Quality Coffee – How To Know The Difference

picture of a bl;ack and white checkered mug with quality coffee inside and a chemex cold brew next to it with a blackboard with the words coffee time written on it.

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You may have heard the term “coffee snob” before, and if you are a coffee lover, it is possible that you might identify with this label.

But what exactly does it mean to be a coffee snob? A good place to start is by understanding what makes the best coffee.

This article will explore factors like taste, aroma, and acidity, and information on identifying a quality coffee!

Lifeboost Organic Coffee company (Our Best Coffee Option)

Why do we love Lifeboost coffee so much? For starters, it’s low acidic—it won’t hurt your stomach, teeth or cause severe acid reflux when you drink it every day like other coffee’s

This is due to their pH value is close to neutral, 6+!

That’s not all; Lifeboost coffee is also grown in the high mountains of Nicaragua, at an elevation of 5600+ ft.

High peaks provide a suitable climate for arabica beans to flourish. Speaking of beans, Lifeboost delivers 100% arabica, and it’s also single-origin. 

Single-origin is sourced from a single country and isn’t blended with predictable low-grade blends.

Furthermore, this coffee is shade-grown to allow slow ripening of the crop; this brews the best whole bean coffee.

Slow ripening enables them to bloom all the flavors present inside correctly. 

  • The coffee is 100% organic and doesn’t use any artificial chemical to fasten the cultivation product, to increase artificial sweeteners or flavors. 
  • Handpicked to choose the best beans before and after roasting. 
  • Third-party mycotoxin tested for zero molds or dangerous diseases. Lifeboost coffee makes sure no mycotoxins enter their coffee. 
  • Roast on order. 
  • Multiple flavored and decaf/caf varieties. You can also purchase pre-ground coffee, pods, and whole bean coffee from Lifeboost. 

Lifeboost also makes delicious flavored coffee like pumpkin spice, peppermint mocha, and french vanilla.

Atlas Coffee Club

Like Lifeboost, Atlas Coffee Company also offers single-origin fair trade coffee at a much lower price.

Unlike Lifeboost coffee that sources its beans only from Nicaragua, Atlas coffee club is a bigger brand, sourcing multiple single-origin coffees from different lands—Columbia, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Brazil, Peru. 

Every country offers a unique characteristic single-origin, and you do have a wide variety to choose from. Atlas coffee club is an exquisite coffee brand and is generally more expensive than some commonwealth brands.

Each of ACC’s coffee varieties is grown at an elevation of 1000m-1900m (3280-6560ft).

Every different country follows unique regional coffee processing methods, including sun-dry, natural wet processing, and wet-hulling (wet hulling is required by Sumatra, Indonesia, due to their rainy weather). 

Dry-processed coffee is the sweetest because it soaks in the flavors of the red coffee cherries.

Their flavor profile includes multiple natural undertones, including earth-spicy (Sumatran), candy, toffy, grapefruit, citrus, chocolate, cherry, vanilla, cream, etc.

Visit their official website to learn more about the wide range of products.

The company also offers small trial bags of 6 ounces and big bags of 24 ounces for heavy consumers. 

Woman suffering from a lousy tasting coffee because she didn't pick out a quality coffee.

How to tell quality coffee from lousy coffee?

The smell and taste certainly give away what you are about to drink. However, hoax coffee brands can always camouflage this taste with artificial fragrances and flavors.

To differentiate the good from the bad, always know about the beans’ history, origin, and roastery range.

That being said, if you are choosing pre-ground coffee for whatever reason, check its roastery date and whole coffee bean’s origin as well. 

  • The origin can tell you a lot about coffee. 
  • Plus, the roastery date will determine the freshness of your pre-ground coffee. 

Here’s a quick guideline to go by when purchasing coffee

Is it single-origin?

Knowing the origin will tell you about the condition and environment in which these beans have been grown.

Single-origin coffee won’t blend low-quality beans from different states/countries; it should only be sourced from a single country that handpicks their best coffee beans. 

Some popular countries for single-origin coffee are Sumatra Mandheling, Nicaragua, Sulawesi Toraja. 

