For any coffee enthusiast buying new beans can be both incredibly fun, but also quite intimidating. Especially for newer coffee fans, the details on a bag of coffee can be very confusing, and it can be tough to make sure you’re buying a coffee you’re going to enjoy. It’s always a good idea to ask for advice if you’re buying in person, but buying online can be very difficult without any guidance. Luckily, we’ve broken down some of the main things to look for when reading a coffee label to give you everything you need to make a great choice.
Country of origin
Coffee newcomers may wonder why almost all coffee will state the country of origin on the bag, and to begin with it might not mean that much to you. As you start trying different beans however, you start to notice that a lot of the coffees from particular countries have similar tastes, and you may develop some favourites to look out for. As a starting place, coffees from Africa tend to be fruitier, coffees from Central America are sweet and balanced, and Asian coffees can vary quite a bit.
Sustainability and fair trade are very important in the coffee industry, and many companies will display the specific producer or even the farm that the beans come from. Especially for the more high-end beans, this can be something of a selling point if the beans are from a producer that’s especially well known for their quality or environmental awareness. This is also a great way for coffee brands to give credit to the farmers who put in all the hard work to grow the beans they’re selling.
Coffee species and variety
Believe it or not, there are actually several different species of coffee plant which all have slightly different attributes. Most premium quality beans are Arabica, which is known for having superior flavour and aroma, however another common type is Robusta, which is a little more bitter and contains more caffeine. Other species of coffee do exist, but it’s rare that you’ll see them being sold commercially.
Each species also has a number of different varieties, which can be very confusing for shoppers. Some of the common variants you may see are Bourbon, Geisha, and Typica, but you may see a wide range of other names on the bag. The variety will have a big impact on how the coffee tastes, but to begin with it’s better to rely on tasting notes to get an idea of what kind of brew you’ll end up with.
For many people this is the most confusing part, as the terminology is rarely explained on the coffee bag. With coffee beans, processing usually means the method used to remove the fruit from the seeds, which can have an impact on the final taste.
Washed – This means the flesh is removed with water before the beans are dried. This removes impurities but can also impact the taste.
Natural – These beans are dried in the sun while still inside the cherry, making it a very environmentally friendly approach. The coffee has to be carefully monitored to prevent it spoiling.
Pulped – This is somewhere in-between natural and washed, with some of the flesh removed and some left on while it dries.
Other things to look out for
There are also a few other things to keep an eye out for in your coffee bag:
Tasting notes – Especially for beginners this is probably the most important bit of information, while you start to learn what types of coffee you like.
Elevation – Coffee bags will sometime state how high the elevation is where it was grown. As a rule of thumb, the higher elevation is generally higher quality.
Roast – Of course the darkness of the roast will have a big impact on the flavour, but luckily this is pretty easy to understand!
Now you have everything you need to make sure you’re buying great quality beans, why not look at upgrading your equipment too? WMF have a wide range of options to suit any size business, from compact bean-to-cup machines like the WMF 1100S, to the classic styling of the WMF Espresso. Download a brochure to see the whole range.