coffee selection guide: how to choose what coffee to buy

This is a mini-guide on how I choose what coffee roasts to try and what specific things I look for when purchasing coffee.

There are thousands of choices when it comes to choosing coffee beans. When starting to brew at home, it’s most important to play around with a bunch of different variables and in the end see what you prefer. This can get expensive so keep reading for my recommendations to save you guys some money!!

Related: What to look for when choosing a coffee shop

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A mini preface: I am in no way calling myself an expert as this is my personal list of things I look for. I tried to make this guide as broad as I could so that coffee brewers of all levels and styles could find this helpful! I have a bunch of other helpful coffee guides over here.

The bulk of this guide is split between what to look for when choosing the roaster & then the beans themselves – two very important components. But ultimately choosing the best coffee is very subjective and it all comes down to your preferences.

Hopefully this mini-guide will help you become more aware of little tricks to point you towards the best quality coffee possible!

okay, let’s get into this list.


The Roaster

Credibility:

The credibility of the roaster would be the first thing I look at: whether I’ve heard of them before (and if it was in a positive light), the branding and the reviews.

Quality:

The quality of the roaster is even more important. If you’re buying coffee in-person look for all the specifications on the bag. Good roasters will specify the technique they used while roasting.

Look for any specifications of the kind of roast (light, medium, dark), the origin, flavor profile, etc. More detail on the bag can almost guarantee that the roaster really knows what they’re doing, which then ensures better quality.

Look for the roast date, as coffee does not last forever; over time the beans will completely loose their flavor (I know from experience). If the roast date is over 4 weeks old don’t even bother spending your money on it; that coffee is almost past their optimal freshness.

Going off that, a huge giveaway to me is if a roaster even offers their coffee whole bean. There’s been multiple occasions where I’ve purchased coffee online but you couldn’t select how your wanted your beans. So, me being me, I just assumed they would be whole beans; I was very wrong and very let down as it came pre-ground. I had no indication of how long the beans could have already been ground for and also it made it much more difficult for me to get the perfect at home brew with it.

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tip of the year: I highly highly highly recommend that when purchasing coffee beans to purchase them whole if you can. It helps ensure optimal flavor for each brew. I just want to make sure you don’t forget it.

So, if the roaster only offers pre-ground coffee, then run. Simple right?


The Beans

There are many variables that dictate the flavor of the beans themselves: on a broader scale, the origin of the beans/wash and roast processes dictate what you taste; on a smaller scale, the notes dictate what you taste.

Country of origin:

I’m going to keep this more user friendly, so I won’t be ranting about all 50+ countries that produce coffee and what each brings to the table. Just note that depending on the origin of the coffee and the wash processes used, it sets the scene for the flavor profile of the beans. Over time you may start to create a mental list of your favorite roasts you’ve tried and what country the beans came from. It’s another piece to the puzzle 🙂

but when looking at the top coffee producing regions, typically

Central & South American: clean & sweet

Africa: complex & fruity

Asia: luscious & earthy

found here
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The kind of roast:

(light, medium, dark, or somewhere in the middle)

light: beans roasted for the shortest amount of time, also light in color.

medium: the most common one you’ll find. roasted longer than a light roast, but shorter than a dark roast – how crazy is that? A lot of your classic “breakfast blends” or random drip coffee you’d find out and about typically are medium roasts.

dark: roasted the longest, normally very dark in color, rich in flavor and usually appear very oily to touch. Italian roasts, French roasts, Viennese roasts, etc. are all common dark roasts.

I typically go after roasts on the medium-dark scale as I love being able to taste bolder flavors, especially since I prefer to drink my coffee black. But even more important than picking the kind of roast, is the notes in that roast.

The flavor notes:

The coffee notes written on a coffee bag are very subjective. It could say chocolate and you taste fruit, or you could be so lost like “how could coffee taste like chocolate or fruit” and call it a day. Either is completely valid.

It took me a long time to really be able to taste anything other than coffee. Regardless, the notes are there to help you.

If you tried a coffee and one of the notes was “nutty” and you absolutely hated it, well when shopping next maybe steer clear of coffee with nutty undertones – it turns into a big process of elimination. Over time you’ able to create a mental list of “okay well I hated that kind of origin or those tasting notes” and realize what speaks to you.

Notes can really help you determine what kind of coffee is your favorite kind of coffee.

