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. Luckily, the coffee world is vast and varied, and another brand is always waiting to fill your cup.
Best Overall: Stumptown Coffee Roasters
Often adds new products
Generally easy to find in stores
Unique, well-crafted blends
Tends to be pricey
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 are 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.
Price at time of publish: $16
Founded: 1999 | Headquarters: Portland, Oregon | Coffee Shops: Yes | Direct Trade: Yes | Subscriptions: Yes
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Intelligentsia Coffee
Many single-origin options
Transparent sourcing information
Any grind size available on brand site
Tends to be pricey
Intelligentsia has won numerous awards for its coffee, as well as the quality of its nationwide cafés (there are 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.
Price at time of publish: $21
Founded: 1995 | Headquarters: Chicago | Coffee Shops: Yes | Direct Trade: Yes | Subscriptions: Yes
Best for Dog Lovers: Grounds & Hounds
Organic, eco-friendly, and small-batch roasted
Helps support rescue initiatives and other causes for dogs
Fun mugs, apparel, and dog merch
We can't say anything bad about a company that helps dogs
Coffee and dogs—two of the most important things in life. Grounds & Hounds, currently celebrating its ninth anniversary, offers a large selection of 100 percent Arabica light, medium, dark, espresso, and decaf coffee via grounds, whole beans, single-serve pods, and cold brew pouches. Standout flavors include chocolate peanut butter, glazed donut, and Madagascar vanilla, while others feature dog-themed titles, such as Good Boy, Belly Rub, Sit & Stay, and Morning Walk.
The company kindly sent us a bag of its Birthday Blend (French vanilla, Funfetti cake, and buttercream) as well as its Anniversary Blend (brown sugar, toasted walnut, and honey), which are both medium roasts, and we're happy to report that they were both really, really good. Mornings typically call for cold brew here, but these two blends made us dust off the old French press, and we don't plan on putting it away again any time soon.
OK, so the coffee is delicious, which is great, but here's the best part: 20 percent of all Grounds & Hounds profits go to rescue organizations working to give pups in the U.S. and South Korea a second chance and into a loving home. So far, the brand has supplied more than 18,500 toys and 3.3 million meals to shelter dogs, 16,250 vaccines for dogs in need, 885 spay/neuter surgeries, and 3,400 microchips.
If you buy the $16 Rescue Roast Blend specifically (a medium-roast whole-bean or ground coffee with notes of caramel, dark chocolate, toasted pecan, and red currant), 100 percent of proceeds are donated to a new organization every month. For example, at the time of this writing, it goes to Marley's Mutts and will help rescue more dogs, provide professional training for them, and offer therapeutic services to the community.
Once you're all stocked up on coffee, don't forget to check out the merch. There's apparel (including baby onesies!), brewing gear, and super-cute drinkware featuring all sorts of sayings and breed designs spanning mugs, travel tumblers, and a particularly adorable cold brew glass (here's another equally adorable version). There is, of course, also stuff for your four-legged friend, including coffee-themed toys, travel water bowls and bottles, collars, bandanas, and more. This is a really fun brand with great coffee that you can feel good about supporting.
Price at time of publish: $12-$19 depending on flavor
Founded: 2014 | Headquarters: Los Angeles | Coffee Shops: No | Fair Trade: Yes | Subscription: Yes | Rescue Organizations Supported: Beagle Freedom Project, The Sato Project, Animal Friends, Austin Pets Alive, Nashville Humane Association, Heartland Animal Shelter, and many more
Best Vietnamese: Copper Cow
Available at most major retailers
Farmers are paid two times the market rate
Free shipping over $30
High caffeine content may be too much for some
Vietnamese coffee—typically made with beans grown in volcanic soil in the Central Highlands of Vietnam—is a strong but sweet dark coffee brewed using a slow-drip pour-over maker and served with sweetened condensed milk. Copper Cow, a fair-trade certified and women-owned brand, sources its supply from the region's town of Dalat and pays the farmers two times the market rate.
Each blend features 70 percent Robusta and 30 percent Arabica beans that pack an astonishing 238 to 272 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce cup. The decaf, however, has just 5 milligrams. The brand only uses all-natural ingredients, too, so you won't find any artificial flavorings or sweeteners. Just ground herbs and spices. The universal grind size is good for all methods of brewing, too—even cold brew (just steep the grounds for 12 hours).
