We regularly get asked what are the best gourmet coffee beans? To answer that question, the first of each year, we do a professional whole bean coffee taste testing to determine the Best Gourmet Coffee Beans.
To begin our taste testing, we acquired four of the highest quality coffee beans that money could buy from the countries of Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Each coffee batch was roasted identically (medium dark). Each was aged for two days. And each fresh roasted coffee batch was brewed at the same time, at the same temperature, and identically brewed with the AeroPress.
To be perfectly fair, we did this in a double-blind test; meaning that we did not take into account which cup of coffee was from which country. We let our highly trained taste buds decide for us. Below are the cupping notes from our two cupping experts Russell & Alisha Volz.
Papua New Guinea
- Russell – One flat flavor of smoke and burnt charcoal, slightly bitter
- Alisha – Sandy taste, almost smoky, meat flavor, bitter
- Russell – Flat, single flavor, hint of smoke and spicy, bitter
- Alisha – Earthy scent; tree bark, little bitter, non-unpleasant, single flavor
- Russell – Two distinct flavors, chocolate and citrus, not bitter
- Alisha – Flavors are fruity & chocolate with a nice finish, not bitter
- Russell – At least 3 or 4 different flavors going on here, hitting simultaneously all over the pallet (chocolate, citrus, cinnamon, etc.) with a very smooth finish; zero bitter; zero burnt;
- Alisha – Smooth, Chocolate, Cinnamon, best smell, no bitter at all
This year, hands down, the best gourmet coffee beans were from Costa Rica, with those from Brazil coming in second. We’re really not surprised, because this is the third year that we’ve unintentionally picked Costa Rica as the best gourmet coffee beans. Last year, our second choice was Nicaragua.
Keep in mind that taste testing is not a science. Cupping coffee (taste testing) is a lot like judging figure skating, buying a painting, or picking a beauty queen. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
In coffee, there’s a specific taste profile that the judge is looking for. Some judges and professional taste testers are looking for the best bitter and burnt industrial coffee they can find. Starbucks, Folgers, Maxwell House, Yuban, and Costco’s Kirkland coffees are all examples of intentionally trying to provide industrial burnt and bitter.
Even if you get down to small specialty micro roasters, most often you’ll find them taking the best gourmet coffee beans that money can buy and then burning the snot out of those beans. What a tragedy.
Unlike our competitors, we’re partial to coffee just like your great-grandmother used to make; not-bitter, not-burnt, that’s very smooth, with several subtle flavors like, chocolate, spice, citrus, or cinnamon. We like coffee that’s a seductive caress, not a slap in the face. Therefore, we typically, but unintentionally pick Central American coffees.
As a master coffee roaster, I can tell you that if you want the best coffee in the world, you start with the best gourmet coffee beans, but additionally there are still several very important things to consider.
- Fresh Roasted Coffee Beans (Roasted less than 30 days ago)
- Fresh filtered water
- Grind your whole bean coffee just before brewing it. This makes a huge difference.
- Your brewing method is one of the most important factors. Some brewing methods can make a good bean into a bad cup of coffee. Other brewing methods can turn an otherwise mediocre bean into a smooth satisfyingly good cup of coffee. Check out our page “How To Brew The Best Coffee”.