Best Coffee Beans: The Best Coffee in the World (Whole Bean Coffee)
Are you looking for the best coffee beans? Perhaps you are after the best coffee in the world? Well, you’re in the right place. Here at Black Ink coffee, we know that everyone has their own taste in coffee, so finding the right coffee bean requires knowing your options.
In this guide, you’ll learn more about the different kinds of coffee, with each section linking to an in-depth guide if you want more information on a particular option. If you are after the best whole bean coffee, then it makes sense to start with knowing where it comes from and which single origin to taste test.
Single origin coffee comes from a specific region, producer, or crop in a particular coffee. This is different from the types of coffee beans you can use to make the perfect brew for your tastes. A single origin may grow many types of beans, but you’ll only find one type of bean in each single origin.
Any coffee that isn’t a single origin is a blend, which we’ll discuss in more detail below. Single origin coffee is often only available during part of the year, while blends tend to be available year-round because producers make a lot at once. This means it’s often better to stock up on single origin coffee while you can if you like the taste.
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Brazil is one of the largest coffee makers in the world. In fact, in the early 1900s, Brazil produced eighty percent of the world’s entire supply of coffee. That’s a lot of beans! Today, it still produces about 30% of all coffee in the world, and the coffee-heavy culture means that they’re constantly innovating and looking for new blends.
In practice, this means that Brazilian coffee offers more variety than just about any other source, even if you’re staying with single origins for specific beans. They’re especially well known for their arabica beans, and blends often have complex, sweet, earthy, and floral flavors to them. Most harvesting occurs from April to September across the country.
Colombia doesn’t produce quite as much coffee as Brazil, but that has more to do with usable land than a lack of passion. This country produces about 12% of the world’s supply of coffee, making it one of the most well-known and popular sources globally. It’s also one of the biggest drivers of Colombia’s rural economy, so it benefits from significant governmental support.
Colombia focuses almost exclusively on growing arabica coffee, which has specific temperature, rain, and altitude requirements for optimal growth. Colombia naturally fits these conditions, though the country itself has about twenty regions (known as “departments”) that each produce a distinct flavor to the discerning drinker.
Most Colombian coffee features smooth, mild tastes with low amounts of acid. They also tend to smell either fruity or citrusy, with well-balanced bodies and flavors.
While most people don’t think of Ethiopia when they consider coffee, it occupies a unique place in the coffee-growing world: it’s the origin of coffee. Legends say that a goat herder near a local monastery noticed that goats became far more energetic after eating beans from a particular tree, and the local abbot tried making a drink from the brew.
The results were immediate: the abbot could stay awake through long hours of prayer. It didn’t take long for knowledge of the coffee beans to spread, but over time, we’ve discovered thousands of varieties of coffee within Ethiopia. Coffee grows easily in Ethiopia because it evolved here, so farmers have to do far less work to get the right conditions.
Most Ethiopian coffee has complex flavors and higher acidity, with a light or medium body to them. More notably, single origin Ethiopian coffees are becoming more common now thanks to national policies enacted in early 2017. Previously, the beans were often blended, but the government now encourages farmers to focus on higher-quality beans.
Guatemalan coffee has a relatively long history, starting in the mid-1700s when Jesuit missionaries began planting them for ornamentations. Growth started in earnest after the collapse of the local dye industry, and it now ranks among one of the largest exporters in the world.
Guatemalan beans tend towards strong, full-bodied flavors with moderate acidity. Coffee tends to grow best at higher elevations, as long as it doesn’t get too cold, and Guatemala fits these requirements in several areas. Like Colombia and Brazil, Guatemala focuses on arabica beans, but it also grows a few other varieties to meet international demands.
The real thing that sets Guatemala apart from other regions is the access to volcanic soil. Guatemala has many areas that saw volcanic activity in the past, so the soil is rich in minerals like nitrogen, boron, potassium, and calcium. These all contribute to nurturing coffee trees and help provide some of the distinctly strong flavors we see today.
Located in the western area of Indonesia, the island of Sumatra is one of the wettest places in the world for growing coffee. That’s great for growing coffee because the plants need plenty of water, but it produces some interesting challenges for processing the beans for export.
