In the world of coffee, there are a lot of different factors that dictate quality. One of the most valuable ones and probably the most accessible to the public is whether coffee beans are organic or not.
Now, organic means different things for different foods. For coffee, the most important added value is flavor. Organic coffee will more often than not have better flavor; this is a little-known fact, and yet it has a real impact on our coffee. There are also more benefits to organic coffee which we’ll talk about later.
But first, let’s talk about organic coffees. I’ve compiled here a list of 10 of the best organic coffee beans right now on the market, all with a mini-review for each as well as three top choices.
- Our Top Choices
- What is Organic Coffee?
- The 10 Best Organic Coffee Beans
- Things to Consider When Buying Organic Coffee Beans
- Benefits of Organic Coffee
Our Top Choices
Tiny Footprint – Best for the environment
Stumptown Town – Best taste overall
Three Sisters – Most exotic taste
Growing coffee isn’t an easy feat. Coffee is quite fragile and suffers from many different diseases and pests that devastate, annually, millions of dollars worth of coffee. So many people use fertilizers and pesticides that are chemical, synthetic, many of them having noxious effects on people. Just read up on the many pesticides that have been used historically that are now known to cause cancer, for example. They can be dangerous.
Organic farming is done by using fertilizers and pesticides that are strict of animal or vegetable origin. By doing this, you use ingredients that are completely natural and don’t have bad side effects.
So why do people use non-organic stuff? Well, they can be cheaper, because they are all made in a lab, so there’s much less work involved. And, of course, they are way more potent and effective at doing their job.
But at what cost?
So, to sum it up, organic coffee is that which has been grown without the use of harmful chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers.
The 10 Best Organic Coffee Beans
One of the most well-known organic coffees out there—everything about this product just screams organic. They have a CCOF certificate, which stands for certified California organic farmers. This certification predates USDA and has historically inspired more trust than the latter.
This coffee, from Honduras, has a very rich flavor. We eat with our eyes, and the packaging is a little counterintuitive. It looks like this coffee would be mild, soft on the tongue, but it’s actually quite strong and full of flavor!
This is a medium-dark roast and, like most coffee from Honduras, is pleasantly low in acidity, which makes it a great coffee for binge drinking. You can drink cup after cup without that acid reflux feeling that you sometimes may get when drinking a lot of coffee. And it’s absolutely delicious!
This company specializes in coffee that’s good for you and good for the earth. They have a USDA certificate as well as a FairTrade certificate, which means they pay fair prices and support farming communities in poor areas.
Nicaraguan coffee is hailed as delicious and exotic, with tasting notes like fig, apricot, and spice. This dark roast brings them all to life in a very balanced, strong, aromatic cup of coffee that is incredibly satisfying to drink.
This particular product is also carbon negative, an initiative that funds reforestation using a portion of the process to help remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
Lavazza is one of the oldest, biggest coffee companies in the world. They are from Italy, and they have a reputation for delivering great roasts at their Italian facilities which roast thousands of pounds of coffee a day.
Tierra has all that you would expect from Lavazza coffee. Completely flawless, perfectly balanced, and not a single flavor out of place.
This coffee is also the only one on our list to have so many organic certifications; it’s got USDA, Canada, UTZ & Euro Leaf certification. So it’s certified organic in two different continents, by at least three different countries. You can’t get any more organic than that!
Cuban coffee is amazing; that’s no secret. And it was Cuban culture that ushered in coffee culture in the last century. We Americans fell in love with delicious Cuban coffee, and that still hasn’t changed. Café con leche is one of the most popular drinks even in the face of big coffee chains like Starbucks.
Mayorga brings us this Cuban coffee that is very strong, just how Cubans drink it, and also surprisingly nuanced. You have a lot of flavors competing together here, creating a symphony of flavor that will show you just why this coffee is so famous.
The roast is a little strong, though, so beware if you’re not really a fan of dark roasts. This is an ideal choice for brewing espresso or Moka pot coffee.
Whole Foods coffee. Kind of a weird choice. Or is it?
Out of all the supermarket brands out there, Whole Foods stands out as having the most coffee-savvy team. I mean, this coffee is absolutely fantastic. You have here a selection of beans from Pacific islands and countries of Latin America, making for a really exotic, flavorful coffee.
