Bagged coffee is standard, from grocery stores to coffee roasters (most of them), but subtle variations make for significant differences among these coffees, particularly in price. This is complicated by the fact that a bag of coffee is often referred to as a “pound,” when in fact most bags only hold between 10 and 12 ounces of coffee. A bag of Newman’s Own Organic coffeecosts $10.29, only $0.10 more than a bag of Starbucks coffee, but Newman’s is only a 10-ounce bag to Starbucks’ 12 ounce. Brewer beware!
A trio of talented locals, passionate in equal measures about coffee and their city, joined up last year to create one of New England's most modern multi-roaster cafes, on an appealing block at the heart of Connecticut's struggling state capital. Success was far from assured, and the sailing hasn't always been entirely smooth, but at least in this corner of town, things are looking up.
Black Oak Coffee Roasters from (Ukiah, CA) was my personal favorite and I’m glad to see it made your list as well! I do find it odd that it was on your list as it seems that you favor the lighter roasts and I’m opposite in my flavors. There are only 2 coffees that are not roasted in the U.S., is this because you haven’t tried too many outsides of the U.S. or do you find that they are just better in the US? Also thanks for taking one for the team and trying out the Black Rum Espresso because there is no way I would pay that price!
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To find the best grocery store coffee, we tasted 11 brands commonly found at grocery stores around the country or online. I first conducted this test in July of 2017, but re-tested recently, incorporating a few new coffees that we hadn't tasted in the first round—for example, the coffee from Thrive, which is an online-only grocery store. Epicurious staffers rated the coffees and provided tasting notes. (I myself can be a little forgiving when it comes to bad coffee, so we needed outside opinions.) For every brand, we ordered a medium roast, which was usually "Breakfast Blend" or something equivalent.

There is no beating around the bush with this brand. When you buy Death Wish, you know exactly what you are getting: a higher dose of caffeine than your body should need, like ever. There is a market for robust coffee out there, and these guys are there to cater to those caffeine-heads. The brand has all the right certifications, including FairTrade. And despite using robusta beans, they have managed to keep the taste at least tolerable, which is quite an achievement.
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.
“I’m quite pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality of this instant coffee! While it will never be fresh brewed, this is one of the few brands I’ve tried that I would actually drink on it’s own. It tastes like a solid cup of joe. Nothing fancy, not too bitter, middle of the road. I generally use a bit of cream and sweetener, and that made the mug. Normally, instant coffee needs A LOT added to it to essentially hide the weird medley of flavors that often permeate them, which is why I reserve them for baking or making my super-quick mochas or coffee smoothies on the go. But it’s really nice to have found a great instant coffee that can stand on its own; it will be great for cool-weather camping trips! To sweeten the deal, this coffee is organic and fair trade, so I don’t have to add any more guilt to my mornings. I highly recommend this for both blended coffee drinks and a superfast pick-me-up on frigid mornings.”
“My husband is a coffee addict, and I’m a bit of a fanatic about chemical additives and such. When I saw organic coffee offered for review, I knew I had to get this for him. Here is his review on the coffee: ‘I typically like bolder, dark-roast coffees. Once in a while I’ll mix it up when I’m out, and I’ll order a medium-roast brand. As far as buying an entire bag for home, I’ve grown tired of most medium roasts and do not want to waste money on tinny flavored coffee. This medium roast, however, is at the top of the bracket. I had to look at the bag a second time to make sure it was actually a medium roast. Very impressive full flavor.’”
Processing method also appears to play a significant role in qualifying for the Top 30. On this year’s list, for example, of the 20 coffees for which processing method is clearly identified, seven (vs. six in 2017) were dry- or “natural”-processed, meaning the beans were dried inside the fruit rather than after the fruit has been removed, as is the case with wet-processed or “washed” coffees. Until the last ten years or so, dry-processing was seldom applied to high-end specialty coffees like those that appear on our Top 30 list. This showing is evidence of the continuing trend toward use of alternative processing methods as creative tools for crafting distinctive cup profiles.
This might seem like an elaborate set-up, but we actually came about all this after struggling for a couple of years drinking coffee and getting sick from it. I finally discovered that I am sensitive to the acids in coffee. This put me on a lot of research on coffee, the acids in it, how it is made and the best ways to grind and brew it. Both my husband and I are fairly frugal but after reading that coffee is the worst sprayed crop in the world except for Christmas trees (ever notice how Christmas tree farms have nothing but dead ground around the trees.... yeah, exactly like that!), we made the decision to do this. Also, I now can enjoy and drink coffee every morning without any abdominal pain.
In general, arabica beans make the best cup of coffee. They are more expensive, however, as the Coffea arabica plant is hard to grow and susceptible to pests and disease. What’s more, it needs several years to mature before it will produce cherries. Most arabica beans are grown in South America, particularly Brazil and Columbia, but Africa also produces crops of these valuable beans.
The same holds true for Kickapoo Coffee, whose Ethiopia Kirite also scored 93. Caleb Nicholas says, “About 97 percent of the coffee we roast is certified organic, and we would not have purchased the Kirite if it were conventional. The USDA seal is optional, and we designed the bags to accommodate both organic and non-organic. If we put the seal on it, it would be just another sticker. Instead, we just label the coffee as organic and list our certifier, MOSA.”
In the end, in our opinion, it really comes down to taste. We love trying out different subscriptions while searching for good coffee. It’s easy enough to try a coffee subscription for a few months before and switching to a new company if you want to change things up. When you find one that you really like, settle in with them for the long haul and get ready to enjoy all that wonderful coffee goodness delivered straight to your door.
Our research was then directed towards the price point and determining what classifies as a “cheap” cup of coffee. If you are heading to Starbucks to grab a grande cup of regular coffee, it will put you back $2.10. McDonald’s premium roast coffee will cost $1.29. Dunkin’ Donuts medium coffee is $1.89. Frappuccinos, lattes and mochas will double your coffee cost.
To be honest, my expectations were low for whatever “affordable” coffee Whole Foods might offer, and I was a bit reluctant even to include it under the umbrella of regular grocery stores (despite the company’s recent “Yes, we have sales!” ad campaign), but here I stand both corrected and impressed. 365 Everyday Value is the Whole Foods Market store brand, which markets products fitting the Whole Foods ethos, at least aesthetically—don’t assume it’s organic!—at regular grocery prices. A 10-ounce bag of ground coffee costs $5.99 at the Gowanus Whole Foods in Brooklyn, making it the cheapest bagged coffee here per-unit and decidedly on the cheap end per-pound. Pleasant Morning Buzz is a Vienna roast-style coffee, a dark roast just shy of a French roast style, which gives the coffee a heavy, bittersweet flavor that’s easy to sip on for a black coffee drinker. As a rule, darker roasts do not microwave as well as lighter roasts, and this coffee is no exception—get it while it’s hot or pour yourself a new one.
Now you can have the highest quality coffee through the convenience of your singe serve brewer. OneCups mesh bottoms allow us to package the freshest product possible, just open up one of these bags and smell it for yourself! The OneCup pods are comprised of wood pulp lidding, a corn ring and mesh coffee filter. The end result? A more environmentally friendly, certified kosher, single serve coffee option with a great taste, allowing you to taste the difference, while you make a difference.
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