When it comes to buying coffee to brew at home, I often feel lost. In an ideal world, I buy Stumptown or other great regional roasters. But that habit can get expensive—and that coffee isn’t always widely available in a pinch. We all need a good—or, at least, drinkable—widely available go-to coffee brand, if for nothing else than storing for emergency situations when the good coffee has run out. After all, making coffee at home rather than buying it out is any easy way to save money and cut down on waste from single-use cups.
But supermarket-available coffee can be so, so bad. As someone who has purchased bitter, sewage-evoking coffee more than once, I wanted to find the most affordable, best grocery store coffee options so I could avoid ever making that mistake again. And I found it. The best grocery store coffees are Thrive Market, Peet’s Coffee, and Archer Farm’s, depending on your coffee taste–profile preferences.
For our methodology and the full list of coffees we tasted, scroll to the bottom of the page. First, though, here are the results of the test:
The Best Grocery-Store Coffee for Lighter, Fruity Coffee Lovers: Thrive Market Organic Breakfast Blend
After tasting many coffees that were either completely bland or singed to bitter oblivion, Thrive Market’s coffee was a welcome relief, as it offered flavor that was actually nuanced. “Aroma!” wrote my colleague Joe (note the exclamation point). “Woodsy, dark chocolate. Bright! Finished fruity, with a flavor of raspberry and copper.” Other tasters also noted that this coffee was brighter than the rest, and offered nice fruitiness. The coffee has a relatively thin body, so those who like a rounder, creamier texture might find it lacking It was not so light and thin, however, that it didn’t hold up nicely to a bit of milk—and you could still taste the chocolatey, woody notes through the milk, whereas many coffees lost all distinct flavor when dairy was added. Another bonus: this coffee comes in a 12-ounce bag, and at $8, it’s an incredible deal.
The Best Grocery-Store Coffee for Nutty, Rich Coffee Lovers: Peet’s Coffee, Big Bang Medium Roast
The first time I conducted my taste test of the best grocery store coffee, I left Peet’s out, and commenters were outraged. It turns out, they were right: this is a solid supermarket coffee contender, especially for people who might tend toward a darker roast. Social Media Manager Andrew Spena and I particularly liked this coffee. “I know it’s not true, but I feel like this has a neutral pH balance,” said Andrew. “A little nuttiness comes through once it’s cooled a bit. I could see myself drinking too much of this on accident.” If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. The nuttiness and round body of this coffee set it apart. It had a chocolatey richness and some nice toasty notes. While the Thrive coffee is well-suited to those who like a lighter, fruitier roast, Peet’s is the best grocery store coffee for people who like a rounder, nuttier, creamier, toastier flavor profile in their coffee.
The Best Grocery-Store Coffee for Floral Coffee Lovers: Archer Farms Tierra Del Sol
Archer Farms is Target’s in-house brand. This coffee is organic and fair trade, and I will say that it was one of the more memorable, flavorful coffees. It tasted fruity, floral, and a little acidic. It has a kind of funkiness to it. There were also some notes of bitterness at the end, however, that made me think it was slightly over-roasted, and just a hint of that dirty-water aroma coffees can sometimes have. This is a solid, flavorful option, though, with plenty of nuanced flavor that makes it worth buying when you’re at Target.
What We Were Looking For
To find the best grocery store coffee, we tasted 11 brands commonly found at grocery stores around the country or online. I first conducted this test in July of 2017, but re-tested in 2019, incorporating a few new coffees that we hadn’t tasted in the first round—for example, the coffee from Thrive, which is an online-only grocery store. Epicurious staffers rated the coffees and provided tasting notes. (I myself can be a little forgiving when it comes to bad coffee, so we needed outside opinions.) For every brand, we ordered a medium roast, which was usually “Breakfast Blend” or something equivalent.
In the test to determine the best grocery store coffee, I took into consideration that people have a variety of coffee preferences. Some like a classic French Roast, meaning lots of dark, toasty notes with a full body and robust (slightly burnt, IMO) flavor. More recently, coffee trends have tended toward the lighter, brighter, fruity end of the tasting spectrum, with a fair amount of acid and berry notes. We aimed for a medium roast, which would theoretically appease a variety of tastes and hit in the middle of this spectrum. Still, we picked three different coffees as our favorites so we could cover the spectrum of coffee flavor preferences. In general, we were looking for coffees that tasted nuanced in flavor, not simply burnt or watery. Hints of chocolate, berries, nuttiness, and round, creamy mouthfeel were ideal. We wanted a coffee that would taste good black—and also hold up to added milk.
How We Tested
We used our favorite drip coffee maker, the Bonavita 8-Cup Brewer, to brew all of the beans. We used coffee and water measurements recommended by the Bonavita brewing instructions: 70 grams of ground coffee for the 8-cup machine. We drank each coffee hot, at first black, then with milk added if that’s how the taster preferred their coffee. When possible, I bought whole beans and ground them (we wouldn’t recommend buying pre-ground coffee), but a few of these coffees only come—or are much more commonly found—ground. It’s worth noting, however, that all of our winners were whole bean coffees in this second round of tasting.
Other Coffee Brands We Tried
- Starbucks Breakfast Blend
- Folger’s Classic Roast
- Newman’s Own Organics Breakfast Blend
- Green Mountain Breakfast Blend
- Allegro Coffee Early Bird Blend
- Maxwell House Original Blend
- Eight O’Clock Original Whole Bean Coffee
- Cafe Bustelo Espresso Ground Coffee
Now that you know the best grocery store coffees to throw in your cart when you’re in a pinch (or buy online!), learn our favorite coffee grinder, french press, and drip coffee maker, and never go under-caffeinated again.
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