The 10 Best Coffee Beans In the World (whole bean coffee)
There are thousands of choices when it comes to choosing good coffee beans. But if you make the wrong choice your coffee is doomed and your money wasted!
In this guide I’ll show you the 3 simple questions that you should ask yourself when choosing coffee beans. It will make choosing the perfect coffee beans easy, and your coffee will taste so much better. I’ll also reveal the common ‘choosing beans’ mistake that most coffee lovers make when ordering online. I made this mistake for years.
Finally, I’ve put together a list of some of best coffee beans as rated by coffee experts and connoisseurs. Read on with us as we travel the globe and answer the question: what are the best coffee beans for you?
At A Glance:
Where Do You Buy The Best Coffee Beans?
The best coffee comes from people who care about coffee. And stop for a moment and ask yourself: who cares about coffee MORE than you do?
The FIRST answer is local roasters. When you buy coffee directly from a (good) local roaster; you’re buying a 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.
Using a ‘coffee of the month’ club is a great way to sample some of the nations best local roasters, without having to do hours of research. These are our favourite coffee subscriptions right now. While we’ve covered the best UK options in that article, our video round up only covers US subscriptions. So please bear with us until we come up with a whole new video dedicated to coffee subscriptions in the UK.
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 months in advance of shipping it. This is why we love Pact Coffee:
Every cup you drink is 100% speciality grade, quality-checked over and over, and roasted fresh for your order.
And here comes the biggest mistake when choosing coffee online. There are a few places that you should definitely not buy coffee from. Avoid the temptation to buy 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 – Yes, thats right. It’s a 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.
TLDR: Avoid coffee beans from most grocery stores, and in most cases, avoid buying beans from large mass Ecommerce stores (like Amazon)
However, depending on the part of the world you live in, you might not have a local roaster or an online roaster. We get that. We’re not SUCH SNOBS! So, there are times when you have to order coffee from Amazon. And that’s ok. This is why we also included a shortlist of best coffees on Amazon.
Ok, now let’s jump into a few simple questions you can ask yourself to make THE choosing easier.
How to Choose Good Whole Bean Coffee (a fool proof method)
Ok so you know where to buy great coffee; now its time to learn how to choose between the options. Earlier, I mentioned that there were thousand of options online when trying to choose the best coffee beans.
By asking yourself one of these three simple questions (and answering them), it will become obvious as to which beans you should choose, and your decision will be much easier.
What type of coffee maker/brewer are you using?
This is a simple, yet overlooked fact about choosing coffee beans. Which coffee brewing method are you going to use? This will greatly influence which beans you can choose.
You should get familiar with your coffee brewing style of choice, and learn which beans are the best match. Here are some places to start:
- Brewing with a french press? Look for something medium to dark roast for a full bodied brew. We have a list of the best coffee beans for french press here.
- Whipping up some cold brew coffee? light roasted, higher-acidity beans single origin beans are gold class here. Here’s a great article about the best coffee for cold brew.
- If you’re brewing with an espresso machine, you need to be extra careful in the beans you choose. Some, like Italian coffee, will taste great, others will taste terrible! Here are the best espresso beans.
- Pour over coffee lover? Since you won’t be adding milk, look for a nice, exotic single origin bean with flavour notes that excite you. This list of the best pour over coffee beans is a great place to start.
- Are you an Aeropress fan? Here’s our list of the best coffee for Aeropress.
- Love the convenience of K-cup coffee makers? Here’s where we listed the best tasting K cup flavours.
What flavours are you seeking?
The second question you should ask is an obvious one: what do you want? Some coffee lovers seek wine-like floral-y filter coffee flavour profiles, while others want a full-bodied, earthy and strong ‘coffee that tastes like coffee’ with which they can add milk to.
Certain flavour preferences call for certain types of coffee beans. Here are some pointers to get you started:
- If you crave the ‘wine like’, fruity, floral-y exotic flavours typically associated with pour over coffee, light roast single origin coffee beans are great choices (and don’t add milk!)
- If you want something full-bodied that taste very ‘coffee like’ go for a dark roast coffee. Here’s a list of the best dark roast coffee beans (adding milk is fine)
- Craving some crazy flavour? If you’re the type to drink coffee from Starbucks, you’ll probably enjoyed some of these flavoured coffee options.
If you wanna know why does coffee taste sour, watch our fun video:
Your unique circumstance may affect your choice
The 3rd and final question is for you if you certain coffee drinking habits or desires. You probably already know exactly what you want, but here are a few links to help prompt some ideas:
- No coffee grinder? No worries. Most roasters will actually grind for you, so go back and choose based on one of the above questions. If you’re really impatient however, we researched and put together a list of the best ground coffee brands. But we’d strongly recommend getting a grinder and buying whole bean coffee.