While single-origin is superior in quality, you can always lend on some well-blended coffee beans as long as you choose from the right brands.

Blended coffee will give you a diverse flavor profile that single-origin can never obtain. However, blended beans are at high risk of low-quality contamination—supposedly done to increase sales and decrease quality. 

When choosing blended coffee, choose proven brands—Volcanica, Peet’s, Stumptown, Lifeboost, Atlas Coffee Club, etc.

Volcanica House Blend

Peet’s Whole Bean blend

Stumptown Hair Bender

Don’t forget to check the country origins where blended coffee is sourced from. 

coffee grown at a higher elevation is of higher quality than low elevation

Is it grown at high elevation

Arabica beans flourish at high elevations, and robusta beans do just fine at lower elevations.

If you exclusively want arabica, choose a brand that grows and sources its coffee from high-elevations. 

The temperature at such height is usually harsh and cold—it stops pests and molds from manifesting and slows the ripening process—allowing the beans to bloom all the flavors properly.

Thus, arabica beans are expensive and sweeter than robusta beans. 

Robusta beans are low-grown because they don’t need a colder climate to stop pest manifestation; they already have high caffeine content to fight off insects and molds.

Given their cheap maintenance, robusta beans are usually more affordable and less sweet and bitter because of caffeine.

Is it shade-grown

A shade-grown coffee bean is sweeter because it blocks the sun to slow the ripening process.

A slow ripening process allows them to bloom for longer. Unfortunately, cheap coffee brands don’t grow beans under shade to fasten the ripening process to make more sales in a short duration of time.

Thus, always choose a coffee brand that values the importance of shade-grown crops. 

Slow ripening allows the coffee cherry to transfer some of its delicious flavors inside the seed, making the beans fruitier, Tangiers, and sweeter.

Both arabica and robusta beans can be grown under a canopy of tall trees to block the sun (not entirely) and increase the ripening period. 

What are hard coffee beans

These have more density and are considered hard coffee beans, and beans with comparatively lower density are considered soft coffee beans.

Beans grown at high elevations are usually regarded as hard because they ripen slowly, thus, increasing the overall flavor, sugar, and sweetness density inside. 

On the other hand, soft beans are comparatively mushier because they are grown at lower altitudes and are generally used to fast ripening, thus resulting in low-density/low content.

Lower altitudes are also warmer, resulting in more pores within the beans compared to hard beans. 

As a general rule of thumb, hard beans will be naturally sweeter and full-bodied for the following reasons mentioned above.

However, that’s not all; high content density isn’t only dependable on high-elevation but also relies on the processing method, roastery type, coffee variety, etc. 

a pile of arabica and robusta beans considered the best coffee beans

Is it arabica or robusta beans

Arabica beans are grown at high elevations, slowing the ripening process, increasing the flavor content and sweetness.

Robusta is generally produced at lower elevations because they don’t demand harsh/colder climates to flourish beautifully.

  • Taste value of arabica coffee: Arabica will be richer in flavors, limitless undertones, and sweetness—chocolate, fruits, nuts, caramel, citrus, maple, and whatnot. 
  • Robusta has a chocolatey bitter flavor because they ripen faster than Arabica beans and have high caffeine content. 
  • Caffeine content: Robusta beans have double the amount of caffeine than arabica. Arabica beans have 1.7% of the caffeine in their content, and robusta has 2.5%.

Overall, both varieties make the best coffee, and you can prefer either of them depending on your choice for dark roast coffee (robusta) or sweet light roast coffee (arabica) coffee. 

How is it packaged?

The packaging is essential to save the freshness of the content for longer.

Please note: Choose freshly roasted beans three-seven days away from the roasting date to allow enough time for degassing.

There are two popular ways that coffee roasters choose to pack their coffee: 

  • Vacuum sealed bags with degas valve: These coffee bags usually come with a resealable zipper and have a degassing valve. Degassing valve is necessary to remove the CO2 produced by the coffee inside the bag after fresh roasting. It takes 5-7 days for the fresh roast to degas properly. 
  • Taped coffee bags without zipper or valve: Some brands don’t vacuum seal their bags to enhance the natural degassing process. Taped coffee bags are usually roasted after order and take 4-5 days to deliver—perfect for the degassing period. 

