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The September 2011 issue of Consumer Reports, the oldest independent consumer testing magazine in the country, included the CR ratings for our favorite subject, coffee. Two years ago, Consumer Reports rated my then-favored supermarket coffee brand, Eight O’Clock Coffee, as better than Starbucks (which isn’t that hard, really) and better than all the other coffees they rated. Fast forward and oh, how times have changed. Eight O’Clock’s big marketing push seems to have coincided with a slide in coffee flavor — at least where the Eight O’Clock Colombian is concerned. I’m still a fan of Eight O’Clock French Roast, but CR didn’t test that one. Instead, Consumer Reports tested 23 coffees, including 16 traditionally packaged Colombian coffees, three K-cup Colombians and 4 whole bean Ethiopian coffees, including a Yirgacheffe. So — how did it all shake out?
Consumer Reports Colombian Coffee Ratings
Gloria Jean’s Colombian Supremo Medium Roast coffee took top marks, with the testers tasting fruity, earthy, nutty and caramel notes in the brew, and no off flavors at all. It was followed closely by Newman’s Own Organics Colombian Especial Medium Roast. Both are pretty pricey, coming in at over $13 a bag each, but it still works out to a fraction of what you’d pay if you bought your coffee on the way to work.
If you’re budget-conscious — and who isn’t these days? — there’s good news for you. Great Value 100% Colombian Medium Roast coffee (Walmart) ranked in at #6 — above many pricier coffees, including Paula Deen’s Captain’s Choice, Eight O’Clock Colombian (which came in at #9), Millstone, Melitta, Folgers and Maxwell House. At just over $4 a can and 7 cents a cup, Great Value really is a Great Value.
Consumer Reports Ethiopian Coffee Ratings
Consumer Reports also rated 4 whole bean Ethiopian coffees. Caribou Ethiopia Finjal Organic medium roast scored top marks, but Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Light roast came in a close second. At just over $13 a bag, it also scored a checkmark as a high value coffee. In addition, Consumer Reports also rated Peet’s Coffee Ethiopian Fancy and New Orleans Exchange Ethiopian Harrar as very good.
Other notable findings — if you’re watching your caffeine intake, New England Colombian Decaf came in at #4 in the Consumer Report ratings, above its own caffeinated version, New England Colombian Supremo, as well as Starbucks Colombian, Millstone, Paula Deen’s, Chock Full of Nuts and 10 other coffees. As far as the K-cups go, none of the three Colombians tested rated above a Good, and they cost considerably more per cup.
Consumer Reports also offered advice for getting the best cup of coffee possible out of whichever brand you decide to buy. Their advice isn’t anything new to coffee lovers — invest in a good, quality machine to brew your coffee, grind your beans fresh if you value flavor over convenience and keep your machine clean to prevent off flavors from contaminating your tasty brew.