Specialty & Store-Brand Coffees Beat Out Supermarket Standbys in ShopSmart’s Taste Tests

 When it comes to coffee, big names don’t always deliver great flavor. The November 2014 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, highlights results from its taste-tests of whole-bean, ground, and pod coffees in which brews from Folgers and Maxwell House didn’t stand up to offerings from specialty brands including Allegro, Peet’s, and Starbucks.

“These ‘old reliable’ coffee brands also lost out to some of the money-saving store brands from Trader Joe’s and Costco in our taste tests,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “With the price of coffee skyrocketing, that’s great news for shoppers looking for a flavorful and affordable cup of joe.”

The Best & Worst Coffees
For the best tasting cup, ShopSmart suggests using bottled or filtered water when brewing to cancel out any unsavory flavors tap water can leave behind. Below are some “Smart Picks” and misses based on taste tests of whole bean, ground bean and single-serve pod coffees.

WHOLE-BEAN COFFEE

  • Smart Pick: Allegro Organic Continental Blend, $12 per package; 28 cents per cup. A darker roast with a bold flavor and berry and citrus flavors. It’s made with organic beans and has the lowest cost per cup among the whole-bean Smart Picks. Where to find it: Whole Foods Markets.

GROUND COFFEE

  • Smart Pick: Starbucks House Blend, $10.80 per package; 25 cents per cup. The overall flavor is strong, with hints of chocolate and fruit. Like most very dark roasts, this blend has a characteristic burnt note and some bitterness. Where to find it: Starbucks stores, supermarkets, online.
  • Not So Hot: Maxwell House Original Roast. Along with the other ground coffees that scored at the bottom of the list, this brew tended to be flat and lack the complexity of the higher-rated Smart Picks.

POD COFFEE

  • Smart Pick: Peet’s House Blend, $8.58 per package; 85 cents per cup. A darker roast with some sweetness, it has a fuller body than other pods sampled. Where to find it: Peet’s Coffee stores, supermarkets, online.
  • Not So Hot: Folgers Gourmet Selections Classic Roast. The blah flavor and grainy notes of this pod blend put it dead last in ShopSmart’s taste tests.

For the full list of winners and losers from ShopSmart’s coffee taste-tests, along with the best bargain brewers, pick up the November 2014 issue on newsstands now.

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