The Best Whole Bean Coffee: Where To Buy It, And Why
You know how to make amazing coffee at home. You have your favorite mug, the best brewing device and even a quality grinder to brew only the freshest coffee at home
One question remains; do you have the right beans?
Do you know where to buy the best whole bean coffee to make your home coffee brewing dreams a reality? That’s what we are going to figure out today.
TOP PICK: The Volcanica Coffee Co.
What Makes the Best Whole Bean Coffee?
With so many roasters and various ways of purchasing, how do you decide where to buy coffee these days?
Let’s start with the basics.
Is It Fresh?
Once coffee is roasted, it will begin to go stale due to oxidation. As time goes by, it loses its character, flavor and aroma.
Ask any specialty roaster and they will tell you that coffee is ideal within 2 weeks of roasting, but remains good for about a month. Knowing that, a crucial factor in the whole bean buying game comes down to roasting time.
If the beans you purchase have been roasted before you place your order, you have no idea what condition they’ll be in by the time you brew them. The oxidation could be in full effect and the oils could already be turning.
Our advice: get coffee from a seller that roasts after you place your order.
Quality and elevation
Just like a good wine, coffee needs to be properly sourced, grown, harvested, processed, and roasted – all in a timely manner – to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.
If the company you’re buying from can’t tell you what farm or region a coffee came from, be wary.
What about the elevation?
A higher elevation typically results in a brighter, more complex cup, while a lower elevation often produces less acidity and more sweetness. The more information the supplier gives you, the easier it will be for you to find the right coffee for you.
Note: If you want more information about how coffee is grown and processed, check out our article, Are You Murdering Your Coffee Beans?
Micro roasting is largely synonymous with quality. This means that your coffee was roasted in a small, meticulously controlled batch (less than 50 lbs at a time), and usually within a few miles of home.
If you’re unsure about the roasting quality, it never hurts to call up the roaster and ask a few questions. No roaster worth their salt is going to turn away a chance to discuss their method and resulting quality, and it gives you a chance to gauge your confidence in their brand.
Note: Here’s a great comparison of micro and macro coffee bean lots when it comes to growing regions and the beans themselves.
What certifications does the coffee have?
It’s common to see coffee certified for one thing or another. Are there any that are important to you?
- Fair Trade - Links coffee farms with importers and guarantees a minimum price for their coffee.
- Organic - Abides by USDA standards of not using prohibited substances during the growing process. You can find some of the best certified organic coffees here.
- Rainforest Alliance - Promotes sustainable practices in the environment as well as the treatment of the workers.
- Bird Friendly/Shade Grown - Promotes multiple layers of vegetation and various species, keeping the environment diverse and healthy. This goes back to the roots of coffee growing, allowing the plants to grow in the shaded, eco-friendly environment they originally thrived in.
- Direct Trade - Though not technically a certification, many specialty roasters are bypassing traditional certifications and purchasing coffee from farmers directly.
As a result of cutting out the middleman (exporting/importing companies, etc), roasters are able to pay farmers a higher price for their coffee (higher than fair trade requires).
Packaging, shipping, and cost
You should also consider how the coffee will get to you.
Packaging is crucial.
Does the coffee come in a bag designed to keep oxygen out and the beans fresh? (Hint: look for a degassing valve!)
Shipping and cost are important too.
Tardy shipping practices can lead to old beans past their roasted prime. Ensure the company you’re purchasing from is committed to a short turnaround. Usually, just a day or two to get it roasted (same day shipping is best!) and then priority mailing (around 2-4 days) are what to look for.
Obviously, costs are going to be a factor as well, but beware of the classic hidden shipping cost. Make sure you know how much you’re paying TOTAL before checking out.
Your Preferences Matter
Everyone loves coffee (well, not everyone, but you know what I mean). But when we say coffee, we all mean something different. What I like might not be what you like. And that’s ok.
There is enough coffee out there to please us all.
