We asked Josh Taves, a 12-year coffee industry vet (who has spent time working as a barista as well as training them) and the director of business development for Denver’s Novo Coffee -- one of the finest coffee shops in the country -- for help. He did a blind tasting of 20 of the most popular K-Cups like a true (and highly caffeinated) hero. In the end, one brand stood out above all else, snagging three of the top four spots, while a few proved to be not worth drinking, no matter how badly you need a caffeine kick.
Another early top player in the coffee game—think Alterra, Ancora, others—Wisconsin had one hell of a head start, so it shouldn't be any surprise that one of the country's top roasters (Intelligentsia-trained) can be found in a village of 200 people way up in the mostly rural center of the state. Their tasting room keeps very limited hours, but it's worth the effort to get here. If that's out of the question, not to worry—you'll find them carried all over the state, not to mention well beyond.
Over the course of the year, we reviewed fewer than a dozen darker roasts. Most were medium-dark at best; some barely that. The majority of darker roasts we reviewed were sent by roasters in Taiwan and most were espressos, reflecting both the time-honored espresso practice of emphasizing chocolate and sweetness through moderate dark roasting, as well as, perhaps, a preference in Taiwan for more traditional styles of espresso as opposed to the lighter-roasted, brighter style of espresso now popular with the leading edge of North American roasters.