Five Things to Know Before Buying Coffee

A morning cup of coffee is supposed to be a simple pleasure, but shopping for coffee beans at the supermarket is more confusing now than ever. There are so many options to consider: organic, blends, single-origin, dark roast; the list goes on.

Before your next trip to the market, let’s answer five of the most common questions I’m asked about buying coffee at the store.

Does Buying Organic Matter with Coffee?

The most common question I’m asked is whether it’s important to buy organic coffee. Coffee beans are protected by a red cherry that’s very tough, so when chemicals are sprayed on the crop, they don’t really make it into the coffee bean. So in terms of whether or not your coffee is safe to drink, organic doesn’t matter.

Where organic really matters is the environment. Coffee beans are grown in very exotic locations, like the rainforest. All of that spraying means chemicals are becoming part of the water table and poisoning the ecosystem in places where coffee is grown.

So your choice whether to buy organic coffee isn’t about the chemicals getting into your body. However, if you care about the environment, you might want to buy organic coffee.

Should I Buy Coffee in Bulk?

Sometimes I see people buying these enormous bags of coffee at Costco, but I don’t recommend that. When you buy a bag of pre-ground beans, you only have about seven to ten days of peak freshness from the day you break that seal.

Is the coffee still good after that? It absolutely is - but coffee is all about a gentle, nuanced flavor. After the peak aromas start to dissipate, the coffee’s flavor is never quite the same.

I recommend only buying one pound at a time. The flavor and complexity lasts a little longer in whole beans, but you still want to consume them within two weeks. That’s the max shelf life for peak flavor of whole beans. Once you grind them, it's only one week. For the best flavor, you’re best off buying smaller amounts more frequently.

“After the peak aromas start to dissipate, the coffee’s flavor is never quite the same.”

Should I Buy K-Cups?

K-Cups are insanely popular. I think the inventor of K-Cups regrets it now, because he never thought it was going to be this popular! 

I don't recommend using K-Cups, because how do you feel about near-boiling liquid passing through an aluminum lid, then through plastic, then to your cup? I believe it pulls out many toxic chemicals. You don’t want things like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), endocrine disruptors, and other nasty chemicals in your body. 

If you love your K-Cup machine, I totally get it. Go on Amazon and buy a stainless steel K-Cup that you can reuse over and over. Load your favorite coffee into the reusable steel cup, and it works with your machine exactly the same way, but without forcing a hot liquid through aluminum and plastic. Plus, the odds are the kind of coffee they're using in K-Cups isn’t going to be top shelf, and you don't know how long it's been sitting there. You're way better off getting your own coffee, grinding it, and putting it in the K-Cup yourself.

Is Single-Origin Coffee Better Than a Blend?

If you're a real coffee connoisseur, this is a no-brainer. I always recommend buying single-origin coffee. When it comes to blends, you don't really know where the beans come from. When you’re buying a Starbucks or Dunkin blend, the beans can be from anywhere around the world. Some beans could come from Ethiopia and some from Honduras. Who knows? I’ve been told that oftentimes they're inferior beans, meaning they're overly ripe or too green and young. So, they roast it to a very dark roast to hide the imperfections. 

If you love your coffee, look for a single- origin, because it'll always tell you where it came from right on the package, and the flavors tend to be more complex and distinct.

Should I Freeze My Coffee Beans?

Never store your coffee beans (ground or unground) in the freezer. For some reason, there’s an urban legend that storing coffee in the freezer extends the shelf life. My friends, it actually does the opposite. It shortens the shelf life, because when you put the beans in the freezer, they get shocked. They get cold, they sweat, and exude more moisture, and that actually ages them faster. Unless you seal them very tightly using a vacuum sealed bag, they're going to soak up the aromas of the freezer. Therefore, your coffee will pick up the flavors of chicken, pearl onions, and whatever else you have in there. 

Instead, just keep your coffee in a sealed container in a dark part of your kitchen. Try to drink your coffee within seven to ten days, and you're always going to have fresh coffee - no freezing necessary.