Please choose the retailers wisely to receive a freshly-packed order every time. Both the packaging systems are apt as long as they deliver promptly.

How do the beans look

Mostly, people believe dark brown beans with an oily sheen are considered high-quality, but that’s not entirely true.

While highly pigmented and oily beans are of good roast quality, they are not the only ones. In fact, a dry brown color is good as well, and so are light-roasted coffee beans. 

The color, pigmentation, and oil depend on the roasting level coffee roasteries use. 

  • Light-colored beans: Low-bodied, acidic, and sour with less flavor content and color. 
  • Medium brown, dry beans are Highly flavored and perfect for most brewing methods. Dry beans are also suitable for super-automatic espresso machines
  • High-pigmented dark-roasted beans: Also rich in flavors. These are darker, more robust, and intense, with higher caffeine content and low sugar content. They might taste burnt if not roasted properly. The oily sheen is not suitable for super-automatic espresso machines.

Shape and size of the beans: 

  • Arabica is larger and more oval than robusta coffee beans. 
  • Good beans will be heavier and more full-bodied than low-density coffee beans. 
  • If you can, check the centerline of green beans—if it’s too hollow and long, the beans are usually soft. If it’s not, they are hard beans. 
golden smoke coming off of coffee beans resembling the aroma it would produce
Strange golden smoke taking away from coffee seeds

How does it smell

Every different coffee brand will offer a unique flavor profile of foreign origins.

So, you will be introduced to a wide range of flavors and smells.

The most apparent smell would be coffee and chocolate.

Please note: Cheap coffee brands can add artificial flavors and fragrances.

Natural undertones will have a mild aroma and flavors, not too overpowering or shady. So, for quality, always choose natural coffee to consume everything naturally. 

However, if you don’t mind artificial sweeteners, non-organic is generally tastier since synthetic extracts and aromas are added.

Besides chocolate, most classic undertones are cherry, red fruits, nuts, spice, earthy, caramel, maple, citrus, and acidic. 

Hard fast rules for picking out coffee

Make sure you are aware of the roasting date and the origin. Geographics and roasting date define the quality more than aroma or flavors. 

Fresh roast dates will allow you to brew new, more exotic coffee beverages, and natural origin will help you determine the standards you are choosing. 

After selecting the correct beans, you must make a couple of more adjustments to brew deliciously fresh coffee.

For instance, the water quality you are using, accurate brewing adjustments, bean storage, etc. Let’s elaborate to understand all of them.

Coffee with a calendar on a wooden table referring to the roast date

Ensure that the roasting date is no less than three days ago and no more than 21 days later.

Coffee that’s been roasted freshly needs three-seven days to degas properly. Degassing is a process that allows freshly roasted beans to release CO2 naturally. CO2 emission after roasting is natural.

If you don’t let them degas properly, your brewed beverage will have CO2 entrapped in the crema and overall beverage composition. 

It’s not very wise to consume CO2. Therefore, always allow coffee to degas properly to avoid carbon dioxide in your beverage. 

Similarly, don’t choose beans that are 21 days late. Again, if they’re older than 21 days will be less fresh.

The later the roasting date is, the staler they will taste. So choose your seller wisely to receive fresh coffee beans at every order.

The beans haven’t been ground for more than three hours. 

Purchasing instant coffee is an entirely different and less consistent option. Before everything, you must choose a proven brand.

They will be more expensive but will offer better coffee. Instant coffee loses freshness, flavors, and aromas much quicker.

While whole beans safely store their content inside the bean, instant coffee is grounded and vulnerable to oxygen and air.

The coffee grinds react with air more efficiently and can lose their content readily. This is why the coffee may brew stale and weaker coffee. 

Nonetheless, if you wish to purchase pre-ground coffee, make sure it’s not been ground and packed within three hours. Three hours is still long. However, it’s the best bet for freshness.

Choose local roasteries to receive fresh packaging. International brands can never offer you a product that’s been ground and packed within three hours. 

