There were two surprises at the bottom of our list, Starbucks and Maxwell, which ranked lowest for brands you know, as well as our overall list. These two coffee giants both received bad scores in taste and finish categories. Comments included “overly acidic,” “slightly burnt” and “basic.” Both costs were below average per ounce. Maxwell was the least expensive coffee that we tested at $.23 and Starbucks ranked in the middle at $.55.
Kim Westerman is a licensed Q-grader, a longtime food, wine and travel writer and a certified sommelier. Her work has been published in the New York Times, Forbes, the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Area Bites, and many other publications. She happily brings her sensory training in wine to the evaluation of coffee in Coffee Review’s Berkeley lab. She also handles communication with roasters and review logistics.
The K475 is one of the most expensive K-Cup Pod Single Coffee Makers from Keurig. Coming in a bit more expensive than the K250 model (which is slimmer and doesn’t have a digital screen) and quite a lot more than the K55 model, which is currently a best seller on Amazon. So, while we were testing the K475, we were always asking ourselves: is it worth the money?

On the flip side, if you suffer from headaches, stomachaches or toothaches after drinking your morning cup of joe, you might want to switch to a low-acid coffee. It's much easier on your body, and it won't damage your teeth enamel or irritate your stomach lining. Just remember that the pH scale goes backwards, so lower pH levels mean higher amounts of acid. This means that a low-acid coffee would actually have a higher pH level than other brands.
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.
Formerly a multi-roaster subscription, Moustache is now roasting everything in-house to maximize freshness. In fact, they go from beans in the roaster to a box in the mail within about 5 hours – which is pretty darn impressive. Another thing we like about Moustache is that they are working top-notch importers and sourcing over 70 different kinds of coffee so you could join the weekly plan and never get the same coffee twice in a year. That’s a sampler’s paradise!
Organic certification at the farm level is overseen by various regional agencies, but, unlike sellers of organic vegetables, who don’t need further certification to sell organic produce, coffee roasters must also be certified in order to legally sell coffee that is labeled “organic.” Roasters must supply the certifying agency (different in each state) with certification paperwork from the farm and importer, as well as undergo annual inspection to ensure that organic coffees are handled in areas separate from non-organic, in much the way Kosher food is certified. This process involves both a one-time application fee and an annual inspection fee, fees that many small-scale roasters complain they cannot afford.
Most of the beans touted on this list are whole bean; you must grind them yourself or go to a coffee grinder. While inconvenient for some, the benefits of buying whole bean are plentiful. When you grind the beans daily it releases oils, keeps them fresh, and it allows you to chose the coarseness of the grind. A coarse grind will not capture as much flavor profile as a fine grind. The difference in the grind denotes an espresso from a Turkish coffee or latte for example.
Lastly, we’ve got Ethical Bean Coffee Sweet Espresso. Guilt-free coffee at its finest. This company was found in Guatemala back in 1999 and it's main focus has been investing into local farmers and their communities so those farmers produce the best product out of sheer joy and happiness. As they say, fair trade is not only a marketing slogan for this company, it is an integral part of its entity. 
The next step in the quest for a quality cup of coffee is roasting. The roasting process heats up the beans at temperatures of 230 degrees Celsius; neutralizing the extreme unpleasant flavor profiles of the bean. The newly roasted bean offers nutty, smoky, or spicy flavors. The length of time that the bean is roasted determines the flavor profile and caffeine content. Beans roasted longer have a shiny black appearance and they boast a bitter and bold taste. Also, they are noted by an oily feel. Light roasted beans, which are roasted for a shorter length of time, tend to be sweeter, smoother, and even floral in flavor. If you prefer a lighter smooth taste, you will defer from bolder, darker roasts of equal of even better quality.