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Other coffee terms to help you fulfill your caffeine addiction –

Arabica vs. Robusta:

Arabica: sweeter, softer flavors. grown at higher altitudes & seen as the “higher quality” bean.

Robusta: bolder, more bitter flavor. grown at lower altitudes & contain more caffeine.

Almost all of the beans you buy are going to be Arabica, so don’t think too deep into it.

Single origin vs. a blend:

Single origin simply means its from one specific farm, crop, or region in one country. Not always, but a lot of the time single origins are of higher quality. A blend is an assortment of multiple roasts that are paired together in one bag.

Blends for milk, Single origins for black.

Blends are made usually to give a more balanced body and flavor profile that pairs well with milk, like in espresso-based beverages. Single origins are geared more for those who enjoy tasting the subtle differences in the roast, without masking it with milk.

but you do you. coffee is everyone’s friend.

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Fair trade:

Some people do prefer to shop fair trade (& go you), so when purchasing coffee take time to look around for that accreditation.

Companies who are apart of the fair trade community mean that they are advocating for the environment and the countries that they get their coffee from. They help to support the source countries to create a sustainable income for smaller family farms and ensuring they then earn enough to make a living. To learn more I found a nice post on it here.

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Where to find the best beans

This is great and all, but where could I find some great coffee to purchase from?

1. Start Local -local coffee spots, specialty grocery stores (normal ones usually only have low-quality coffee with a long shelf-life), or farmers markets.

What’s great about purchasing local is you have people to turn to and ask questions to see what they would suggest for you to try!! get a second opinion!!

2. Shop Online – whether you find a roaster that peaks your interest to buy from online (I’ve reviewed some insanely good ones over on my instagram), OR you come across a company that does the hard word for you – both works great.


Coffee Subscription Services

Subscription services are a great way to expose yourself to specialty roasters without having to do any of the searching. When signing up, you put in your roast and grind preferences (cough, whole bean) and you’re all set! Easy peezy, you get great coffee straight to your door.

I’ve tried a handful out over the last couple months, some were gifted & some I paid for, but I’m here to only mention the ones that are worth your hard earned money.

Honey & Roses Coffee Company:

Honey & Roses Coffee Company is a coffee marketplace which sells coffee from quality roasters all across the US! They offer a normal and a premium coffee subscription (both under $20). You can choose how often you want the coffee delivered – anywhere from 2 weeks onwards.

Honey & Roses is great because even if you don’t want to commit to a subscription of any kind, they are a coffee marketplace as well! They hand pick what roasters are on their site – so you already know they are going to be high quality. Their website also is set up so you can search coffee by notes, regions, etc.

I do have coupon codes to offer you! I don’t receive anything from these. They are just meant to help you out.

“Coffeeenut” for $5 off their adorable travel mugs & “nutsforcoffee” for 10% off coffee orders over $25

Related: An interview with the co-founder of Honey & Roses Coffee

Bean Box Coffee:

Bean Box Coffee is a subscription service that highlights roasters in the Seattle area. Their traditional subscription box (they’re currently having a deal here for $16.50) comes with four 2oz. sample packs. Also, I’ve noticed they always seem to have deals or coupons over on their instagram so keep an eye on that!

They make the idea of getting sample packs even more fun; if you get one that you really love you can use the code on the bag to then go on their website and order more of that specific batch!

I really love how they highlight a lot of smaller, less-known roasters too.

Atlas Coffee Club:

Atlas Coffee Club is great not only for their adorable aesthetic, but each month they highlight a single country of origin. In the box they include a postcard and also brewing tips to ensure you brew the best cup.

When placing your order you can choose the frequency of shipment, roast preferences and what size bag you want. I believe right now they’re having an insane deal for fathers day… I thought I saw it was only $4 for the first month!!!


Let’s Recap!

I know this is a lot of information but make sure to remember these key points.

  1. when looking for a good quality, specialty roaster check their: branding, accreditations, reviews, but most importantly – what they make a note of on their coffee bags
  2. so, take the extra minute or so to read the information on the coffee bag – you can tell a lot from it without even having to brew it!
  3. if you’re able to, buy whole bean.
  4. over time you will develop a taste for what regions or notes of coffee you enjoy the most! I’m all about having a good coffee tasting!
  5. if you want someone else to do the searching for you, OR you just want great exposure to specialty roasters – try one of the subscription services I mentioned!

