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The Grocery Store Coffee Taste Test: We Tried 15 Brands and Ranked Them - My Morning Cup

The Grocery Store Coffee Taste Test: We Tried 15 Brands and Ranked Them - My Morning Cup
From The Kitchn - October 5, 2017

As Americans become more sophisticated about their morning cup of joe, the coffee aisle at the grocery store is expanding. Now there are single-varietal beans alongside those tubs and cans your grandparents drank, but with all that choice comes the dilemma of what to buy.

To help you zero in on your perfect cup, we sampled 15 of the most readily available coffees usually found at supermarkets nationwide and ranked them.

How We Picked and Brewed the Coffee

There are a lot of brands, and a lot of variety even within those brands, so we narrowed the playing field by choosing only dark roast beans, and pre-ground whenever possible for consistency.

Although some brands recommend using one tablespoon of ground coffee for six ounces of hot water, that is never, ever enough. Two rounded tablespoons is the way to go, and that's the measurement we used across the board. To ensure consistency, we used a digital scale to measure the grounds (13 grams of coffee per cup), a temperature-controlled electric kettle for the water (205F), and a metal pour-over filter. Here's how they stacked up.

The Grocery Store Coffee Taste Test

In order from worst to best, here's our grocery store coffee ranking. Note that I tried to link to the correct coffee on Amazon for purchase, but it's not always an exact match.

15. Yuban, $18 ($.41/ounce): This was a slightly lighter roast than the other tubs, because that's all we could find. Lighter roasts usually yield more complex and discernible flavor and aroma notes, but that was not the case with this one. The smell of latex paint was detectible from the moment we opened the tub, and only got stronger with brewing. Overall, we do not recommend this coffee.

14. MJB, $12 ($.53/ounce): Save for the whiff of latex paint (again), there was very little aroma when unsealing the tub. And it brewed up slightly sour with wet paper and woody pulp as the most pronounced flavor characteristics.

13. Maxwell House, $6 ($.2/ounce): You can sum this one up with two words: bitter and burnt. Throw in some creamer and it would likely go down just fine, but I still felt like I was standing in a freshly painted room while I was drinking it. We are not sure where these chemical notes are coming from, is it off-gasses from the plastic tub, or something related to how the beans are processed? Either way, we are not in favor.

12. Folgers Classic Roast, $8 ($.21/ounce): If you like classic "diner" coffee (think: mild and balanced, but forgettable), then you are going to like this tub of coffee. There were faint chocolate notes in the aroma, and no disconcerting latex paint notes.

11. Caf Bustelo, $5 ($.46/ounce): The bright-yellow tin (or vacuum-packed brick) of "espresso" is a staple of corner bodegas, and for good reason: For inexpensive coffee, it's really not bad. Although it's not very complex, it gets the job done. It's simply dark, bold coffee, heavy on bitter notes, which is why it's no surprise that it's traditionally consumed Cuban-style with ample sugar. If you are on a budget and need a really strong coffee to stand up to the sugar and cream you want to throw at it, this one's for you.

10. Gevalia Kaffe French Roast, $6 ($.54/ounce): The aroma was harsh, but the coffee brewed up relatively smooth at first, with a bitter finish and a hint of toasted almonds. This would have been a decent cup of coffee if it were not for the discernible chemical notes.

9. Seattle's Best 6th Avenue Bistro, $6 ($.48/ounce): Starbucks in Seattle and Peet's in Berkeley seem to have defined the West Coast roast as unabashedly bold and bitter. Well, Seattle's Best seems to have taken that style even further. Although we appreciated the toasty-buttery notes of graham crackers or caramelized baked goods in the aroma, the overwhelming bitterness made the coffee simply taste burnt. There was some nice acidity on the finish, though.

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