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Quick and convenient, pre-ground beans are the go-to option for many coffee lovers. They eliminate hassle and save money for those who don’t want to purchase an at-home grinder. While experts widely recommend whole bean coffee for the utmost freshness and flavor, ground coffee can still make a delicious cup of joe.
We’ve rounded up our favorite picks below, researching everything from the regions where coffee beans are sourced to the different size bags available to buy. Options range from light roast to dark, espresso to cold brew, and more.
One factor to keep in mind is the type of coffee maker you own, as different brewers require different grind sizes. The default for pre-ground coffee is a medium grind, which suits drip machines and some pour overs. French press and Chemex users will want a coarser grind, while espresso drinkers need a fine grind.
Here are the best ground coffees to buy.
Best Dark Roast: Death Wish Coffee Co. Ground Coffee
Hailed as the world's strongest coffee, Death Wish delivers a caffeine punch two to four times stronger than a normal cup of joe, depending on the grounds used per brew. The high-energy hook has attracted many customers, but the flavor is what truly makes it a best seller. It's surprisingly smooth, despite the caffeine content, and filled with rich notes of dark chocolate and cherry.
Death Wish isn't your traditional dark roast (and it's certainly on the expensive end), but it's truly delicious, and the caffeine keeps you alert without any shakes or jitters. You can purchase bags in sizes of 1 or 5 pounds, as well as in whole bean variety.
Roast: Dark | Size: 1 and 5 pounds | Available In: Whole bean, ground, and K-Cup | Origin: India and Peru
Best Medium Roast: Kicking Horse Coffee Smart Ass Blend
Kicking Horse makes six ground coffee varieties, including another medium roast that falls slightly on the darker side, but the Smart Ass blend strikes a terrific balance of flavor. The aroma is sweet and fruity, but as soon as you take a sip, you'll also find rich undercurrents of milk chocolate. Though slightly more expensive than some of its grocery-store competitors, this is a great option for the coffee drinker tired of making the same run-of-the-mill medium roast every day. All Kicking Horse Coffee is organic and fair trade, but keep in mind that the ground coffee is only available in one size: 10 ounces.
Roast: Medium | Size: 10 ounce or 2.2 pounds | Available In: Whole bean and ground | Origin: Africa, Central America, and South America
"Arabica and robusta are the two main species of coffee. Arabica is harder to grow than robusta and has lower caffeine. 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 much more bitter. It's often used in Italian espresso blends to add caffeine and punch and a sense of bitterness." — Selina Ullrich, Director of Coffee at East One Coffee Roasters
Best Light Roast: Starbucks Veranda Blend
Opinions on Starbucks famously vary. Those who avoid the ubiquitous coffee giant often do so because of taste, as the company's signature flavor is extremely robust. The Veranda Blend could be a crowd-pleaser for all, however, as this blonde roast is much mellower. The primary flavor notes are soft cocoa and lightly toasted nuts. You'll even see a difference in the coffee's lighter shade. The price is surprisingly affordable for a Starbucks product and you can purchase a bag in several sizes.
Roast: Light | Size: 12, 20, 28, and 40 ounces | Available In: Whole bean, ground, instant, K-Cup, and Nespresso capsule | Origin: Latin America
Best Instant: Mount Hagen Instant Coffee
Mount Hagen defies the instant coffee stigma with a product that's as tasty as it is easy to make. While this coffee won't quite compete with the real stuff, many customers say it's the best alternative. Made from 100 percent Arabica beans, the flavor is smooth and mild—a straightforward medium roast.
It's pretty expensive as far as instant goes, but since most people keep it around for a pinch or use it while traveling it won't break the bank. Each 3.53-ounce jar yields about 60 cups of coffee. The company makes a decaf variety in the same size and at a similar price point. Both options are available in single-serve sticks, which can be used for on-the-go joe. Mount Hagen is also great for making delicious whipped coffee.
Roast: Medium | Size: 3.53-ounce jar or box of 25 sticks | Available In: Instant | Origin: Papua New Guinea
"I first tried Mount Hagen while traveling and was so impressed with it I started keeping a jar in my cupboard at home (especially for when I'm too lazy to brew a full pot of coffee). Instead of boiling hot water, I usually mix it with cold water and add ice cubes for quick and easy iced coffee." — Derek Rose, Coffee and Tea Expert, The Spruce Eats
Best Decaf: No Fun Jo Organic Decaf Ground Coffee
A unique and dynamic flavor sets No Fun Jo Decaf apart from the competition. Many decaf options seem like watered-down versions of the real thing, but not here. The two primary notes in this medium to medium-dark roast are sweet blueberry and milk chocolate. While this might not appeal to everyone's palate, customers largely rave about the coffee's taste. The blueberry is noticeable but not overpowering, as it's balanced out by the smoother hints of chocolate.
No Fun Jo Decaf is made through the Swiss Water Process, which removes 99.9 percent of the caffeine. You can purchase it in a 12-ounce bag or a more cost-effective 2-pound bag. The coffee is also sold in whole bean and K-cup varieties.
Roast: Medium-dark | Size: 12 ounces or 2 pounds | Available In: Whole bean, ground, and K-Cup | Origin: Blend origin is proprietary information
Best for French Press: La Colombe Corsica Dark Roast
If you're a French press owner and you've experienced a silty, gritty taste at the bottom of your cup, this is generally because the coffee grounds used were too fine. The beloved non-electric coffee maker requires a coarse grind for maximum smoothness and flavor.
