Whether you enjoy the occasional cup during the day or practically live off the stuff, coffee is a staple beverage for a huge number of people across the globe. Buying the right coffee can mean the difference between a truly delicious cup of joe and one that is better poured down the drain.
Read this guide to find out all you need to know to choose the best coffee. Our top choice is Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend. These ground beans retain their freshness to bring you a bold, full-flavored coffee.
Considerations when choosing coffee
The two main types of coffee beans are arabica beans and robusta beans, each coming from a different species of coffee plant.
Arabica beans are primarily grown in South America, though some are grown in parts of Africa. They're generally considered to produce the best coffee, but they cost more money since the beans take longer to grow and the plants have more issues with pests.
Robusta beans are grown in Africa and Indonesia. They tend to have a harsher taste than arabica beans, so they are less highly prized. However, they can (as the name suggests) add some robust notes to coffee blends and quality robusta beans often taste better than low-quality arabica ones. Still, we recommend opting for arabica beans since they're more consistent in their quality.
When selecting a coffee, choose between whole bean, ground, and instant -- it's a case of balancing taste and convenience. Whole bean coffee generally produces the best-tasting coffee, but you must grind the beans yourself, which not everyone has the time or inclination to do. Ground coffee cuts out the grinding process, but it isn't as fresh so it loses some of its flavor. Instant coffee only needs to have hot water added to it, which is extremely simple, but the coffee can taste harsh and bitter and is best avoided unless you're extremely pressed for time.
You can find coffee in light, medium, medium-dark, and dark roasts. Light roasts have a mild, low-acidity flavor but are high in caffeine. As you move toward the darker end of the scale, you get a fuller flavor but lower amounts of caffeine.
Despite the name, decaffeinated coffee still contains small amounts of caffeine. Decaf tends not to taste as good as standard coffee, but it provides an option for those sensitive to caffeine.
Packs of coffee can cost anywhere between $5 and $50, depending on the quality and the package size. It's often easier to compare the price per ounce, since package sizes vary so much -- this may be anywhere from 25 cents to $2 per ounce.
Q. Should I choose fair trade coffee?
A. If you buy fair trade coffee beans, it means the farmers have been paid fairly for the coffee they grow, which helps to alleviate poverty for farmers living in developing countries. However, the fair trade isn't always as fair as it sounds. If you want to buy goods which as few people as possible have been exploited to produce, buying Fair Trade Certified coffee is a decent place to start.
Q. How do I keep my coffee fresh?
A. Once opened, coffee beans and ground coffee are not longer protected by their sealed packaging. To keep them fresh and get the best flavor possible, keep them at room temperature in an airtight container. Ideally the container should be opaque, but this doesn't matter too much if you store them in a dark spot such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet.
Coffees we recommend
Best of the best: Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend
Our take: This extremely popular coffee is a huge fan favorite, with enthusiasts stating it tastes better than more expensive fancy coffee brands.
What we like: Full-flavored dark roast with a rich taste and excellent aroma. Conveniently pre-ground. Made using responsibly sourced beans.
What we dislike: Fine grind doesn't work with some French presses.
Best bang for your buck: Folgers Classic Roast Ground Coffee
Our take: This affordable medium-roast blend might not be for fans of gourmet coffee, but it makes a great standard cup of joe.
What we like: The plastic canister keeps coffee fresh without the need for an additional container. Classic, balanced flavor for people who like their coffee simple.
What we dislike: It doesn't have that "wow" factor.
Our take: If you prefer to grind your own beans, this is an excellent option with a mild and creamy flavor.
What we like: There's nothing basic about the mellow honey and almond notes. Made by a premium Italian coffee manufacturer. Great for use with espresso machines.
What we dislike: Some users report receiving out-of-date beans.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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