The Ultimate Guide to Coffee Beans and Brewing Whole Bean Coffee at Home


Whole Bean Coffee

So, you’ve decided to dive head first into the new and exciting world of making your own coffee at home. Congratulations! Enjoying a hot, delicious cup of coffee in the morning is a comforting ritual for many, and a reason to be excited about getting out of bed each morning.

There are seemingly endless ways to brew your own coffee at home, from using K-Cups to Nespresso Compatible Capsules, but many coffee aficionados will tell you to purchase whole coffee beans for maximum freshness. 

If you’re intimidated or confused about how to make coffee with whole beans, don’t worry, it’s not nearly as complicated as you think! We’ve created this guide to break down everything you need to know about whole coffee beans, so you have maximum control over your cup of coffee and can brew it exactly how you like it.

What is whole bean coffee?

Whole bean coffee is made up of the coffee bean halves found in the red cherries on coffee plants. Each red cherry contains two halves of a coffee bean. After harvesting, the red cherry’s outer layer is discarded, leaving the beans inside.

Whole bean coffee is recommended in order to maintain maximum freshness and flavor from the farm all the way to your cup. 

Why use whole beans

Whole bean coffee is, as a general rule, more flavorful and aromatic than coffee that has been pre-ground. We recommend grinding your beans right before brewing in order to maintain the full scope of delicious flavor. 

Whole bean vs ground coffee

When buying coffee, you typically have the choice between whole beans or ground coffee (many grocery stores will also have the option to grind your beans there). If you want the most flavorful coffee possible, you should buy your beans whole and grind them yourself just before brewing.

Ground coffee begins “leaking’ aroma and flavor as soon as it is ground. After grinding, the coffee particles are more vulnerable to oxygen and excess moisture in the air. Brewing immediately after grinding ensures you don’t sacrifice aroma and flavor. 

Understanding coffee bean origin

Coffee Farm in Brazil

Your first step toward brewing whole bean coffee is to decide what coffee bean origin you like.

There are two main categories of coffee bean origin to choose from:

  • Unblended single origin coffee: Single-origin coffee beans are beans that are sourced from one specific location. They have strong, notable characteristics specific to the regions in which they are grown.
  • Coffee blends: Coffee bean blends use the exciting flavors from single-origin beans as building blocks to create a wide range of flavor combinations and intensity levels. For example, our Rosh Hashanah coffee blends six single-origin beans for a milky, rich, bold-but-balanced cup of coffee, whereas our Boker Blend combines four types of single-origin beans for a brighter, slightly-bitter, but delicate-bodied flavor.  

Single-origin coffee regions

The majority of the coffee sourced around the world comes from three general regions:

1. African and Arabian coffee beans: Exotic, winey, fruity flavors.

Try our Tanzanian single-origin coffee.

2. Central and South America coffee beans: Mild and bright flavors.

Try our Brazilian single-origin coffee, our Colombian single-origin coffee, or our Costa Rican single-origin coffee.   

3. Pacific coffee beans: Savory, smooth, earthy flavors

 

Choosing the right coffee origin or blend for you

If you’re new to coffee or just aren’t sure what flavors you like best, start with single-origin coffee so you can zero in on specific flavors you really love. Make note of the specific flavors you taste and enjoy with each single-origin type.

Once you have a good idea of what flavors you like best, you can experiment with blends that play up or emphasize those flavors. 

Understanding Coffee Roasts

Various Coffee Bean Roasts

The next thing you should understand about your whole bean coffee is the style in which it is roasted. This will affect the flavor and intensity of your coffee.

Before roasting, coffee beans are green and soft with a smell a lot like fresh grass. The roasting process is what transforms raw beans into the decadent, aromatic coffee beans that we use to brew our morning cups of joe.

The most common way to describe roast levels is the color of the beans (beans become darker the more heat they absorb during roasting).

Coffee Roast Types:

  • Light Roasts: Light roasts are light brown, with no oil on the bean surface and a light body. They are most known for their acidity and toasted-grain taste. They are typically quite caffeinated, as light roasts retain most of the caffeine from the coffee bean.
  • Medium Roasts: Medium roast coffee beans are medium brown, with no oil on the bean surfaces. They typically have a more balanced flavor, acidity, and aroma than lighter roasts. Medium roast coffee has less caffeine than light roasts, but more caffeine than dark roasts. 
  • Dark Roasts: Dark roast coffee has a dark brown or nearly-black color, with a sheen of oil on the bean surface. The coffee will typically have a smoky or bitter taste, and dark roast coffees have less caffeine than light or medium roasts. Dark roasts can also be used to make espresso. 