Sumatran coffee uses a processing technique known as wet hulling, which leaves the beans much wetter for much longer. The result is a distinctively heavy body with an earthy flavor and relatively low acidity. However, Sumatra coffee also has more variance because of the multi-step processing and use of homemade equipment.
This is why most people roast Sumatran coffee dark, rather than accepting light or medium roasts. The result is a distinctively intense brew that stands out from other origins.
Mexico isn’t quite as famous for its coffee as areas like Brazil or Colombia, but it offers a noticeably different flavor profile than its neighbors to the south. Most Mexican coffee features a nutty tang to it, with lighter bodies and noticeable dryness. Some people compare these coffees to white wine.
Like Ethiopia, there’s a significant level of variety in individual flavors because of the country’s focus on smaller-scale growers. These beans are often mild enough that brewers will add other flavors or spices before shipping to create a memorable product. Cinnamon infusions are particularly popular and complement the gentle natural flavors.
Mexico also produces a lot of coffee for blending. The mild flavors of most beans tend to fit in well alongside a darker “main” bean in each blend, so some people buy single origin Mexican beans specifically to create new blends at home.
Costa Rican Coffee
Costa Rica isn’t a major provider of the best coffee beans. In fact, it produces less than 1% of the global supply, making it just a fraction of the productivity of places like Brazil. However, Costa Rican beans tend to have outstanding quality for the same reason as Guatemalan beans: volcanic soil, excellent rainfall, and high altitudes.
Costa Rica also emphasizes quality with a focus on providing peaberry bean blends alongside its already-limited offerings. Peaberries are a natural mutation in coffee beans that have more flavor and nutrients than regular beans, and they only occur in about 5% of coffee. Costa Rican peaberry blends are some of the best in the world thanks to their high initial quality.
You can expect to pay a premium for good Costa Rican beans, though.
Kenya is one of the largest coffee producers in Africa, with a national system for rapid grading. It’s also not far from Ethiopia, the natural home of coffee, so the climate is good enough to require less work than some other regions of the world.
Overall flavors in Kenyan coffee tend to have a black-currant flavor with a wine-like aftertaste. Much of this comes from the berry-rich growing environments, which lend some of their flavors to the local coffee beans. The country sorts all beans on their shape, color, size, and density, which can make it a bit hard to find single origin coffee rather than blends.
Kenya mostly focuses on premium coffee, with a tendency to discard any beans that aren’t graded highly enough on their scale. This means that any bag of Kenyan coffee is likely to produce a great brew.
Peru is one of the older producers of coffee, with cultivation starting around the mid-1700s. This is earlier than some other areas in Central America, which is a little surprising because it’s further from the original spread of coffee plants through the Caribbean. However, they only started producing in bulk around the 1900s.
One thing that sets Peru apart is the relatively high variation in elevation for growing regions. Peru has low-altitude farms that produce beans with mild acidity and notes of fruit and flowers, as well as high-altitude farms producing beans with richer sweetness and much higher acidity.
Peruvian beans also benefit somewhat from the aftermath of the World Wars. Farmers in Peru received land after England sold its claims there, resulting in thousands of smaller-scale growers getting to work. Recent investments in infrastructure are making it easier to sell beans internationally, so there’s always something new coming from the region.
Jamaica is a relatively small producer of coffee. At just 4240 square miles, it’s about 1/5 the size of Costa Rica, which is already a small nation by any standard. When you add living space, unusable land, and other needs on top of that, there just isn’t much space left for growing coffee.
However, despite all of this, Jamaica produces some of the best coffee in the world… in incredibly limited quantities. The most famed of these is Blue Mountain coffee, which features a mild flavor and a distinct lack of bitterness. Blue Mountain is quite expensive because about 80% is sent to Japan and much of what’s left goes to Italy for making Tia Maria coffee liqueur.
This interesting state of trade affairs means that it’s often easiest to get high-quality Jamaican coffee from Japan, rather than directly from the growers.
India is a relative newcomer to the coffee world, at least as far as international sales go. In the late 1600s, a man known as Baba Budan smuggled in some coffee beans after the Turks eliminated every bean they could find in Yemen as part of an attempt to stop its spread to other regions.
These plants grew normally for some time and began to produce a rich history in India, but only saw truly widespread growth in the late 18th century as the British worked to set up new plantations. It took all the way until the 1990s for local farmers to gain more control of crop sales and start producing higher-quality beans.
