What Is Quality Coffee?

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Written by: John Beans

Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Want to know what quality coffee is? You've come to the right place.

In this article, we'll talk about what affects the quality of coffee during the production process.

You will also learn how to choose best tasting coffee by focusing on the appearance of the beans and bag.

Let's get started.

How to Identify High-Quality Coffee Beans Before Buying

You can evaluate the quality of coffee before buying any beans. Just look at the information provided by the seller. In general, the more information is provided about the coffee, the more likely it is that the beans are truly high quality.

Bag

Coffee must be packaged correctly.

Coffee beans are best stored in a multilayer vacuum bag with degassing valve and zip-lock. The bag should be opaque and protect the coffee from moisture and air. The valve allows the release of carbon dioxide that is emitted by freshly roasted coffee beans.

Coffee in leaky, poor-quality bags—including paper bags—cannot be stored for longer than 2 weeks.

Specialty coffee

Specialty coffee is coffee that has scored between 80 and 100 on the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) scale. All aspects of growing, processing, and roasting are considered when evaluating a specialty coffee.

If you see the term "specialty coffee" on the packaging, you can be sure that these are high-quality beans, at least in terms of how they were produced. Next, look at the roast date and appearance of the beans to determine freshness.

Roast date

If you are looking for high-quality coffee, always look at the roast date. If it's included on the packaging, that's a good sign.

Coffee tastes the best 3 to 21 days from the time of roasting. After that, the coffee will gradually lose its taste and aroma.

Why don't we recommend using coffee within 3 days of roasting? Because after roasting the beans need time to reveal their potential.

Ground or whole beans

True connoisseurs claim that high-quality coffee can only be brewed with freshly ground beans.

A whole coffee bean retains essential oils well, so it gives the drink a brighter, more intense aroma.

It is best to grind your coffee beans just before preparation, as the aroma of the ground coffee lasts no more than 30 minutes. But if you want to buy pre-ground coffee, then we recommend visiting our best ground coffee reviews article. 

How to Identify High-Quality Coffee After Buying

After purchasing your coffee, you can fully investigate its quality. Here's what to look for after opening the package:

Bean appearance

The beans must be the correct shape. They should be pleasant and velvety to the touch.

High-quality coffee beans should be free of stains and chips, and there should be no small pieces of beans in the package.

The beans should be uniform in color. Any shade from beige to chocolate is okay.

If you are purchasing 100% Arabica beans, all the beans must be the same size and shape. In most cases, large coffee beans indicate high-quality Arabica.

  • Very large beans are about 8 mm long.
  • Large beans are about 6 to 7.5 mm long.
  • Medium beans are about 6 mm long.
  • Small beans are about 4-5.5 mm long.

It is worth noting that the appearance of the beans is not the most accurate indicator of quality.

For example, quality coffee beans from Ethiopia and Yemen are often small and nondescript, but their taste is excellent. Therefore, it is also worth paying attention to the following indicators of quality:

Aroma

The aroma—both of the coffee in the package and of the coffee after brewing—can tell you a lot about quality.

If the smell is weak, then the coffee is no longer fresh and will have a weak taste. The aroma of high-quality coffee beans should always be strong.

And any smell of rancid oil, dampness, or mold indicates that the beans are old or spoiled.

Taste

Brew some coffee and taste it.

An expert should be able to describe the taste with various terms: rich, dense, balanced, etc. An ordinary consumer will be able to at least distinguish between tasty and tasteless.

But try to feel the bitterness, acidity, and sweetness in the taste. Poor-quality coffee is easier to spot. It is distinguished by a burnt aftertaste because it is made from low-quality roasted coffee beans. You can find out more in our coffee tasting article.

Aftertaste

Good coffee leaves an aftertaste reminiscent of chocolate and freshly baked bread. A pleasant aftertaste indicates high-quality coffee.

The Team That Worked On This Blog Post

Patty-Cramer-Editor-Coffee-Consultant-at-MyFriendsCoffee

Editor & Coffee Consultant

Patty Cramer

I'm the coffee consultant at MyFriendsCoffee. I've been in the coffee business for over 21 years and still have a passion for coffee. My most important skill is that I know how to organize work processes.

John Beans Editor & Founder

Resident Editor-in-Chief

John Beans

I’m the resident Editor-in-Chief of MyFriendsCoffee. For more than 5 years I tried a large variety of coffees from different brands and master 7 ways to brew coffee and am not going to stop there. I switched my first coffee maker with a professional espresso machine and now my kitchen is filled with various coffee equipment.

Tessa Dixon – Beginner Barista & Content Creator

BArista

Tessa Dixon

I was born in Seattle, and this city has a strong connection to coffee culture, so it's no wonder I decided to become a barista! I’ve learned many ways of making coffee and now I know how to make any coffee delicious.

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