- Sensitive to caffeine? We put together a list of the best decaf coffee here (low on caffeine yet high on flavour)
- Need extra caffeine? There are a super high caffeinated coffee beans worth considering, but tread with caution. Here are the worlds strongest coffee brands.
- Looking for coffee that is easy on your stomach?, we’d recommend checking out this guide: the best low acid coffee brands.
- Looking for something fast? If you’re always on the move, and just need a quick coffee, you’ve probably turned to instant coffee. While we don’t recommend it, there are a few brands we are keeping our eyes on. Here’s the best instant coffee to consider.
- Interest in biohacking? here’s a list of interesting Nootropic coffee’s (smart coffee) that we’re keeping a close eye on.
- Do you want that caffeine-fix but want also want to relax? Here’s some CBD coffees that work.
the Best Coffee Beans in the World
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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 (whole bean coffee).
When it comes to exclusive coffees, Jamaica Blue Mountain is up there with the best. Jamaica as a country has a comparatively small coffee output, and the coffee grown in the Blue Mountain region is extremely limited.
It’s not just the rarity that earns it a hefty price tag. The unique climate, while excellent for growing Arabica beans, makes the process more labour intensive. The cool temperatures mean there are fewer harvests per year, and the steep slopes at high altitudes demand the coffee is all picked by hand. So, is it worth it? Fans of the bean will declare it as the smoothest they’ve tasted.
Just as with Kona coffee, you should avoid buying anything that’s labelled as a Blue Mountain blend. You have no way of knowing just how much Blue Mountain you are getting for your money. Check not only for the name but also for the certification that guarantees authenticity.
These beans have an additional link to the region – the Marley Coffee brand was founded by the son of the legendary singer Bob Marley. Their Talkin’ Blues coffee is 100% Blue Mountain, made from a blend of beans harvested in the small region. After a light roast, they’ve developed flavours that are floral and full-bodied, ending in a mellow but lingering finish.
2. Rwanda coffee – Square Mile Coffee (Rwanda Musasa Mbilima Washed Bourbon)
Brand: Square Mile
- Beans: Arabica
- Origin: Rwanda, Africa
- Type: Blend, dark roast
- Tasting notes: Cinnamon, caramel, red wine
- Recommended brew styles: Moka pot, espresso
Rwanda doesn’t get the same attention that nearby nations such as Tanzania and Kenya receive, but the country has great potential as a speciality coffee producer. There are no large estates here, so all of the coffee is grown by small-scale farmers, then taken to communal washing stations for processing.
The country’s high average elevation makes ideal for growing Arabica beans, with 95% of coffee coming from established Bourbon varietals. The Nyamasheke district in the western hills features rich volcanic soil, as well as a bountiful annual rainfall to provide water for processing.
The Gatare name on these beans refers to the washing station – one of the oldest in the country. Here, several smallholders have combined their beans for a unique and delicious coffee blend. Great for sipping, this coffee has distinct flavours of raspberry and cherry, with a creamy mouthfeel reminiscent of crème brulee.
As an island of volcanoes, Sumatra has ideal conditions for growing coffee. The fertile soil and high altitude are great for growing Arabica, while its position straddling the equator gives it several microclimates. That said, Sumatran beans are not universally adored.
The coffee’s unique flavours, which are often divisive, are thanks to a form of processing known as giling basah. It’s a hybrid process similar to wet hulling, in which beans are only partially dried after the fermenting process. The result is a low-acid coffee with a full body, often featuring earthy or woody notes.
These beans from RedBer coffee are roasted to order, taken to a dark roast to bring out some sweetness. Enjoy as an espresso to experience a syrups coffee with flavours of chocolate and tobacco, with the earthy aroma that Mandheling beans are known for.
While many of the beans on our coffee world tour come from exclusive growing regions, the Geisha bean is a varietal. It was originally developed in the town of Gesha, Ethiopia (hence the name), but began to be harvested elsewhere in the 1960s. While it can theoretically be grown anywhere, what is considered to be the best are those grown in Panama and Costa Rica.
The Geisha bean is unique for a few reasons, one of which is that it’s very rare. Not only is it difficult to grow, but it also needs to be picked by hand. In terms of flavours, it’s often compared to tea, with citrus and floral highlights. The delicate notes mean this should only ever be served black, which is why you won’t see it offered in cafes. But if you have a chance to try it at home, it’s a truly unique experience.
Has Bean selects their Geisha coffee from Western Valley, Costa Rica, known for excellent coffee in general. Here the beans undergo yellow honey processing, which has a similar result to washed processing. The coffee retains the natural fruit and floral flavours, with the small amount of mucilage left on the bean adding a little sweetness.
