We’ve picked out a variety of our favourite coffee beans for every type of coffee, from filter to latte and decaf to cappuccino
Nothing beats that first sip of coffee in the morning. But behind every good cup of coffee is a batch of well-roasted coffee beans. Whatever your chosen brewing method – french press, espresso or filter – you’ll need the best coffee beans for the job if you want to get the maximum enjoyment from every cup.
When it comes down to it, though, buying the best coffee beans is not as simple as it might initially seem. Do you go for a darker or lighter roast? Blend or single origin? Pre-ground or whole bean? Think about it for too long and you might be tempted to give up the whole pursuit and buy some instant granules instead.
But don’t despair, here we’ve put together a handy buying guide on what to look out for when choosing your coffee, as well as a roundup of our favourite beans that you can buy online. We cover everything from affordable everyday choices to stunning single origin options, and as several of the retailers below provide next-day delivery, your next coffee fix is only a few clicks away.
The best coffee beans: At a glance
- Best cheap coffee beans: Lavazza Rossa | From £12
- Best affordable single origin beans: Rounton Bosque Lya | From £32
- Best decaf coffee beans: Volcano Coffee Works Decaf | From £9
- Best single origin for espresso: Assembly House Single Espresso | From £11
READ NEXT: The best coffee machines we’ve tested
How to choose the right coffee beans for you
What are the different roast types and how do they vary?
Dark roasts are roasted at a high temperature for a longer time, and this makes them more soluble and better suited to the shorter extraction times used in espresso making. The beans will be dark in colour and will sometimes have an oily surface.
On the other end of the spectrum, light roasts have been roasted for a shorter period of time and are less soluble, making them better for filter coffee (such as french press or pour over) which have longer extraction times than espresso. They are lighter in colour and won’t have an oily surface.
Medium roasts, as their name suggests, land towards the middle of the spectrum. They offer a balanced profile between light and dark roasts, while still being well-suited for espresso.
Although your chosen roast level is, up to a point, a matter of taste, using a lighter roast for espresso can result in a sour or tart cup while using a darker roast for filter coffee might taste too bitter.
Another term you might encounter is omni-roast, and as the name suggests this is a roast designed to work with a variety of different brewing methods. It can be a little trickier to eke out all the best flavours from an omni-roast – grind size and dosage (the amount of coffee used) can be more finicky – but the benefit is that you can grind an omni-roast to suit filter coffee, immersion brewing (e.g cafetiere) or espresso as you see fit.
Blend or single origin?
When buying coffee beans, you’ll may see some described as blends, while others proudly tout their single origin status.
Blends are exactly what they say on the tin: they’re comprised of a selection of different types or varietals of coffee potentially sourced from all around the world. The only important factor is that the various types complement each other to produce a pleasingly balanced flavour in the cup. Blends aren’t something to look down on, and, as ever, the quality of the end result comes down to the skill with which the beans and their different flavours have been combined – and to how you make your coffee.
The single origin designation generally indicates that coffee is a cut above the average, and it’s this type of coffee which will often produce the most refined or unusual flavours. It’s actually something of a woolly catch-all term, though, albeit one that’s widely used. It indicates that the coffee you’re buying is exclusively grown in one country, but can mean that it’s plucked from a single geographical region, a specific estate, producer or even a single crop. This is why you sometimes see more specific terms like single farm, single estate or microlot – in the latter case, you’re generally talking about smaller crops which are cultivated for their unique qualities.
Should I buy coffee pre-ground or whole bean?
If you can afford to buy a good coffee grinder, then we’d generally recommend that you buy your coffee whole bean. This is because beans will stay fresher for longer, and you can then adjust the grind size to suit a variety of different coffee makers. You can read our roundup of the best coffee grinders to buy here.
If you’d prefer to buy your coffee pre-ground for convenience, or if your grinder isn’t very good, you may get better results with pre-ground coffee – most, if not all, independent coffee roasters will grind your freshly roasted coffee to suit your specific type of coffee maker.
How should I grind coffee beans for the best results?
If you do decide to go DIY and grind your own coffee, you’ll need to think about how fine to grind it. Broadly speaking, espresso requires a fine grind, while at the other end of the scale french press requires a coarse grind. When it comes to pour-over or filter coffee, you want to aim for a grind on the coarser end of espresso.
