Coffee Brands Comparison: Is Cheaper Better?
Coffee prices may not reflect flavor, a magazine finds.
Here's good news for Americans trying to save a few bucks at the grocery
store: A recent coffee brands comparison suggests that some types of
inexpensive ground coffee may taste as good --or better -- than higher-priced
For the coffee brands comparison in its March issue, Consumer Reports
magazine tested 13 brands of ground caffeinated 100% Colombian coffee and 6
brands of ground decaffeinated coffee. The magazine rated the coffee on
positive taste attributes (such as earthy, fruity, or nutty) and negative ones
(like woody, papery, or burnt).
Three of the caffeinated brands came out on top with a "very good"
rating. The No. 1 caffeinated coffee, Eight O’Clock Coffee 100% Colombian, was
also one of the most reasonably priced, at $6.28 per pound or 15 cents per
6-ounce cup (using the manufacturer's suggested amount). It beat out brands
like Gloria Jean’s and Peet’s Coffee, which sell for $13-$14 a pound (32 cents
a cup), and which both got "good" taste ratings.
And what could this mean for your pocketbook? If you drink a couple of cups
of coffee each day, choosing a more reasonably priced brew could save you
upwards of 30 cents a day or $9 a month ($108 per year). Consumer
Reports estimates Americans drink roughly 400 million cups of coffee daily.
So by switching from coffee that costs 30 cents per cup to coffee costing 15
cents per cup, we could collectively save $60 million a day.
If you're a decaf fan, you'll be happy to know that the top three ranked
brands all cost less than 20 cents per cup. The No. 1 brand was Dunkin’ Donuts
Dunkin’ Decaf (19 cents a cup), followed by Millstone Decaf 100% Colombian
Medium Roast (14 cents) and Folgers Gourmet Selections Lively Colombian Decaf
Medium Roast (11 cents), all of which got "good" ratings. One of the
more expensive brands, Starbuck Coffee Decaf House Blend Medium, was rated only
According to Bob Markovich, home editor for Consumer Reports, it's no
surprise that even the best decaffeinated coffees couldn’t match the
"The general rule is, when you extract caffeine from the coffee bean
you are also extracting some of the aromatics along with it," he says. And
fewer aromatics in the coffee bean mean less flavor in your cup.
One way to counteract this, he says, is to buy whole coffee beans and grind
them fresh at home. Once you grind coffee, you greatly increase the surface
area, which exposes it to air. This makes it much easier for the aromatics
(flavor) to escape.
For best taste, Markovich suggests grinding your coffee as you need it. He
also recommends buying only a three-month supply of beans at a time.
"Whole beans lose their flavor over time, too," he says.
Here’s a partial listing of the coffee ratings from the March 2009 Issue of