That being said, I happen to love single origin coffees, roasted on the lighter side. I have an infatuation with naturally processed Ethiopians and honey processed Costa Rica’s.
You might prefer a blend of Central and South American coffees roasted a little deeper, giving you a full bodied, sweet coffee with a lower acidity, or something that is really good with milk in it.
Are you looking for a roaster that offers a variety of different coffees and roast levels, or a roaster that specializes in one style?
If you live in the middle of nowhere, you might be limited to strictly ordering coffee online (Sorry Iowa residents).
Though, if you are lucky enough to live in or near an area where good coffee abounds (such as any of these cities), stopping into a different coffee shop once or twice a month can give you a ton of variety without the shipping costs and times.
Now that we have an idea of what we are looking for, let’s dive into where we can find it.
Who Says I Want Roasted Coffee?
Many people aren’t satisfied with simply brewing coffee, they roast it at home as well. For the diehard coffee fanatics who only want green, unroasted coffee beans, don’t worry, we have a suggestion for you as well.
Those who buy green coffee to roast at their leisure can purchase in larger amounts since green coffee stays fresh for long periods of time(up to a year or more). Only once it’s roasted does it rapidly decline in quality.
This is where you buy the best whole bean coffee
Here’s a list of where you can buy some of the best coffee on the market today. At the end, you will find our personal preference, but ultimately only you can decide what is best for you.
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#1 - Volcanica Coffee
Volcanica Coffee is an elite option amongst elite coffee providers. This small, family-run company is growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s no wonder. They are focused on delivering an endless stream of the highest quality beans from volcanic regions (i.e. high altitudes and excellent soil) around the world.
The folks at Volcanica are so committed to sourcing the best coffees that they don’t just make a few calls and place an order – they literally go visit the coffee farms themselves.
Volcanica coffees are roasted after you place your order, guaranteeing optimal freshness!
They are also organic certified, Fair Trade Certified and Rainforest Alliance Certified, which check off three crucial factors in the elite, well-sourced, ethically made coffee world.
The best part about all of this? The site has a big selection of beans from all over the world. We’re talking from Indonesia to Africa, South America, Central America and more.
You can check out our full-blown review of Volcanica Coffee here.
Note: If you want to try a good, reasonably priced Volcanica option, I would suggest their Komodo Dragon Coffee. Medium roasted and particularly low in acidity, it’s the perfect way to get an energy boost and keep your tummy happy at the same time.
#2 - Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Stumptown Coffee Roasters helped pioneer the way to better coffee. They got their start back in 1999 and are still one of the most well known specialty roasters in America.
They currently have cafes in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City and New Orleans.
If you don’t live in one of these cities, you can find their coffee at Whole Foods as well as online.
Stumptown puts coffee first and purchases coffee via direct trade straight from farms around the world. Their team is constantly visiting the farms to ensure quality and paying farmers far more than they would receive on the commodity market.
They have a solid lineup of coffees ranging from lighter roasted single origin coffees to well balanced blends(including an organic blend) and even a high quality french roast.
Note: The Hair Bender blend is their most popular coffee, and for good reason too. Another current favorite is the Ethiopia Nano Challah.
#3 - Intelligentsia Coffee
Intelligentsia Coffee began in 1995 in Chicago. Right from the beginning their foundation was direct trade, always making sure to pay more for their coffee than fair trade price.
They have very strict standards in regards to their coffee purchasing, and you can see those standards carried through their roasting and into their cafes.
With multiple cafes in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and Boston, their standards for quality are seen in every detail.
Not only can you find their coffee in Whole Foods as well as other specialty markets, they offer free shipping on orders over $40.
You can find unique single origin coffees alongside a good selection of blends and dark roasts.
They take their espresso game very seriously and offer their signature espresso blend, a single origin, an organic blend and a decaf all roasted to espresso perfection.
