Freshly roasted coffee beans are one of the greatest gifts you can give a coffee lover.
- They're tasty
- They smell good
- They're fun to purchase.. especially if you're a fellow coffee fan.
However, it's easy to get a coffee gift wrong.
Not all coffee is equal.
Poorly roasted cheap coffee beans are bitter, dull, and uninspiring.
Expertly blended, roasted, and selected beans are alive with deep flavors, vibrant aromas, and crisp, fresh undertones.
So, here are three essential things to keep in mind when shopping for coffee bean gifts:
1. Make freshness your number one priority.
While the bigger coffee distributors will never admit it, after roasting, coffee beans become stale in around three weeks. The crisp acidity turns to bitterness, the complex aromas dissipate, and the rich flavors deteriorate.
Freshly roasted beans simply can't be beaten -- they can make just about anyone fall in love with coffee.
So, you need to purchase roasted beans from a supplier that is completely transparent about the roasting date. Reputable, authentic coffee roasters will be proud to display the "roasted on" date as opposed to the "best before" date on their product labels.
Regardless if you are buying online or from a local specialist store, make freshness your number one priority. On top of that, be sure to avoid buying your gift too far in advance.
2. Buy from a specialty roaster
Avoid buying from mainstream generic coffee roasters. Freshly roasted beans will always taste good, but poor quality roasters can often burn key flavors or even worse use poor quality beans which taste foul without hours of roasting.
So, avoid global chains like Starbucks and Folgers Coffee, even if you like their everyday takeouts.
The packaging is often the biggest giveaway when it comes to discerning the quality of the coffee roaster. Here are some key things to search for on the labels:
- Tasting Notes. In general, it's best to skip bags that describe the coffee bean taste as "Chocolate", "Nutty" of "Citrus Undertones". Instead, look for more exotic tasting profiles like "tangerine, caramel, rose, spice, and vanilla".
- Clear Origin. Roasters can use untransparent origins to disguise the fact their blends contain low-grade beans. While you might think secrecy is a plus, specialty roasters want to showcase their partner farms as the tastes speak for its self.
- "Date roasted on". By printing the "roasted on" date on coffee bean bags, the company is showing its transparency. Poor quality roasters will never display that date as it makes it more difficult to sell unfresh beans. Meanwhile, bean roasters dedicated to quality don't ever want their customers to experience their coffee beans in any other way than super fresh.
At the end of the day, the tone specialty coffee roasters use in their marketing is completely different.
Look for companies that have a passion for their product.
3. Investigate Sustainability
It might mean paying more, but you don't want to give someone beans from at best questionable and at worst exploitative sources. The giftee will appreciate the beans more knowing they're from an ethically, sustainable source.
So, you need to research the origin of beans from different companies.
- Do they pay farmers a fair price?
- Are the beans from farms that adhere to environmentally sustainable practices?
- Is the origin of the coffee beans transparent?
If you struggle to find answers to those three core questions on a company's website, alarm bells should go off.
Specialty coffee suppliers want to share the background behind their product and showcase how they're making the world better.
They have transparent pricing, partnerships with ethical farms, and a desire for an informed and passionate customer base.
So, try to buy from companies activity fighting back against unsustainable practices in the coffee industry.
3 Three Things To Avoid
It's not a conspiracy. The big coffee brands are in the business of obscuring the truth from their consumers.
So, here are 3 things to avoid:
1. Avoid supermarkets. While convenient, grocery stores have one of the worst reputations when it comes to coffee bean freshness. Those over-priced bags you see on the shelves are often fulls of beans months past their roasting date. The "best by" date on the packaging is just a clever marketing strategy.
2. Don't buy in advance. While planning ahead is the key to staying organized, when it comes to buying coffee bean gifts, the closer you buy the gift to the day the recipient opens it the better. Nobody wants stale beans. If you can buy hours before, do so, but never more than 7 days before.
3. Never buy pre-ground coffee. Whole beans have at most three weeks of freshness, but grounds lose their best flavors within 30 minutes. If you know the person you are giving the gift to doesn't own a grinder, consider also gifting them a manual grinder -- you can pick one up for under thirty bucks.