Your first coffee choice decision is between instant and real coffee beans. Instant coffee is usually a
variation of the freeze-drying process. It is unashamedly a convenience product that costs less per cup and takes
much less time to make. Almost without exception, it is made with the less desirable and cheaper Robusta coffee
bean variety, and often has a hint of this bean's characteristic "burnt rubber" taste, although the processes used
today have reduced this impact on the flavor of most brands. Arabica beans are sometimes used, but usually they are
the less desirable quality beans or the previous seasons beans, because lower cost is what instant coffees are all
Liquid coffees are available, some with flavors, such as the long popular chicory essence, but usually they are
aimed at the coffee flavoring or mass production markets. You can also get pre-mixed flavor variations today, but
they are usually just quick and easy ways to prepare the real thing, even down to reproducing the froth on a
cappuccino. You can even get coffee bags these days, to infuse in your cup just like tea bags.
If you have decided to take the gourmet route, your next choice is between buying beans or ground coffee.
You are not likely to find buying green coffee beans convenient, because coffee beans must be roasted to bring
out the flavors. Some people have home roasting machines, or use a popcorn maker or similar method. Or you could
revert to basics and use a frying pan or wok. The smell and trouble may not be worth your while. It is a lot easier
to buy roasted beans! Freshly roasted beans are better, but they should be left for at least 12-24 hours after
roasting to get the best flavor. Roasted beans should be stored in airtight jars, preferably glass, and will keep
fresh for 1 - 2 weeks.
You can buy ground coffee in various levels of coarseness, depending on how you will make your coffee. Finer
grounds are usually intended for paper filter systems, and coarser grounds for the likes of a French press or Bodum
coffee maker. Ground coffee loses its freshness within a few days, so you should consider the option of buying
freshly roasted beans every week or two and grinding only what coffee you need when you need it. You can store your
roasted beans for longer periods in an airtight container in your freezer if buying them fresh every week or two is
Roasted coffee beans give off CO2, which is why you see one way valves on coffee packs, to stop them bursting.
The CO2 helps to keep the coffee fresh in the bag, and the one-way valve keeps out the oxygen that could cause it
You should look for the better flavored Arabica coffee beans, with the exception that a component of Robusta
beans is commonly added to espresso blends to help bring out the desirable crema on top of your cup. There are many
different blends available.
You will need to experiment until you find a blend that appeals to your individual taste. Trying the beans from
different regions, and trying light or dark roasts, is all part of the fun. If you buy from a specialist coffee
retailer you can often try interesting house blends, even create some yourself. And usually it is possible to buy
in small quantities at a time from a specialist, so that you need not be lumbered with too much of a particular
type of coffee you do not much like.