Is your coffee maker programmed Correctly

You don’t need to make many adjustments for a drip coffee machine apart from the correct coffee-water ratio, ground coffee beans, and extraction time for manual coffee makers.

However, you need to program your espresso machine/automatic coffee makers and grinder correctly to brew delicious coffee. 

Your grind size will depend on the type of brewing method you prefer. For example, while the French Press will require a coarser grind, espresso machines will demand a finer grind for better extraction. 

If you only prefer espressos and fine-grind brews (filtered, Moka pots), invest in a quality grinder.

Low-quality grinders can never grind fine enough. Similarly, espresso machines require correct temperature stability (190-205 degrees Fahrenheit), pressure pump (9-bar pressure pump), and extraction period (25 seconds). 

Refer to this guide to understand how to brew delicious espressos with semi-automatic espresso machines. 

a picture of shade-grown coffee beans from a fair trade organic farm in Nicaragua

Coffee beans are single-origin, organic, and shade-grown at high elevations. 

Although you can find quality blended brands of different origins and divulge in inorganic coffee, never choose coffee beans that aren’t shade-grown.

Individuals who wish to consume all-natural coffee with multiple health benefits should always choose organic, single-origin, and high-elevation grown coffee beans. 

Single-origin coffee

Single-origin coffee is sourced from a single country known for producing beans. Usually, they are 100% arabica and are grown at high elevations. 

Organic coffee beans

They display the highest quality because they are sourced naturally without artificial growth chemicals, flavor additives, or aroma. They usually have a milder taste compared to inorganic coffee beans. 

Shade-grown bean coffee

Have the highest natural flavor content and body fullness because they promote slow ripening of the crops and beans. 

High-elevation grown

High elevations provide the perfect climate for arabica beans. However, these elevations are usually colder and harsher, resulting in slow ripening and pest control. 

picture of water going through a filter for a coffee machine and the particles being trapped in the filter

Use a water filter

Now, you may think water is water, and what does it have to do with coffee?

Well, coffee is 98% water. So your water’s quality determines the taste of your beverage and the life expectancy of your machine, especially in espresso machines. 

Hard water is filled with various minerals, elements, and pollutants. While minerals aren’t bad for your health, hard water is bad for your coffee machines.

When heated, hard water loses its elements, minerals, and mixed pollutants. These particles start to get attached to the water boiler present inside the devices. 

Water boilers/heating elements of an espresso machine or other electronic coffee makers are crucial in deciding the taste of your beverage.

An efficient water boiler will deliver accurate boiling water for the beverage. A non-efficient water boiler will provide warm or lukewarm water which can never brew tasty espresso/coffees. Cold espressos will taste sour and nasty. 

When these sediments get attached to your water boilers, they start to decrease the overall efficiency of your water boiler, ruining your machine as well as your beverage’s taste. 

Different aspects of the best coffee

Good bean coffee can be determined by its density, colors, crema, undertones, mouth fullness, natural acidic content, etc.

When all these aspects of coffee come together, you witness the true essence and pleasure of your java and its taste. 

Body or mouthfeel

Usually, there are three particular coffee body types—light roast, medium roast, and full-bodied.

The best coffee is one that leaves a delicious aftertaste and luscious mouthfeel. On the other hand, Light-bodied or medium-coffee will taste bland, empty, and hollow. A better description would be watery. 

Light-bodied joe will taste watery with bitter and mute or dead flavors. Similarly, medium-bodied java is slightly more full than light but still lacks flavors. 

A full-bodied coffee is content with flavors, aroma, and body. It’s usually heavy and full of taste.

With whole-bodied coffee, you wouldn’t be tasting something empty or something like water; it would very much taste like coffee—heavy with cream, butter, nutty goodness, and choco.

It will fill your mouth. All in all, it should have a smooth, syrupy texture. 

How to grind?

Freshly-ground coffee and its grind size are essential in registering the correct flavor profile and brewing method.

A proper grind can make your coffee, and a wrong grind can ruin your beverage. For instance, grinding fine instead of coarse for french press will turn out muddy and bitter.

To grind perfectly, choose a good grinder that can grind fine enough for espressos and coarsely uniform enough for other brewing methods. 


