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How To Choose A Coffee: The Essential Guide On How To Buy Coffee In Canada

It is no secret that coffee drinkers all around the world are always looking for their next great cup of coffee. With so many options to choose from, how do you know what's best for you? In this blog post, we will give you a guide on how to find your perfect brew and buy coffee in Canada. Keep reading and we'll show you just how easy it can be!

Specialty coffee have many key aspects to lookout for such as roasting level, country of origin, and processing method. It is common to find many of these characteristics on coffee bags from some of the best Toronto coffee roasters. They all say something about the coffee in your bag and why it tastes the way it does. Understanding what they mean will help you buy the best coffee for your taste.

How to choose coffee based on their profile

  1. Roasting level
  2. Brewing method
  3. Tasting notes
  4. Blends vs single origin
  5. Country of origin
  6. Variety
  7. Elevation
  8. Processing method
  9. Direct trade
  10. SCA grade

Coffee roasting level

The coffee roasting level indicates how much the coffee has been roasted. Light, medium and dark roasts are what you will commonly find at most coffee shops in Canada. However, it is not as simple as that because there is a lot more to the story than just those terms.

When extracting the best out of green coffee beans, coffee roasters will experiment with and choose an exact temperature, roasting time, and cooling time. Light, medium, and dark are ballpark ranges to help you choose according to your personal taste.

Light roasts are generally more fruity and acidic, while dark roasts are usually nuttier and more bitter. 

Medium roasts provide a good balance between acidity and body/flavour without being too bright or bitter. This profile is usually preferred by most people as it brings out some of the best flavours from green coffee beans while keeping an enjoyable taste that everyone can appreciate

While roasting levels are not exclusive to specific brewing methods, most espresso drinkers prefer dark roasts while pour-over and drip coffee drinkers tend to favour medium and light roasts.

    Brewing method

    Different types of brewing methods can have huge impact on how your drink tastes like so this should be something you take into account when buying beans from Toronto's top coffee roasters . For example, French press or stovetop espresso give out bolder flavors then pour over or drip brewers would do with lighter roast profiles allowing for a nice balance between body and acidity. Knowing which ones produce stronger flavours could help you buy better tasting beans for your favourite brew method!

    Espresso and stovetop espresso (also known as moka pot) are usually more enjoyable with coffee that has nutty notes. On the contrary, high acidity is something that most coffee drinkers avoid when making coffee with these types of brewing methods.

    One key aspect to consider when buying coffee according to your preferred brewing method is the grind size. Each brew method has its ideal grind size that will contribute to the best end result in your cup. Some methods require coarser ground coffee to allow for a faster coffee extraction, while methods like espresso are best brewed with finer grounds for better control over the coffee extraction.

    If you have access to a coffee grinder, grinding your coffee moments before brewing is the best way of making a great cup of coffee. Shopping from local coffee roasters that grind your coffee professionally for your brewing method is also a good ideia.

    While coffee isn't exclusive of specific brewing methods - beware of the "espresso blend" myth; some coffee may be recommended by coffee experts for one brew type or another given its characteristics. For a great start, shop our selection by coffee brewing method:

    Coffee tasting notes

    A typical specialty coffee tasting note could be something like blueberry, grapefruit, or chocolate. However, this is not the only way of describing what you taste in your cup. There are many other ways to describe how it tastes and feels which can help you buy better beans for your preferred brew method!

    Acidity describes flavors such as lemon or berry that tend to pop up more prominently during the first sips then subside into sweetness afterwards. This may also include flavours such as orange, grapefruit or lime.

    Body describes the overall weight of a coffee in your mouth and is often described as rich, heavy or full bodied coffees that are creamier with less acidity than lighter profiles .

    Aftertaste can also be used to describe how long it takes for those flavours we just mentioned (acidity and body) to dissipate after drinking it. This profile usually lasts longer than others but may not necessarily mean you will enjoy this type more: some people might prefer shorter after taste while others don't mind it at all!

    Flavour notes such as chocolate/caramel/nutty tend to linger on your palate due their higher oil content which makes them stay longer then other types of flavors.

