Did you know conventional coffee is known to be among one of the most chemically treated foods in the world? Thanks to the coffee cherries’ protective skin and the high heat of the coffee roaster, those chemicals might not affect you, the consumer, very much. However, they can certainly impact coffee farmers and the environment in which they work.
If they don’t have the right equipment to protect themselves, farmers may be exposed to high levels of these harmful chemicals as they handle coffee crops. These chemicals affect people on the actual coffee farms, but the runoff has the potential to impact surrounding communities, too.
Recommended: The Pros and Cons of Coffee
The need to keep these farmers and the people who live nearby safe spurred the push to find harmless coffee production methods people feel they can support. This push has come in the form of the rapidly growing organic market, a.k.a., the focal point of this article!
At A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Organic Coffee
An Organic Overview
During the organic coffee production process, synthetic substances like most pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers can’t be used, and if a bag of beans is going to bear the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic label, at least 95 percent of them must have been grown under specific conditions, including:
- Being grown on a coffee plantation or farm where producers actively manage the land to restore, maintain, and enhance local biodiversity as well as work within the local environment without disrupting the balance of natural ecological systems
- Produced using methods that minimize pollution in the air, water, and soil and with traditional farming methods (like crop rotations, for example) to manage weeds, pests, and soil health
Then, once the beans make their way to the roaster, they’re separated; organic green beans go into a separate coffee roaster so they never come into contact with anything their non-organic counterparts have even touched.
Finally, the organic beans make their way to your kitchen, and it’s up to you to maintain their organic coffee heritage. This means using a coffee grinder and brewing mechanism that have either been very, VERY thoroughly washed or have never encountered non-organic beans.
If you don’t take care here, then technically your resulting brew is non-organic, and though that doesn’t impact the joe’s actual certifications, it does make all the hard work that went into producing your organic brew somewhat of a waste.
Quick Summary: The Best Organic Coffee
Our Top ChoiceLifeBoost Coffee
|Check On Lifeboost→|
|SIGHTGLASS COFFEE ORGANIC TOKETEE||Check Price →|
|CAFFE VITA ORGANIC FRENCH ROAST||Check Price →|
|Death Wish Coffee||Check on Amazon →|
|Kicking Horse Coffee Three Sisters Blend||Check on Amazon →|
|TINY FOOTPRINT ORGANIC COLD BREW COFFEE||Check on Amazon →|
|CAMERON’S COFFEE ORGANIC FRENCH ROAST||Check on Amazon →|
|MARLEY COFFEE ORGANIC ONE LOVE ETHIOPIAN YIRGACHEFFE||Check on Amazon →|
|CAFE DON PABLO SUBTLE EARTH HONDURAN MARCALA COFFEE||Check on Amazon →|
|REAL GOOD COFFEE CO. ORGANIC DARK ROAST||Check on Amazon →|
We’ve got lots of coffee recommendations for our organic-loving Roasty readers, but before we jump into those, we need to have a very important discussion about pesticides. Let’s start by tackling a few common questions.
Can certified organic products use pesticides?
Yes! In fact, the use of pesticides is pretty necessary for successful plant growth. However, the pesticides used on organic coffee crops should be natural rather than synthetic, as these don’t contain toxic or harmful chemicals.
How do pesticides on coffee plants affect you?
First, you should note that, unlike other farm products, the actual fruit being grown on coffee plantations — which are coffee cherries — aren’t generally sold; it’s their seeds we want, as those are the “beans” that are roasted and brewed to meet all of our coffee drinking needs. This matters because it means that chemical residue left from any pesticides used on non-organic produce is unlikely to reach the part of the coffee cherry we consume.
Besides, coffee beans are roasted before they make it to you, often at temperatures close to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so if any chemical pesticides made it to the bean, the high heat of the roasting process would get rid of them.
But just because these pesticides don’t usually make it to the actual coffee beans, and therefore, don’t affect you much doesn’t mean no harm can be done. As we mentioned above, coffee farmers and members of surrounding communities can be impacted by these chemicals, and that’s something you should be concerned about.
Toxicity is where things tend to get a bit tricky, but what you really need to know is that every pesticide is toxic, even natural ones. This is because, unlike their synthetic counterparts, natural pesticides can’t be tailored to target only specific species.