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 organic movement is fueled in large part by consumers’ health concerns. People are understandably wary of consuming agricultural poisons along with their fruits and vegetables. With coffee, however, the health issue is less persuasive than it is with many other agricultural products: apples or strawberries, for example, which we consume whole and often raw. We do not consume the fruit of the coffee tree. Instead, we strip the fruit off and compost it, retaining only the seed, which we then dry, roast at very high temperatures, grind, and soak in hot water. Subsequently we throw away the dried, roasted, ground seeds and drink the water.
French press - French press coffee involves "pressing" your coffee grounds to the bottom of a container instead of filtering them the traditional way. While you can use any type of bean to make your grounds, there are certain roasts and coarseness levels that work best with a French press, so you'll want to do some research before you start experimenting.
Cameron’s organic whole bean has greatly grown in popularity because of specialty coffee it gives that is rich in flavor. They only choose most flavorful Arabica beans from all over the world. They are then blended and roasted carefully in small batches before they are being rushed to consumers for them to enjoy the truly wonderful cup of the coffee. Some of the finest plantations where Cameron sought its coffee beans from include; Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico, Sumatra, Jamaica, and Columbia. This coffee guarantees that it complied with meeting the strict environmental standards and most of their organic varieties are grown and processed without the use of herbicide, pesticides, or chemicals.
On the other side of the caffeinated spectrum, the Canadian brand, Kicking Horse Coffee has been creating organic, Fair Trade coffee for several decades now. Proud of their place of business, they roast these premium beans to perfection, three-thousand feet above sea level, near the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River. Whether it’s the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains or the altitude, something about their process delivers incredible flavors.
“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.”
This K-cup is compatible with all Keurig coffee machines. It is made using beans that have been grown in lands at high altitude. This means that the coffee is denser, and it is also more potent in terms of the antioxidants that it contains. Best of all, there is a satisfaction guarantee from the manufacturer. If you are unhappy in any way with this coffee, you can have it returned and you will be given an unconditional refund.
For a mild roast that is something on the wild side, try out their Super Crema Blend, which is great for drip coffee or espresso. It’s packed with atypical notes of honey, fruit, and dried almonds, making it fall on the medium side of the spectrum but with more taste than a typical Folgers pack, by far. Over 120 years of dedication to the art of coffee can’t take coffee lightly.
“This is a very good-tasting coffee and seems quite fresh. For a dark roast, it has a milder taste, which has grown on me to the point that I know I will continue buying this bean. Having a milder taste might also have something to do with the way it is roasted, as there is no bitter flavor at all. I love this coffee, and you cannot beat the price for a two-pound bag.”
When Four Barrel veterans Tim & Elisha Griffin opted out of San Francisco, they landed in Fargo, where their small shop (handed over from a previous owner) quickly rose through the ranks in a city already mindful of the benefits of a solid cup of coffee. Right now, they're working with Heart, out of Portland, but rumor has it they'll be roasting their own soon, not to mention moving to a larger location in Fargo's happening downtown.
I discovered this coffee while on vacation; it is served at Two Cats Restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine. I really enjoyed the flavor and smoothness of that first cup with my breakfast. The second cup seemed even more flavorful, robust without an acidic aftertaste. When I got home, I ordered some online. I have it daily now: fresh ground, hot, and black. Finally, a dark roasted coffee with a smooth flavor that satisfies. And I like the fact that it is a product that is not only organic but also gurantees the growers a fair price. Over the years I've paid quite a bit more for premium coffee beans. I consider this coffee to be moderately priced, which makes it a tremendous value.
ChesterVKeurig is probably the most expensive crap on the market, as far as non-gourmet goes. I've had plenty of their flavored coffees and I have never tasted anything from them except PLAIN coffee. I even got a box of Gloria Jean (not knowing Keurig bought them out) Butter Toffee, and although it has a SLIGHT toffee smell, it tastes like plain coffee. I am ashamed that Dr Pepper lowered the quality of Gloria Jean coffee when they bought them, because I love Dr Pepper and I loved Gloria Jean. And Keurig is a waste of money, plain and simple. I've had a lot of "generic" and "no-name" brands that have more taste and are more fragrant that these big brand names. I've found that the Victor Allen brand of coffee from Big Lots is probably the best I've had so far, for plain and flavored coffee pods. And depending on the time of year and the sales they have, I can get a 24 count pod box for about $12.00-$15.00. Which is a heck of a lot cheaper than the $20.00-$40.00 boxes of 12-16 pods that the big names have. Better flavor, better aroma, better taste, and a lot less expensive..........guess which one I buy?

