The world of coffee is a large and complex one, being populated with many types of coffee, various uses and preparation methods, as well as an endless spectrum of consumers and enthusiasts.
Our Top Pick: Koa Coffee
It just so happens that coffee is one of the most widely traded commodity crops in the world and a main export of several counties.
Coffee is also a topic of much debate which sometimes becomes surprisingly heated. For example, there are various opinions about which are the best coffee brands. Never has there been a time when the best flavored coffee has been unanimously named.
There is a lot to learn for those who would like to become coffee experts. The sheer popularity of this drink makes becoming a coffee master a worthwhile pursuit.
The most expensive coffee brands in the world are offered by those who are truely enthusiastic and almost obsessive about it. These brands go far above the call of duty when it comes to growing, harvesting, roasting, grinding, and preparing coffee.
For them, it’s truly an art. Their passion is something that can be tasted sip by sip. So the expense is of little consequence.
Even still, fully experiencing all the greatness that coffee has to offer cannot be done simply by purchasing coffee from the world’s top coffee brands. It’s something that comes with having deep understanding and appreciation for what coffee is all about, so keep reading.
Types of Coffee Beans
It may surprise many to discover that coffee beans aren’t really beans at all, but actually seeds. They’re only called beans because of their appearance.
Coffea, otherwise known as the coffee plant, is a member of the Rubiaceae family. It’s a flowering plant that flourishes in the hot, humid climates of tropical regions.
The list of coffea variations is quite extensive and therefore there are many different types of coffee beans. However, there are only two variations that dominate and complete the coffee market, namely coffea Arabica and coffea Robusta.
Arabica coffee is the most common, as the amount of Robusta used in all the world only accounts for about 20 to 30 percent of all coffee produced. Coffea Robusta is the species of coffee plant less prone to pests and disease, but it’s still considered to be a lower quality bean than Arabica when judged according to bitterness, acidity, and flavor.
Why, then, is Robusta coffee used at all? Economics isn’t the reason. The fact remains that Robusta beans make the best expresso beans, as only Robusta creates that reddish-golden frothy cream expresso is known to have.
Storage & Roasting
Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into having the best coffee beans than just choosing the right type. The best beans are those that are fresh. The best way to store coffee and keep it fresh is to use an airtight container.
Make sure the coffee beans are kept in a dry, dark place.
Still, making great coffee is about knowing how to roast coffee beans properly for the type of coffee to be made. Learning how to roast coffee means mastering the length of time it takes to roast the beans for various strengths. In general the longer the roasting of the beans, the darker and stronger the coffee will be.
Best Ground Coffee
Coffee simply cannot be brewed by way of pouring hot water over whole coffee beans. It just doesn’t work that way, although some have surely tried that approach.
The solution is to take those coffee beans and grind them up, resulting in ground coffee. This exposes more of the surface area of the bean to the hot water in which it is placed, helping to release more coffee particles into the water.
The finer the coffee is ground, the faster the coffee can be brewed. For this reason, the fineness to which coffee beans should be ground is dependent on the brewing method. Course grounds for a slower brew.
It follows that one criteria for the best ground coffee, besides that it must be fresh and appropriately roasted, is that has been ground to a consistency fitting its intended method of brewing. The best tasting coffee not only meets this criteria but extra special care is taken in selecting the beans.
For example, the best coffee for expresso features a perfect blend of both Arabica and Robusta beans. The best Kona coffee does more than just bear the name, but actually comes from the original coffee farmlands in the Kona district of Hawaii, with its volcano-enriched soil, ideal climate for growing coffee, and passionate farmers.
Those who don’t even have time to brew their coffee can opt for instant coffee, but brewed coffee usually has a higher quality taste. Still, one disadvantage of brewed coffee is that some of the grounds, if not handled carefully, might end up in the cup right along with the coffee, making for a less-than-stellar drinking experience.
Best Instant Coffee
Instant coffee is coffee that has been first brewed and later dehydrated, to be re-hydrated at the consumer’s convenience. Commonly used methods of dehydrating the coffee include spray drying and freeze drying.
The greatest benefit of instant coffee is the convenience of it. It’s fast and easy to make instant coffee. Plus, there are no concerns about stray coffee grounds ending up in the cup.
However, some brands of instant coffee just don’t do coffee any justice. They tend to give instant coffee a bad reputation, lacking favor and richness, being bitter, even oily.
The best instant coffee is made with passion and appreciation for what it is about coffee that enthusiasts of the drink have come to rave about. Still, the manufacturers can’t take all the credit or the blame for the way a cup of their instant coffee comes out, as even the best tasting instant coffee can be horrible if not rehydrated properly.
Those who want to use instant coffee and actually get some enjoyment out of it must choose the brand carefully, buying only quality coffee. They must keep the container closed tightly when not in use, storing it away from moisture, heat, and sunlight. Moreover, they must take care to prepare the coffee according to the directions on the packaging.
Best Decaf Coffee
Coffee is a drink that offers several health benefits. It can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, enhances physical performance, and contains several important nutrients, such as riboflavin and pantothenic acid. There are several other great benefits of drinking coffee, but some people simply can’t tolerate the featured caffeine, so they opt for decaf instead.
