Specialty & Store-Brand Coffees Beat Out Supermarket Standbys in ShopSmart's Taste Tests

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Folgers and Maxwell House topped by money-saving store brands and specialty brews.

When it comes to coffee, big names don’t always deliver great flavor. The November 2014 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, highlights results from its taste-tests of whole-bean, ground, and pod coffees in which brews from Folgers and Maxwell House didn’t stand up to offerings from specialty brands including Allegro, Peet’s, and Starbucks.

“These ‘old reliable’ coffee brands also lost out to some of the money-saving store brands from Trader Joe’s and Costco in our taste tests,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “With the price of coffee skyrocketing, that’s great news for shoppers looking for a flavorful and affordable cup of joe.”

The Best & Worst Coffees
For the best tasting cup, ShopSmart suggests using bottled or filtered water when brewing to cancel out any unsavory flavors tap water can leave behind. Below are some “Smart Picks” and misses based on taste tests of whole bean, ground bean and single-serve pod coffees.


  •     Smart Pick: Allegro Organic Continental Blend, $12 per package; 28 cents per cup. A darker roast with a bold flavor and berry and citrus flavors. It’s made with organic beans and has the lowest cost per cup among the whole-bean Smart Picks. Where to find it: Whole Foods Markets.


  •     Smart Pick: Starbucks House Blend, $10.80 per package; 25 cents per cup. The overall flavor is strong, with hints of chocolate and fruit. Like most very dark roasts, this blend has a characteristic burnt note and some bitterness. Where to find it: Starbucks stores, supermarkets, online.
  •     Not So Hot: Maxwell House Original Roast. Along with the other ground coffees that scored at the bottom of the list, this brew tended to be flat and lack the complexity of the higher-rated Smart Picks.


  •     Smart Pick: Peet’s House Blend, $8.58 per package; 85 cents per cup. A darker roast with some sweetness, it has a fuller body than other pods sampled. Where to find it: Peet’s Coffee stores, supermarkets, online.
  •     Not So Hot: Folgers Gourmet Selections Classic Roast. The blah flavor and grainy notes of this pod blend put it dead last in ShopSmart’s taste tests.

For the full list of winners and losers from ShopSmart’s coffee taste-tests, along with the best bargain brewers, pick up the November 2014 issue on newsstands now.

About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at http://www.ShopSmart.org.

ShopSmart is available 10 times a year. Subscribe at http://www.ShopSmart.org.

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Melissa Valentino
Consumer Reports/ ShopSmart
+1 (914) 378-2432
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