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Apr 6, 2010 12:21 PM

Coffee bean Q's....

I need to advice from fellow coffee lovers. I was wondering if you can buy decent coffee beans in Hamilton? I'm just getting into grinding and brewing my own at home. Any recommendations on what kind of bean to buy? My prefered choice would be for espresso and/or lattes. If need be, I work in TO, so could just as easily buy them there. I've been reading alot of positive feedback on "black cat", and intellgentsia..... Are these safe bets? and where could I pick them up?

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  1. You can order the black cat blend from intelligentsia online. I don't know how you would find them locally...
    Online is the best place to get guaranteed good quality fresh roasted beans, but if i were you, I would check out for great coffee shops/roasters in your area, then find something you like.

    Honestly, you don't need a specific blend or type of coffee for great espresso. Go to a good shop and try one of their drinks and use what they use if you like it.

    1. The Green Beanery

      They have a downtown location @Bathurst + Bloor, or you can order online. Probably the freshest coffee beans you can find in Toronto.

      Green Beanery
      565 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

      1. I agree with Jemon re: local roasters. Your key to good espresso is freshness. I toss out any beans that are older than 14 days roasted. I have also found that you don't want anything too dark. For me, anything past 'full city' roast doesn't produce a nice shot. I try to buy 'city' roast if possible.

        I'm not sure about Hamilton, but agree with Coffeee about Green Beanery. I have bought my beans there since before they even had a proper retail shop. I have had one over roasted batch in many many bags, and that was when they just switched over to their new roaster.

        I hear good things about Birds and Beans in Etobicoke as well. I can't comment on the freshness or quality there though.

        Once you have the beans with the proper roast, nail the grind, tamp, temp and time (25-30sec), and you're there!

        Green Beanery
        565 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

        5 Replies
        1. re: Derksen

          I am also a fan of light roasts for espresso! I am a home roaster and I have found that I like between city+ and full city for all of my coffee applications. To me, city roast is a little too fruity sometimes though if you've got a really sharp African coffee! I also really like single origin espresso. At home, blending is unnecessary to me.

          1. re: Jemon

            Jemon, it sounds like we're on the same page. I have considered roasting at home, but have never tried it. I hear some people even use popcorn poppers. What type of roaster do you use? It would definitely be nice to buy a big ol bag of green beans and just roast once a week. I only drink a double a day, so I make a trip for beans every 10 days or so. Do you find the cost is quite a bit lower? How about longevity of green beans?

            With regards to region, I find I have enjoyed the SE Asian beans the most - Papua New Guinea, Indonesian, etc. I have also had some great beans from Mexico. I know this doesn't line up with the so called 'best' coffee regions. Just my taste I suppose. I find these regions have more flavour and clarity. Next in line for me would likely be lower Central America I suppose.

            1. re: Derksen

              I'm curious to know if you are familiar with They are a great resource for home roasters. They sell raw beans from around the world, roasting equipment, etc. I started home roasting about 3 years ago with a West Bend Poppery II that I got on ebay for about $20 and it still works great! It is much cheaper to roast at home, since you get a pound of green beans for about $5 depending on the type of course, and the quality is much, much better than just about anything you can get anywhere, especially when you get a good technique down. That pound of green beans will equal about 12-13 ounces after roasting. Only took about 2 weeks and 3 pounds of coffee as a learning curve for me to get something that I thought was near perfect. I have compared the poppers to the cheaper (about $100) "made-for-coffee" roasters and it seems to beat them as far as the control you have over the process, and equal them as far as the size of batch that you can roast (1/4 lb.). I typically do 4 batches to equal 1 lb. every week and a half or so for myself and my girlfriend and we have been spoiled by the quality so much that we don't ever really want to get coffee anywhere else. It usually takes about 30 minutes total to roast those 4 batches to around city+ in my popper. I have either one double espresso based drink or one "regular" cup made with an aeropress every day, to give you an idea of my consumption.

              Longevity is great for green beans! I had one bag of greens in the back of the cabinet where I keep them for about a year and they roasted and tasted the same as when I bought them. As long as you keep them cool and dry, they should be fine for a long time.

              As far as region, I like Ethiopian beans the most because they usually taste more interesting to me. Those crazy fruity flavors are great in my opinion. For me, the SE Asian beans are good for certain things (Thai and Viet iced coffee!) but I don't like them every day. The South American beans are usually very good and smooth as well, but to me, they are very "one note". Again, with Sweet Marias, you can order a variety of random stuff to try. That is what I usually do when I want to sample! I will buy a 10-15 pound variety of beans and use those up before I shop for coffee again.
              You get me going, and I don't like to stop talking about coffee!

              Edit: Just as an aside, I don't know how sweetmarias shipping would be to Canada! But you get the idea. It looks like Green Beanery is a great source as well!

              1. re: Jemon

                I am familiar with sweetmarias. Haven't ordered anything though. I will have to compare their prices after shipping to greenbeanery prices. We are moving soon, so after we settle (move, renos, etc.), I will put some thought and effort into roasting.

                I'll have to pay more attention to the Ethiopian beans. I actually find Indonesian beans to be fruity, yet rich and complex.

                Thanks for the pointers.

          2. re: Derksen

            Birds and Beans will delivery for a small fee, I think $3 if you order more than a pound. And generally when I order, the date of the roast is the day of purchase or a few days before. I believe they roast in small batches. Give it a try, we are always happy with them.


          3. for the Black Cat espresso blend try Manic Coffee (426 College St). also there's a pretty good local roaster super close to Hamilton. Detour Coffee Roasters (41B King St W, Dundas, ON)

            2 Replies
            1. re: sleepy

              All advice much appreciated. I think I'll check out all of the above. Hey if anyone reads this I've got another Q. If I'm to use purified water for my coffee maker and do not have say a "brita"..... can you use distilled water?

              1. re: mjcrowe

                I've never used distilled water myself, but people have said that it will flatten the taste of your coffee. If you really want, I might suggest using spring water or bottled drinking water since the mineral salts supposedly contribute to the flavor. For espresso machines, you "can" use tap water, unless you have not-so-great tasting tap water in your area. Using tap water in an espresso machine will be fine, but you will have to descale the buildup that will develop with a special cleaner every couple of months or so to keep it in tip top shape.