Buying Coffee on Amazon? When It's OK and When to Avoid It

If you're buying coffee on Amazon, there are some things you need to know and watch out for if you don't want to waste your money.
Buying Coffee on Amazon? When It's OK and When to Avoid It

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Is it OK to buy coffee on Amazon? That's a tough question. Not because the answer is elusive, but because coffee purists and coffee snobs are going to hate my answer.

For them, the answer is a resounding No! because coffee beans should always be bought directly from a respectable roastery—or better yet, roasted at home by your own hand. Is life even worth living if you aren't roasting your own beans?

For me, I tend to stick with what's most practical. For me, the answer comes down to what you're looking for and what you're willing to compromise between price, convenience, and flavor. I think it's OK to buy coffee on Amazon... sometimes.

Since "coffee" can mean several different things, I'll tackle this question from five different angles:

  1. Instant coffee
  2. Coffee grounds
  3. Coffee beans
  4. Coffee concentrate (cold brew)
  5. Coffee-based beverages

Buying Instant Coffee on Amazon

Even the best-made instant coffee tastes tolerable at best. But if I had to choose between drinking instant coffee and not drinking any coffee at all, I'd take instant coffee every time. It's better than nothing!

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 so that it becomes clumps of coffee particulate.

Sadly, most of the coffee's aromatic and flavorful compounds break down and disappear along 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 truly "gourmet" 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 close-to-peak taste—but once the coffee beans are ground up, they lose most of their goodness within days.

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 stale coffee grounds.)

Since coffee grounds lose flavor so soon after they're ground up, it doesn't really matter where you get them. Amazon? Starbucks? Local cafe? They're all fair game as long as you 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, you should buy whole roasted coffee beans and grind them yourself right before brewing. And since roasted coffee beans only retain peak flavor for a few months before deteriorating, it's best to buy from local cafes and local roasteries.

Locally-roasted coffee beans are often marked with the roasting date, which helps guarantee freshness at the time of purchase.

On the other hand, large warehouse retailers like Amazon may keep their coffee beans in stock for many months or even years—long past the date on which the unique flavor of the beans has faded.

So if you're going to spend a lot on coffee beans, make sure you get them locally and check the roasting date.

Or buy them online from reputable coffee retailers who sell freshly roasted beans. But if you just want coffee that's "good enough," you'll probably be satisfied with coffee beans from Amazon.

Buying Coffee Concentrate on Amazon

Coffee concentrate is what you get when you cold brew coffee grounds: steeping them in room temperature water for up to 24 hours rather than brewing them in hot water.

I recently tried pre-made cold brew coffee concentrate for the first time and it was awesome.

Since 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.

You can buy pre-made cold brew coffee concentrate on Amazon and you'll find that it's pretty good. 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.