It’s important to note that decaf coffee isn’t completely without caffeine. There’s still some remaining, however small that amount may be. Those who are severely caffeine sensitive should probably stay away from any type of coffee altogether.
There are actually several methods for decaffeinating coffee, including:
- Roselius process
- Swiss Water process
- Direct method
- Indirect method
- Triglyceride process
- Methylene chloride
- CO2 process
The Roselius process is no longer used commercially, due to concerns about how the chemicals involved negatively impacts human health. Methylene chloride was also quite popular and is still in use, but again, use of this chemical has been reduced, even abandoned by decaffeinators due to concerns about health side effects.
One of the biggest challenges of coffee decaffeination is how to get the most caffeine out without also removing some of the other chemicals in the coffee that helps give it its signature flavor. The best decaf coffee comes from decaffeinators who have found the right balance in this.
Best Organic Coffee
The decaffeination process isn’t the only thing that leaves some coffee drinkers concerned about the potential hazardous toxins and chemicals that might have been added to their coffee during production. There’s also the growing process, with its common use of herbicides, pesticides, and so on, making some coffee drinkers prefer organic.
Organic coffee is only called such when it’s produced without artificial chemical substances, right down to the type of fertilizer used on the plants and the contents of the soil. Certified organic coffee is grown using 100 percent organic fertilizer, and only farms where the soil has remained pesticide-and-chemical-fertilizer free for three whole years are certified as organic.
There are several benefits to drinking organic coffee. Not only is it better for health, but it’s also better for the environment.
The special care that must be taken in growing coffee organically raises expenses for farmers and costs to consumers, but many coffee farmers who’ve tried going organic ended up reverting to their conventional ways due to lack of economic benefit. Sales of organic coffee comprise only about 3 percent of the overall coffee market.
Ultimately, most coffee drinkers judge coffee by taste, and most organic coffee doesn’t taste much different from its conventional counterpart. The fact is that the best organic coffee isn’t just that which is grown according to organic standards, but that for which extra care and attention is also given during its roasting and brewing processes.
Best Grocery Store Coffee
As we already know, those who truly want the best coffee must seek out a specialty provider from which to buy fresh, superior quality coffee beans. They must then master the techniques of both grinding and brewing the coffee because coffee is at its best when it’s the freshest.
That instantly puts most grocery store coffee at a disadvantage. The majority of it is sold as grounds, although most stores also sell whole beans and offer in-store coffee grinding.
There are several different popular brands of coffee that may be found in any given grocery store.
Popular Grocery Store Coffee Brands
- Maxwell House
- Green Mountain Coffee
- Seattle’s Best
Most of those who drink grocery store coffee regularly have a favorite brand that they buy every time.
Whichever brand of coffee is the best is really a subjective matter. For serious coffee lovers, even the best grocery store coffee is simply no match for premium, boutique coffee, which helps to explain the popularity of Starbucks.
Nevertheless, grocery store coffee isn’t without its advantages. For example:
- Consumers don’t have to wait for the coffee to be shipped to them.
- They don’t have to pay premium prices and can still buy coffee that’s of good quality.
Convenience is the main appeal of coffee found in the grocery store. Proof of this is K-cup coffee, invented by the Keurig coffee brand. There may be many imitators on the market, but the best k cup coffee remains that which comes from Keurig’s Green Mountain Coffee brand. Equally impressive is their Keurig coffee makers which use the K-cups. See our Keurig review page to compare Keurig models and find one that is right for you.
How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee
- Use clean equipment
- Start with cold water
- Follow coffee brand’s and coffee machine’s instructions
- Don’t serve in paper or plastic cups to avoid altering the flavour
- Serve and enjoy immediately. Don’t serve coffee that has been kept warm for hours
The best cup of coffee is always the one that best suits the tastes of the person consuming it. Preferences when it comes to coffee are quite diverse among coffee drinkers. Some like the drink dark and full-bodied. They want it strong and rich with a powerful kick of caffeine that they can feel almost instantly. Others want a light brew with just a hint of coffee flavor. There are many different opinions when it comes to what the best coffee really tastes like.
All of this means that learning how to make the best coffee means learning the best way to brew coffee for the intended consumers. Those whose occupations center on making coffee must master the best way to make coffee for each of the different categories of coffee drinkers.
Nevertheless, there are some general rules of thumb to go by when making coffee. For starters, always use clean equipment. Some people are of the misconception that coffee residue left in a coffee maker is a good thing, creating a stronger taste, but it really just leaves the coffee open to being contaminated with harmful bacteria.
When it comes to preparing grocery store coffee, stick closely with the directions provided on the package. However, it’s perfectly fine to add a little more coffee for a stronger brew and a little less for making weaker coffee, but the best approach is to simply find the brand or type of coffee that’s best to the consumer’s tastes.
It’s a good idea to always use the coldest water when brewing in an electric coffee maker. As well, serve the coffee up quickly when it’s freshly brewed and avoid letting it sit in the pot too long.
Popular Coffee Brands
Founded in Waitsfield, Vermont in 1981, Green Mountain started out life as a local store for coffee enthusiasts. It grew and expanded its business nationally.