So, while a synthetic pesticide may only be harmful to destructive insects, its natural opposite may end up causing more widespread harm to the environment. Considering how runoff impacts water-based ecosystems, this could be particularly problematic.
On the other hand, however, some synthetic pesticides are known to be carcinogens, teratogens, and mutagens, all of which are issues for coffee farmers.
Roasty Rankings: Our Top Picks for Best Organic Coffee
Now for the part that many of you came to this article for – the recommendations. These are brands and products that we have gone ahead and researched for you. So you can rest assured that their missions and practices are in the best interest of both the environment and their workers, in addition to the product being USDA Certified Organic.
Enjoy delicious, healthy, single origin, chemical-free, non-GMO coffee from small farms in the mountains of Nicaragua
One of our favorite organic coffee brands right now is Lifeboost Coffee. All of the company’s single-origin Nicaraguan beans — whether you choose a light, medium, or dark roast — are USDA-certified organic, but the perks don’t stop there. Lifeboost beans are non-GMO, Fair Trade, low-acid, and kosher.
If all of that wasn’t enough to convince you to click “Add to Cart,” then maybe this will: the joe is also shade-grown on a coffee farm situated 5,700 feet above sea level before it’s handpicked and slowly roasted. This lends the resulting brew a pretty unique flavor profile.
We think the craftsmanship of this rich and mellow joe (which is available with full caffeine content or as decaf coffee) shows in every sip, and its hints of caramel are sure to make your taste buds happy.
Sightglass Coffee Organic Toketee
Sightglass Coffee Organic Toketee
You’re fancy, huh? So is this elevated take on the classic drip, blend. It’s carefully curated, seasonally rotating, and of course—cultured.
The next offering on our list of the best organic blends comes from Sightglass Coffee. The brand’s Organic Toketee blend is marketed as “an elevated take on the classic drip blend,” so if you like to start your day with a plain cup of regular coffee, you’ll love this stuff.
To create this blend, Sightglass Coffee roasters combine Pacific beans with those from Central and South America (note that the coffee used rotates seasonally). Then, they heat the joe to medium-dark roast perfection before it’s packaged and delivered to your doorstep.
As you savor sips of this brew, close your eyes and see if you can pick out all of the flavor notes — there’s apricot, cacao nib, and caramel!
Caffe Vita Organic French Roast
Caffe Vita Organic French Roast
Big-bodied and sweet, this dark-roasted blend features plenty of roastiness with a chocolaty body and caramel sweetness to bring it all together.
If you’re anything like us — and you must be, since you’ve found yourself on our site! — you love a good French roast. Bonus points if it’s organic, like this one from Caffe Vita!
The brand’s blend of Central and South American, Indonesian, and African coffees is roasted to an almost black color. These dark beans aren’t for everyone, but if you like a brew with a bold taste and a bit of smokiness, you’ll want this organic option around.
The big-bodied brew is slightly sweet with notes of cocoa, maple syrup, and nutmeg. It’s good enough to be enjoyed on its own, but if you don’t take your coffee black, a splash of milk or creamer complements it quite nicely.
Death Wish Coffee
If you read our review of the strongest coffees on the market, you’re likely already familiar with Death Wish. If you didn’t, however, allow us to introduce you to these beans. Death Wish is an excellent option for anyone who needs an extra kick in the pants in the morning, as the brand swears its product is the most caffeinated coffee in the world!
These dark roast beans not only give you an impressive energy boost, thanks to the combination of arabica and robusta beans. They also produce a cup that’s surprisingly smooth and less bitter than many other competing coffees.
Rest assured that Death Wish is committed to sustainability (read more about that here) and ethical engagement in the coffee market.
Kicking Horse Coffee Three Sisters Blend
Canadian-born Kicking Horse is known for producing high-quality coffee that’s not only 100 percent organic, but produced with only Fair Trade practices, too. Impact on the world around them is number one in the company’s core values statement, and that’s why we feel confident in recommending Kicking Horse to our readers.
Though each bag of Kicking Horse’s coffee is organic, we’re particularly fond of the Three Sisters Blend. These beans are sourced from Indonesia, plus South and Central America, and together, they create a brew that’s beautifully complex and well-rounded. As you sip it, you’ll taste notes of sweet tobacco, stone fruit, and cocoa.
