We are using a Fair Trade certified green coffee, but we do not participate in the Fair Trade system. We have our own program called "Sharing Certified." Check it out here. We are a family of coffee growers ourselves, and we only purchase specialty-grade coffee at a premium over the market from other growers whom we've had decades-long relationships with.
The Sunshine State has its share of interesting new cafes, but this extremely good roaster transcends not only its peers, but also bests the top offerings in many other states in the Southeast, and perhaps beyond. And here we are, still just talking about the coffee—the energy of Panther's cafes, which function as life hubs in a growing number of neighborhoods, from Coconut Grove to Little Haiti, is typically something approaching electric, and never to be missed. Don’t start a South Florida day without a visit to Panther.
Also try The folks at Louisville's Good Folks Coffee prefer to spend their days behind the roaster, and that's fine, because they're doing great work back there—look for their beans at Please & Thank You, a very popular café, bakery and record shop combo with three locations. Up near Cincinnati, in the very old city of Newport, Carabello Coffee is a highlight—check out their Analog Bar, a reservation-only spot for guided coffee tasting.
I really have no major complaints about this coffee, just the particular flavor didn’t suit my fancy. Because it was advertised as having a chocolate undertone I figured it may be a more robust flavor for a medium blend- but that wasn’t really the case. The nutty malt flavor is much more noticeable. But, if that suits your fancy, this option is certainly the right one for you.
Coffee can be compared to wine in terms of flavor because it is also affected by soil, altitude and the region in which it’s grown. The two types of coffee bean options are Arabica and Robusta, but what does this mean? The easiest way to categorize the two is by the altitude in which they grew. Arabica beans are grown in the mountains at an altitude above 2000 feet, while Robusta coffee is found below that, typically on flat plantations.
Café Bustelo is technically the cheapest coffee on this list because it’s sold in both a can and a vacuum-packed brick, but in a can it’s only third-cheapest, after Maxwell House and Folger’s. Unlike the other coffees under consideration, Café Bustelo is espresso ground, which is much finer than drip ground. This, in addition to the dark roast of the coffee beans, makes it a robust sipping coffee. I double-filtered my pour-over to avoid too much coffee silt, but the flavor was undiminished. It tastes like any other coffee made with double the grounds, and is complexly awful reheated. Café Bustelo is truly motor oil coffee, which is not necessarily a mark against it—it’s likely to burn a hole through even the most memorable hangover, and will propel you forcefully into the next two to three hours of your life. This is not for the faint of heart (seriously, I’m having palpitations as I type this) but ultimately is quite drinkable.
In terms of flavor, arabica beans win the prize. They brew a more delicate cup of coffee with slight overtones of berry and a high level of acidity. Robustas have a lot more caffeine – nearly twice as much as arabica beans – but they also have a stronger, more bitter taste that can be a bit harsh. Still, there are high-quality robustas available, and these beans do make a good cup of espresso.
Newman’s Own is a feel-good coffee—it’s organic, all company profits go to charity, and Paul Newman’s little dad-hot cartoon face on the bag grins approvingly at your choices. Its flavor is uncomplicated, and it tastes like the last coffee of the day should taste—a 3 p.m. pick-me-up that tows you calmly to the end of the workday rather than punching you in the eye-bags like a morning coffee needs to. This is the most expensive in the bunch, at $16.46 per pound, and isn’t so far ahead of Green Mountain ($13.32/lb) that it’s worth the splurge on anything but ethical or aesthetic grounds. Moreover, it falls short of Green Mountain in thermal shift and microwaveability: flavor deteriorates in proportion with temperature, and after microwaving dries out the inside of one’s mouth—not a problem if you’re a quick drinker, but sippers beware.
Tiny Footprint Coffee is the world's first carbon-negative coffee company, meaning they make sure to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they emit during the process of importing and roasting their coffee. One of the main ways they accomplish their goal is donating a portion of the proceeds earned from every pound sold to fund reforestation in Ecuador’s Mindo cloud forest. So yeah, this is good coffee, but it's also a lot more than that.
You have the option to enjoy this organic coffee from Honduras. It produces deep rich chocolaty flavor with a clean finish. This coffee impresses you with smooth milk chocolate, with tones of caramel, honey, and cocoa. The roasting is done keenly to bring out the natural flavor aspects and lovely sweetness. It’s Organic certified by CCOF so you can be sure it’s grown without the use of chemicals. The coffee is 100% Arabica, and it’s GMO-free. The pack contains 2 pounds of coffee for several servings.
For the first time we allowed ready-to-drink, cold-brewed, pure black coffees into consideration for the Top 30. Two superb cold-brewed, bottled coffees made the list, the Bird Rock Red Bourbon Honey-Processed Cold Brew at No. 17 (94 points) and the States Coffee Reserve Cold Brew (from a Tanzania single-origin coffee) at No. 21 (also 94 points). For more on the cold coffee trend see our report Cold-Brewed Black Coffees: Quality in a Can.
What is interesting about this blend is the fact that it uses premium coffee beans from all the major regions in the world. So you will get a bit of American, African and Asian flavors in this blend. And they have also managed to harmonize and balance all the flavors well, resulting in a rich and dark roast. We like the fact that Peet’s provides the roast date on the package.
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.
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 have always purchased Equal Exchange whole bean decaffeinated coffee, but decided to try the ground Equal Exchange just to save me time in the morning grinding it and then having to clean the grinder and my husband and I are thrilled with it. It has wonderful full flavor and actually tastes better than the beans I was grinding. I definitely recommend this product.