India isn’t on the level of Brazil yet, but they’re certainly a growing force in the industry. Current crops tend to have mild acidity and hints of spice. India also grows large amounts of both arabica and robusta beans across many types of terrain, so they have many different flavors to seek out.
Nicaragua isn’t one of the countries most people think of when they’re first remembering where coffee comes from, but it stands out from other countries on this list because it grows many rarer varieties of coffee beans instead of just arabica or other members of the big four.
The most common bean in Nicaragua is the bourbon bean, originally developed by French monks. These beans have a generally fruity flavor and a sweet, caramel-like undertone for a generally pleasant experience. Bourbon beans are also the origin for many of the other varieties currently on the market, making Nicaragua a good testing ground for new bean varieties.
Coffee is a significant part of Nicaragua’s economy, and they frequently export premium-grade beans to neighbors Costa Rica and Honduras, as well as up to the United States and beyond. Nicaragua sells a lot of beans in bulk, but you may also find some smaller single origin bags in specialty stores.
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Blends are a popular alternative to single origin coffees. Some people prefer blends because of the unique flavors you can get by mixing the best coffee beans together. At the very least, blends can give you experiences that you can’t get with any single origin drink, regardless of the quality of the beans in question.
Many blends also feature flavor infusions or other processing tricks that help provide a distinctive taste. Since beans come from all over, blends can also be more affordable and accessible than limited-quantity single origin drinks. This is a great place to start looking if you want a consistent flavor in your coffee, rather than trying different blends all the time.
Expect to see a lot of beans from Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, and Indonesia in blends, as these are the four biggest producers of coffee in the world. You may also find some blends from smaller producers in the world, especially those where farms don’t produce quite enough beans to sell on their own.
Decaf coffee is better understood as “low caffeine”, rather than “no caffeine”. Even with the best decaf coffee, it’s extremely difficult to remove every trace of caffeine from the best coffee beans, but processing techniques can remove upwards of 97%, and that’s good enough for most buyers.
The decaf process tends to produce milder flavors and smells, and a slightly lighter color, in the final brewed drink. Whether this is good or not is mainly a matter of opinion. Many coffee drinkers prefer the natural flavors, but people who don’t like bitter flavors tend to enjoy decaf coffee much more than regular drinks.
Companies use several techniques for removing caffeine, ranging from washing the beans to using carbon dioxide or even organic solvents. See our main article on this topic for more information on decaf processes, and this article from Healthline for more information on the health impacts of decaffeinating coffee.
Espresso beans are not a separate type of coffee bean, although the labels on packaging can make this confusing. The main difference is that the best espresso beans are roasted longer, but not until they’re too much darker than a regular dark roast. Roasting beans too darkly tends to produce excessive oils that clog up grinders and weaken the final product.
Espresso beans also do best when you grind them finely. Some people grind their beans relatively coarsely, but espresso beans do best when you can get them to among the finest settings your machines allow.
Espresso beans do not provide a different taste, texture, and caffeine content because they’re fundamentally different from regular beans. They’re not different on that level. They produce different results because of the preparation process. You can treat this label on a bag as the roaster’s recommendation more than anything else.
Wholesale coffee beans are sold by larger producers, especially from the biggest coffee-growing regions. These are more for commercial purposes, like coffee shops, rather than brewing coffee at home. A few things stand out about wholesale coffee.
First, growers who sell this tend to have a lot of coffee. They grow in bulk across similar terrain, ensuring a consistent flavor for all of their beans. Many of them sell throughout the year, too, using various techniques to preserve the beans until it’s time to use them.
Second, wholesale coffee comes in many qualities and flavors. Coffee beans aren’t bad just because they’re grown in bulk, especially in areas with a lot of great land. This means you can usually find the right fit for what you want to offer customers.
Finally, wholesale coffee may have minimum order requirements. We’re talking dozens to hundreds of bags of coffee at a time. Interested in opening a coffee shop? Or perhaps you need a coffee company that can dropship for you? Either way, be sure to check out our wholesale coffee program and send us an inquiry if you are interested!
