Recommended brew styles: Drip and French Press

2. Blue Mountain Coffee Beans from Jamaica

Flavour characteristics of blue mountain coffee

Jamaica produces a relatively small amount of coffee each year, and not all of it comes from the Blue Mountain. But the coffee that does grow here is grown at a very high elevation.

It’s extremely limited in production and about 80% of each years crop goes to Japan. Plus, these beans are extremely labor intensive to produce, needing to be handpicked from the mountain slopes. The high elevation, cool temperatures and volcanic soil helps result in a harvest that takes nearly 10 months, which is much longer than that of other coffee growing regions.

The resulting cup of coffee will be well balanced with a full body, medium acidity with a mildly sweet taste. Some say blue mountain coffee is the smoothest brew they've ever enjoyed.

So getting these quality beans in the States will cost you a pretty penny. Is it worth it? Anyone that has tasted Blue Mountain Coffee will say: F-yes. But like Kona, Blue Mountain is one of those coffees that needs to be purchased wisely. We put together a guide on choosing blue mountain coffee here.

Many brands will mislead you into buying their coffee, claiming the Jamaican Blue Mountain name. Avoid blends and any Jamaican coffee priced less than $20/lb. To call a coffee Jamaican Blue Mountain Blend, only a very small amount of the coffee actually needs to be Blue Mountain.

The profile of this coffee will make for an excellent drip coffee, whether pour over or automatic. Drink it black and enjoy one of the most sought after coffees in the world.

>>> CLICK HERE to see the price for REAL blue mountain bea​​ns.

Specifications

  • Brand: Volcanica Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: Jamaica
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: Sweet herbs and floral, with overtones of nuts
  • Aroma: Mild, smooth with vibrant acidity
  • Recommended brew styles: Drip

3. Kenyan AA Coffee Beans

mation abInforout Kenyan AA Coffee beans

Kenya coffee beans are among the finest in the world. The effort that farmers go through cleaning and processing these beans is unmatched. Perhaps one of the greatest contributors to the quality of Kenyan coffee is the fact that the farmers are rewarded for better coffee. The government runs an auction in which all the coffee in Kenya is sold. Higher quality coffees sell for a higher price, giving farmers an incentive to improve their crop (5).

'AA' is the largest sized bean, followed by 'AB'. In Kenya, the bigger the better. Always look for 'AA'. These coffees are characterized by sweet fruit notes, a winey acidity and a syrupy body. Due to the processing, these coffees are among the cleanest tasting in the world.

As you'll see in our guide to Kenyan coffee beans, they make for excellent drip coffee, pour over or automatic. The medium-full body and bright fruit notes are sure to leave you smiling with each cup.

>>> CLICK HERE to see some, flavor bursting, luscious Kenyan AA beans?

Specifications

  • Brand: Volcanica Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: Kenya
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: Sweet fruit notes, a winey acidity and a syrupy body
  • Aroma: Fresh and floral
  • Recommended brew styles: Drip

4. Peaberry Beans From Tanzania

Information about Peaberry beans from Tanzania

A peaberry is a single, round coffee bean inside the coffee cherry. A normal coffee cherry holds 2 beans, side by side, each with a flat side. The peaberry is alone inside the cherry and shaped differently (read more about peaberry coffee here)

Because of the round shape and the fact that these beans are more dense than most coffee beans, they roast more uniformly (6). Only about 5% of all coffee beans in a given crop are considered peaberry. In order to get a lot of strictly peaberry beans, rigorous hand sorting is required to separate them from their half-bean counterparts. This added labor increases cost.

Peaberry is available from many regions but Peaberry beans from Tanzania are popular as they tend to have a brighter acidity, medium body and notes of brown sugar and subtle fruitiness. Delicious for an automatic dripper or as a pour over brew.

>>> Here is a source of high quality Peaberry from Tanzania.

Specifications

  • Brand: Volcanica Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: Tanzania
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: A brighter acidity, medium body and notes of brown sugar and subtle fruitiness
  • Aroma: Complex and sweety floral with layered notes of citrus, pineapple or coconut
  • Recommended brew style: Drip and Pour Over

5. Dark Roast Sumatra Mandheling Beans from Indonesia

Information about Dark Sumatran Mandheling Beans

This coffee is named after the Mandheling people who once farmed the coffee in northern Sumatra. Coffees from this area tend to have lower acidity with a sweet, smooth body. The coffee can vary in taste from cocoa and tobacco to earthy and herbaceous. Many people choose to dark roast Sumatra coffees to enhance sweetness and its almost spicy flavor.

Coffees from Sumatra as a whole are typically processed with a hybrid method, akin to wet-hulling. This processing method is perhaps the largest factor in the outcome of the coffee. These beans are great for your moka pot.

