Iowa's capital ranked as the fastest growing city in the Midwest last year, a trend being driven by the likes of Brad Penna and Nam Ho, young Southern Californians who moved here in search of a lower cost of living and a different pace of life. Their ambitious roaster/café, opened just last summer around the corner from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, is shaking up the city's coffee culture, and the locals—new and old—appear to be loving it. We certainly are.
Many roasters queried us to ask if they could submit coffees they felt confident were farmed without use of synthetic inputs because of their familiarity with the producers. Nevertheless, for this report, we concluded that we needed to stick to reviewing coffees that consumers could be assured were produced under organic conditions using organic protocols. We went so far as to check the organic documentation at the farm level provided by importers for all the coffees we review here.
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This k-cup sampler pack was part of a Black Friday bundle with the purchase of a Keurig coffee maker at an incredible price. Since I bought the Keurig for the work place, I went through the variety of k-cups (2 pods of each variety) kept what were my favorites and took the rest to work. It actually was one the the best varieties in an assortment pack I have seen. I like the dark roasts and this assortment had a nice blend of dark, medium and light/breakfast blends. Was very impressed.
Heat, as always, is an essential factor in coffee drinkability, so my taste tests have included an assessment of the flavor at brew temperature, at room temperature, and after microwaving to return the coffee to brew temperature. Anyone who’s left a fresh, full cup sitting out just a little too long—while changing over a load of laundry, say, or tackling a pet barf emergency—knows the tragic dilemma of the cold cup, too full to top off with hot-from-the-pot coffee, too cold to drink. I am a staunch proponent of microwaving coffee rather than wasting it, though I know many people (my own boyfriend included) might call this the line between cheapness and frugality. After all, if the coffee’s cheap to begin with, what’s the waste? Still, I believe microwaveability is essential to any home coffee, and can indicate whether coffee left on the burner will deteriorate or stay more or less stable, flavor-wise.
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.
Gevaliamay have the prettiest packaging of all the assembled coffees, with a distinctive yellow bag and stylized illustrations fit for an IKEA. Despite its apparent fanciness, Gevalia is widely available in pharmacies and grocery stores, and usually for fairly cheap. A 12-ounce. bag of House Blend was $6.99 at Stop & Shop, making it the cheapest of the non-canned coffees I tested. Perhaps consequently, heat is an essential component to an enjoyable cup of Gevalia, and the taste becomes flat and headachy as it cools. However, Gevalia is the rare coffee that performs well in a microwave, and tastes as good reheated as it does freshly brewed.
The coffee comes well-packaged in a traditional foil-lined bag that seals in freshness. It’s easy to peel open and can nicely be folded shut and secured with clamps that are a part of the package. Great for convenience and storage. The whole beans are nicely roasted and ready to be ground. This particular 12 ounce bag lasted the two of us about 9 days- but we are avid (almost alarmingly so) coffee drinkers. For a typical household I’d assume this bag would easily last 2 to 3 weeks. We tried this coffee with a drip coffee maker, French press, and electric coffee maker. It wasn’t quite dark enough to work with the drip coffee maker and the flavor was very mild and watery when paired with that method. The French press got the best flavor from this coffee and really allowed you to taste the mild nutty flavor. It almost has an almondy undertone. It’s not a sweet coffee and it certainly lacks a ‘punch’ that I appreciate. But it wasn’t bad and I’d highly recommend it for people who want something gentle but flavorful to wake up with.
When you choose the Peak Performance Organic, you can rest with the confidence that you are enjoying the cleanest, healthiest cup of coffee possible. It is a top quality ground coffee that offers a rich taste and a powerful flavor that stays with you for hours after drinking it. The reason behind this being that it is made of high altitude coffee beans from the Guatemalan highlands, a type of coffee that packs you with antioxidants, thus providing an almost therapeutic benefit along with a powerful taste.
If you want the authentic taste of excellent Colombian coffee, Melitta is a great option. They source their coffee beans from small high altitude farms in Colombia and pick only the best quality Arabica beans. The coffee has excellent aroma and flavor, thanks to the European processing employed. This elegant ground coffee provides a full-bodied brew.
That is a lot to ask for a cup of coffee, and not all coffee brands will be able to meet all three criteria. This doesn't necessarily mean the company isn't socially responsible: it is often the case that these designations are difficult to achieve all at once and still produce coffee at the volume and price necessary to satisfy the market. But they are good things to watch for when you compare brands and taste organic coffee.
“My wife and I have tried most of the higher-end, mail-order, and micro-roasters and finally found our go-to coffee. Really a great cup of coffee. We have always liked to freshly grind and brew our coffee, and prefer to use a French press. This coffee is not burned, bitter, or acidic. Not really a dark, dark roast. More of a medium-dark roast. Perfect. Has a slightly nutty, chocolaty, and full-body taste. For overall quality, I would give it four-and-a-half stars — but with this price point, quality, and [the fact that it] is organic, this coffee is a no-brainer.”
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.
