Home roaster and New England native Chris Gatti moved back from Seattle with the goal of turning his hobby into a full-time job. Fast-forward a couple of years, and here you have one of the most worthy additions to an already sizeable regional scene. Operating out of an elegantly minimal space, Gatti's micro-roasting operation and café adds quite handsomely to the area's culinary cred—the other thing Ipswich is famous for is fried clams.
Now, to muddy the waters, when coffee experts talk about a coffee’s “acidity,” they are actually referring to the flavor notes of the brew, not the acid content. A coffee’s acidity is generally used as a term that indicates the quality of the bean. For example, beans grown at high altitude are often described as being acidic due to the bright, vibrant flavor notes they give.
After taste-testing thirteen different varieties of ground coffee widely available for purchase at a chain grocery store, the winner for a solid cup were Maxwell House. In terms of flavor and cost, it ranked highest overall, though it did lose points for not being very good to microwave. Still, at $5.83/lb, it's cost efficient enough to just make another cup of coffee.
“This is the best fair-trade medium roast I’ve found that can be ordered online. I used to live where I could go to a local importer and roaster of beans, and this product almost rivals those beans in quality. The beans come super fresh inside the package and are evenly roasted. The flavor is smooth and deep, with a nice velvety mouthfeel that is normally reserved for darker roasts. My favorite way to enjoy these are with a French press, but they are also delicious from a drip coffee maker and make great stove-top espresso in a Moka pot. When I run out of locally roasted beans I always order these to hold me over.”
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.
Ben and Jessica Schellack bootstrapped their way to building one of the best roasting operations in the state, this year bringing home a Good Food Award—not their first, either. That's quite the climb from their early days in the rented basement of a New Brunswick non-profit. Today, a lively café, just across the river from Rutgers' Old Queens campus, hence the name, is a hub of creativity.
Caribou gets several things right with this rich blend. The mix of premium Indonesian and American arabica beans results in a very complex yet smooth flavor profile. It has everything from woody, to sweet, spicy, and fruity notes. The overall flavor is bittersweet, but with enough acidity to make it lively. This is a 100% Arabica coffee, sourced from Rainforest Alliance certified growers in Asia, South, and Central America.
The equal exchange works with small co-operatives of small farmers all over the world. This is a coffee chain that values people and places those places that are part of it. This may be seen simple, but it is not how things are done in coffee industry. The workers work hard to ensure that the product comes out with an excellent quality. This is one of the companies that keep on fighting for the lasting change. They have classic blend that combines dark roasted and medium coffee for the cup that is sweet and balanced with the creamy mouth feel and some hints of chocolate brownie, caramel, and roasted nut.
After training under coffee royalty across the pond (at Colonna & Small's in Bath), local native Jason Gonzalez, along with British-born wife and business partner Tiffany, are giving Vermont's long-running scene a swift kick in the backside with this smart multi-roaster operation, a very-21st century shrine to one of the state's favorite beverages (after beer, of course).
Once a self-described stoner kid who did a stint with Intelligentsia in Los Angeles, Andrew Heppner came home to open what's quietly become one of the state's most compelling roasters, one that's only recently made the decisive move into the retail game, after an early (and failed) attempt at opening their own shop. That's in the past, now—not only have they made it work with a fine cafe in Bay City, Populace also joins the much-hyped collection of outlets now opening along with Detroit's hotly-anticipated Siren Hotel.
However, one of the selection criteria for the Top 30 coffees is value or affordability, measured by price per pound. Many of the coffees on our list are priced in line with similar, though usually less distinguished, single-origin specialty coffees in the marketplace. Half (15) of the coffees on the list cost $25 or less per pound. Four were priced at $20 or less per pound, namely: No. 4 Lexington Coffee Tarime Tanzania (95 points; $14.75/12 ounces), No. 6 Barrington Coffee Twenty Five (96 points; $14.25/12 ounces), No. 23 Big Shoulders Coffee Roasters Burundi Buhorwa (94 points; 15.00/12 ounces), and No. 28 Paradise Roasters Ecuador Pichincha Typica (94 points; 13.95/12 ounces).
If you want a smooth coffee with a clean taste, this is one product that you should not miss. It is made by a company that has been in the business for more than three decades, which can speak a lot about its quality. Meanwhile, with a medium roast, this is for those who want the best of both light and dark roasts. It also just ahs the right burst of acidity that won’t make your stomach upset.
Back before the nation's capital had a whole lot going on in the way of local coffee, Chris Vigilante was roasting for local restaurants in the basement of a District row home. These days, his product is a firm D.C. favorite, even if home base is a somewhat sprawling roastery, café and social hub, just over the line in Prince George's County. The company's adopted home seems to be agreeing with them—a second, also rather impressive space has now opened doors near the University of Maryland campus in College Park.
