If you’re in a hurry and just want to know what the best Ethiopian coffee is, we recommend Volcanica’s Yirgacheffe as the best overall.
Ask coffee connoisseurs which country they believe produces the best coffee and you’ll often get one clear answer: Ethiopia.
Picking out the best Ethiopian coffee bean is a tall order though.
Each growing region in the country produces coffee with a very distinct flavor profile. You’ll need to experiment to find a bean that suits your personal taste.
To help you get started with this exceptional coffee, I’ve reviewed five of the best brands from across the country.
I’ve included flavor notes in each case, and provided a top pick that everyone can start with.
In this article I’ll be reviewing the following Ethiopian coffee brands:
- Volcanica Organic Yirgacheffe – TOP PICK
- Marley Coffee One Love Ethiopian Coffee
- Wild Coffee Sidamo Medium Roast
- Fresh Roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
- Cooper’s Ethiopian Light Roast
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About Ethiopian Coffee
Although it was the thriving markets of Yemen that led to an explosion of interest in coffee, the bean itself originated in Ethiopia.
As the legend goes, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi was tending to his flock one day. He noticed that the goats became particularly excitable when they ate a certain berry.
He reported his findings to the abbot of a local monastery. He, in turn, experimented with the beans and found the results energizing!
From here, the legend says, word of the coffee bean’s power quickly spread until the drink became a common staple.
That’s the short version, at least! If you want to learn more about the origins of coffee, take a look at my massive guide to coffee beans.
What to Expect
Ethiopian coffee beans are famous for possessing a rich, complex flavor profile. Expect lots of acidity, fruity notes, and an intense aroma from every brew.
Part of the bean’s enduring popularity comes from the quality that’s found across the board.
Whether you like a mild or a very strong cup of coffee, Ethiopia’s got your back with some of the best beans in each class.
Each growing region adds its own twist to this general profile though.
In the next section I’ll explain how they differ.
There are three distinct coffee growing regions in Ethiopia. Yirgacheffe is the one you’re most likely to have heard of before.
Each of these three regions produce a bean with a unique local flavor and aroma. Here’s what to expect in each case:
You can find Sidamo coffee in supermarkets everywhere. It possesses the signature fruity and light chocolate notes that define Ethiopian coffee.
A very well known coffee bean, and a region that’s considered by many to produce the finest coffee in the world – period.
Yirgacheffe coffee is typically grown on small family-owned farms, positioned at high altitude. It’s technically a sub-region of Sidamo.
Flavor notes: Smooth, mild and fruity with a rich aroma.
To the north-east of Yirgacheffe sits the lower-elevation region of Harrar.
The coffee grown here tends to be a little stronger, with a slightly drier edge and less fruity notes.
Flavor notes: Aromatic, with berry flavors and a hint of mocha.
It’s really important you buy single-origin Ethiopian coffee, rather than any kind of blend.
That’s because each bean has its own unique qualities, and it just doesn’t make sense to mix them up!
For the real Ethiopian coffee experience, single-origin really is the only way to go.
Organic & Fair Trade
Ethiopian coffee has a particularly strong reputation for organic and Fair Trade growing practices.
That’s important when you consider that the industry as a whole supports some 15 million people in employment. Ethiopian coffee workers are generally treated fairly, and rewarded well for their stunning results.
The focus on organic production also means no chemicals or pesticides are used in the growing process. That helps ensure the sustained quality of the beans you buy.
Ethiopian Coffee Growing Stats
Want some context about why coffee’s so important to Ethiopia?
Here are some facts, courtesy of Wikipedia:
- Ethiopian coffee represents around 3% of the global coffee supply.
- It’s the seventh largest producer of coffee in the world, and the biggest African producer.
- Around 260,000 metric tonnes of the stuff were grown in 2006.
- Ethiopians know when they’re onto a good thing! Around half of the annual production is retained for domestic use.
- Around 4,000 square kilometers of the country are dedicated to coffee cultivation.
- 15 million of the population rely on the industry as their main source of income.
- In 2006, coffee exports were worth $350 million to the country – around 34% of 2006’s total exports.
Ethiopian Coffee Reviews
Time to start sampling the beans!
Here’s my personal pick of the Ethiopian coffee types, with my thoughts on each one.
As an introduction to Ethiopian coffee it really is hard to go wrong with Volcanica’s signature Yirgacheffe.
These organically grown beans pack an extraordinary punch, however you prepare them.
