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Best Overall: Stumptown Coffee Roasters at Amazon
The quality and care Stumptown put into its coffee is evident in every sip.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Intelligentsia Coffee at Amazon
Intelligentsia is an award-winning coffee brand that offers a vast array of flavors.
Best for Instant: Mount Hagen at Amazon
Mount Hagen is more expensive than competitors but is far and away the best-tasting instant coffee.
Best for Light Roast: La Colombe Coffee Roasters at lacolombe.com
You can buy several unique flavors, all pre-ground to suit your coffee maker.
Best for Dark Roast: Death Wish Coffee Company at Amazon
An intensely dark blend beloved by many.
Best Budget: Seattle's Best Coffee at Amazon
This bargain brand strikes a balance between cost and flavor.
Best for Espresso: Lavazza at Amazon
Its assortment of espresso blends is among the best you can find.
Best Flavor: Peerless Coffee & Tea at Amazon
Peerless has a wide selection of flavors, so every set of taste buds can find something to enjoy.
Best Variety: New England Coffee at Amazon
There's a coffee for everyone, available in whole bean, ground, and K-Cup form.
Best for Single Origin: Red Bay Coffee at Amazon
Each bag is labeled with the coffee’s roast level, flavor notes, and sourcing region.
Best Sustainable: Counter Culture Coffee at Amazon
It's one of the most ethical coffee brands due to its direct-trade standards and eco-friendly farming.
Best for K-Cups: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters at Amazon
Green Mountain was the first brand to sell its coffee in K-Cup form, and it's still one of the best.
Every coffee lover has a go-to brand. For some it’s the time-tested grocery store stock. For others, a boutique roaster you can only order online. But since we drink coffee once (maybe three times) a day, it's easy to get burnt out sipping the same old cup of joe. Thankfully, the coffee world is vast and varied, and another brand is always waiting to fill your cup.
We've rounded up our favorite options below and broken down what we like, and even dislike, about each one. Categories cover everything from light roast to dark to decaf.
To start every morning the right way, here are the best coffee brands to try.
Best Overall: Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Stumptown is synonymous with the third wave of coffee—a 21st-century rise in small boutique roasters. The Portland-born company crafts several delicious whole-bean varieties, as well as individual bottles of cold brew. Hair Bender is the most popular blend (and the first one Stumptown ever made); its flavor is intricate and unique, teeming with notes of sweet cherry and rich fudge. Other popular options include Holler Mountain, House Blend, and the decaffeinated Trapper Creek.
Stumptown is more expensive than many brands found in the grocery store, but the cost isn't outrageous. Plus, the quality and care put into the coffee is evident in every cup you drink. One issue to watch out for is that some customers who received batches from third-party vendors said the Stumptown coffee was either nearing or past its expiration date. This was not the majority's buying experience, however, and coffee ordered from the brand website remains as fresh and tasty as ever.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Intelligentsia Coffee
Intelligentsia has won numerous awards for its coffee, as well as for the quality of its nationwide cafés (currently 15 locations). The company prides itself on direct-trade practices and highlights the countries and farms from which it sources coffee beans. The connections span the globe, leading to Intelligentsia's vast array of flavors. One of the most popular picks is the Frequency Blend, a medium roast that combines notes of chocolate and dried fruit.
Intelligentsia also showcases its single-origin coffees, a collection that offers flavor gateways into specific regions like Bolivia, Burundi, and more. You can purchase both whole bean and ground varieties, and there are delicious options for espresso, instant, and decaf coffee, too.
Best for Instant: Mount Hagen
Mount Hagen is far and away the most popular brand for high-end instant coffee. Typically sold in 3.53-ounce glass jars, it's more expensive than competitors like Folgers, Nescafé, and Café Bustelo, but the price is reasonable; each jar yields about 50 cups of coffee, which, when broken down, is about 20 cents per cup. Mount Hagen also makes decaffeinated instant coffee. Both varieties can be found in single-serve sticks, great for camping and traveling.
Best for Light Roast: La Colombe Coffee Roasters
With an artisanal touch and direct-trade sourcing, La Colombe is another name associated with the third wave of coffee. You might know the brand for its ubiquitous selection of cold brew and draft lattes, but coffee beans have always been at the company's heart.
It offers seven light roast options with entirely unique flavor palettes. The Java blend has notes of nougat, ginger snap, and blackberry tea, while the Colombia blend is a wild concoction of clementines, cherry soda, and chocolate.