Hailing from the birthplace of coffee itself, Yirgacheffe beans are the pride and joy of Ethiopia. Yirgacheffe coffee would have to be at the top of every coffee lover’s bucket list. It’s prized for the delicate yet complex flavour profile – a bright and light cup with tea-like qualities, scented with fruit and flowers.
Coffee in Ethiopia is not usually traced back to the individual grower. Instead, it’s traced to the communal washing station where farmers combine their crops for processing. Here they are sorted and sold according to size and quality.
These beans have been carefully washed processed, then sun-dried on raised beds for 9-12 days. The processing brings out clean, floral flavours of bergamot and jasmine, with sweetness and acidity coming from tastes of apricot and lemon. Pact Coffee only sells beans that have been ethically sourced, with fair prices paid to farmers.
Coffee has had a long history in Peru, dating back to the 1770s, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that Peruvians harvested it for export. Now the country is one of the biggest exporters of Arabica beans, with a focus on organic and Fair Trade production.
Peruvian coffee is characterised by an incredible balance in the cup. It’s smooth and mellow, with low acidity, but not certainly not lacking in flavour. Depending on the region, you can expect floral notes, chocolate, or a mild nuttiness.
Clumsy Goat beans have been sourced from the Puno growing region, which has been described as “one of the coffee world’s best-kept secrets”. Due to economic struggles caused by the drug trade, many farmers can no longer afford to grow coffee here.
But the small amount that is produced is highly praised, winning international awards. These beans create a coffee at the nuttier end of the scale, with sweetness from caramel and chocolate.
best world coffee beans sold on amazon
So, for those of you who must order from Amazon, we selected four roasters who sell one of the best coffee beans in the world
Kona is just one of the growing regions in Hawaii, but it is certainly the most famous. It’s the climate there that allows the production of some truly excellent beans. In fact, Kona beans have been rated the best in America. Like many good coffee growing regions, it sits on volcanic soil, with the perfect balance of sun and rain falling on the slopes of up to 3,200 feet.
The reputation achieved by Kona beans means that they also fetch premium prices. But don’t be tempted to look for a cheaper option. Anything labelled a Kona blend might be more affordable, but it could contain as little as 10% Kona beans.
Sea Island Kona beans are harvested from a single estate in the most fertile part of the region. Greenwell Estate Private Reserve grows a blend of three Arabica varietals, Kona Typica, Hawaii Typica, and Red Bourbon, to create a coffee with the characteristics the area is known for. Expect a smooth, medium body with flavours of milk chocolate, elevated by a spiced, citrus tang.
Lean Caffeine was founded on the idea of promoting longevity and weight loss. The coffee came about as a way to provide a healthy energy boost when intermittent fasting. That’s why you’ll see recommendations for drinking this as a bulletproof coffee – blended with ghee and MCT oil.
Even if you’re not on a fasting kick, it’s still great to know there’s a coffee out there that’s free of nasties. Organic coffee might be certified as being grown without chemicals, but all Lean Caffeine products are lab tested to prove there are no pesticides or heavy metals in the final product. They also test for mycotoxins, natural toxins caused by mould that can cause serious health problems.
Of course, there’s no point any of this unless the coffee tastes good. The brand does a range of coffees in both ground and whole bean, but this Nicaraguan bean is a great place to start. It’s dubbed their “old school espresso” – a dark roast with a bold profile, featuring flavours of chocolate and vanilla.
These beans from Coffee Direct bring together two prized offerings: Kenyan coffee and the peaberry bean. Kenyan coffee is often ranked among the top five coffees in the world, partly due to the high standards of production. The Kenyan government ensures farmers are paid well for quality beans, incentivising them to put more effort and care into cleaning and processing.
Peaberry beans are a genetic mutation that occurs in around 5% of a coffee crop. Where a regular coffee cherry develops two flat beans, with a peaberry there is a single, round bean. This results in a bean with a higher density that roasts more evenly. Peaberry beans are more expensive due to their rarity, and the fact they need to be carefully selected and harvested by hand.
This coffee has been sourced from the Nyeri region of Kenya, known for its slow-growing, intensely flavoured beans. The fruitiness that’s typical of peaberry beans is evident, as are the citrus flavours and bright acidity that is common of beans from Nyeri. It’s a well-balanced cup best enjoyed as a French press or filter brew.
Sons of Amazon have positioned themselves as the British competitors to the USA’s Death Wish Coffee. They boast the UK’s strongest coffee, with a whopping 440mg of caffeine in each small cup. For the record, that’s 90% of your daily caffeine requirements, so if you want a hit that will last you all day, this is the coffee for you.
