- Food and Cooking
The Best Coffee Your Money Can Buy
There's nothing like a great cup of coffee
to start off your day on the right foot. Whether you drink one or
several cups each day, taste, aroma and yes, price, all contribute to
whether or not you continue to purchase a specific brand. Although
there is a dizzying array of coffee types and brands from which to
choose, all coffees are not created equal. How to choose the best coffee?
Ultimately, your own taste buds will decide that for you. However,
starting with a little background and a well-reviewed list of brews
will likely make your search not only more enjoyable, but easier on
your pocketbook, as well.
Types of Coffee Beans
There are basically three types of coffee beans: robusta, arabica and kona. Coffees advertised as "100% Colombian" are generally arabica but could also be a blend of arabica and robusta.
These beans are the type from which supermarket coffees are generally made, since they are the least expensive type of bean. Robusta's hardiness makes it easier to grow, and the flavor is more consistent than other types of beans. Its strong flavor and high caffeine levels make it perfect for blended coffees such as inexpensive store brands.
Arabica beans comprise the bulk of coffee beans harvested world wide, despite being more fragile than their robusta cousins. They have more varied flavors, and are also pricier than robusta, with which they are sometimes blended. Most flavored coffees use arabica as the bean of choice.
Grown only in Hawaii, this bean is smaller than robusta and arabica, and much more expensive. Its aroma and taste are exceptional. This type of coffee stands on its own, and is seldom seen offered in a blend.
Top Coffee Picks
Great Coffees to Try
Not satisfied with your current brew? Here are some well-regarded coffee brands to try the next time you are feeling adventurous. Some have been reviewed by reliable sources (including me!) and, for the most part, are moderately priced.
Eight O'Clock Coffee, 100% Colombian
This supermarket brand consistently comes out on top of Consumer Reports' tasting tests. I have had this coffee myself, and agree that it is one of the best supermarket brands out there. CR found that, of 19 brands tested, Eight O'Clock Coffee had the best taste for a very affordable price.
Bustelo and Pilon
These two coffees are my personal favorites. Made from 100% arabica beans, these brands are finely ground espresso coffees that work very well in a regular drip coffee maker. The smooth taste and mouth-watering aroma make these seem like gourmet coffees, but they are priced very similarly to the Eight O'Clock brand. These coffees are becoming more and more available at large chain supermarkets, as well.
A top pick of CoffeeReview.com, this Hawaiian Kona is given top scores for flavor and aroma. This coffee may be worth trying only if you are feeling flush: at nearly $40 per pound, you might want to save this purchase for a special occasion.
Allegro Breakfast Blend
A popular choice at natural supermarkets, RealSimple.com rates this coffee as "fragrant", but seems more impressed by its organic pedigree. Twelve ounces goes for $11, not outrageously priced but not terribly cheap, either.
Newman's Own Organics Nell's Breakfast Blend
Another RealSimple.com pick, priced similarly to the Allegro. I have actually tried Newman's Own once, and it was pretty good (though I don't recall the particular type). A good choice for taste, with the added knowledge that it's organic and that a portion of the proceeds go to charity.
What Else Goes Into a Great Cup of Coffee?
How you prepare your morning cup of joe can influence its taste. Many experts feel that the drip filter coffee maker makes the best coffee and offers the best value. The water you use to make your brew is very important, so if you have heavily chlorinated or sulfured water you should consider using spring water instead. Many coffee drinkers insist that grinding their own beans right before brewing results in the tastiest coffee, but others find that pre-ground, vacuum-packed coffee works just as well. Store your coffee in a cool, dark place; some experts advise against storing coffee in the freezer or refrigerator, since moisture may form and negatively impact the taste.