Expect a medium bodied drink with fruity, wine-like tones. It’s delicious stuff, and will particularly suit anyone who adores a dash of cinnamon in their drink.
As for roasting, Volcanica runs a tight ship when it comes to timings. They maintain supplies in such a way that any beans delivered through Amazon are shipped within 30 days of roasting.
That really helps maintain the freshness of the coffee, which means you get the drink at its very best.
These are only available as whole beans though, so you’ll need to pick up a decent grinder if you don’t have one already.
Marley’s One Love brand is a medium roast coffee that produces an extremely smooth drink, with delicious hints of berries throughout. I think there’s even a little bit of mocha in there as well.
As well as being Fair Trade Certified, One Love goes a little further when it comes to protecting the environment.
Marley’s teamed up with an organization called One Tree Planted. This special interest group works hard to reduce deforestation by planting new trees around the world.
If you’re looking to support a coffee brand that goes the extra mile, you’ll want to try this one out.
As well as being available in whole bean and ground versions, you can also buy pods for your compatible machine.
The obvious worry here is that coffee pods aren’t exactly great for the environment. The good news is that Marley uses something called EcoCup technology to ensure you can recycle the waste materials easily. All you have to do is make sure you dispose of them the right way.
In terms of strength this won’t put quite as big a spring in your step as a dark roast Ethiopian coffee, but it’s an excellent middle ground.
Like Volcanica’s Yirgacheffe, Wild Coffee puts a big emphasis on freshness when it comes to selling its Sidamo medium roast.
Stocks are kept deliberately low, with the roasters ordering in just enough to meet demand. That reduces the time between roasting and brewing.
It also ticks the important boxes in terms of organic production and Fair Trade credentials.
As a brand, Wild Coffee has a good reputation for supporting small-scale farmers too. They make sure everyone is well rewarded for making awesome coffee.
As for the beans themselves, they have an extraordinary aroma that tells you instantly you’re in for a killer cup of coffee.
The flavor is bright but not overwhelmingly acidic. I think it’s stronger than the average medium roast as well, but by no means to its detriment.
As for the little touches in the flavor profile, you can expect to uncover nutty, almost caramel-like notes as you sip away. Yum yum.
Fresh Roasted Coffee’s Yirgacheffe is a citrus lover’s idea of heaven. The lemon notes are bright, and there’s a hint of lemon tea about the drink too.
It’s a medium roast, and as well as following the expected organic and Fair Trade rules, it’s Kosher Certified as well.
Further environmental efforts are made in the roasting process itself. Fresh Roasted makes use of something called a Loring Roaster. These energy-efficient devices help to reduce the carbon footprint of the roasting process even further.
If you don’t have a good quality grinder in your kitchen, this Yirgacheffe is available in ground as well as whole bean varieties.
The quality of the coffee’s pretty good! As I’ve already mentioned, there are lots of citrus notes to discover in this brand. It’s more of a dry sipping drink, but that lemon tea taste is quite seductive.
I wanted to include a light roast coffee in this round-up, and Cooper’s is one of the best you can get.
This is an extremely delicate, floral bean with hints of honey and lemon tart in your cup. If you want something a little milder, but still distinctly Ethiopian, this is a very good option.
To achieve this unique flavor, the beans are dried in the open sun before they’re shipped to roasters for preparation. As they dry, they gain their deep berry undertones, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
As with many of the other options I’ve reviewed, Cooper’s roasts its coffee in extremely small batches. That means the beans are as fresh as possible by the time you’re using them.
In fact, they only ship enough to stockists to last around 7-10 days at any given time. With shipping, you’re looking at around two weeks from roasting to arriving in your kitchen.
The company puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to quality as well. If you’re unimpressed with the coffee, they offer a 30 day no-quibble refund. I don’t think you’re going to need to use that though!
Cooper’s Ethiopian coffee is available in whole bean or ground packs.
If you’re just starting out with Ethiopian coffee I really don’t think you can go wrong by choosing Volcanic’s Yirgacheffe.
The other brands I’ve reviewed add their own unique twists to the experience. Volcanica’s offering ticks all the fundamental boxes of Ethiopian coffee spectacularly well though, and without adding anything that might put you off.
If you like it, you can then experiment further with the other brands I’ve reviewed here. They are all excellent in their own right, with distinct flavor and aroma profiles.
Try the others out in small batches first, and get ready for a unique journey through some of the finest coffee known to man!
(Want to learn more about home coffee brewing? Take a look through our guide to other brewing methods, buying guides and more.)