La Colombe is on the more expensive end and typically sold in one size (12 ounces), but if you order off the brand website, you can buy beans pre-ground to the ideal size for your coffee maker, including Moka pots, French presses, and more.
Best for Dark Roast: Death Wish Coffee Company
Known as the world's strongest coffee, Death Wish is an intensely dark (and highly caffeinated) blend beloved by many. But the reason it's a best seller has more to do with taste than caffeine. The coffee is shockingly smooth and flavorful, filled with notes of dark chocolate and cherry.
Death Wish Coffee Company then added a second dark roast to its arsenal: Valhalla Java, an option that's slightly cheaper and less caffeinated but just as tasty. Both blends are available in whole bean, ground, and K-Cup varieties. The company's skull-and-bones insignia also makes for killer merchandise, from coffee mugs to t-shirts.
"As you travel along the roasting levels [from light to dark], you diminish the inherent characteristics the coffee itself has on the cup and increase the impact the roasting process has. So, for example, you might leave unique citrus flavors and get something that has a more general smokiness with darker roasts." — Selina Ullrich, Director of Coffee at East One Coffee Roasters
Best Budget: Seattle's Best Coffee
Budget coffee isn't hard to find. Plenty of dependable low-priced brands line the grocery store aisles. But Seattle's Best strikes a balance between cost and flavor. The company is a little more expensive than names like Folgers and Maxwell House, partially because these brands sell bulk-sized canisters, but customers generally find Seattle's Best to be tastier.
The company makes 10 different ground coffee blends and six different K-Cups for Keurig coffee makers—no whole bean options, unfortunately—all of which are easy to find both in-store and online.
Best for Espresso: Lavazza
The century-old Italian roaster offers everything from coffee for drip machines to K-Cups, and its assortment of espresso blends is one of the best you can find. The Caffe Espresso (also called "Espresso Italiano" on some sites) is a great place to start; it's available in both whole bean and ground, and the mid-level intensity allows fruity and floral notes to shine beneath the traditional coffee taste. Dark roast lovers should check out the more robust Crema e Gusto blend.
Lavazza sells its coffee in bags and tins of several different sizes. Whether you go with an 8-ounce tin or a 2.2-pound bag, however, you can expect Lavazza to come at an extremely affordable price.
"Espresso is a brewing method, not its own type of bean. Any coffee can be espresso if you prepare it as espresso. When people call them 'espresso beans,' they’re basically telling you it’s a dark roast and that it has a solubility targeted toward espresso preparation." — Selina Ullrich
Best Flavor: Peerless Coffee & Tea
While taste is always subjective, there are multiple reasons why Peerless Coffee can be relied upon for a delicious cup of joe. Above all, it's about the care put into each and every bag of beans. The Bay Area company was named Roast Magazine's 2019 Roaster of the Year—a distinction shared in previous years by many of the nation's top boutique coffee brands, including Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Gimme! Coffee, and more.
Peerless Coffee also has a wide selection of flavors, so every set of taste buds can find something to enjoy. The Hawaiian Golden Kona Blend is an excellent option for light roast lovers. Dark Chocolate Truffle will satisfy those with a sweet tooth. And you can find classic varieties like French Roast and Italian Roast. The coffee is sold in bags of 1 pound and 5 pounds. If you order off the brand website, you can get the beans ground to suit your home coffee maker.
Best Variety: New England Coffee
New England Coffee has a blend for everyone. There are traditional varieties like Italian Roast and Colombian Supremo. There are decaf options, K-Cups, and a list of flavored coffees. You can find everything from the dessert-like (most popular being Blueberry Cobbler) to the outlandish (i.e. Maple Cinnamon French Toast).
The company has been around for over 100 years, and it's refreshingly affordable. Depending on the blend, a 12-ounce bag of ground coffee can cost as little as $5.
Best for Single Origin: Red Bay Coffee
The definition of single-origin coffee varies. In some cases, it denotes coffee sourced from a single farm. In others, the coffee beans can come from multiple farms within the same region or country. Either way, the goal is the same: to retain the wonderful flavors specific to certain parts of the world, rather than mixing flavors with a blend from different areas. As a result, single-origin coffee tends to have a stronger, more concentrated taste and come from a more ethical means of production.
An unbeatable place to go for single origin is Red Bay Coffee. Founded in 2014, the Bay Area-roaster sells eight signature varieties, six of which are single origin. (The two that are not single origin are espresso blends that still have rave online reviews and are worth checking out for espresso drinkers.)
