There is no shortage of mind-blowing stats about Amazon. Like how they ship well over 1.6 million products per day, or how they stock more than 12 million different products, or how as of 2018 they were the fifth largest seller of groceries (!) in the United States. So it should come as no surprise that they are also rapidly becoming a go-to place for a wide variety of coffee beans.
However buying beans on Amazon can be far from simple; what type of beans should you buy? Whole bean or preground? Light roast or dark? What are the best brands? What are the terrible brands? And the biggest question of all: should you be buying coffee beans off Amazon in the first place? In this article we will seek to help you navigate the world of Amazon coffee and recommend what we believe is some of the best coffee on this mammoth platform.
Should You Buy Coffee Beans From Amazon?
Basically our take on this question is that buying coffee beans off Amazon is far from ideal but may sometimes be a necessary and appropriate option. The single greatest problem with sourcing your coffee from Amazon is that there is a very high chance the beans will be well on their way from fresh to stale. As many of you will already know coffee beans have their optimal flavour in the first two weeks after roasting and remain flavourful for about a month after roasting. While it is still drinkable after this, it loses much of its rich and complex flavour and the taste profile begins its downhill journey.
While Amazon is highly effective in shipping goods it does require multiple handling of goods. This means that between sitting in warehouses and travel time your coffee beans may well be close to if not over the 30 day mark before you even get them! While this doesn’t happen every time it does happen enough for it to be a serious concern.
Our advice for the dedicated coffee lover is that the single best place to get your beans is a local specialty coffee roaster. This will ensure maximum freshness, support local industry, and almost without a doubt provide a nicer bean than anything mass produced. Our other favourite option, if local roastery isn’t an option, is subscription coffee which can bring some of the best artisan coffee in America to your doorstep.
However, while we don’t love this option we do think that for some buying beans off Amazon may be both a lifesaver and a genuinely great option. For example, if you are not a coffee hipster with a tattoo of a moka pot on your bicep and usually just buy your beans from the local supermarket then actually buying from Amazon may be a significant step upwards. Similarly, if you are living somewhere isolated Amazon tends to be very reliable with their shipping and do have a surprisingly wide range of decent beans.
Whole Bean vs Pre-Ground Coffee
The next major decision to make is whole bean vs ground. In many ways our answer is similar to the section above; whole beans are unquestionably the better option but sometimes pre-ground is a necessary evil. And again the biggest factor is flavour. Almost as soon as coffee beans are ground they begin to lose aromatics and flavours. This is the reason why your favourite café will have a big dirty grinder beside their espresso machine and grind on demand. Because as soon as coffee beans are ground they begin to degrade and lose the richness of their specific flavour profile. So is it better to buy whole beans and grind them yourself? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt!
However, the downside and biggest disadvantage of whole beans is that you will need to purchase a quality coffee grinder if you don’t already own one. Also this really does need to be a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder and to get a decent one can be pricey. So the advantage of pre-ground is no need for a grinder and no annoying fiddling with the grinder to try and find the right grind size. Simply buy the coffee on amazon and it will arrive ready to go straight into that Aeropress or portafilter.
Here is a good video about some of the situations where actually pre-ground is a better option.
In this review we will review the whole beans but also link to the pre-ground version where available.
the Best Coffee on Amazon 2020
Recommending coffee beans can be a hazardous occupation for the simple reason that it ultimately does come down to personal preference. While some brands are unquestionably better and more reputable than others, the most important thing is what do you like and which beans taste best to you? For that reason instead of recommending one type we will outline six of what we believe to be the best coffee beans on Amazon that other customers have also loved.
The Kenya AA beans represent some of the highest quality of specialty beans on offer. These beans are grown and harvested more than 2000 feet above sea level and consist of the very highest grade of Kenyan Coffee. The beans are 100% Arabica (= very good!) and go through a meticulous process to retain maximum flavour before being roasted in Georgia. In terms of flavour they are medium roasted so retain much of the flavour profile of the bean and are often described as having overtones of berries and citrus. It is a very flavourful coffee with more complexity and less strength than some of the darker roasted beans such Death Wish. To be completely honest I was rather amazed than Amazon even sources these beans.