Coffee pods are essentially a paper pouch holding a predetermined amount of ground coffee beans, usually enough to make a single cup of coffee. Their main use is reducing the amount of time you need to spend measuring out coffee, but since they’re pre-ground, they tend to be lower quality than fresh, unground beans.
Most coffee pods today are 61 millimeters around, which has become the general industry standard.
Coffee pods are not the same thing as single-serve containers from companies like Keurig, which produces its distinctive K-Cup coffee pods. These differ from traditional coffee pods because they’re larger plastic containers and mostly aren’t compatible with brewing machines from other manufacturers.
Green coffee is made with unroasted coffee beans. As WebMD explained, one of the main differences in green coffee is that it retains chlorogenic acid (CGA), a substance that some people believe offers various health benefits. Opinions are still split on how many benefits it actually offers, but the general opinion is that it’s probably healthy.
Green coffee also tastes completely different from regular coffee. Traditional coffee gets most of its flavor during the roasting process, whereas green coffee beans tend to taste closer to green tea, which is why we recommend drinking roasted coffee. You can also roast these beans yourself, although that requires experience and practice to get the best flavor.
Outside of direct consumption, green coffee is also useful for creating an extract necessary for the Swiss Water Process, which is a technique for decaffeinating coffee. Some people use green coffee as a weight-loss supplement, but scientific evidence for this is poor at best and we don’t recommend using green coffee extract for that purpose.
Green coffee is a particularly popular choice for whole bean coffee, although it’s also possible to make such brews with roasted beans.
White coffee is made with partially-roasted coffee beans. Most of these are robusta or arabica beans, although you may occasionally see white coffee made from liberica or excela beans instead. The roasting process also uses a lower temperature than traditional roasting processes, usually around 325 degrees instead of 450-480.
White coffee also has noticeably more caffeine than other roasts, with about 50% more than a fully-roasted option. This means that you can drink far less white coffee to get the same boost of energy.
This isn’t a particularly common drink just yet, but it’s been gaining popularity in some circles thanks to the lower amount of acids, smoother experience, and generally mild flavors. Be sure to check out our guide for a deeper dive into understanding white coffee.
Flavored coffee is mainly a low-quality alternative to better beans. In many cases, companies produce these by using old and stale coffee beans, then spraying them with synthetic flavors and oils. The result is coffee that can taste like almost anything except a genuine brew.
Flavored coffee is often cheaper than other types of coffee because it’s a way to get rid of older, mostly unwanted beans. Flavored coffee often lacks a lot of the bitterness that traditional brews exhibit, though, so it can be nice for people who prefer sweeter or gentler drinks.
The process of making flavored coffee is different from infusing fresh coffee beans with additional flavors, such as cinnamon or vanilla. We don’t make these kinds of cheaper flavored coffees here at Black Ink, although you can find them if you look at other roasters.
Types of Coffee Beans
There are three main types of coffee beans currently on the market, with an additional type that often gets thrown into the lot, and most people collectively consider these to be the best coffee beans. These aren’t the only options on the market, there are dozens of other varieties, too. However, these main ones encompass most of what people grow and buy thanks to their generally appealing qualities.
Robusta beans are the second-most-popular bean variety, behind arabica. This bean is extremely tolerant of different environments and quite resilient against disease, which makes it easier to grow in areas that can’t tolerate other beans. It also has almost twice as much caffeine than arabica beans do, which is part of why it’s so durable.
Robusta beans tend to have a smooth texture and low acidity. However, there’s also a lot of variety in its overall quality because farmers often try using its popularity and growing it in poorer climates. This can produce flat or unpleasant brews.
Outside of these qualities, drinks made with robusta beans tend to maintain their flavor even if you add milk or sugar, which is excellent for brewing things like Vietnamese coffee.
Arabica beans are easily the most popular in the world, collectively producing more than 60% of the world’s entire supply of coffee. It’s the most delicate of the four main types of beans, and noticeably prone to disease, but growers tolerate this because of the outstanding overall flavor.
Arabica beans tend to have complex flavors and aromas, with a bright body and somewhat higher level of acidity than other beans. Most people grow them at very high altitudes, usually in areas that get lots of rainfall and a fair amount of both sunlight and shade. They’re relatively short at about six feet tall, too, which makes harvesting them easier.