While there are some places you can find the best coffee, there are many places that you should definitely not buy coffee from.Where To AVOID:The Grocery store - They often sell low-quality coffee beans with a long shelf life. (The exception here is Whole Foods and other artisan stores, which carry coffee from reputable roasters.)Amazon - Again, it’s the question of freshness. It is often roasted ahead of time so it could be packaged, shipped and stocked in the warehouse. PRO TIP: Even if the Amazon listing says “Fresh Roasted,” it might be 6 months old, as that is fresh in comparison with many of the other store bought beans. Yikes!HOW to Choose The Best Coffee BeansWhat type of coffee should you choose? Sometimes coffee bags are covered in words that don’t mean anything to us.Let’s decipher some of those for you.Arabica beans vs Robusta beansArabica beans are far superior to Robusta in terms of flavor and quality. They can be grown at higher elevations, giving the beans more time to develop their favor.Robusta beans contain more caffeine than Arabica. They are also much more disease resistant and produce a higher yield. That is why farmers still like to grow robusta, even though they sell for a much lower price.Robusta is grown for companies that produce instant coffee and other lower quality, grocery store blends. You probably won’t see a roaster advertising their Robusta coffee. Stay away from it if you love great coffee.Acidity and BitternessDifferent coffees will have different amounts of acid content.Acidity is not a bad thing, as that is what gives coffee its natural flavor. Some people like more, some like less. The acidity present in coffee has more to do with taste as opposed to pH, though many claim acidity in coffee to cause digestive issues.Coffees from Africa are typically characterized by a higher acidity, with fruity or floral tasting notes.Coffees from places like Brazil or Sumatra tend to have a much lower acidity with cocoa and nutty notes.PRO TIP: A big part of it has to do with growing altitude. Coffee's grown at lower altitudes generally have lower acidity level. Read this article if you want to learn more about low acid coffee.
With all of these wonderful coffee subscription services to choose from, how exactly are you supposed to pick the best one? It all comes down to your personal preferences. If, for example, you know exactly what you like, then one of the more limited services may be right for you. But if you like to experiment, you may want to choose services that send you different coffee every month or have many different roasters to choose from.
This is loosely on the quality of storing your beans: if you’re a coffee connoisseur, and you’re grinding away every day, be sure to leave your grinders clean. Coffee oil will gather and taint any new beans that enter the grinder—no matter how fresh, no matter how exquisite—and essentially ruin your experience. When preparing your beans, be sure to keep your machines clean.
Now that we have a better understanding of how complex coffee is, we had to find the best coffee maker to ensure quality control for each brew. We chose the award winning and Speciality Coffee Association of America’s Certified (SCAA) Home Brewer: the OXO – On Barista Brain nine cup coffee maker. This was also the winning machine in our review of the best drip coffee makers.
Yo, products made specifically for mothers are the type of products I get the most hype about. Mommee Coffee was dreamed up during their founder's second pregnancy, because she was tired of having to settle for tasteless decaf and equally tired of feeling guilty when she drank full-caf brews. They design their blends to be safe-to-consume during every stage of motherhood, so they're low acid, chemical-free, fair trade blends that are as caffeinated (or non-caffeinated) as a mom requires: decaf, quarter caf, half caf, and full caf.
“I was never into coffee until I tried Death Wish. It makes drinking coffee an amazingly fun experience. You had me at organic, but the caffeine content is the icing on the cake or the froth on your cappuccino … The flavor, the aroma, the freshness, the caffeine content, the smoothness, and being organic all make drinking this coffee a truly fun-filled experience. I am happy to report that all five members of this household are all now hooked on Death Wish Coffee. It is absolutely superior to all other coffees! We drink it at all times of the day and night. It makes you feel alert and focused without feeling jittery or nauseous, which is amazing since I was always sensitive to caffeine, which is why I never really drank coffee. The roasting process makes this coffee absolutely wonderful … Once you try it, I guarantee you, too, will be hooked.”
First time trying this brand. We've been rotating through various organic whole beans, looking for our "go to". We purchased this one and the "Mind, Body, Soul" whole bean blend and we love them both! The breakfast blend is more robust and the mind, body soul is a bit sweeter. We also use filtered water which we have found allows for better coffee flavor and less tap water (aka, chemical) flavor. We will definitely be buying both again. It's only a 12 oz bag so if you do daily coffee for multiple coffee drinkers, you'll burn through it pretty fast. Need bigger bags!
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.
A. “Fair Trade Certified” means the farmers were paid a fair wage, no forced or child labor was involved in the growing or picking of the beans, the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals was limited, and the coffee plantation practiced sustainable farming methods. You’ll find many brands of coffee certified as Fair Trade, particularly specialty brands. The Fair Trade Certified program is an international program run by TransFair USA.
The Hawaiian Islands are known the world over for beautiful beaches, diverse microclimates, and both active and dormant volcanoes — pretty much paradise, as the cliché goes. Hawaiian culture is both uniquely American and, in many ways, happily incongruous with mainstream American culture. One island in particular, Hawai’i Island (often called the Big Island), produces […]
A weekend morning, or at least part of one, spent in the lobby of the Dean Hotel, which is where you will find the very best coffee shop in the coolest big city in New England right now, is always time well spent. Look for these guys at the RISD Museum, too, where they've recently partnered with the school on the excellent Café Pearl. Easily one of the most memorable multi-roaster operations between New York and Boston.
The successful, too-elusive combining of expertise and service is what sets this roaster apart from Nashville's impressive pack. A knack for experimentation doesn't hurt, either; these fellows were early adopters, for example, of the flash-chilling method for cold brew. One thing they've opted out of is over-retailing; right now, you'll find just the one café, over in downtown-adjacent Germantown. It's a good one, though, functioning almost as an all-day hang, with proper food and an evening happy hour. (Often, this sort of thing doesn't work. Here, it does.)
The coffee is great and the staff is lovely. Would definitely recommend trying oat milk in any of their drinks - especially the iced latte. I'm bummed they no longer serve their spring roles because those were a great grab-and-go option. They do have an ample assortment of pastries, though! If you're there in the morning there's always a selection of cookies, scones, muffins etc.
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 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.