The roast is a little on the heavy side—a Vienna roast, which is basically a dark roast. So with these kinds of beans that means a very deep, chocolatey flavor with pleasant notes of caramel and toffee.
This is an ideal coffee to have with a lot of sugar because it will bring those caramel and chocolate flavors to life.
Certified organic and kosher.
The legendary Stumptown Coffee Roasters with their signature Holler Mountain blend. It is a classic, amazing coffee that has been around for the longest time and has achieved a lot of fame throughout the US for its good flavor.
With notes of citrus zest, caramel, and hazelnut, this medium roast coffee comes out unbelievably creamy and with a very palpable caramel flavor that just spreads as soon as it touches your tongue.
This classic, unmissable blend is completely organic.
Flavors like sweet tobacco, stone fruit, and cocoa are quite uncommon ones, and that’s something someone like me looks forward to. I love to try new and exciting coffees, and this Three Sisters blend has been one of my favorites since I first tried it.
Now, it has a very unique flavor profile that isn’t “standard”, meaning that it doesn’t work with all brewing methods. I would strongly recommend that you only use this coffee for a cold brew; that’s where it really shines. The low acidity, the sweetness that it brings out really lets its natural flavor shine.
You can brew it however you like, sure, but it won’t be nearly as good as with cold brew.
Peet’s coffee has a very, very wide selection of coffees but today it’s all about organic, so we’re going with Peet’s organic French roast.
Everybody loves a good French roast. It makes for rich, flavorful coffee and this is definitely no exception. French roast, if you don’t know, means dark. It is not as dark as most other roasts (like the Italian roast or the Vienna roast) but it’s still quite dark for a lot of coffee drinkers.
You’ll find notes like smoky, bittersweet, hints of caramel, and a rich chocolate aroma that is irresistible.
Grown under the shade of natural crops like plantain and guava trees, this coffee acquires sweet fruity flavors from all of the fruits surrounding it: that’s the key to the flavorful coffee that comes from Guatemala, one of the best countries to get your coffee from.
This comes from Huehuetenango, an already famous region of the country—but watch out, coffee from this region is so delicious that it is only a matter of time that Guatemala becomes as famous as Colombia for its coffee. I say this completely seriously.
As organic as can be, almost all coffee from this country has always been as organic as possible, as it is grown mostly by natives that stick to ancient farming practices that have no need for artificial pesticides or fertilizers.
Death Wish has been one of my favorite choices for years. It’s edgy, it looks great on your counter, and most importantly it has a lot of caffeine. They achieve this mostly by using a lot of robusta beans in the blend, which have twice the amount of caffeine—so any given Death Wish blend will have about 1.5 times the amount of caffeine of any other coffee.
This choice is not particularly tasty, frankly. I’ve put it in the list solely because of the caffeine and because you simply will not find a coffee with this much caffeine that tastes as good as this one. It’s a really hard thing to pull off.
Things to Consider When Buying Organic Coffee Beans
There are several different labels out there. The USDA is one, but virtually every country has its own standards and its own organic label. Europe has one for all of Europe, too, and Japan has very high standards for their organic label, for example.
The bottom line is that most of these labels mean the exact same thing. You don’t really need and shop around for different labels, much less when it comes to coffee. As long as it has at least one organic label, that’s good enough.
Usually, yes. As we mentioned before, artificial chemicals are just much cheaper for the farmer, so in many cases going organic also means that costs are going to go up. It is also true that a lot of these certifications cost money, so that means it costs money for you, too.
But you have to look at it from the perspective that it’s saving you time. Buying organic means you don’t have to worry that they’re using harmful chemicals, you don’t have to do any research. It’s worth it.
When growing organic coffee, a lot of different strategies are used. The most interesting one is the use of old coffee husks as fertilizer—as beans are collected, the rest is discarded. That would be the rest of the coffee fruit.
In some countries, this is dried and then made into tea, called Qishr or Sultana. A lot of organic producers save a lot of money by reusing these husks as fertilizer. Coffee berries have a lot of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, which is very good for the soil and helps coffee trees grow strong and healthy.
It is no secret that many companies have produced pesticides that are so bad for our health that the same people that would spray them on their land would get cancer. Not in a matter of decades, but in a matter of a few years. Some pesticides are so unbelievably bad for your health that they can cause cancer in people in the surrounding area that didn’t even come into direct contact with them.