Arabica beans work best with hot brewing methods. Anything cold in the process, such as chilling the drink or adding creamer, tends to noticeably reduce the overall flavor.
Most arabica plants grow somewhere between 4300 and 4900 feet, although farmers have experimented with growing it as high as 9200 feet.
Liberica is a bean with an interesting history. In 1890, a large outbreak of coffee rust decimated the vulnerable arabica beans and eroding about 90% of that bean’s supply. To counter this, farmers turned to the liberica breed, and started trying to grow it in the Philippines. Political troubles limited exports, though, and it wasn’t really noticed again until 1995.
These beans are noticeably larger than those of the other coffee plants, with a distinctively irregular shape to them. Brews of liberica tend to have full bodies with smoky tastes, as well as floral and fruity elements. Some people say that liberica isn’t quite coffee in their mind, having too much of a wooden taste compared to the other options.
Excela beans account for about 7% of the world’s coffee supply. This means you can sometimes find them in stores, but they’re definitely rarer than arabica and robusta beans. Excela is notable mainly for its popularity in blended drinks, where it can affect the middle and back palates (compared to arabica affecting the front palate).
Excela typically has a fruity, tart body to it, but also some notes that are reminiscent of a darker roast at the same time. Ultimately, it does quite well in its assigned role. Today, it grows mainly in Southeast Asia, where the large trees that support it tend to grow best.
Incidentally, excela beans are technically a part of the liberica family because they grow on similarly-sized trees. However, the actual flavors are completely different, so most people consider them entirely separate species despite the scientific classification.
Roast degrees are one of the most important parts of preparing coffee. Next to the beans themselves, this has the greatest impact on overall flavor. White and green coffee are also technically roast degrees, but since we discussed them above, we won’t repeat that material here.
All roast degrees are divided into two categories. The first is the overall color, which includes light, medium, and dark roasts. Separate from these are named roast degrees, like City and Vienna, which are specific varieties of roasts within the color categories.
Light Roast - City, City+
Light roasts start at the City and City+ levels, usually going to about 428 degrees and creating a relatively light brown color. A light roast coffee will typically feature slight expansion with no particular oils visible, making them very dense. They also tend to have brighter, sweeter, and juicier flavors, as well as floral and herbal smells. You may have even heard of these lighter roasts being referred to as blonde roast coffee.
These roasts are especially popular because they’re the first point where you can truly taste the distinctive flavor varieties of a particular bean. In other words, light roasts are common among people who want to enjoy the original flavor more than the flavor of roasting. Light roasts have the highest caffeine content of the traditional roast levels.
Medium Roast - Full City, Full City+
Medium roasts are a midpoint for drinks, usually roasting to about 437 degrees. These have a noticeably darker color than light roasts, with occasional oil sheens on the beans and just starting to get a second crack in the bean itself.
Medium roasts tend to have balanced and bittersweet flavors, often with notes of chocolate, berry, and caramel for a more distinctive flavor. You can also see some moderate expansion of the beans themselves, which means there’s less actual bean per scoop and therefore less caffeine in a particular drink.
Dark Roast - Vienna, French Roast
The darkest roasts live up to their name with a far browner hue and a lot of expansion. You’ll also see bigger cracks as they roast up to 464 degrees or more, with a distinctively bitter taste. Many people liken dark roasts to something like dark chocolate, and you may also notice something of a burnt flavor to the drink.
Darker roasts are especially popular for making espresso drinks, but otherwise have less caffeine in them than either light or medium roasts. However, many people don’t like the bitter flavor of dark roasts, so these can be harder to enjoy even if you start with the best coffee beans. If you are after the best dark roast coffee, then you will want to give our beans a shot!
This is a point where some people add sweeteners or creamers, especially when using robusta beans that tolerate these extra flavors well. Arabica beans don’t do as well with sweeteners, so people usually roast those to a lighter roast degree to preserve the flavor nuances.
Coffee subscriptions are a way to sample specific or varying coffee blends without needing to travel to a particular store. Details can vary between services, but most companies either ship everything once per month (usually at the start of a month), or on schedules that customers request.
This is where we come in, but we know how personal coffee can be, so we’ll also discuss a few other options both here and in our in-depth look at subscription services.
