Fresh coffee cannot be beat. You’ll never be able to make your coffee taste better than the beans allow, so it’s important to maximize the inherent flavor and complexity by buying coffee beans that are only days past roast. High quality, fresh coffee should always be your #1 concern when you’re on the lookout, not country of origin or brand name or bag color.

Here are a few things that will help you be able to pick out the higher quality beans:

1. One-way valved bags

One way valves allow freshly roasted coffee beans to degas, but disable oxygen from entering the bag, resulting in lengthened freshness. Tin cans or other packaging methods without a one-way valve are questionable.

2. Arabica beans

The two dominant types of coffee, arabica and robusta, are immensely different. Robusta beans are the less expensive of the two and boast twice as much caffeine as arabica beans, but the quality of taste is decreased dramatically. Arabica beans tend to be more expensive but have wide varieties of flavors and scents which makes them more tailored to the specialty coffee industry.

3. Place of origin

Any roaster can print a package that claims great quality and service, but only roasters who care about every process of preparing the coffee beans will be willing to list the country, farm or variety. Look for roasters who are proud of their coffee’s origins, even down to the farmer’s name!

4. Roast date

Here’s the major rule of thumb: search for bags that say the exact date the coffee was roasted. A “best by” date reveals that the roaster is trying to make the coffee last as long as possible on a shelf to maximize profits. Great roasters will produce a coffee so great that it never has to sit on the shelf longer than a couple days. Buy fresh coffee beans.

But where do I buy this great coffee?

1. Your local shops

You should investigate if your local shops sell retail bags of beans. If they do, make sure to ask about the origin and roast date, but if the employee doesn’t know about their coffee you can safely assume it’s not top grade. If they don’t carry retail bags, feel free to ask who does.

2. Local internet listings

If you can’t scrounge up any information on a local or nearby roaster, make sure to check the World Wide Web. Kafster is a great resource. So are Facebook and Google.

3. Buy online

It’s not the cheapest option because of shipping charges, but buying coffee beans online can  open up a world of possibility and thousands of roasters. My favorite way to try lots of new coffees and roasters without paying a premium is through Angel’s Cup. Check it out.

You now have the knowledge and tools to find yourself some fresh, high quality coffee. Combine that with a manual brewing method and your coffee preferences will never be the same. Good hunting.