    Buying coffee by their tasting notes is a fun way of experimenting new bags from a coffee store. It's important to remember that tasting notes do not mean the coffee was mixed or got in contact with any of those fruits or other elements. They represent what a coffee expert or Q grader used to describe that mouthfeel of the coffee and you're likely to experiment the same or something similar when making coffee at home.

    Blends vs single origins

    A common question asked by novice coffee drinkers is when to buy a coffee blend versus single origin coffee.

    Blends are coffees that consist of two or more beans from different origins, countries and/or regions blended together whereas the single origins are made out of one kind of bean only. This decision can be based on how you'd like your cup to taste depending on what's available in each category at local coffee shops .

    In some cases, blends are made at the coffee roaster in order to balance out flavours. It is also common for certain regions to offer blends depending on how the local supply chain is structured. Some farms might be too small or rely on a cooperative that gather coffee from several farms in the region and blend them together before selling the green beans.

    Single origins are the best choice if you're after a specific coffee taste that is characteristic from a certain region or country. On the other hand, blends can offer you a professionally balanced way of enjoying different coffees that mix together to perfection.

    Country of origin

    It is common for Toronto downtown coffee roasters to include a country of origin on their bags. This detail will help you understand the type of coffee they are offering and can also be used as an indicator when shopping around for a particular coffee profile.

    For example, if it says Colombia then you know that's where most or all beans come from. In case of blended coffees, there might not always be a specific country mentioned but instead one may choose to list out regions within each country such as Antioquia or Huila in Columbia. If they don't mention anything about these regions either, chances are those were sourced from multiple countries rather than just one!

    Each coffee producing country has general characteristics due to their individual climate, type of farming, altitude, proximity to sea or lakes, and more! Here are a few indicators from top coffee growing origins:

    Brazilian coffee:

    Brazilian coffees tend to be sweet and clean with attributes such as chocolate, caramel, honeycomb or nuts. They are usually balanced in terms of acidity but low on the flavour profile. These types of beans also have a heavy body & creamy mouthfeel .

    Colombian coffee:

    Colombian coffees tend to be fragrant and complex with notes such as berries, stone fruit , floral or chocolate. They will have a good balance of acidity but can also contain high levels of flavour. These beans are known for having medium-light body & an intense aftertaste .

    Jamaican blue mountain coffee:

    Jamaican blue mountain coffees are typically more expensive because of their exclusivity. They have a very unique character with high levels of acidity and intense flavours such as blackcurrants, dark chocolate or berries. This type of coffee usually has medium body & balanced aftertaste .

    Ethiopia coffee:

    Ethiopian coffee is known for its fruit-forward profile with notes such as kiwi, grapefruit or berries. They have a very high acidity level and a complex flavour profile due to their unique processing methods. Ethiopian beans usually have full body & heavier aftertaste .

    Nicaragua coffee:

    Nicaraguan coffees are known for their chocolate notes with hints of red fruits such as strawberries, blueberries or raspberries. They have a good balance of acidity and medium levels of body & aftertaste .

    This coffee is also one that typically comes from higher altitudes than other origins which means it's able to be produced with more acidity and more flavour than coffees from lower altitudes.

    coffee variety tree

    Coffee variety

    Coffee variety is another very important factor when it comes to choosing the right beans for your personal preferences.

    There are two main types of coffee varieties: Arabica & Robusta .

    Arabica - This type has much more flavour, less caffeine and a lower yield than robusta which means each plant will produce fewer cherries that can be harvested. They also take longer to mature in comparison to their counterpart which makes them harder to grow but worth the wait! These beans originated from Ethiopia and Yemen thousands of years ago before spreading all over South America , Africa , Central America & Southeast Asia where they continue growing today.  

    Robusta - The opposite of arabica, this species contains higher levels of caffeine with less flavour and a higher yield than arabica. It was discovered in the early 20th century from an accidental cross breeding of Arabica with another wild coffee species which is why it's also known as conilon . This type can be found growing mainly in South Eastern Asia & West Africa .

    In practice, all specialty coffees are Arabica. However, not all Arabica is a specialty coffee. Arabica is cultivated more around the world than Robusta, because of its better flavor. Robusta is more productive and less susceptible to plant diseases, such as leaf rust. However, Robustas taste is one-dimensional and bitter.