Meanwhile, Green Mountain nurtured a group of entrepreneurs from Massachusetts who were interested in creating a new kind of single cup coffee brewer, the Keurig.
Green Mountain continued to invest in the Keurig operation and produced companion products: single serve coffee cups, K-Cups, designed to be used by this new kind of coffee maker.
In 1998, Green Mountain closed its retail stores to focus on providing its coffee to a growing list of corporate and private mail-order clients. While it began working with Keurig in 1993, Green Mountain Coffee finally acquired the manufacturer in 2006.
Green Mountain's history as a specialty coffee dealer is still apparent in their products. Their fair trade coffee pods cover a variety of origins and roast styles -- and they taste quite good.
Hailing from Berkeley, California, Peet's Coffee is credited with introducing dark roasts and espressos to the California market. Peets and Starbucks have a complex, intertwined history.
Peet's was the business model for the Starbucks chain, and all of the founders of Starbucks were good friends with Alfred Peet. They even bought their coffee from him for the first year of their operation. Peet's operates a couple hundred retail locations today. Its stores are primarily located in California, with many on or near college campuses.
Peet's beans and K-Cups are available for sale at a number of retailers. Generally, their blends tend to be a bit better than their single origin offerings.
Kona coffee is a specific type of bean, only grown on Hawaii. Koa Coffee started out as a small backyard operation in 1997 and has nearly doubled in size most years since then.
The brand rose to prominence in the early 2000's, winning critical acclaim with its 100% hand-picked Kona beans and heritage blends. Koa roasts in Honolulu and ships its products around the world.
Koa Coffee is sold in a variety of grades. We think that the Estate blends offer the best value because you get beans from the top 3 grades in the bag. This means you get the best taste, but don't pay as much as if you bought only Extra Fancy beans.
Founded in 2008 in British Columbia, Organo Gold offers both instant coffee and brewing cups through its multi-level marketing platform.
Its coffee is infused with Ganoderma, a mushroom used in some traditional Asian medicine. Ganoderma is purported to have a number of beneficial health effects, but there is no modern scientific evidence proving this.
Organo does not sell beans.If you're interested in trying out Ganoderma and seeing how it affects you, give Organo Gold a shot. If you're just looking for instant coffee, however, we'd suggest another brand (like Medaglia d'Oro) or buying a Keurig.
Founded in Turin in 1895, Lavazza is an Italian company that imports coffee from all over the world. It's the seventh largest coffee roaster in the world, with a market share of nearly 50% in Italy.
Lavazza claims it introduced the concept of blending, or combining beans of different specific origins to create a product with a distinctive taste. Lavazza maintains a network of research and training institutions that help to keep it at the forefront of the coffee world.
While some of Lavazza's blends are on the mediocre side, their espresso blends remain unique and excellent. They beans as well as pods and capsules for a variety of specialty coffee machines.
Founded in 1996 in British Columbia, Kicking Horse offers fair trade, organic coffee. They've been operating cafes since 2008 and they're consistently a top seller in Canada. Their above board approach doesn't just stop at fair trade. They were rated among the top 15 workplaces in Canada in 2015.
Kicking Horse offers a number of high-quality blends, but their Three Sisters blend might be a good place to start to avoid going too far outside of your normal preference.
A wholesale distributor of coffee beans, Coffee Masters prides itself on quality. Coffee Masters sources its coffee from the top 3% of Arabica beans. Since 1985, it's delivered beans, syrups and flavored coffees to the US market.
While Coffee Masters blends compete with some of the finest specialty distributors, its flavored roasts are exceptional. Check out their Caramel Kiss infused blend or, if you'd prefer your coffee straight, their Colombian Los Idolos beans.
Timothy's World Coffee
Timothy's World Coffee was a project started by Timothy Snelgrove while he attended business school in Ontario, Canada.
Initially a purveyor of premium roasted coffee beans, Timothy's has since expanded its retail operation to include brewed coffee. Timothy's roasts its coffee in Toronto. Its bean selling business has been acquired by Green Mountain Coffee, while the retail stores are owned separately.
Their beans have fallen off a cliff recently. Some of their most popular products have been discontinued, but their blends still compete with other top premium distributors.
Are you in a bit of a chocolatey mood? Check out Timothy's Mocha Java K-cups.
Death Wish Coffee Company
Created in the mid 2000's as Saratoga Coffee Drinkers, Death Wish changed its name in 2012 as its business model shifted.
The founder, Mike Brown, found himself inundated with customers asking for his "strongest cup of coffee," and began to experiment with his own blends and brews to try to meet this need.
His current formula is a blend of both Arabica and Robusta beans, setting it apart from the competition (which primarily deals in pure Arabica).
Death Wish won a small business contest and earned itself a free ad during the 2016 Super Bowl. SInce then, it's more than doubled in size and has begun to offer its beans for sale through various retailers nationwide.
Death Wish's coffee isn't as good black as a premium, 100% Arabica blend, but it's still quite tasty. It has three times the caffeine per cup of a regular brew.
In other words, one cup of Death Wish will give you the same amount of jitters and energy as three cups of normal coffee.