Are you on the hunt for the best oil-free coffee beans? Some people consider oily coffee beans to be the holy grail, but others prefer to avoid them.
Contrary to the common misconception, an oily sheen on your beans isn’t actually a reliable indication of freshness, but rather, more often than not, a sign of how they were roasted.
There are a few reasons why you might fall into the camp of avoiding this kind of bean—which is something we’ll get to exploring momentarily. Because today, we’re here to provide top tips on how to find the best oil-free coffee beans.
Why Would You Want to Find the Best Oil-Free Coffee Beans?
When we boil down the issue, there are two main reasons why someone might want to avoid oily coffee beans. The first is that they aren’t keen on the flavor of these punchier, darker beans, and the second is what oily beans can do to a coffee machine.
As a fan of making coffee at home, it is important to know that, over time, the residue left by oily coffee beans can build up in your machine, threatening its integrity.
Worryingly, blockages caused by coffee oils can eventually result in a slow, weak coffee machine that does little in the way of brewing and might even fail completely.
So, as you can imagine, favoring dark roasts can make it essential to clean your grinder and coffee machine on a regular basis to avoid any critical breakdowns.
Of course, if you are a stickler for coffee machine maintenance but simply prefer to drink coffee from a less oily bean, that’s okay too.
Some people love the rich, chocolatey flavors that oilier-looking coffees can unleash, but others find them to be excessively smokey or bitter.
If you prefer a lighter flavor that is more fruity or nutty, then you’ll want to stick with us and read what’s coming next.
What Makes Coffee Beans Oily?
In our quest to identify the best oil-free coffee beans, there is value in knowing what causes coffee beans to become oily in the first place. Above anything else, the most common cause of oily coffee beans is a longer roasting time.
Coffee beans are actually green in color when shipped from the grower, and are either roasted by the seller or by a coffee enthusiast who undertakes coffee bean roasting at home.
Roasting coffee calls for very high temperatures, somewhere in the ballpark of 370 to 540 °F or 188 to 282 °C.
As coffee beans are roasted, their structure begins to change, allowing the flavor of the beans to change—a wonderous shift that is known as the Maillard reaction—but simultaneously, the oils within rise to the surface.
The longer and hotter the roast time, the darker the roast and the oilier the resulting beans.
Whether light, medium, or dark, as roasted beans age, some additional oil will gradually move to the surface—although dark roasted beans are likely to remain the oiliest.
The oil will slowly start to oxidize over time, compromising the flavor of the beans, which is why roasted coffee can’t be stored for too long.
What to Expect From the Taste of Oil-Free Coffee Beans
If you are concerned about the well-being of your coffee machine, you may well be wondering what the best oil-free coffee beans taste like.
As we mentioned earlier, beans that have been through a lighter roast – and that are therefore less oily – are more likely to carry notes that are fruity, nutty, or softly caramely.
However, different types of coffee beans, grown in different parts of the world, can offer quite different oil contents. Plus, they can respond quite differently to the roasting process. So, there is actually impressive diversity to be discovered in oil-free coffee beans.
Of course, some oils are important for the flavor of your coffee and critical to that beautiful crema on the top of espresso, as that is actually created when the coffee oils emulsify with water.
However, as a rule of thumb, light, medium, and medium-dark roasts will be less oily, while a distinctly darker roast is more likely to be the oiliest.
The Best Oil-Free Coffee Brands
If you’d like to keep oil to a minimum, one option is to source your beans from a local roastery where you can enquire about the quality of each bean and ensure optimal freshness.
Our Pick: Lavazza Super Crema
Lavazza Super Crema with low oil content. Produced in a nut-free facility center, mild and creamy with notes of hazelnuts and brown sugar.
However, if you’re buying at the store or online, you can find dependable flavor in some of the most popular medium roasts from Starbucks, including their House Blend, Breakfast Blend, and Pike Place Blend.
Italian coffee company Lavazza also offer a tasty medium roast with low oil content in their Super Crema Whole Bean Blend.
Wherever you are in the world, we’d be delighted to know: do you have recommendations on the best oil free coffee beans? If so, we’d love to hear from you.
Hi, I’m Megan! I love coffee – especially cappuccino – and spending time with my kids. When I’m not busy being a mom, I enjoy reading magazines (or just about anything that interests me) and swimming. In fact, I used to be a swimmer in college!