For most working folks, starting the day with a cup of coffee is as essential as brushing your teeth or combing your hair. It’s an absolute must before you walk out the door. But when it comes to the coffee itself, everyone has a preference. Some people love the bold taste of a dark roast while others like the brightness and acidity of a blonde roast. Others (myself included!) love a good cafe-style drink like these.
Roasts and caramel drizzles aside, some beans just taste better than others. But which beans are actually best? I grabbed a few java addicts and put seven popular brands to the test–the blind taste test, that is. Putting seven medium-roast ground coffees head-to-head, only a few things were sure: we’d get quite the caffeine buzz and maybe find a new favorite brew.
We sampled Caribou Coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts, Eight O’Clock, Folgers, Maxwell House, Peet’s Coffee and Starbucks medium roast coffees, and opted to choose our top three (though we knew it would be difficult). Read on to find out which coffees came out on top.
3. Eight O’Clock The Original
“This coffee has a nice mild flavor but is still a bit bitter.”
Looking at the package of Eight O’Clock medium roast coffee, it promised a sweet, fruity and well-balanced flavor. Tasting it blindly, though, we had a slightly different experience–though not in a negative way! Instead of that advertised sweetness, we got a flavorful coffee that tasted like it had just came out of the roaster. We’d take that!
2. Peet’s Coffee Cafe Domingo Medium Roast
“There’s a nice, consistent flavor here.”
After brewing a pot of Peet’s Coffee, testers commented on the nice, roasted aroma coming from the kitchen. This was the coffee smell many wanted to wake up to in the morning. When it came to taste, the coffee was super smooth with no bitter aftertaste. A few of us detected a slight nuttiness rounding out the full-bodied flavor. We’re buzzed about this!
1. Starbucks Pike Place Roast
“It tastes fancy!”
Edging out Peet’s Coffee by one-tenth of a point was coffee classic Starbucks. Pouring the coffee chain’s popular Pike Place blend, we picked up on the fresh-roasted scent and subtle hint of sweetness. The taste of this brew lived up to its irresistible aroma. We tasted a strong, full-bodied coffee with notes of cocoa and even nuts–all in perfect balance. After the test, a few of us went back for a second cup of our winner.
You get what you pay for.
For the most part, this old saying held true. The less expensive brands, like Maxwell House, didn’t break into our top three favorite coffees. On the other hand, pricier brands, like Peet’s and Starbucks (costing $9.79 and $6.99 respectively), got high praise. These blends were smooth, full-bodied and just plain tasty. Of course, choosing your favorite coffee isn’t just about taste–sometimes you got to go with what you’re comfortable spending.
It depends on what you’re looking for.
We realize that not everyone is a coffee connoisseur. Some people drink coffee just for that daily jolt of caffeine, while others brew a pot to savor every single drop. If you’re in the first camp, the specifics might not be incredibly important. In that case, a good, inexpensive coffee like Folger’s or Maxwell House will serve you well. However, if you’re having company over for brunch, you might want to splurge on one of our higher ranking (and higher priced) choices.
Coffee picks are personal.
While our coffee testers generally agreed on our top and bottom picks, many of us also commented that we preferred the bean we already had stocked at home–whether they were locally roasted or national coffee brands. With so many great coffee roasters close to home and a seemingly infinite amount of varieties at our local grocer, we knew that we barely scratched the surface with this test.
One thing we know for sure, though: every single one of these cups of joe would have benefited from a generous slice of coffee cake.