Coffee shouldn’t have an intensely sweet aroma or pungent acidic characteristics. Instead, it should be mild, exotic, with noticeable undertones.

Too strong a smell indicates contamination of artificial fragrance and flavors.


Just like the aroma, the flavors shouldn’t be too intense, too sweet, too sour, or concentrated.

Too much sweetness indicates the introduction of artificial additives to make the coffee sweeter and better-tasting.

However, not many individuals prefer unnatural sweetness. Instead, coffee purists enjoy a natural bitter-sweet taste with mute (not overpowering) undertones in their coffee.

Organic coffee is milder and muter than artificial coffee. 

Should it be bitter?

Naturally, yes, but not to the level of undrinkable.

Coffee’s composition consists of cacao and cocoa—both are naturally bitter-sweet with tannins, caffeine, and chocolate flavors.

While you can avoid tannins to some extent, the traces will reach your coffee.

However, slight bitterness or bitter-sweetness is the fundamental characteristic of delicious coffee. 

It should be mildly bitter, like what you notice in dark chocolate. 

How acidic should it be?

How acidic would you like it to be? Along the lines of bitterness, coffee is also naturally acidic, and you can choose high-, low-, or mildly acidic coffee, depending on the roast and your personal preference.

Light-roasted coffee has the highest acidic content. If you enjoy the intense taste of fruity acids, you will enjoy a light roast. 

However, like Lifeboost, low-acidic coffee will be your best choice if you have a sensitive stomach and cannot tolerate it well.

A regular coffee’s pH value should be five or plus. A low acidic coffee has a higher pH value of 6.5, closer to seven which is considered neutral. 


Coffee shouldn’t be overly sweet because that will ruin your coffee’s flavor and body.

An intense sweetness will make your beverage taste like hot chocolate rather than actual coffee. On the other hand, an honest, natural coffee must taste slightly bitter with the lines of natural sweetness with mute undertones. 


Undertones shouldn’t be overpowering, and they shouldn’t dominate the flavors of your coffee.

High-quality coffee brands source their beans from popular countries like Colombia, Brazil, Guatemala, Sumatra, Sulawesi, etc. 

There’s a wide variety of undertones in ][[bean coffee, including red fruits, cherries, nuts, chocolate, caramel, and maple.

Fresh beans are always best.

Freshly roasted bean coffee and freshly-ground coffee will always brew deliciously fresh beverages. However, fewer fresh beans or pre-ground coffee will taste bland and stale because most of the flavors will evaporate away with air and exposure.

Thus, it’s advised only to purchase freshly-roasted beans (within 15 days of roasting), or fresh ground coffee (within three hours) 

How to store coffee beans?

Purchasing freshly-roasted coffee beans is one thing, but storing them to keep the freshness intact is another thing.

While it’s not tricky, stored coffee can quickly go stale with too much exposure to oxygen. So it’s advised to store your coffee beans in an air-tight stainless steel canister with a small dispenser.

If not a canister, store the coffee beans in the bean hopper of your espresso machine or coffee machine. Both these devices will have a dispenser for direct grinding. 

Choose a dark-lid bean hopper to protect the beans from harsh UV rays or evaporation. Store the beans in a resealable zipper paper bag if you don’t have a canister or grinder.

Don’t choose cheap plastic as it might transfer a weird smell to the coffee beans.

Does it matter what type of water filter you use?

Yes, without a quality filter, your espresso machine will prompt you to descale the device often. Descaling requires deep cleansing of the machines, especially water boilers, to remove whatever scale build-up has declined the boiler’s efficiency. 

A quality filter will reduce the constant need for descaling and only prompt a filter change (Jura’s filter in Jura’s super-automatic espresso machine) or prompt you to descale in 4-5 months.


It’s not difficult to choose the correct coffee beans. However, it’s essential to know how to select the proper coffee beans for a delicious home-barista experience.

We often taste cafe-like beverages and ask ourselves, why can’t our personally brewed coffee taste like this. 

Use this guide to understand what’s ruining your coffee and make the necessary changes. Then, with enough alterations, perfect coffee beans, and knowledge, you can brew barista-like coffee right in the comfort of your house.