The extreme strength might be the coffee’s selling point, but Sons of Amazon are dedicated to ethical production. All of their coffee is Rainforest Alliance Certified, helping both farmers and their environment. On offer are whole beans, ground coffee and pods, with the pods made from 100% biodegradable corn starch.
If you’re only having one coffee a day, it better be a good one, which brings us to the taste. Despite the strength, there is plenty here to be enjoyed flavour-wise. Typical of a dark roast, there are tastes of molasses and dark chocolate, but there is also some residual acidity that comes through with the taste of blueberries.
A Crash Course In Coffee Bean Terminology
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 vs Robusta
Let’s spend a few seconds talking about types of coffee beans so that you know where to start. Arabica beans are far superior to Robusta in terms of flavour, 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, so stay away from it if you love great coffee.
Acidity vs Bitterness
Coffee is naturally acidic but this is not a bad thing. Acidity is good because It gives coffee its natural flavour. 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 can 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 bad. If 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?
Many coffee companies offer single-origin coffees as well as blends.
Single-origin simply means un-blended. It’s a coffee from one specific region, such as an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. A blend, therefore, means is different beans, blended into one packet. Duhhh. When should you use a blend vis a single origin? Well, as one expert coffee roaster says:
Blends for milk, Single origins for black
And we agree. You’d never want to ruin a beautiful single origin filter coffee from Ethiopia by adding milk to it. Don’t do it!
Blends are designed to produce a balance in terms of flavour, 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.
This is what happens when a roaster knows what he/she is doing.
BUT If the roaster is inexperienced, they may blend to hide poorly roasted beans among normal beans. TLDR = Stick to roasters that have a good reputation. Beware of companies that blend for the wrong reasons. As Sweet Marias suggests (3), this might be common to stretch profits:
One reason coffees are blended in the commercial world might be the use of lower-quality coffee in the blend
This practice is common in industry that sell expensive coffee beans. The more expensive the bean, the bigger the desire to stretch the profits. Sigh.
In summary – single origins are a great choice when you plan to drink your coffee black – the most common ‘case for’ being for pour over brewing. Blends are best for espresso brewing.
How much does the Roast date matter?
You know that freshly roasted coffee is better. But do you know the ideal number of days to consume 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
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.
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.
Other Good Coffee Regions You Should Explore
We’ve covered some of the major coffee-producing nations in the above list of recommended beans. But sometimes it’s easier, and more fun, to choose via location alone. Here is a list of coffee growing regions throughout the world, and a guide to buying and brewing from each.
Coffee from Asia and Oceania:
- Australian coffee (unfortunately, not much good coffee originates from Australia; but they have great roasters)
- Papua New Guinea coffee
- Sumatra coffee
- Sulawesi coffee
Coffee from the African Region:
Coffee from the Americas:
- Brazilian coffee
- Costa Rican coffee
- Colombian coffee
- Guatemalan coffee
- Puerto Rican coffee
- Nicaragua coffee
- Haitian coffee
- Peruvian coffee
- Dominican Republic Coffee
- Honduran Coffee
And that’s it for this list. There is no verdict because the ‘best beans’ is a totally subjective matter! 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.
The best beans for espresso are medium to dark roast coffee beans. This is because the lower brewing temperature of espresso extraction tends to lead to sour coffee. Darker roasts help combat this.
The best bean for a french press are any medium or dark roast 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.
The best beans for cold brew tend to be coffee grown at high altitudes. Since the process of cold brew eliminates much of the acidity found in coffee, beans grown at high altitudes (which are naturally acidic) make great cold brews.
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.
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.
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.
- Baldwin, J. (2009, June 26). Arabica vs. Robusta: No Contest. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/06/arabica-vs-robusta-no-contest/19780/
- Borack, J. (2016, February 25). Coffee Acidity: Flavor, pH, Acid Reflux, and Low-acid Coffee. Retrieved from https://angelscup.com/blogs/blog/coffee-acidity-flavor-ph-acid-reflux-and-low-acid-coffee?_pos=1&_sid=8ed6f653e&_ss=r
- Blending Basics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/blending/
- 50 of America’s Best. (2001, April 30). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/forbes-life-magazine/2001/0430/058.html
- Kenya. (n.d.). Retrieved From https://legacy.sweetmarias.com/library/kenya
- Davids, K. (2017, October 25). Tasting Report: Tanzania Peaberry Reviews – October 2003. Retrieved From https://www.coffeereview.com/the-tanzanian-peaberry-mystery/
- Indonesia’s Bountiful Invigorating Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.indonesia.travel/au/en/trip-ideas/indonesia-s-bountiful-invigorating-coffee