Here at Black Ink, we sell a variety of single origin and blend bags, allowing you to get an artisanal coffee experience right at home. We offer coffee from many of the regions discussed at the start of this guide, as well as our special house blends for different purposes. Most of our offerings are available in either 12-ounce or 5-pound bags.
Other subscription providers include Trade Coffee, Mistrobox, Bean Box, and the Atlas Coffee Club. Each of these providers have their unique attributes, but while we may compete with them on the market, we’re always glad to see other people who love coffee.
What is a coffee brand, really? As you saw above, the best way to describe coffee is through a mix of bean type, growing region, and roasting process. Coffee beans from different places have different flavors and, more to the point, especially large growers may supply many different companies. That’s a significant part of wholesale coffee, which is a large part of the market.
Slapping a label on a bag of coffee beans isn’t enough to create a true brand, at least not to the extent that some people would like. Here at Black Ink, we have a slightly different view of coffee brands, and it’s this: a real brand is something you get when you mix the right origin or blend with roasting expertise and brewing process to create a memorably distinctive coffee.
Popular mainstream choices aside from our own Black Ink coffee include names like Black Rifle, Deathwish Coffee, Bones Coffee, Lavazza, Starbucks, and Lifeboost coffee. All of these brands manage to hit the right notes to create a brand, but let’s talk a little more about the components and how they interact.
Origins and blends are the foundational element of coffee. Essentially, these are all about finding the right choice for the brand you want to build. That includes managing factors like the acidity and other flavors from the growing region to find the perfect taste.
Flavor isn’t everything, though. Consistency is also important if you want to make the right brand, especially because most beans only show their best flavors for about three weeks after roasting. This means your supplier needs to produce enough coffee to meet your brand needs.
Next, roasting expertise is the ability to figure out the best roast for a particular bean, and to reproduce that roast consistently enough to make a product you can sell regularly. Different beans do better at different roasting times and temperatures, so you may need to experiment to find the best combination.
Finally, brewing techniques change the final flavor of a given cup of coffee. Many beans do better with specific processes, like the way arabica does best with hot brewing techniques. Proper brewing is often the difference between a decent cup and a great one.
Mix all of these components in the right combination and you have a brand worth remembering.
Coffee Health Concerns
Caffeine In Coffee
Another major factor to consider when drinking coffee is the caffeine content. Not all coffee is created equally and not everyone can and/or should be handling the same levels of caffeine.
Depending on your lifestyle, diet and body type you may want to learn more about caffeine in coffee and whether or not you are drinking too much. Some brands, like Deathwish coffee, offer extremely high levels of caffeine which may not be ideal for some.
Low Acid Coffee
While many Americans drink coffee on a regular basis, the majority do not fully understand coffee acidity. There are two types of acids in coffee, and they aren't always a bad thing like many believe to be.
Factors that dictate acidity levels include; extraction methods (filter type, heat, grind size, contact time), roast degree (light, medium, dark), age of roasted coffee, how the bean was roasted, and bean origin/processing (soil, shade grown, elevation, age, storage, processing method).
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into coffee acidity, which is why we love talking about it at Black Ink. So many people suffer from acid reflux and never once consider that it could be the coffee selection or how they are brewing it.
If you don't know by now, many coffees contain coffee mold which is just one important reason why you should be preserving your precious beans inside of a coffee canister that is both airtight and free of dangerous chemicals. Do your beans a favor and get yourself the best coffee canister to prevent oxidation, mold, or worse!
What are the best coffee beans?
There is a lot of debate surrounding which coffee beans are the best. Some claim that it comes down to the cupping score of the green coffee, while others believe that is comes down to the roasting process. We believe that our Maineiac Blend consists of the best coffee beans.
While Single Origins are considered the purest form of the bean, it can be difficult to get a well balanced experience from the beans. When it comes down to it, a blend of coffee is the best way to achieve that perfect cup of coffee.
What is the best tasting coffee brand?
Without a doubt, the best tasting coffee brand is Black Ink Coffee. Although we are a bit biased on this, we are confident that the best cup of coffee that you'll ever drink will come from Black Ink.
Where to buy the best coffee beans?
If you want the best whole bean coffee, you should buy your coffee fresh from a specialty coffee roaster, ideally one that roasts in small batches. If you aren't sure where to start, we suggest giving Black Ink Coffee a try.