Sumatra Mandheling beans are one of the great controversies in coffee. Coffee drinkers tend to love it or hate it. What about you?

Due to its full body and low acidity this coffee does very well in a french press or pressure style brewing method.

>>> CLICK HERE to Buy Authentic Sumatran Beans 

Specifications

  • Brand: Volcanica Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: lower acidity with a sweet, smooth body
  • Aroma: earthy, mossy, funky and mushroomy
  • Recommended brew style: French Press and pressure brewing

6. Sulawesi Toraja Coffee Beans from indonesia

Information about Sulawesi Toraja

Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, is an Indonesian island to the east of Borneo. "Toraja" is the name of the group of people who grow and harvest the coffee in the northern highlands of the island.

Coffee is a family business on this island. Families grow coffee on their property as a means of adding some income to their household, but is often not a priority. Therefore, the coffee infrastructure isn’t very strong. This may be the reason these beans aren’t very common.

Coffee beans are partially processed by the family before being sold to a middleman at the local markets. These middlemen then go to the larger processing mills where the beans are completely dried and the work is finished.

The best coffees from Sulawesi will be very sweet and complex, with a low acidity, full body and some earthy and herbal notes to it. The flavour is hard to This coffee will make for a great medium-dark roast, highlighting the sweetness and full body present in the coffee (7).

"Perfect for those who hate the bitterness...because the bitter aftertaste of coffee seems to magically disappear after the first sip, leaving a pleasant sensation on your tongue" - Indonesian Tourism Board

Brew up a french press or pull a shot with this solid, unique coffee.

>>> CLICK HERE to try tasty yet rare Sulawesi beans

Specifications

  • Brand: Volcanica Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: Sulawesi, Indonesia
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: Very sweet and complex, with a low acidity, full body and some earthy and herbal notes
  • Aroma: Spicy, earthy, musty and woodsy
  • Recommended brew style: French Press and Espresso

7. Central American Geisha Coffee Beans

information about Central American Geisha Coffee Beans

Geisha coffee beans are among the most unique in the world.

Though they can in theory grow anywhere, they have a special reputation when grown in Panama and Costa Rica. The most famous farm is Hacienda La Esmeralda. The Geisha bean was originally discovered in Ethiopia, near the town of Geisha. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that this bean varietal made it to Panama.

What makes the Geisha bean unique? It has a natural tea-like body with a ton of clear, bright, sparkling flavors such as citrus, mango, peach and jasmine. You may also pick up on some bergamot or vanilla notes..

This is a tough coffee to find for a few reasons. Few cafes serve it because it is an extremely expensive coffee and it is served best as a filter coffee. Cafes serve mainly milk based beverages, so it doesn’t make sense for many to serve a coffee that can only be taken black. You’ve likely never had a coffee like this before. It is truly unique. If you enjoy lighter, brighter coffees, this is one you need to try.

>>> CLICK HERE to see some authentic Geisha Beans

Specifications

  • Brand: Volcanica Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: Central America
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: Natural tea-like body, sparkling flavors like citrus, mango, peach and jasmine
  • Aroma: Floral and lemony tones
  • Recommended brew style: Pour Over and Filter

8. Monsooned Malabar coffee beans from India

Monsooned Malabar Coffee

Mellow flavor lies within the Monsooned Malabar beans from India given their name because of how the wind disperses them during the monsoon season. The beans expand with moisture and create a rich finish - so we recommend trying them if you live in a humid environment to get the most out of the experience.

Try brewing these in a french press, moka pot, or espresso machine of any type.

Specifications

  • Brand: Coffee Bean Direct
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: India
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: Strong, intense, low acid, tons of syrupy chocolate and dark cocoa tones
  • Aroma: Funky, pungent, mixed spices and herbal
  • Recommended brew style: Espresso

9. Yirgacheffe Beans from Ethiopia

Information about Ethiopian Yiracheffe

Yirgacheffe is regarded as holy among the global coffee community.

Ethiopia itself is regarded as the birthplace of coffee and beans from Yirgacheffe are it’s pride and joy. Sidama is a region in Ethiopia that contains the microregion of Yirgacheffe. Within Yirgacheffe, however, are even smaller regions: Adado, Aricha, Kochere, Konga, and more.

Ethiopian coffee is typically wet processed, producing a coffee that is light in body, almost tea-like, with complex fruit and floral notes. Go into any specialty coffee shop and you are likely to find coffee from this region on the shelf. It’s easy to see why these coffees are known as the gateway to great coffee.

When roasted lightly, these coffees are excellent in an automatic drip or pour over. They also make for a refreshing iced coffee or cold brew. Try a medium roast or something darker for a tasty shot of espresso.