Note: On my last trip to Chicago I tried a cup of the Honduras La Tortuga in one of Intelligentsia’s cafes and was very happy I did. And their Black Cat Espresso is a crowd pleaser for those who drink espresso at home.
#4 - Kickapoo Coffee
Kickapoo Coffee, which is fun to say, is a name you may have not heard before.
Based in rural Wisconsin, Kickapoo is changing the way coffee companies do business. Their tagline, “Farmer focused since 2005,” tells us where their priority lies. Not only are they involved in direct trade purchasing practices, but 97% of the coffees they sell are certified organic.
On top of that, they are the first coffee roasters in the world to be powered completely by solar power.
If that weren’t enough, they donate 5% of their profits every year to strengthen rural communities around the world through a partnership with On the Ground.
So every time you buy coffee from Kickapoo, you know you are getting high quality, organic coffee harvested by well paid farmers, roasted by completely renewable energy sources, and a portion of the money you spend goes to improving lives in remote places around the world.
Note: Try the Peru Nelson Mejia for a balanced cup with floral and chocolate notes.
#5 - Sweet Maria’s
Do you roast at home?
You’ve probably tried at some point. The best selection of green coffee comes from Sweet Maria’s. So if you haven’t tried home roasting, head to your local thrift store, buy a popcorn maker for $2, and order some beans from Sweet Maria’s.
They have a wonderful selection of coffees from all over the world.
Have you ever tried coffee from Uganda or Zambia? I haven’t, but Sweet Maria’s has it for you to roast.
Note: Try something different! With coffees from so many different places, you can taste coffee from countries you’ve never tried before, such as Timor or India.
#6 - Bean Box
Bean Box is an exciting way of trying new coffees.
Every box is filled with 4 coffee samples, each from a different micro roaster in Seattle, Washington, including Kuma, Bluebeard, Slate and many more.
With over 20 different roasters participating, you won’t get the same coffee twice.
Seattle is one of the best cities for top notch coffee, and now you don’t even have to go there to experience it.
They roast and ship coffee for the Bean Box fresh.
Each of the samples contains 1.8 ounces and you are able to choose between All Roasts, Dark Roasts or Decaf.
You can also choose to buy just one box or sign up for a 3 or 6 month subscription. If you are looking to try different coffees but don’t know how to choose a roaster or a coffee, this is a great place to start.
Find a complete review of the Bean Box here.
#7 - A Local Roaster Near You
At the end of the day, nothing beats being able to walk into your favorite cafe, have a look at the freshly roasted coffee on the shelf, picking your favorite or maybe something new, and buying it right then and there.
Not everybody has a great coffee roaster nearby, as they tend to be in major cities. For those who don’t live in or near a major city, you may not have this luxury - so order online from one of the above recommendations.
If you like to roast your own coffee, there’s a chance your local roaster will sell you green coffee as well. It’s always worth asking.
Want to know where the best coffee beans near you are? Simple: Go to google and type in 'coffee beans near me'.
If you STILL need help with this >>>click this link<<< and it will show you exactly how to find coffee beans near you using the internet 🙂
Verdict - Where’s The Best Place To Get Great Coffee To Brew At Home?
For us, it’s Volcanica Coffee.
I’ll be honest, there is something great about waking up, opening your front door, and having a box full of great, fresh coffee beans waiting for you. It’s like going on a coffee tour without putting pants on. Who wouldn’t love that?
A close second? A local roaster.
Yes, maybe we’re lucky to live near bigger cities and to have access to great coffee, but it’s simply the easiest way of getting the best whole bean coffee right away.
Having a personal relationship with the baristas at a coffee shop, asking them what their favorite coffees are and how they like to brew them, and even getting the inside scoop on when new coffees will be hitting the shelves makes buying directly just a little bit better than buying online.
Luckily, good coffee is relatively easy to get your hands on these days. Do you have a favorite place to get beans?
Let us know if you’ve tried any of the options listed above.
Interested to find out more on coffee beans and where do they come from? Then check this fun question post!