Even if a lot of these products have been taken off the market, there are also those that continue being used. There are lawsuits underway, for years, against some products that still are used all around the world.
But why do people keep using them? In most cases, it isn’t up to the person who uses them. They probably don’t even know what they’re using is bad—whoever owns the land decides to use the cheapest or most effective alternative, and that’s that. They couldn’t care less.
In other eras, we wouldn’t know either. But nowadays, we know that many of these products are incredibly bad for our health and can cause a myriad of different conditions—which is why organic is better for your health every single time.
There are people who do research and decide that well, since these particular chemicals don’t seem to cause any illnesses, they must be good.
Think again. A lot of the ones that we don’t use anymore didn’t start causing any trouble until after decades of using them. And by then, the damage was very much done. It couldn’t be taken back.
That’s how I, and a lot of other people, feel about current products. There could be chemicals that don’t seem bad yet but could in fact be toxic for you. And you’re consuming them in your vegetables, meat, and so on.
The least you can do is avoid them in your coffee by drinking organic.
The organic label is often accompanied by other labels, like FairTrade, which gives farmers better wages and better living conditions. A lot of these foundations help these communities, many of them poor, by building schools and houses. Many coffee farms are in remote farms, a key factor for growing good coffee.
Organic farming practices are healthy for the soil and the environment. A lot of big companies use harmful chemicals that render the soil completely unusable after only a few years of use, which means that nothing will grow on that soil for who knows how many years.
And what does this, in turn, cause? Those companies will move on. This means deforestation of countries that are already at risk of deforestation in Central America, South America, or Africa—the last bastion of nature in our world.
This is always a heated discussion. My opinion is that yes, organic coffee has a different flavor—although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. This is because organic coffees use a lot of natural, organic fertilizers which in these plantations will almost always mean fruit and vegetables.
My logic is that these nutrients and flavors slowly but surely seep in, giving organic coffee a slight edge over other types of coffee—but this is purely conjectural. There doesn’t seem to be any definitive evidence or actual studies that have explored the subject.
But I propose a little experiment for you: buy the same coffee, one organic, one regular. You can get a Colombian single-origin dark roast that’s organic and one that isn’t. They are similar enough, but the difference is that one is organic and one isn’t.
After trying a cup of each, I’m sure you’ll share my opinion that organic coffee tastes better if only a little bit.
You can get it almost anywhere.
Also, I’d like to address that a lot of people seem to think that green coffee is always organic, and that is very much not the case. For those of you that buy green coffee to either roast yourself or to give to a roaster, know that coffee being green might make it fresher, but it doesn’t make it organic. I’ve come across too many people that conflate these two things; they are not the same.
When buying organic, I always recommend buying whole beans. It’s just much fresher.
This question comes up often when discussing organic coffee. To me, it is very much worth the higher price.
There are several factors to take into account here. First, you’re avoiding god knows how many toxic chemicals that we know and that we don’t know of in your coffee just by paying a little bit more money. Health is invaluable, and saving a few bucks on each bag of coffee is most definitely not worth your life in 30, 40 years. It might seem far away, but surely when the time comes you’ll wish you did everything you could have to prevent it.
The second is that it saves you time. You don’t really have to research a lot into how good the coffee is, what methods they use—if it’s organic, you can be sure this is good quality coffee. Why? Because they just don’t go to all the trouble with the cheaper stuff.
Making organic coffee is costly, and going through all the tests in order to get the label is a lot of work. So people only do this when they have a very good product. In most cases, only the best of the best is labeled as organic because of this. Of course, it’s not always the case, as there are always exceptions.
Lastly, taste. As I said before, I am of the opinion that organic coffee tastes better. This is a very slight difference, yet it is still a difference. If you had to choose between good coffee and very good coffee just for a few cents more… it’s a no-brainer. You’d pay more for better coffee, no doubts about it. That is how I feel about organic coffee.
Organic coffee seems to be good no matter how you look at it. It is good for the environment, good for your health and, arguably, it even tastes better. It is time you allow some organic coffee into your life and, hopefully, eventually, make the change to all-organic.
Marcelo is a filmmaker and passionate barista on the side. He spends his free time cooking up new and exciting recipes – and drinking too much coffee in the process.