One of the company’s most popular single-origin varieties is East Fourteenth, a dark roast harvested in Tanzania that contains notes of blackberries, dark chocolate, and dates. Other top options include Brazilian Cake Lady, which mixes things up with notes of citrus and golden raisin, and King’s Prize, a medium roast grown in the heralded and historic district of Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia. Red Bay products are only sold in whole bean, and each bag is conveniently labeled with the coffee’s roast level, flavor notes, and sourcing region.
"With coffee, I think people lean toward single-origin beans because if they are familiar with the flavor profile of that region then they will get that profile in the cup. It doesn’t always equate to better taste, though. I like single origin because you can trace your coffee back to specific farms and know the farmers are being paid a living wage." — Nigel Price, founder and owner of Drip Coffee Makers in New York City
Best Sustainable: Counter Culture Coffee
Counter Culture was the inaugural winner of Roast Magazine's Roaster of the Year Award, all the way back in 2005. The company has sustained excellence ever since, but it's not just the taste of the coffee that it puts care into. Counter Culture is widely regarded as one of the most ethical coffee brands because of its direct-trade standards and eco-friendly farming. You can even find annual sustainability reports on the company website. Choose from a variety of ethically sourced blends in sizes ranging from 12 ounces to a whopping 5 pounds.
Best for K-Cups: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
With affordable prices and over 25 K-Cup varieties, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is the go-to pod for many Keurig owners. In fact, this was the very first brand to sell its coffee in K-Cup form. You can find timeless favorites like Breakfast Blend and French Roast, as well as a number of flavored options, including Southern Pecan and Wild Mountain Blueberry.
Love coffee but hate the jitters? The company also makes several decaf and half-caf pods. Green Mountain Coffee is easy to find in-store and online, starting at six-count boxes and going all the way up to 100.
"Coffee pods use pre-ground coffee, and it's hard to know how fresh it is. As such, it will usually have a little less flavor than a pot brewed from freshly ground coffee in a high-quality drip brewer. The number one benefit of using a pod coffee maker is convenience." — Patrick Cotter, Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear
Our two favorite brands pioneered the third-wave of coffee, paying special attention to craftsmanship and how beans are grown and harvested. Stumptown Coffee Roasters (view at Amazon) manufactures a number of delicious products, from whole bean coffee to bottles of nitro cold brew. Intelligentsia Coffee (view at Amazon) is an equally trustworthy brand with an array of tasty blends.
What to Look for in a Coffee Brand
Price is always an important factor when deciding what coffee to buy. After all, most people drink a cup or two every single day, so the cost can add up quickly depending on the brand. What does your budget look like? Some prefer spending more on the highest-quality brands, while others don’t mind the taste or even notice much of a difference when it comes to more affordable coffee.
It’s nice to have options with your go-to coffee brand. Not all companies produce the same variety of flavors, blends, and roasts, however. If you think you’ll grow tired drinking the same coffee day after day, see if one of the brands you buy from has any other options that appeal to you.
The regions where coffee beans are sourced from, as well as how they are sourced, can tell you a lot about a brand. Great coffee comes from a long list of countries—Ethiopia, Colombia, and Guatemala, just to name a few of the many, many prominent ones. If a brand doesn’t mention where its coffee comes from, it may be a sign that the beans are of lower quality (although, this is not always the case). There are ways to tell if a brand uses ethical labor practices when sourcing its beans too. Opinions vary on the best set of sustainability guidelines, but labels like “single origin,” “direct trade,” and “fair trade” all indicate that a brand has put care into ethically sourcing its beans.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He often drinks Kicking Horse Coffee (view at Amazon) at home, especially the brand's Kick Ass blend. His cupboard is also stocked with Death Wish Coffee’s (view at Amazon) highly caffeinated and intensely dark coffee grounds for when he’s in need of an extra pick-me-up. To better inform this article, he interviewed various coffee experts and incorporated their insight. The experts are cited below.
Nigel Price is the founder and owner of Drip Coffee Makers in New York City and has worked in the coffee industry for more than a decade. Established in 2015, Drip now has multiple locations.
Patrick Cotter is the Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear. He manages the company's blog, social media, and content pages. Founded in 2005, Seattle Coffee Gear is a retailer that focuses on coffee education.
Selina Ullrich is the Director of Coffee at East One Coffee Roasters. She has worked in the coffee industry for more than 10 years. East One was founded in 2017 and has a café in Brooklyn, New York.