How To Pick The Perfect Cup Of Coffee

Coffee is more than a bean. It’s enjoyed with friends and family, sipped over a homemade breakfast, and a daily regimen for most of us. But, whether you’re a regular coffee drinker or a coffee newb, the amount of blends, origins, and roasts can take you for a whirlwind if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The information below outlines the differences between origins, roasts, blends, and varieties. Pick the perfect cup every time by following this guideline.



raw coffee bean

raw coffee plant

Fair Trade

Like other foodstuffs, fair trade coffee stems from social responsibility. While there is no universal guideline, fair trade standards typically include:

  • Protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas
  • Promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn
  • Restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers
  • Requiring a living wage for all employees
  • Requiring proper management of waste, water and energy

Shade Grown

Shade grown coffee is just that – coffee grown in the shade. Up until 40 years ago, all of our coffee was grown in the shade. However, coffee growers found they could harvest a larger yield if they cleared forests and grew plants in the sun. Today, many roasters are buying shade grown coffee to conserve forests, but many studies have also shown that growing coffee in the shade increases bio diversity and decreases pesticide use.


Non GMO coffee is coffee grown without the use of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. For more information visit the Co-op blog online.

Single Origin

Single origin coffee is coffee that is grown in one area, sometimes on the same farm from a single grower. Typically, single origin coffee is roasted one way, although sometimes it is roasted multiple ways for a different flavor.


Similar to non GMO coffee, organic coffee is grown without the use of pesticides. The USDA requirements for organic coffee production include farming without synthetic pesticides or other prohibited substances for three years and a sustainable crop rotation plan to prevent erosion, the depletion of soil nutrients, and control for pests.




Also known as Light City, Half City, Cinnamon Roast, and New England Roast, lighter roasts have a lighter body and pronounced acidity. Light roasts contain the most caffeine and are most ideal for tasting the full origin of the coffee. If you tend to like one origin over another, try a lighter roast as it brings out the flavor more than medium and darker roasts.


Medium roasts are known to have a more balanced taste and aroma. Because the sugars have caramelized, medium roasts have a roasted flavor but also the possibility to taste other flavors such as citrus, fruit, berry, and acidity. Medium roasts can also be called American Roast, City Roast, or Breakfast Roast.


Dark roasts are also recognized as European roasts, such as Italian, Spanish, or French roasts. The body is considered heavy and it is harder to distinguish between origins. Most dark roasts have a chocolaty roasted taste as the beans are fully caramelized. Although many believe dark roasts have a higher caffeine percentage than light and medium roasts, dark roasts have the least amount of caffeine as it is decreased with roasting time.

roast levels



Depending on the temperature and brewing apparatus, the grind of the coffee will vary. Buy coffee beans and grind before brewing for the best taste.


Coarse grinds are typically used for a French Press and cupping, a technique used to evaluate the differences and flavors between two or more coffees. Extra coarse grinds are typically used for cold brewing.


Medium grinds are used for dripping methods, which include drip pots (your standard coffee pot) and Chemex brewers.


Use a fine grind for espresso and an extra fine grind for Turkish coffee. Experiment with different coffee origins, roasts, and grind patterns – coffee is unique to each person so don’t be afraid to try your own concoction!


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