The key is that you want the hot water to absorb the good flavours from the coffee without bringing the nasty ones with it. If you extract too little flavour from the coffee, you’ll get a weak, sour cup of coffee. Too much, and the intense bitter flavours will overwhelm. If you want your coffee to resemble the tasting notes on the packet, then you need to take some care with the preparation and make small adjustments to get things tasting just so.
How much do I need to spend?
You can spend a small fortune on the finest microlot coffee, but good quality beans can be very affordable.
A 1kg bag of Rounton single origin beans will cost you around £22, for instance. Or, if you’re after after a basic budget choice, you can get a 1kg pack of Lavazza Qualita Rossa beans for just £10. If you just want a quick, basic espresso, you don’t need to spend a fortune.
Single origin coffees from speciality roasters can command a hefty premium, however. A 200g or 250g bag often costs upwards of £10, and rarer coffees edge towards the £20 mark and beyond. That said, once you’ve discovered a single origin coffee you love, you can get some worthwhile discounts by buying larger 1kg bags.
How we test coffee beans
As avid coffee drinkers, we’re constantly replenishing our supply of coffee beans – and this article covers all of our day-to-day favourites. The process is simple: we source coffee beans from a variety of coffee roasters, take the time to grind the beans just so, and then put each coffee to the test using a variety of brewing methods, including filter coffee machines, manual espresso machines, our trusty cafetiere and a simple immersion brewer.
We make notes about the flavour profiles of each roast, and take into account whether they are dark, medium or light roasts and which brewing method they’re best suited to. Some of our mini reviews below may recommend specific brewing methods, but many of the coffee beans here will taste great regardless of the brewing method.
The best coffee beans
1. Lavazza Qualita Rossa: The best cheap coffee beans
Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon
It’s definitely not the most exciting option on this list, but if you just want a cheap, everyday coffee then the Lavazza Qualita Rossa is a reliable choice – much more so than many of the supermarket options out there. Best of all, you can buy a 1kg bag from Amazon for about £10.
The intensely dark roast is rather too intense in our opinion, but it does lend itself to smoky, strong espressos and cappuccinos, and it punches through even the milkiest lattes. It also makes for a punchy jug of filter coffee, which might be just what some of us need in the mornings.
There’s little here in the way of refinement – you can forget about delicate chocolate, fruit or dessert-flavoured tasting notes – but where some supermarket options can vary hugely in flavour and freshness from bag to bag, the Lavazza Qualita Rossa makes a potent, dependable cup.
Type: Blend, dark roast; Varietal: Robusta/Arabica; Area of origin: Mainly Brazil & Africa; Weight: 1kg
2. Volcano Coffee Works Decaf: The best decaf coffee beans
Price: £9 (200g) / £32 (1kg) | Buy now from Volcano Coffee Works
Volcano Coffee Works is an ethical roastery based in Brixton, London, and its decaf blend is a refined, flavourful option if you’re looking to cut down on your caffeine consumption without cutting out coffee completely.
Volcano has sourced the beans from the ACPC Pinchanaki Cooperative – a 330-strong group of producers located in Junin, Central Peru. Reassuringly, this blend of different varietals has undergone a chemical-free CO2 decaffeination process rather than the less appealing solvent-based processes used in cheaper decaf coffees.
There’s always something of a trade-off in flavour due to the decaffeination methods required, but Volcano’s decaf makes for a lovely coffee regardless of whether you’re brewing up filter coffee, a quick cafetiere or a shot of espresso. The tasting notes of praline, muscovado and cacao are spot on too, with a rich nutty, chocolatey flavour permeating every cup.
Type: Blend, omni-roast; Varietal: Arabica; Area of origin: Junin, Peru; Weight options: 200g, 1kg
3. Rounton Coffee Roasters El Salvador Bosque Lya: The best cheap single origin coffee beans
Price: £32 (1kg) | Buy now from Amazon
Rounton Coffee Roasters sells a variety of coffees through Amazon as well as via its own website, and this particular single-origin coffee comes from the foothills of the Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador. Finca Bosque Lya is the farm in the question, and this Bourbon varietal is grown on the 96-hectare estate by the farmer Joe Melina.
The medium roast lends itself to both espresso and filter brews, and the tasting notes of plum, milk chocolate and hazelnut come through beautifully in cappuccinos and lattes once you’ve got the grind and dosage just so.