It is also worth noting that these beans are eligible for prime shipping and the company Volcanica do seem to be very reliable in seeking to get freshly roasted beans to Amazon as quickly as possible which is great.
For those who are unfamiliar with this brand, Stumptown is a sizable and rapidly growing premium Coffee Roaster which is well known for the highest quality. The Hairbender represents Stumptown’s most well known and really their signature espresso blend. This is again a very high quality speciality coffee bean which has even been used by a range of independent cafés. In terms of the beans themselves, they are a blend of Indonesia and Latin America and result in a blend that is both rich with some hints of fruitiness. It is also a medium roast with a strong flavour that like the Kenya AA is known to have a lot of nuanced and delicious flavours.
It is again worth mentioning that the Hairbender was primarily designed as an espresso blend and so should be a real contender if that is your main brewing method. Many coffee connoisseurs who have had previous experience with the Hairbender have complained about the lack of freshness of the beans through Amazon. However that is really just the payoff with getting beans on Amazon.
This little box is a real delight for those who are interested in speciality beans and keen to give lightly roasted beans a go! It is a pack of four separate light roasted coffees chosen by coffee experts from local roasters in Seattle. This rather cute pack is all about speciality and artisan roasting and even comes with brewing tips and tasting notes from the coffee experts. In terms of flavour it depends which coffees Bean Box decides on but they tend to have a mix of single origins and blends and being lightly roasted have quite a different flavour from what most people are used to. This is a great option either for those wanting to try something a little bit different or as a pretty epic gift for a fellow coffee lover.
This medium roast blend is incredibly popular on Amazon and widely loved as an excellent coffee. The Super Crema is blended and roasted in Italy (which in the coffee world is almost always a good sign!) from which it is sent to Amazon and then shipped to your doorstep! This blend is medium roasted and ideal for finer grinds such as espresso. And really that is what this coffee is all about, great tasting coffee that works particularly well for milk based drinks such as lattes or cappuccinos and makes a great crema if the shot is pulled correctly (hence the name!).
In terms of make up it is a mix of Robusta (40%) and Arabica (60%) and does have a very good track record for people loving its flavour! In many ways the Super Crema is a very safe option with the majority of users really enjoying it and having a somewhat classic coffee taste (which is by no means bad)! However we wouldn’t particularly recommend this blend for manual brewing methods such as pour over which try and highlight the specific flavour nuances of different beans.
As the name suggests, this is certainly not a blend of coffee for the fainthearted! Death Wish Coffee reportedly has at least twice as much caffeine than a normal coffee and is all about an incredibly strong shot of coffee which shares similarities with a punch in the face. These beans are dark roasted and oily which makes for a very strong almost burnt flavour with hints of chocolate which many customers absolutely love. And like Lavazza, Death Wish has a strong track record of customer satisfaction. Another great thing about this coffee is that it is entirely fair trade, organic, and even kosher.
In terms of brewing methods, these beans particularly shine with both drip machines and french press although it can be used for other styles as well. Because it is dark roasted it really is for those who like their coffee very strong and are all about that morning hit. It is also worth noting that because the beans are dark roasted and oily they can be harder and messier to grind than lighter roasts. This is a great option for the coffee junkie.
These dark roasted beans share many of the characteristics of Death Wish and are often given the accolade of ‘sweet, smoky, and audacious.’ These beans are sourced from South America and Indonesia and are roasted in the Canadian town of Kicking Horse (what a name for a town!). Like Death Wish they are all about a powerful yet delicious hit of dark coffee that seeks to retain all the good aspects of a dark roast without crossing the threshold into a burnt and ashy flavour. They are Fair Trade, organic, and kosher and are also a very popular bean on Amazon with a strong following of coffee lovers. These beans work particularly well for drip machine, pour over, and french press. A great option for the lover of strong and dark coffee who isn’t sure they want to go all the way to Death Wish.
Understanding Coffee Beans: Getting Technical
As the above reviews made clear every coffee bean is somewhere on the spectrum from light to dark roasted. And where a bean falls on this spectrum will have major ramifications for its flavour, feel, and general vibe. While it is important to note that as a spectrum most beans can be divided into light, medium, or dark roasted.