>>> CLICK HERE for freshly roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe.

Specifications

  • Brand: Volcanica Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica
  • Origin: Ethiopia
  • Type: Single origin
  • Tasting notes: light body, with complex fruit and floral notes
  • Aroma: earthy, with cinnamon and strawberry undertones
  • Recommended brew style: Drip and Pour Over

10. Death Wish Coffee Beans

Death Wish Coffee

Death wish coffee is one of the worlds strongest coffee's that you've probably heard of due to great marketing. Simply put; these are USDA certified sustainable, organic, low acid and (very) highly caffeinated coffee beans. If you’re in need of a huge energy hit but don’t want sacrifice quality these are for you. Here's a full list on the worlds strongest coffee.

They offer a range of options; whole bean, ground, pods and even a coffee subscription option (if you dare). The common theme: high quality beans with whopping 3-6x more caffeine than a standard cup of coffee. The Death Wish Coffee Company offers so much more than just strong beans. I tried these and was pleasantly surprised by the bean quality and roast profile. You can read our full review here.

>>>CLICK HERE to try Death Wish Coffee

Specifications

  • Brand: Death Wish Coffee
  • Beans: Arabica and Robusta Blend
  • Origin: Mixed (see store)
  • Type: blend
  • Tasting notes: Strong and bold 
  • Aroma: strong, nutty
  • Recommended brew style: French press or espresso

Other Coffee Regions You Should Explore

We've covered some of the major coffee producing nations in the above list of recommended beans. But sometimes its easier, and more fun, to choose via location alone.  Here is a list coffee growing regions throughout the world, and a guide to buying and brewing from each.

Coffee from Asia and Oceania:

Coffee from the African Region:

Coffee from the Americas:

FINAL THOUGHTS

And thats it for this list. There is no verdict because the best coffee is totally subjective! By now you should have some beautiful arabica coffee. It's time to brew it, and don't forget to store it properly - use a storage canister and keep it out of direct light.

FAQ's

What are the best beans for espresso brewing?

The best espresso beans are medium to dark roasted coffee beans. This is because the lower brewing temperature of espresso extraction tends to lead to sour coffee. Darker roasts help combat this.

What beans should I choose for a french press?

The best coffee for a french press are any medium or dark roasted beans, ground at a coarse setting. Since the french press filter tends to allow oils from the bean to remain in your cup, choosing the right bean is critical to enjoy a nice french press coffee.

What are the best coffee beans for cold brew?

The best beans for cold brew tend to be coffee grown at high altitudes. Since cold brewing eliminates much of the acidity found in coffee, beans grown at high altitudes (which are naturally acidic) make great cold brews.

Is there such a thing as good decaffeinated coffee?

The best decaf coffee beans are Arabica beans that have been decaffeinated via the 'Swiss water' process, meaning they have bot been soaked or washed with chemicals present in regular decaffeination methods. Here's a list of decaf options.

What are the best coffee beans in the world?

The best coffee beans in the world are considered to be Kopi Luwak beans, which is coffee passed through the digestion of the Indonesia Civet Cat. It's also known as 'poop coffee' and it's an extremely controversial industry. The question surrounding the best beans in the world, however, is debatable since the best coffee is purely subjective. The best coffee in the world is organic, sustainably sourced beans that taste good to you.

What is the best whole bean coffee?

The best whole bean coffee is anything that is fresh roasted, sold from a reputable company, uniform in size, and free of defects (e.g. discolouration, chips, cracks, and coffee rust). Any of the beans considered on this list could be considered great whole bean coffee as they are grown in regions around the world noted for harvesting quality coffee. Each type of coffee variety produces good beans; it's more about the farm and processing.


References:

  1. Baldwin, J. (2009, June 26). Arabica vs. Robusta: No Contest. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/06/arabica-vs-robusta-no-contest/19780/
  2. Borack, J. (2016, February 25). Coffee Acidity: Flavor, pH, Acid Reflux, and Low-acid Coffee. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://angelscup.com/blog/taste/coffee-acidity-flavor-ph-acid-reflux-and-low-acid-coffee/
  3. Blending Basics. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/blending/
  4. 50 of America's Best. (2001, April 30). Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/forbes-life-magazine/2001/0430/058.html
  5. Kenya. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/kenya
  6. Davids, K. (2017, October 25). Tasting Report: Tanzania Peaberry Reviews - October 2003. Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://www.coffeereview.com/the-tanzanian-peaberry-mystery/
  7. Indonesia's Bountiful Invigorating Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved June 22, 2019, from https://www.indonesia.travel/au/en/trip-ideas/indonesia-s-bountiful-invigorating-coffee
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