While Copper Cow is a bit more expensive than some of the other coffees on the list costing $17 per bag for ground coffee and $16 for a box of eight single-serve pour-over bags (no additional equipment needed!), the delicious taste brings barista-quality coffee right into your home. Flavor options include salted caramel, vanilla, and lavender, while creamers offer delectable choices of hazelnut, mocha, and milk and sugar. The brand also offers options for tea—Thai, chai, and matcha—as well as latte kits and sampler bundles.
Price at time of publish: $17 per bag of ground coffee, $16 for 8-count pour-over single-serve bags, $8 for 8 creamers ($20 for 25-pack of creamers)
Founded: 2017 | Headquarters: Los Angeles | Coffee Shops: No | Fair Trade: Yes | Subscription: Yes
Best for Instant: Mount Hagen
Better taste than most instant coffee
Generally easy to find in stores
Pricier than most instant coffee
Mount Hagen is far and away the most popular brand for high-end instant coffee. Typically sold in 3.5-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.
Price at time of publish: $37
Founded: 1986 | Headquarters: Hamburg, Germany | Coffee Shops: No | Fair Trade: Yes | Subscriptions: No
Best for Light Roast: La Colombe Coffee Roasters
Transparent sourcing information
Any grind size available on brand site
Often adds new blends
Harder to find at online retailers
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 a rotating list of light roast options with entirely unique flavor palettes. The Inga Red Honey blend has notes of nougat, ginger snap, and blackberry tea, while the San Roque 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.
Price at time of publish: $19 for Colombia - San Roque
Founded: 1994 | Headquarters: Philadelphia | Coffee Shops: Yes | Direct Trade: Yes | Subscription: Yes
Best for Dark Roast: Death Wish Coffee Company
Doesn't taste overly roasted
Available in coffee pods
Great if you want more caffeine
Limited number of options
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.
Price at time of publish: $20
Founded: 2012 | Headquarters: Saratoga Springs, New York | Coffee Shops: No | Fair Trade: Yes | Subscription: Yes
Best Budget: Seattle's Best Coffee
Sold by multiple online retailers
Available in K-Cups
No light roasts
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, all of which are easy to find both in-store and online. One of the most popular options
Price at time of publish: $13
Founded: 1970 | Headquarters: Seattle | Coffee Shops: No | Fair Trade: Yes | Subscription: No
Best for Espresso: Lavazza
Strong, consistent flavor
Multiple espresso roasts
Some coffees only sold in 2.2-pound bags
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.
Price at time of publish: $18
Founded: 1895 | Headquarters: Turin, Italy | Coffee Shops: Yes | Fair Trade: No | Subscription: Yes
Best Flavor: Peerless Coffee & Tea
Any grind size available on brand site
Only two coffee pod options
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.
Price at time of publish: $34
Founded: 1924 | Headquarters: Oakland, California | Coffee Shops: Yes (one location) | Fair Trade: Yes | Subscription: Yes
Best Variety: New England Coffee
Multiple flavored options
Lower quality than many craft coffee roasters
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 (e.g., 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.
Price at time of publish: $10
Founded: 1916 | Headquarters: Malden, Massachusetts | Coffee Shops: No | Fair Trade: Five fair trade varieties | Subscription: Yes
Best for Single Origin: Red Bay Coffee
Descriptive tasting notes
Transparent single-origin information
Tends to be pricey
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.
"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," says Nigel Price, the founder and owner of Drip Coffee Makers in New York City. "I like single-origin because you can trace your coffee back to specific farms and know the farmers are being paid a living wage."
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.
Price at time of publish: $19
Founded: 2014 | Headquarters: Oakland, California | Coffee Shops: Yes | Direct Trade: Yes | Subscription: Yes
Best Sustainable: Counter Culture Coffee
Publishes annual sustainability reports
Coffee sourcing info is clear and transparent
Unique, innovative blends
Fewer blends than comparable brands
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.
Price at time of publish: $18
Founded: 1995 | Headquarters: Durham, North Carolina | Coffee Shops: No | Direct Trade: Yes | Subscription: Yes
Best for K-Cups: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
Easy to find in person and online
Extensive variety of flavors
Vague flavor descriptions
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.
Price at time of publish: $18
Founded: 1981 | Headquarters: Waterbury, Vermont | Coffee Shops: No | Fair Trade: Yes | Subscription: Yes
Best Subscription Service: Atlas Coffee Club
Great gift idea
Multiple grind sizes available
Must pay for shipping
Atlas Coffee Club has an extensive and reliable subscription service that lets coffee lovers try a myriad of beans from around the globe. For every shipment, customers receive a bag (or two) of single-origin coffee from a different country, along with a corresponding postcard and an information slip that details the coffee's sourcing information, roast level, and flavor notes.