Coffee Bean Direct comes in a package well-above the average size of the others in our review. Offered in a 5lb bag only, Coffee Bean Direct is able to sell high-quality beans at a lower price. No wonder it was neck-and-neck with our number one pick when it came to Cost. While it’s an extremely popular choice on Amazon, it fell behind the others on Performance due to a lower Amazon rating.
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.
In two pound bags, the coffee from Honduras is made from 100% Arabic beans and certified organic by CCOF. It is free of GMO. These are whole beans roasted to a medium dark for chocolatey and rich flavor, with low acidity. The body is described as like velvet. Many customers enjoy the full bodied flavor of this coffee and consider it to be excellent, and in one case “insanely good”.
"I know this is the most basic version of a coffee maker, but I love it. It’s easy to use, easy to clean, and isn’t too complicated for someone who isn’t picky about their coffee. I make two of the large options, let them cool, and then pour them over ice for iced coffee. Plus, you can get K-Cups in practically every brand of coffee. My regular pick is Starbucks' K-Cups."
You need to buy the right road that’s going to suit your palette, but that’s not going to do you any good if you can’t store them in a proper location. You need to maintain proper temperature control and oxidization. It also depends on how tightly-packaged your beans were upon arrival; sometimes, it’s not in your hands. That’s why you need to go with a supplier that you trust, someone who has your best interest at heart when it comes to maintaining integrity and flavor.
This famous roaster is trying to change the game of specialty coffee. Blue Bottle is all about customization and gives you full control over your coffee choices. As a part of their subscription, you can choose what coffee you want and how much of it you want. You can select a half bag, single bag, double bag or even a triple bag and have it delivered every week, two weeks, three weeks, or once a month. If you want full control over what you get and how often you get it, Blue Bottle is the way to go.
Death Wish Ground CoffeeDeath wish ground coffee is the world’s strongest coffee that is insanely strong, dark, flavorful and highly caffeinated. The special blend of beans of death wish ground coffee is effectively inspected before and after a roasting process to ensure that there is proper roast consistency and bean density. Their coffee is normally roasted with a state of art equipment to make sure that there is quality and consistency. Actually every aspect of the coffee from death wish ground is optimal for giving strong, robust, and flavorful brew you can enjoy every time you take. They have fair beans trade and are certified organic.
On the other hand, the appearance of certain coffees on our list also suggests the value of continuity and tradition in processing. All four Kenya coffees in the Top 30 were subject to the meticulous Kenya variant on wet-processing that has been helping produce consistently great coffees in Kenya for decades. The two Sumatra coffees owe their distinction in great part to refined application of the decades-old “wet-hulling” process still largely unique to Indonesia, particularly to Sumatra. See our 2016 report Learning from Sumatras for more on wet-hulling and sensory distinction.

The Ethiopia Amaro Gayo Natural roasted by Ben’s Beans (92) happens to be certified organic, but co-owner Glen Lundstrom is willing to purchase quality coffees that are farmed organically but do not have certification if his trusted importers recommend a particular coffee. He says, “We are looking for coffees that are grown and processed free of any sort of chemical intervention. We specialize in certified organic coffees because this provides our customers with a level of confidence that the coffees are grown and processed using healthy and sustainable practices.  However, we also realize that, because many of these coffees come from smaller farms, organic certification is not always an economically viable option, even though [the farmers] may grow and produce the coffees using the same practices as a certified farm.  That is why we rely heavily on our import partners to provide us with background information on the farms and processors of any coffee we purchase.”