If there’s a specific question you have that I didn’t answer here please don’t hesitate to comment or reach out!! I have a couple more coffee tips/guide posts planned for the near future – for questions I got over on my instagram that I felt didn’t fit the topic of this post.

If you enjoyed this please don’t hesitate to check out some of my most recent posts here.

Lots of love,

foot

keep updated

with me on my journey

The Best Coffee Shops in New York City

My favorite coffee spots in NYC – so far

As I’m sure you can imagine, New York City has endless amounts of coffee shops, where some are better than others. Even with the amount of times I’m able to take a trip into the city (I’m super lucky that I don’t live terribly far), I still have so many more places to try. So keep up with my coffee journey here as well as on my instagram.

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If there’s two things you take away from this post:

  1. Instagram aesthetic doesn’t always equal quality coffee
  2. If you ever see “Australian inspired cafe” just automatically assume it’s gonna be incredible

Keep reading to see what I rate these spots out of 10.

Coffee n’ Clothes

Noho – 11 Bond Street

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A pretty popular find on instagram with the way you can pick what designer logo to have sprinkled on top of your coffee. I was a bit worried coming here at first, as just because people post about it for its’ looks doesn’t exactly mean quality.

Nonetheless, the barista was very talented and I would totally go back! It was honestly a really good latte.

Coffee n’ Clothes: 10/10 for quality & aesthetic

Ruby’s Cafe

Soho – 219 Mulberry Street A

Northern Noho – 198 E 11th Street

Kips Bay – 442 3rd Ave

I’ve been a couple times (as they have multiple locations) and both times it was suuuuper packed so definitely plan ahead for that!! It is more of a sit down place over takeaway but the food is simple and on point.

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I was so impressed by the hospitality of the staff and how QUICK everything comes out. This is an Australian owned and inspired cafe and it sure shows, in the best way! Australian & Kiwi cafes BLOW MY MIND with how quickly their food comes out and at no cost to the quality.

The first time I went with my brother the server clearly had an Australian accent and she was the sweetest and cared to start a conversation with us. It’s the little things guys.

Ruby’s Cafe: 10/10 for great avocado toast, coffee and quality. The ultimate trio.

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Bluestone Lane

*too many locations to list but you get the gist*

The only real “chain” I’ll mention; it’s also Australian owned and inspired (are you sensing a theme here). With the times I’ve gone here I am always pleasantly surprised with the care their baristas take.

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This spot is really good if you’re in a pinch and haven’t really heard of any other coffee shops around.

Bluestone Lane: 8.5 for consistency and quality

Kaigo Coffee Room

Soho – 120 C Lafayette Street

Brooklyn Heights – 139 Bridge Park Drive

The barista really nailed the micro-foam and as you can guess that is super super important to me. I really appreciate milk frothed to be really light but not too airy – the perfect balance. I definitely want to go back here as it’s been too long.

Kaigo Coffee Room: 9.5 for care & precision

Partners Coffee

Greenpoint – 125 N 6th Street

Greenwich Village – 44 Charles Street

Koreatown – 160 5th Ave

Midtown – 81 E 45th Street

This is one of the few spots in Brooklyn that I’ve been able to try. Not only are they a more well known roaster, they also kill it in the cafe scene; I couldn’t even get a table when I went. This would be the perfect spot to go to if I had some computer work to get done.

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Partners Coffee: 10/10 for quality and atmosphere

Hutch & Waldo

Upper East Side – 247 E 81st Street

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Yet again, another Australian owned & inspired cafe!!! This spot was an even mix between takeaway and sit-down. It’s a pretty small place but there was outdoor seating too (and lots of cute pups)! This is a good solid option if you’re in the upper east side looking for a good stop. It’s not too far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hutch & Waldo: 9/10, its a good spot but not as good as Ruby’s Cafe in my opinion.

Saltwater Coffee

East Village – 345 E 12th Street

West Village – 126 Waverly Place

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Okay guys, I’m laughing at myself. I don’t mean for this post to turn into all Australian inspired cafes but those Ozzies genuinely slay the rest of the world with their coffee culture.

Saltwater honestly was incredible. It’s a small spot with minimal seating but it’s so bright and welcoming that all is good in the world. Barista’s slayed the micro-foam. Any coffee spot with a flat white on the menu usually is a good sign of quality baristas (as a lot of people don’t know, or care to know what a flat white is).

According to google, “A flat white is a coffee drink consisting of espresso with micro-foam (steamed milk with small, fine bubbles and a glossy or velvety consistency).”