How to store whole bean coffee

Cafe Joe Coffee Storage

Even when you keep your coffee beans whole, they will still lose flavor if exposed to air, moisture, heat, or light.

To preserve flavor and freshness as much as you can, you should store them in an airtight coffee container at room temperature. Avoid clear canisters (light will compromise your coffee) and non-airtight containers. Make sure the canister is stored in a cool, dark location — if your countertop gets a lot of afternoon sun, it may be too warm).  

How long does whole bean coffee last?

Freshness begins to fade immediately after roasting, so it’s a good idea to buy your whole bean coffee in small quantities to avoid losing out on flavor later on. As a general rule, try to get to your whole beans within one to two weeks.

Good news: You can subscribe to receive whole beans in small batches at regular intervals, so you always have a fresh roast delivered to you.

Why you should grind your own whole bean coffee

Cafe Joe USA Manual Coffee Grinder

Like we mentioned before, bringing your coffee beans home whole ensures you’re preserving the full flavor and aroma of your beans up until brewing. What’s more, you can ensure your beans are properly ground, as even grinds are important to prevent over-extraction, which will lead to a bitter taste. Uniform grind consistency is highly important in order to get the most flavor out of your beans.

Different types of coffee grinders:

  • Single-setting electric grinders: Electric grinders make grinding your own beans at home quick and convenient. A single-setting electric grinder is typically inexpensive and works well if you like to enjoy your coffee one particular way. 
  • Multi-setting electric grinders: Grinding your whole bean coffee to the correct coarseness for your brewing method of choice is important to achieve the right flavor and balance. (We’ll go over grind coarseness in just a bit). If you enjoy multiple brewing methods (say, espresso as well as french press coffee), make sure you choose a grinder that allows you to select coarseness levels. 
  • Burr grinders: A burr grinder uses revolving abrasive surfaces (burrs) rather than blades in order to grind coffee. They are typically better at achieving even grinds than their blade grinder counterparts. They are more expensive than blade grinders, but budget-conscious coffee drinkers can keep the costs down by choosing a manual burr grinder.

  • Conical burr grinders: Conical burr grinders are very similar to flat burr grinders, the only difference being the shape of the burrs. Conical burrs are cone-shaped, allowing the beans to pass through at a slight angle. Again, they are more expensive than blade grinders, so if you’re worried about price, consider selecting a hand conical burr grinder.

Understanding coffee grind coarseness

Whole Bean Coffee and Ground Coffee

You will need to grind your coffee beans to different levels of coarseness, depending on your chosen brewing method. Here are the different types, and what you need to know about them:

  • Medium-coarse grind: Not quite medium, not quite coarse, like rough sand. Used for specialty brewing methods, like Chemex coffee.
  • Medium grind: Right-in-the-middle grind, similar to sand. This is the best grind for Aeropress coffee and is a good drip coffee grind.
  • Medium-fine grind: Finer than sand, but not quite as fine as sugar. Use this for cone-shaped pour over brewers like the Hario V60.
    • Fine grind: Typically the grind you’ll find with pre-ground coffee. The consistency should be like sugar, a little finer than table salt. Use this for an espresso machine or stovetop espresso maker like the Bialetti.
    • Super-fine grind: Almost as fine as flour or powdered sugar. Use this to brew Turkish coffee.

      How to grind coffee beans

      Follow these steps to get a perfect grind on your coffee beans every time:
      1. Place your whole coffee beans in the grinder of your choice.
      2. Set your grind coarseness: Your coffee grind should be coarser for drip coffee, pour overs, french press, and cold brew, and finer for espresso and Turkish coffee.
      3. Grind until all of your beans have been processed through the burrs or blades.

      Cafe Joe is proud to present our line of whole coffee beans, carefully curated by an Italian coffee broker and then roasted to perfection in our factory in the heart of Israel. Shop our range of whole beans here.