Missing your morning Americanos from the cafe around the corner from the office lately? Same here. That’s why we reached out to a handful of baristas and professional coffee snobs to get their take on the best coffee brands on the market—so you can finally make that coffee shop quality brew without leaving the comfort of home.
According to Asser Christensen, trained and Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) licensed Q Grader, finding great beans could be as easy as tuning into what baristas are using themselves. “At the moment, the most interesting coffee brands tend to be the ones that are dedicated to competing in barista and roasting competitions.”
Natasha Tatton, co-owner and operator of a sourdough bakery cafe called BReD in Whistler, BC, adds that when looking at new coffee brand there are main three things to look for:
- Taste: “We like medium-light roasts, especially for coffee without milk such as drip/brew,” Tatton adds.
- Ethics: Direct trade is best for the farmer. Coffee beans tend to be grown in countries with high levels of poverty. Roasters can but direct, taking out the middleman and thus a fairer price for the farmer.
- Environment: “It is a privilege to drink an exotic cup of coffee on top of a mountain in Whistler, and there is no doubt that most people drinking coffee are far removed from the land it was grown in,” explains Tatton, “Beans are transported great distances but you can make coffee choices that have some positive impact on the environment.” Arabica beans need shade to grow, so growing arabica bean plants promotes biodiversity in rural areas: much better for ecosystems than robusta beans, which tend to be cheap mass-produced monocrops.
With that in mind, here are some of the best coffee beans you can buy—these check all the boxes and will ensure coffee shop quality from your kitchen.
“In the US, Onyx Coffee Lab has really made a name for themselves in spite of their location in a small town in Arkansas by winning a bunch of trophies.” says Christensen. Onyx Coffee Lab beans are also roasted to order which might not sound that significant but results in a much more crisp, freshing tasting cup of coffee.
If you’ve ever visited Chicago, chances are you’ve stopped by an Intelligentsia coffee shop. “Specialty coffee pioneers such as Intelligentsia is still a safe bet if you want some of the finest beans in the world,” adds Christensen, “They all roast light, but they are very consistent.”
Blue Bottle Coffee was founded in Oakland, California, in 2002. James Freeman, a self-declared coffee lunatic, would hand-roasted beans in a 183 square-foot potting shed and then delivered them to friends before launching his network of cafes across the United States and Japan. Their packaged beans are certified organic and fair trade—and let’s be honest, the packaging itself is pretty darn sleek.
“April Coffee Roasters from Copenhagen, Denmark is another example of a quality-driven brand that has become famous through competitions,” says Christensen. “The founder, Patrik Rolf, placed second in last year’s World Brewers Cup.”
“My favorite coffee brand is Pure Intentions Coffee which is one of Charlotte’s best coffee companies” says Ashley-Victoria Smith, Shift Leader at Sunflour Baking Company. “They roast their beans in small batches ensuring the quality of each bean and bag that goes out!”