Tiny Footprint Organic Cold Brew Coffee
Tiny Footprint Coffee is a carbon-negative company; for every bag of beans it sells and ships, a portion of the profits are donated to plant trees in Ecuador’s Mindo Cloud Forest.
The brand’s reforestation efforts are admirable, sure, but Tiny Footprint’s organic, Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance Certified beans are just as impressive. The cold brew blend in particular stood out to us. The 100 percent arabica beans are a mixture of Ethiopian light and dark roasts, and when brewed, you’ll taste floral and fruity notes, plus a hint of cocoa.
Cameron’s Coffee Organic French Roast
This organic French roast from Cameron’s Coffee is full of rich flavor — a perfect choice for when you want to use a French press to make your cups of coffee. This brew doesn’t just taste good, though; it’s good for the earth, too!
This brand is dedicated to social responsibility, as seen through its sustainable sourcing, humanitarian efforts, and environmental awareness. The use of natural fertilizers and pesticides helps Cameron’s uphold its commitment to protecting biodiversity and land stewardship. Additionally, small-batch roasting reduces water consumption.
Marley Coffee Organic One Love Ethiopian YirgaCheffe
If you’re looking for an ethically sourced Ethiopian joe, check out Marley Coffee’s Ethiopian YirgaCheffe beans. This medium-bodied medium roast is aromatic with winey undertones — great for those who prefer fruitier notes in their joe.
Marley Coffee’s product is, of course, certified organic. However, it’s also Fair Trade certified, and the brand aids in deforestation efforts. If you prefer brewing with pods instead of grinding the actual coffee bean yourself, you’ll be happy to know that Marley Coffee’s single-use pods are completely recyclable, too! How’s that for sustainability?
Cafe Don Pablo Subtle Earth Honduran Marcala Coffee
Though the word “subtle” is printed on every bag of these Cafe Don Pablo beans, the resulting cup of coffee’s flavor is anything but. The organically-grown coffee has a full body and a rich chocolatey flavor with sweet notes of caramel and honey — a simply delicious way to start the day!
This Honduran coffee, which is 100 percent arabica, by the way, is grown at a high altitude before being slow-roasted in small batches. To make sure you, dear coffee snob, are getting the freshest coffee possible, these beans are roasted to order; believe it or not, this makes a huge difference in your java-drinking experience!
You can grind these beans for use in any brewing method of your choice — drip machine, French press, espresso machine, and more — but if you’re a Keurig enthusiast, you’ll be happy to know you can find this joe in single-serve cup form, too!
Real Good Coffee Co. Organic Dark Roast
It’s safe to assume that, with the words “real good” in the name, the result of these beans is bold, delicious coffee. We’ll let you buy a bag and decide for yourself whether this joe lives up to its name, but thanks to the use of 100 percent arabica beans from Central and South America and the brand’s 30-plus years of craft roasting in Seattle, we’re assuming you’ll love what’s in your cup.
These organic beans have flavors of bell pepper, cedar, and lemon come together to produce a bold coffee that’s perfect for getting your day started on a high note. Real Good Coffee Co.’s dark roast pairs well with any brewer, whether you’re a pour-over pro or a Moka pot maven.
Peet’s Coffee Organic French Roast
If you’re looking for a rich and delicious French roast with a USDA-organic certification, this batch of beans from Peet’s is a worthwhile contender. These 100 percent arabica beans are sourced from the high altitudes of Guatemala and Colombia before being roasted by hand to dark perfection.
When brewed, this delicious coffee boasts the smokiness any French roast enthusiast would go crazy for, plus a bit of sweetness added by burnt caramel tasting notes. You, an avid coffee drinker, will appreciate the effort that goes into producing Peet’s joe; any of these beans that make it into your coffee maker have not only passed USDA standards, but they’ve also met all of the brand’s requirements for taste and quality, so you know you’re getting the best brew possible.
Organic Coffee Co. Breakfast Blend
We’ve got good news for all of you who use a Keurig brewer to satisfy your coffee habit: you can brew organic, too, and Organic Coffee Co.’s Breakfast Blend is a great way to do it!