    Some excellent sub-varieties of Arabica are:


    Catuai is a hybrid of Caturra and Mundo Novo created in Brazil. It was originally bred for high yield, but has become very popular for its unique taste. It typically has a brighter acidity with notes of berry, citrus or chocolate.


    Caturra is a variety of arabica that was created in Brazil. It has an excellent flavor profile with notes such as berries, citrus or chocolate and it's known to be one the highest quality cultivars because of its low yield which means more attention from farmers during harvesting season.


    Typica is an arabica variety that was first cultivated in Indonesia. It has a balanced flavor with notes of cocoa or mocha and it's known to be one the oldest varieties grown today.

    This type typically comes from higher altitudes than other origins which means it's able to be produced with less acidity and more flavour than coffees from lower altitudes.


    Bourbon is a traditional arabica variety first grown in the Bourbon Islands, now known as La Réunion (an island of France in the western Indian Ocean southwest of Mauritius). It has an earthy & woodsy flavor profile with notes of caramel, nuts or chocolate and it's known to be one the oldest varieties due to its resistance against disease which means more attention from farmers during harvesting season.


    Gesha is a species of arabica originally found in Ethiopia. It has an incredibly complex flavor profile with notes like berries, chocolate or lemon and it's known to be one the highest quality types due to its resistance against disease which means more attention from farmers during harvesting season.

    Coffee elevation

    Another very important factor when it comes to choosing the right beans for your personal preferences is coffee elevation.

    Coffee grows in regions around the world that are between sea level and about 2500m above sea level- with most being grown at altitudes ranging from 1000 - 2000m.

    Generally speaking, higher elevations produce a better product because of their greater day length which means more photosynthesis & stronger coffee trees . In addition, high altitude also ensures much cooler temperatures which results in more acidity in the finished cup! The cooler temperatures also allow coffee cherries to mature slower and give longer time for sugar and complex molecules and flavours to develop.

    This makes arabica coffees from higher altitudes an excellent choice when looking for overall balance without any one flavor dominating too much over another (i.e., brighter notes like citrus aren't overpowered by chocolatey notes).

    Coffee processing method

    The processing method also says a lot about your coffee. Different farms and regions opt for different processing methods. The most common methods are washed (wet) and natural (dry), but there are other interesting experiments with coffee processing such as honey processed and anaerobic fermentation.

    Most Arabica beans undergo a wet process where they're first fermented, then washed with clean water so to remove pulp & mucilage (sticky residue that remains after fermentation). Natural Dry Process - sometimes referred to as unwashed; involves minimal handling before being laid out in thin layers on patios for several weeks until the parchment covering becomes brittle enough for threshing by hand or machine.

    Washed process coffees tend to be brighter with more acidity, whereas natural process coffees tend to be a bit fruitier and not as acidic. Another interesting type is honey processed beans which are dried with the pulp of the coffee cherry intact- this gives it an incredible fruity flavor!

    Direct trade coffee

    It's also important to choose direct trade coffee. This means that the producer has had face-to-face contact with importers, roasters and consumers throughout the supply chain.

    This ensures fair prices for farmers (which is often hard to come by in some countries due to lack of regulation) as well as more profits for producers which allows them to reinvest back into their communities or farms! It's an amazing opportunity you can provide for your local community just by choosing this type of product over another.

    SCA grade

    The SCA (specialty coffee association) grade is another one of the key factors. The SCA grade tells you all about your coffee's cup quality and is a great tool for roasters to track their green bean lots' progress throughout processing & bagging as well as during shipment!

    Basically, it ranges from 0-100+ (the higher the better) and grades on four levels: screen size (smaller beans with more surface contact will always taste sweeter), defects, physical characteristics like density or color, and moisture content. This means that there are actually 56 separate criteria measured when grading an individual lot which makes it extremely accurate way to assess overall quality before roasting such as sweetness level, acidity/brightness balance etc..

    If you really looking into getting some high-quality coffee, these are all things you should consider.

    There is a lot to know about specialty coffee and fortunately there's an abundance of resources out there - whether you're a coffee lover, a wholesale coffee supplier, or someone seeking a convenient coffee subscription, Portfolio Coffee is here to elevate your coffee experience. So, explore the world of coffee with confidence, knowing that Portfolio Coffee has your back.

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