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Whew, this question’s a tough one—not because the answer is elusive, but because I foresee the answer drawing a lot of ire from coffee purists and coffee snobs. For them, the answer is a resounding No! because coffee beans should always be bought direct from a respectable roastery, and if you aren’t making your own coffee at home then why even live?
But for me, and I think I speak for many geeks who love but aren’t crazy about coffee, the answer comes down to what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to compromise between price, convenience, and flavor. In some circumstances, it’s perfectly OK to buy coffee on Amazon.
I’ll tackle the question from five angles:
- Instant coffee
- Coffee grounds
- Coffee beans
- Coffee concentrate (cold brew)
- Coffee-based beverages
Buying Instant Coffee on Amazon
Even the best-made instant coffee tastes tolerable at best—and even so, between drinking instant coffee and drinking no coffee at all, I’d take instant coffee every time.
The thing about instant coffee is that it’s highly processed. Instant coffee is made by brewing a batch of super concentrated coffee, then freeze-drying it to result in clumps of coffee particulates. Sadly, a lot of the aromatic and flavorful compounds in the coffee break down and disappear between the brewing and freeze-drying processes. That’s why reconstituted instant coffee rarely tastes anything like the original coffee from which it was made.
The upside is that instant coffee is shelf-stable for a long time. At best, instant coffee is tolerable. You won’t find good instant coffee anywhere, whether on Amazon or elsewhere—so if you’re going to buy instant coffee, feel free to get it on Amazon.
Buying Coffee Grounds on Amazon
Roasted coffee beans start losing their aromatic and flavorful properties as soon as they’re exposed to oxygen. In bean form, coffee can go several weeks or months while maintaining peak taste. But once the beans are ground, they can lose a lot of their goodness within days or even hours.
Which is why I don’t buy pre-ground coffee anymore except when making cold brew coffee. (Cold brew is much more forgiving in terms of taste, and is the best way to get a tasty cup of coffee from old coffee grounds.)
Since coffee grounds lose flavor components so soon after the grinding process, it doesn’t really matter where you get them from. Amazon? Starbucks? Local cafe? They’re all fair game. Just choose a reputable brand that starts with well-sourced and well-roasted coffee beans.
Buying Coffee Beans on Amazon
This is where things get interesting.
For maximum flavor and nuance, you’ll want to buy whole roasted coffee beans and grind them yourself right before brewing. But since coffee beans only retain peak flavor for months or weeks after they’re roasted, it’s better to buy them from local cafes and local roasteries.
Locally roasted coffee beans are often marked with the date on which they were roasted, so you can guarantee freshness at time of purchase. Large warehouse retailers like Amazon may keep their coffee beans in stock for months or even years—long past the date on which the unique flavor of the bean has disappeared.
Then again, maybe you’re like me and you don’t care all that much. I don’t get coffee beans on Amazon, but only because I have a Costco nearby and I’m happy enough getting my coffee beans there. If Costco wasn’t an option, I’d be content with Amazon coffee beans. But if you’re a stickler for absolute flavor, Amazon coffee beans will disappoint.
Buying Coffee Concentrate on Amazon
Coffee concentrate is what you get when you cold brew coffee grounds: steeping them at room temperature for up to 24 hours rather than extracting coffee goodness in minutes using hot water. I recently tried pre-made cold brew coffee concentrate for the first time and it was awesome.
Because cold brewing is such a forgiving coffee making method, it’s hard to mess it up. Whether you start with crappy grounds or gourmet grounds, the end result is usually pretty good. Obviously, better grounds will make a better tasting concentrate, but the difference isn’t as vast as when you’re talking about hot brew coffee (pour over, drip, French press, espresso, etc).
You can buy pre-made cold brew coffee concentrate on Amazon and you’ll find that it’s pretty good. My preference is Bizzy Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate. It’s not as cheap as making your own at home, but it’s not too expensive either. Only you can decide whether the extra convenience is worth the premium. I think it is!
Buying Coffee-Based Beverages on Amazon
Any coffee-based drink that comes in a can or bottle is perfectly fine to buy on Amazon. We’re talking products like Starbucks Doubleshot, Black Stag Coffee Pre-Made Espresso, and High Brew Coffee Double Espresso Can.
I can’t speak to the pricing of individual drinks, but as far as quality of product is concerned, there’s no difference whether you buy it on Amazon, at Walmart, or at your local supermarket.