This joe, a blend of Central American beans, is a delicious and smooth medium roast with sweet-tasting notes — think vanilla bean, toffee, and citrus.
Benefits of Sipping Coffee That Was Grown Organically
It’s better for the environment
Did you know organic coffee lovers’ beans of choice can help reduce deforestation? Coffee grown according to organic standards can thrive with more canopy cover than non-organic joe can. This means forests, along with their native wildlife and vegetation, can be conserved.
What’s more, is that plenty of companies specializing in organic coffee roasts donate a portion of their profits to organizations that actively attempt to reverse the effects of deforestation.
When these ecosystems are left largely intact, natural pest-deterrents, like birds and lizards, for instance, remain undisturbed. Their presence reduces the need for large amounts of pesticides. Plus, bird droppings, leaf litter, and other natural decay help fertilize the coffee tree. That means growers won’t need to use as many synthetic fertilizers, either.
It helps the farmers
Many farmers who adhere to the strict standards of organic coffee production can afford to be Fair Trade compliant. This guarantees the producers are paid a fair price, and even if the market price for coffee drops, they’ll continue to be paid enough to cover all of their basic living expenses.
Some even claim growing according to organic standards is the better choice for maintaining long-term soil health. Whether or not this is true largely depends specifically on what farmers are or are not using on their plants, though.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is organic coffee healthier?
The fact that they were grown without the use of toxic chemicals makes organic beans healthier than non-organic ones. However, you can’t automatically assume that every batch of organic brew is necessarily good for you.
The organic label doesn’t take the quality of the beans into account, and it doesn’t guarantee that there are no harmful mold or mycotoxins present in the coffee. Many of the best-rated organic coffee beans are lab tested to be sure they’re free of additional impurities and toxins, and those tend to be the best beans for your body.
What is the certification process like?
To keep things simple, we’re only covering the process a coffee product must go through to receive a USDA certification. However, you should know that other regions follow their own set of organic certification processes.
To qualify for USDA certification, a farmer must have been practicing complete organic-approved production for at least three years. That means no using non-organic agrochemicals or pesticides during that time, either. The rest of the supply chain has to stick to proper organic practices, too.
For roasters, that involves having roasting equipment specially dedicated to heating organic beans. This keeps them from being “contaminated” by anything non-organic. Unfortunately for small-batch roasters, however, keeping separate equipment nearby isn’t always feasible. This means many of those roasters exclusively produce organic joe or skip out of the organic market altogether.
Are there global standards for organic coffee?
Each coffee-producing country has its own set of standards that decide what constitutes “organic.” There is some overlap here, though, as most countries agree that the use of chemicals and GMOs are prohibited in organic coffee production.
Does organic coffee taste different?
Not really. Organic and non-organic coffee beans may be produced differently, the organic production process doesn’t notably alter the flavors that end up in your cup. Some organic coffee enthusiasts swear these beans brew something cleaner and smoother, but even those differences tend to be so subtle you might not even notice them.
Does organic equal sustainable?
The short answer is no, not necessarily. While many companies that go through the effort to obtain the “organic” label do take conscious steps to also make other parts of their production sustainable, the certification has no requirements to promote or enforce these practices.
Therefore, there is no guarantee that a certified organic brand is also financially, socially, or entirely environmentally sustainable. In fact, often using organic fertilizer creates a larger carbon footprint than simply using safe practices with conventional fertilizer.
A Better Way to Vet Your Coffee
Unfortunately, in some instances, the organic label on a bag of beans doesn’t mean what the company advertises it to mean. So, how can you trust that the organically-grown joe you’re buying was produced sustainably and ethically?
A high-quality cup of coffee starts with thorough research. Most coffee companies are open about the practices used to grow their beans and the brand’s mission. But even if you can’t find a list of the exact pesticides and fertilizers used during the production process, you can usually tell by how the company presents itself in other areas whether its practices are worth supporting.
Sticking to small-batch roasters and micro-lots is generally your best bet for finding a quality addition to your daily morning routine. Be sure to look at how closely the company works with farmers and examine its choices for packaging materials; those details can usually give you insight into where the brand stands on organic, sustainable, and ethical issues.