Café du Monde, like Chock Full o’ Nuts, is as much a stylistic choice as a gastronomic one, and both require a deep well of cultural identification to stomach on a regular basis. Chicory has historically been used as a coffee substitute as well as a flavoring agent, and chicory coffee in the US is closely associated with New Orleans coffee culture. Café du Monde is named for an actual coffee stand in New Orleans that has been in operation since the 1860s, and may be the best-known domestic producer of chicory coffee, if not the only one. The iconic marigold can includes a recipe for café au lait, the traditional chicory coffee drink sold at the IRL Café du Monde; given the parameters of this coffee taste-test, and the practical concerns of an at-home coffee drinker without the ability or desire to boil milk every morning just to stomach their coffee, I drank it black. This may have been a mistake. The flavor of chicory is interesting, and even initially enjoyable, but the romance was gone for me after about two minutes. I had a similar physical reaction to Chock Full o’ Nuts, my face contorting involuntarily into what I feel compelled to call a Chicory Frown. This worsened as it cooled, but cold black chicory coffee is nothing compared to microwaved chicory coffee. After a single sip I poured it out in the sink. Chicory has its devotees, but I fear the taste is not one I can acquire.


Our trusty testers rated this coffee a 7.55 out of 10 on our overall testing scale. In the aroma category the coffee scored a 7.60 and received the most 10’s out of any coffee we tested. Those who like strong black coffee rated the aroma low with the thought it was going to be “fruity” or “weak,” but were pleasantly surprised with the taste. The coffee finish rated highly as well at 7.80 out of 10. Tasters specifically noted the caramel finish. Most guessed incorrectly that this was a Medium coffee roast.
Organic certification at the farm level is overseen by various regional agencies, but, unlike sellers of organic vegetables, who don’t need further certification to sell organic produce, coffee roasters must also be certified in order to legally sell coffee that is labeled “organic.” Roasters must supply the certifying agency (different in each state) with certification paperwork from the farm and importer, as well as undergo annual inspection to ensure that organic coffees are handled in areas separate from non-organic, in much the way Kosher food is certified. This process involves both a one-time application fee and an annual inspection fee, fees that many small-scale roasters complain they cannot afford.

We couldn’t have a cheap coffee article without mentioning McCafe coffee! Rounding the top three, McCafe medium roast scored well among known coffee brands, but ranked seventh in our overall tasting list. Homebrewing this cup of coffee will only set you back $.50 per ounce, very reasonable and below average in cost. Our testers were split if this was either a medium or dark coffee, but either way it ranked well on quality. Our tasters also liked the balanced nature of this brew and included comments such as “bitter, but smooth” and “acidic, but fruity.”

Also try One of New York's (we're talking about the state now) closely guarded secrets: its less sought-after cities can be pretty great, and certainly for coffee. The gorgeous Tipico would be the envy of any town, but it belongs to an up-and-coming Buffalo neighborhood; in Rochester, the pop-up gone brick and mortar Ugly Duck is just one bright star on that city's long-running scene. Meanwhile, in Utica, perhaps the last place you'd expect to find something so up to date, Character Coffee is a multi-roasting outfit with a whole lot of appeal.
Evaluated as espresso. Complex, juicy, richly tart. Almond, dark chocolate, guava, tangerine zest, star jasmine in aroma and small cup. Light, very silky mouthfeel; chocolate, fruit and flowers all carry into a cleanly sweet, delicately drying finish. Flavor-saturated in three parts milk: almond, chocolate, guava, flowers all resonate in rich, custardy balance.
This K-cup coffee stays true to its name – it is really good. It is made using organic Arabica coffee beans grown in Sumatra and South and Central America. It is also a good thing that it is in a variety pack, allowing you to experience different flavors, which include French Roast, Donut Shop, and Breakfast Blend. Lastly, if you are looking for organic biodegradable K-cups, it is also worth looking at this product since it is made with a recyclable packaging.
“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.”

The K475 is one of the most expensive K-Cup Pod Single Coffee Makers from Keurig. Coming in a bit more expensive than the K250 model (which is slimmer and doesn’t have a digital screen) and quite a lot more than the K55 model, which is currently a best seller on Amazon. So, while we were testing the K475, we were always asking ourselves: is it worth the money?
×