The subscription can be customized in a number of ways to fit your needs. Customers can select a roast preference from light to dark and adjust the amount of coffee delivered each month. There are options for whole bean coffee, ground coffee, and Keurig-compatible coffee pods. For pre-ground coffee, there are seven grind sizes to choose from depending on the brewing device you own. We received samples from Atlas Coffee Club in whole bean and pod form for testing purposes and found the coffee consistently fresh and tasty.
Since Atlas Coffee Club gets coffee beans from so many different places—Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Colombia, just to name a few—some of its offerings are direct trade, some fair trade, and there are other instances where the coffee isn't fair-trade certified but the brand pays above fair trade prices.
Price at time of publish: $28/month for 2 bags
Founded: 2015 | Headquarters: Austin, Texas | Coffee Shops: No | Direct Trade: Varies by type of coffee | Subscription: Yes
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 manufactures a number of delicious products, from whole bean coffee to bottles of nitro cold brew. Intelligentsia Coffee is an equally trustworthy brand with an array of tasty blends.
What to Look for in a Coffee Brand
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 of 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 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.
What’s the difference between Arabica and Robusta?
Arabica and Robusta are the two most common coffee species. While there are many other species and subspecies—Liberica and Excelsa being two other fairly popular ones—it’s almost guaranteed that the coffee in your cupboard is Arabica, Robusta, or a blend of the two. Arabica beans are generally preferred within the coffee community, but Robusta certainly has its benefits, too. Selina Ullrich, the Director of Coffee at East One Coffee Roasters, broke down the differences for us:
“Arabica is harder to grow than Robusta and has lower caffeine,” Ullrich says. “It generally has more sweetness and acidity, too. Pretty much all specialty coffee is Arabica. Robusta is a more robust species like the name says because it’s easier to grow in less ideal places. It has more caffeine and is more bitter. It's often used in Italian espresso blends to add caffeine and punch and a sense of bitterness."
What is the difference in taste between light and dark roasts?
"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," Ullrich says. So, for example, you might leave unique citrus flavors and get something that has a more general smokiness with darker roasts."
What was the first coffee brand?
Gillies Coffee Company is often cited as the oldest U.S. coffee brand that's still in existence today. The Brooklyn-based coffee distributor was established in 1840 and has been roasting coffee beans ever since.
How do you make iced coffee?
While it's easy to make iced coffee at home, it can be surprisingly difficult to make good iced coffee. As opposed to cold brew, which we touch on below, iced coffee starts with coffee that has been brewed hot. It can come from a drip machine, French press, or even an espresso maker. By waiting for hot coffee to cool down, though, it can become stale and bitter; then the flavor is further diluted when you add ice.
There are a few ways to compensate for this. First, try refrigerating the hot coffee right after it's been brewed to preserve freshness. Second, add lots of ice. Third, experiment with a coffee concentrate or extra-bold cup of coffee that won't taste diluted after you add ice or a creamer. These tips will help you perfect a basic iced coffee recipe, but there are countless iced coffee variations out there, from Thai iced coffee to iced lattes and alcoholic options too.
How do you make cold brew?
The difference between cold brew and iced coffee is that the former is made by steeping coffee beans in nothing but cold water for several hours, while the latter typically starts with coffee that's been brewed hot. This gives cold brew a smoother and stronger flavor than iced coffee. To make cold brew at home, fill a jar, pitcher, or cold brew maker with 1 cup of coarsely ground coffee beans for every 4 cups of cold water. Put it in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours, then strain the coffee grounds or remove the mesh infuser, and enjoy!
Are coffee pods as fresh as regular coffee?
"Coffee pods use pre-ground coffee, and it's hard to know how fresh it is," says Patrick Cotter, Content Marketing Specialist for Seattle Coffee Gear. "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."
What is espresso?
"Espresso is a brewing method, not its own type of bean," say Ullrich. "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."
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 at home, especially the brand's Kick Ass blend. His cupboard is also stocked with Death Wish Coffee’s 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.
Commerce Editor Taylor Rock, who updated this roundup to include even more awesome coffee brands, can't start her day without a coffee. While she prefers cold brew over hot coffee year-round, she's been into French press on days when she forgoes the walk to her local coffee shop. For this piece, she sampled and wholly recommends Grounds & Hounds.
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.