Just as a carrot or a cucumber deteriorates from the moment it is picked, the quality of a coffee bean diminishes from the time it was roasted. Knowing when your coffee was roasted is fundamental to understanding how fresh it is, so avoid buying bags that don’t have a roast date stamped on them. Pre-ground coffee should be avoided too, because, just like chopped vegetables, it spoils at much faster rate.
It is recommended only when you are travelling without a grinder or your grinder is broken, and the most important note here is coffee should be freshly roasted. Understanding how the coffee is intended to be brewed is the next important factor. Espresso coffee will generally be labelled as such, usually being of a darker roast and most of the time a blend of different coffees. Single-origin espresso coffees are becoming more commonplace now, however, and these coffees are selected for their more placid nature. Coffees intended for brewing by a more traditional method tend to be lighter-roasted to accentuate acidity, and usually the product of a single country, co-operative or estate. Brewing coffee is like a malt whiskey, they are the product of a certain place, time and processing method and in general offer a more diverse range of coffee styles than that of an espresso blend. Lighter roasted coffees can be brewed as espresso, but this tends to be done only with low-acidity beans. Darker roasted coffees can be brewed in the traditional manner, but a higher acidity coffee is usually required to attain the “brightness” that we would hope to get from this type of brewer. Always remember this note, buy regularly and in small quantities, or consider subscribing to a regular delivery from a roaster, which can be a fantastic route to the discovery of new exciting coffees. A fresh bag of coffee, roasted in a style that will complement your chosen brewing method, will set you on the right path. Beyond this, there is a whole world of coffee origin, processing and varieties to explore. The only piece of advice that we will give you is to be as adventurous as possible and continue to challenge yourself with interesting coffees that stretch the boundaries of coffee style.