The first time I conducted my coffee taste test, I left Peet's out, and commenters were outraged. It turns out, they were right: this is a solid supermarket coffee contender, especially for people who might tend toward a darker roast. Social Media Manager Andrew Spena and I particularly liked this coffee. "I know it's not true, but I feel like this has a neutral pH balance," said Andrew. "A little nuttiness comes through once it's cooled a bit. I could see myself drinking too much of this on accident." If that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is. The nuttiness and round body of this coffee set it apart. It had a chocolatey richness and some nice toasty notes. While the Thrive coffee is well-suited to those who like a lighter, fruitier roast, Peet's is perfect for people who like a rounder, nuttier, creamier, toastier flavor profile in their coffee.
I was pretty disappointed in this local coffee spot, unfortunately. I walked in and the staff seemed in disarray. I waited 15 minutes for a coffee, watching other people who ordered after me get their drinks filled. They had forgotten my order as it turned out, and when I asked about it, they were not too friendly in understanding what happened. After I finally pushed about needing to go, they finally made my drink, but I only had a couple minutes to finish it. Needless to say, I wasn't happy with their service at all. And my coffee was nothing impressive. Not worth the price in my opinion.
Strength control is understood to be regulated by the ratio of coffee to water. For example, more ground coffee and less water would result in a stronger brew. But, how does that work with a single serve machine, when you cannot regulate the amount of coffee and yet you can regulate the strength and volume of water simultaneously? In other words, you can select an 8-ounce drink to be strong or weak, but without changing the amount of coffee.
When I moved away from a grocery store that carried Equal Exchange three or four years ago, I remember checking, and you had to order it directly from Equal Exchange, and wait for standard shipping. I guess thanks to the Whole Foods merger, now you can get this right on Amazon. I was excited to discover this, but the mislabeling is a bummer! Amazon, please fix!
If you want a sampling from multiple independent coffee roasters all at once, this is the coffee subscription for you. There are many small roasters that have popped up all over the country and many are too small to operate their own subscription service. So they’ve partnered with companies that offer coffee subscriptions and pull from this pool of smaller roasters.
Coffee snobs are the sort of people who know the difference between an Arabica and Robusta, have attended their fair share of "cuppings", and shun Starbucks as a place that sells "commercial swill". They prefer to brew their own coffee, which they've usually roasted themselves after importing free-trade beans from a country like Guatemala or Indonesia.
Our search began at the local grocery stores to see what was widely available to shoppers. We noted the ubiquitous blends and recorded their price per ounce. We then went to the reviewers on Amazon.com where coffee was available in all varieties. We considered options on Amazon, Prime Pantry and Amazon Fresh to find the best-rated cheap coffee options.
Also try Portland is all about the bean, and roaster Tandem Coffee rests rather comfortably toward the top of the pile. Blue Bottle-trained, their two shops (with excellent baked goods) are among New England's finest, if a little snobbish about it. For something a little different, stop by Speckled Ax, which brews up its own wood-roasted organic coffees.
In the case of over half of the Top 30 coffees, distinctive tree variety appears to play an important role in generating an exceptional cup worthy of a high rating. There are stars and superstars among the hundreds of varieties of Arabica grown in the world today, and, whether we want them to or not, coffees from these distinguished varieties frequently dominate the very highest ratings at Coffee Review. They include the still rare and expensive Geisha/Gesha variety (three examples on the 2018 list), the various mainly indigenous varieties grown in Ethiopia (three on the 2018 list), the great SL28 and SL34 varieties of Kenya, and (slightly less distinctive but still likely to impress) the big-beaned varieties Maracaturra (one), Maragogipe (one) and the ancient heirloom Bourbon (four on the 2018 list).
Of the 14 samples we received of organic-certified coffees produced in Africa origins outside Ethiopia, nine were from the Democratic Republic of Congo and two were from Uganda. Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda contributed one sample each. These 14 coffees ranged in scored from 84-91, with five scoring 90 or above, a good showing, and encouragement for those who may want to consider buying organic coffees from these origins. The vast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which contributed nine samples, has established itself as a source of fine specialty coffee through the development of the SOPACDI cooperative in the far eastern part of the DRC, just across Lake Kivu from Rwanda. This rapidly growing cooperative now has 5,600 members and is apparently succeeding its goal to help heal wounds left by the latest in eastern Congo’s seemingly endless string of horrific civil wars. The cooperative’s coffees typically carry both organic and Fair Trade certification and can be quite attractive in the style of the pungently spicy, sweet-savory coffees that often come out of the African Great Lakes region.
A coffee crop also requires a great deal of water, particularly when it is being grown quickly. It takes 37 gallons of water to produce enough beans for just one cup of coffee. Coffee is often produced in countries with a shortage of water, such as Ethiopia, and the combination of high water consumption and high fertilizer and pesticide use can lead to water degradation and pollution in water runoff.