Lightly roasted beans are primarily about retaining as much of the original flavour profile of the bean as possible. They are removed from the roaster straight or shortly after the first crack of the beans so that the flavour of the bean is minimally impacted by the roasting process. For this reason light roasts work particularly well with single origin and in showcasing specific nuances of different beans. Lightly roasted beans are often drunk black as enhancements such as sugar or milk tend to overpower the nuanced flavours that this roast is all about. In terms of flavour it depends on the origin of the beans but light roasted beans tend to have bright and fruity flavours with little of the bitterness that characterises the darker roasts.
Medium roast tends to be the popular choice of beans for most people. The beans are left in the roaster for a while after the first crack so that they develop a darker colour as well as an added layer of flavour. At this point the beans still retain much of the original flavor of the origin as well as having the extra aroma and depth of flavour that comes from the roasting process. At this point the beans may begin to have a light sheen of oil depending on how long they were left in the roaster. In terms of flavour there can be a pretty wide range among medium roasted from floral notes to nutty and chocolate flavours. It is also worth noting that medium roasted beans are generally more forgiving that light roasted and can still work really well with additives such as milk or sugar.
Dark roasted beans are left the longest in the roaster and consequently develop the darkest colour as well as an oily layer on the outside of the beans. At this point the original flavour profile of the bean is muted but can still be recognisable. Dark roasts tend to have a very strong flavour often with burnt or bitter notes that are complemented by a surprising caramelised or chocolatey sweetness. The flavour is far less acidic and tends to be more generic than the lighter roasts. Dark Roasts are often used for espresso as well as methods such as Moka Pot or French Press. Dark Roasts are often a good option for those who love a strong hit of coffee, although surprisingly lighter roasts have more caffeine than darker roasted beans.
There are two main species of coffee plant that are generally used for brewing; Arabica and Robusta. Arabica represents the more specialty coffee with a higher quality and more drawn out process of harvesting. Arabica tends to be grown at higher altitudes and has a greater richness and complexity of flavour than the Robusta. For this reason it is more expensive and the more Arabica in a coffee blend the better.
Robusta is a bigger coffee plant that can be grown at lower altitudes and is far more easily mass produced. It has a significantly higher caffeine content than Arabica and is generally thought to be of a lower quality (although there have been efforts to use it for high quality coffee) and consequently is regularly used for instant and non-speciality coffee. Robusta is cheaper to buy than Arabica and generally the less Robusta the better.
Organic vs Non-Organic
Another important category that you will often come across in coffee is organic vs non-organics beans. For a bean to be organic means that it was grown naturally with no help from chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Organic beans are often shade grown which means that the plants are grown under a canopy of trees which is better for workers and better for coffee trees. As a result organic beans tend to be of a higher quality and stronger flavour. Basically organic is better but for a bean to be non-organic doesn’t necessarily mean it is pumped full of chemicals or even come from a particularly different environment than organic. It just depends on the growing philosophy of a given coffee farm and whether they choose to be officially organic.
Blend vs Single Origin
Another term you will often hear tossed around in the coffee world is single origin. This refers to coffee beans that come from a single origin (obviously!) such as a given coffee farm or even a specific area of a given coffee farm. The idea behind this is that it gives sharp clarity to the specific flavour profile of a bean with all its strengths and weaknesses. It means the brewer can experience the distinctives of different coffee growing areas. Single origin is particularly loved by coffee purists and is best enjoyed black as additives will mute the nuanced flavour profile.
Blended coffees, in contrast, are a mixture or ‘blend’ of different beans that compliment each other. The advantage of this is that blends tend to be more well rounded than single origin and far more accessible for the general coffee lover. In addition, the blending process can mute the weaknesses of given beans and add a level of flavour and complexity to the final product. Blended beans are the more common option and can be used more easily for espresso and other milk based drinks.
Our Tips for Buying Beans Online
As noted above, buying beans online can be a risky endeavour with the very real danger of beans well on their way towards staleness arriving at your doorstep. With that in mind here our four rules for buying beans online:
We hope this article has been helpful in highlighting a few great coffee options on Amazon and helping you to navigate the sometimes confusing world of coffee beans. We believe that any of the above coffee beans may be a great option in your coffee journey.
If you have any questions or comments we love to hear from you below!