You can preselect the ideal grind size when ordering any of La Colombe's delicious blends. Corsica is our favorite for French presses. Named for the island off the coast of mainland France, this coffee mixes notes of deliciously dark chocolate with hints of smokiness and red wine. The main downside is that you have to order directly off La Colombe's website for ground coffee, as most major retailers only carry the boutique roaster's bags in whole bean.
Roast: Dark | Size: 1 and 5 pounds | Available In: Whole bean and ground | Origin: Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico
Best Budget: Seattle's Best Coffee House Blend Ground Coffee
With 10 tasty options and a budget price, Seattle's Best is the favorite morning pick-me-up in many households. Those new to the brand (a Starbucks subsidiary) can start with the well-balanced House Blend or find favorite roasts from light to dark. There's also a couple of flavored options like Toasted Hazelnut and Very Vanilla, as well as a decaf blend.
Seattle's Best is not the bare-bones cheapest coffee out there—familiar names like Folgers and Maxwell House are slightly less expensive—but it is perhaps the best value for your money. The brand is widely available both in-store and online.
Roast: Medium | Size: 12 and 20 ounces | Available In: Ground and K-Cup | Origin: Latin America
Best Flavored: New England Coffee Ground Coffee
New England Coffee is the go-to choice for variety, offering over 25 flavored blends. One popular pick is this Blueberry Cobbler flavor, a medium roast that balances sweetness with underlying notes of spice.
The century-old company crafts familiar options such as French Vanilla and Pumpkin Spice, but its assortment accommodates all taste buds (and can even get a little wacky). Some of the most unique flavors include sweet-tooth favorites Peanut Butter Banana Milkshake, Vanilla Cupcake, and Cinnamon Sticky Bun; there are also milder options like Pistachio Crème and Hawaiian Macadamia Nut. The best part? New England Coffee is a budget-priced brand readily available in grocery stores and a number of online retailers.
Roast: Medium | Size: 11 ounces, 1 pound, and 5 pounds | Available In: Whole bean, ground, and K-Cup | Origin: Information not available
When asked how flavored coffee is made, Selina Ullrich said, "Flavor oils are added when the coffee is cooling. During that process, they spray the coffee when it’s hot with the oils so it locks into the cell structure."
Best for Cold Brew: Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew Reserve
Stone Street Coffee is a Brooklyn-born roaster that makes must-try grounds for your home cold brew. The vast majority of customers give the blend five stars, saying it's flavorful and fresh. One nice detail is that the coffee comes in a coarse grind, which is ideal for making cold brew. Surprisingly, the brand doesn't include instructions on the bag. That said, many cold brew recipes can be found online. Stone Street is fairly expensive, but the quality of the coffee makes up for it. You can purchase the Cold Brew Reserve blend in bags of 1, 2, or 5 pounds.
Roast: Dark | Size: 1, 2, and 5 pounds | Available In: Whole bean and ground | Origin: Colombia
Best for Espresso: Illy Classico Espresso Ground Coffee
A very fine grind is key to getting the most out of your espresso, as well as the coffee from a moka pot or AeroPress. Illy makes it easy for you, evenly grinding robust Arabica beans so that they're ready to be packed into a portafilter.
The Italian company has been crafting espresso for over 80 years. Teeming with the sweet taste of chocolate and caramel, the Classico Medium Roast Espresso is a great place to start; however, illy also makes a delicious dark roast for those who prefer a smokier, more intense shot of espresso. The recognizable silver tins hold 8.8 ounces of coffee, and customers say they keep the coffee grounds extra fresh. Add a milk frother, and you can whip up tasty lattes and cappuccinos right from home.
Roast: Medium | Size: 8.8 ounces | Available In: Whole bean, ground, K-Cup, and Nespresso capsule | Origin: Guatemala, Brazil, Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, India, Rwanda, and Sumatra
"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
We know that the best ground coffee depends on a person's taste buds. That's why we've listed a number of worthwhile options all across the flavor spectrum. Rich and bold, Death Wish Coffee (view at Amazon) is our favorite dark roast—just be aware of the high caffeine content. Light-roast lovers, on the other hand, may prefer the widely popular Starbucks Veranda Blend (view at Amazon).
What to Look for in Ground Coffee
Identifying the type of roast you like—light, medium, or dark—is a great place to start when trying a new coffee. But it can get even trickier than that. Keep an eye out for a blend's tasting notes, usually written somewhere on the bag. With a dark roast, for instance, you might like one that has notes of chocolate but not notes of smokiness, or vice versa.
Since the majority of coffee drinkers have a cup (or three) every single day, price is an important consideration. And it's worth experimenting. See if you have a preference between a $5 bag of beans and a $20 bag. Just because a coffee is more expensive doesn't mean it's the best one for your taste buds.
To get the most flavor out of your coffee, you want to use it before it goes stale. Even pre-ground coffee will be better if you brew soon after buying. So while those 5-pound bulk bags may be convenient, and even more cost effective, they could lead to bad coffee down the road. Consider your coffee drinking habits. A cup or two a day and you're likely best off with a standard 12-ounce bag.
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.
Selina Ullrich, the Director of Coffee at East One Coffee Roasters, was interviewed for this piece. 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.