Saltwater Coffee: 10.5/10 for quality, care, incredibleness (is that a word?) & aesthetic

Paper Coffee

Koreatown – 44 West 29th Street

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It’s the ultimate mid-town stop. Great coffee right in the center of a lot. My friends were even amazed by their chocolate chip cookies; so if a nice gooey, warm chocolate chip cookie paired with insanely good coffee is your vibe then this place is made for you.

Paper Coffee: 9.5/10 for convenience and quality

Remi Flower & Coffee

Midtown – 906 2nd Ave

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I guess the best way to sum this spot up is it’s a flower shop first and a coffee shop second. Their coffee was good but in my opinion I felt this place is really only popular because of the instagram aesthetics and stunning flowers. I would still recommend to give this place a visit, but it’s out of the way from a lot.

Remi Flower & Coffee: 8/10 mostly for aesthetic. The coffee was good but in a place like NYC you need to be incredible or it just doesn’t cut it for me. Also it could have been an off day for the barista so I wanted to make sure to mention this place regardless. I definitely will go back to give it another shot.

Have you explored New York City?

What are your top NYC coffee spots?

If you’re on the look-out for more coffee content head over to my instagram or check out some similar posts I’ve done:

A guide to Portland, Oregon’s coffee scene

The 3 things I look for when choosing a coffee shop to spend my money at

5 things you NEED to make the best coffee at home

Thanks so much if you’ve read this far. I appreciate it so much.

Lots of love,

foot

a guide to Portland, Oregon’s coffee scene

This past February (before everything escalated) I met my boyfriend on the west coast of the states and explored SFO, SEA and PDX. Out of the three, I definitely was most impressed with Portland’s coffee scene. There was so much character my heart was so full. Here’s my highlight reel:

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Stop One: Deadstock Coffee

Such a cool vibe here, and obviously any coffee shop with a mural has a gold star in my book. Talented baristas and welcoming staff. A super bright space not far from Chinatown. Kind of felt like I was entering into a footlocker/michael-jordan-basketball-kind-of-vibe.

My rating: 7/10

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Stop Two: Heart Coffee Roasters

They have a couple locations but this one was super convenient to get to in center city. It genuinely took everything in my not to buy all those cute mugs. Here was a big hotspot for getting work done (one of the true giveaways of how good the coffee shop is).

Again, super talented baristas and a super bright, light space. I talked a bit more about here in an instagram post here.

My rating: 8/10

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Stop Three: Upper Left Roasters

If theres one thing I found the most interesting about this city is how many coffee shops and cute cafes are attached to hotels or office buildings. It makes some of them harder to find but worth the hunt. There wasn’t really any seating (aimed for more on the go, office runs) but still a treasure find.

Not my favorite oat milk latte I found, but that doesn’t demean the quality of their coffee.

My rating: 6.5/10

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Stop Four: Drip PDX

THIS DECOR THO!!!! Another spot hidden in a campus of office buildings (like really hidden)! Such a sweet group of staff. They very recently just opened up and I was so happy to make the trip. It’s not far off from center city.  Although it was in an office building there still was a lot of room for seating and pretty quiet too. I could see myself getting a lot of work done just hanging out here.

Show those newer startups some extra love!!!

My rating: 8.5/10

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Stop Five: Good Coffee

Let me just say that when you walk into a cafe and there is two photoshoots simultaneously happening that’s when you know it’s a cute ass spot; I can confirm it was. Lots of comfy couches, seats, and tables really filling up the space.

This spot was attached to a fancy hotel and would definitely come back here if I had the chance.

My rating: 8/10

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Stop Six: Never Lab Coffee

the finale

the “save the best for last”

Genuinely was so impressed with Never Coffee that I recently ordered some of their coffee to brew at home during quarantine. Just LOOK at how bright and stunning their space is. The plants and the little cactus make me so happy. Coffee and plants are the best combo. Okay this is a rant but you catch my drift: I really really loved it here. 

I have made multiple posts on my instagram about their coffee but I was really impressed with their specialty lattes and drink options. I tried the combo they called “Oregon” and was really into it: not too sweet or heavy. The staff was the most open and welcoming that I encountered on my trip. 

If you ever go to Portland you have to come here. That’s that.

My rating: honestly, 10/10

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Have you ever been to Portland, Oregon?

What did you think of it?

Lots of love,

foot
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