There isn’t the complexity or exotic flavour you might find in pricier single origin coffees, but if you prefer a rich, mellow classic coffee that’s a big step up from most supermarket options, then you really can’t go wrong for the money. And with next-day delivery included as standard for Prime members, it’s a great option for rapidly replenishing your stocks when your bean hopper is running low.
Type: Single Origin, medium roast; Varietal: Bourbon, Area of origin: El Salvador; Weight options: 1kg
4. Kiss the Hippo, Mellow and Balanced: An easy-going single origin option
Price: £15 (250g) | Buy now from Amazon
Kiss the Hippo is a coffee roastery based out of Richmond, London. It roasts a variety of blends and single origin coffees and is a well-respected name within enthusiast coffee circles and independent coffee shops.
Its Mellow and Balanced beans are sourced from the foothills of the Andes in Los Vascos, Columbia and are cultivated by the dozens of smallholders living on the territory. The tasting notes reference the caramel, honey and green apple flavours, and the omni-roast means that these beans lend themselves equally well to espresso and filter methods.
At £12.50 for 250g, this isn’t likely to be your everyday roast, but if this is your first foray into speciality coffees, it’s worth buying a few different smaller bags and getting a feeling for what suits you best. Bear in mind that if you go directly to the Kiss the Hippo website, you can pick up a 1kg bag for a more reasonable £37.50 – although you’ll need to add £3.40 for delivery.
Type: Single Origin, omni-roast; Varietal: Caturra, Colombia, Castillo; Area of origin: Los Vascos, Colombia; Weight options: 250g
5. Assembly House Single Espresso: Our favourite single origin for espresso
Price: £11 | Buy now from Assembly Coffee
Assembly Coffee is another roastery on our list which funds its home in Brixton, London, and its House Single Espresso is a fine example of the company’s meticulous attention to coffee detail, all the way through from concept to coffee cup.
The House Single was born of Assembly’s close relationship with the cafes and restaurants it serves; designed to excel both as an espresso and with milk. The Red Bourbon beans are grown and honey processed on the 80-hectare Finca Las Brumas – a farm set amongst the rolling hills of Cordillera Del Balsalmo in El Salvador.
The flavour profile is mouth-watering; ripe peaches and baked green apples sprinkled with dates, pear and honey. Get the grind and dosage just so and the result is an espresso that lives up to the billing. Add milk, and the dates, pears and honey come to the fore. Delicious.
Type: Single Origin, dark roast; Varietal: Red Bourbon; Area of origin: Cordillera Del Balsalmo, El Salvador; Weight options: 200g, 1kg
6. Rave Coffee The Italian Job: Great beans for a morning kick
Price: £6.75 (250g), £23 (1kg) | Buy now from Rave Coffee
When it comes to roast levels, the mention of “Italian” often suggests dark, oily coffee beans that deliver big, bold flavours. The Italian Job from Rave, as the name suggests, delivers on this promise. It’s a punchy and intense coffee, with notes of dark chocolate and nuts.
As a darker roast, we’d recommend brewing the Italian Job as an espresso, either in an espresso machine or in a stovetop coffee maker (which was how we tested it), and it makes a great base for a robust morning cappuccino or flat white.
Rave Coffee, who offers a number of blends and single origins as well as subscriptions, taster packs and cold brew coffee, also represent very good value for money. A 250g bag of Italian Job beans, for instance, will cost you just £5.25 (or £5 on Amazon), which isn’t a lot more money than far inferior supermarket alternatives.
Type: Blend, Dark roast; Varietal: Robusta; Area of origin: Unspecified; Weight options: 250g, 1kg
7. Grind Lighter Blend: Light, fruity and great for filter or espresso
Price: £9 (227g tin), £15 (454g refill), £25 (1kg refill) | Buy now from Grind
If you’ve wandered around central London for more than half an hour, there’s a good chance that you’ll have come across one of Grind’s coffee shops. But as well as selling its coffee in its seven cafes scattered across the capital, Grind sells a choice of wholebean, ground and capsule coffee online.
We really enjoyed the Lighter Blend, a fruity and floral coffee that tastes great as a light filter brew and also works well as a flavourful espresso. For £9, you’ll get 227g of beans in a handy tin coloured “millennial pink” (an aesthetic cornerstone of the brand). Subsequent refills will then cost you £15 for two 227g bags or £25 for a 1kg bag which you can decant into your tin.
Type: Blend, Light; Varietal: Unspecified; Area of origin: Unspecified; Weight options: 227g, 454g, 1kg