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A good cup of joe is hard to find

Consumer Reports tastes 37 ground coffee blends and isn't overwhelmed with the results.

By Karen Datko Feb 4, 2010 3:16PM

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You may have a hard time finding a standout cup of coffee.


None of the 37 caffeinated and decaffeinated ground coffee blends tested by Consumer Reports coffee experts earned an "excellent" or "very good" rating.


However, that's not to say there aren't any "good" cups of coffee. Two kinds -- Starbucks House Blend and Green Mountain Signature Nantucket Blend Medium Roast -- perked to the top of the 14 caffeinated blends that earned a "good" rating from CR.


At 26 and 23 cents per cup, respectively, both the Starbucks House Blend and Green Mountain Signature Nantucket Blend Medium Roast offer a good combination of taste and price, according to the magazine's testers. Both have what CR terms "an earthy, woody taste," but Starbucks was found to be a "fairly bitter to very bitter darker roast," while the Green Mountain has "green/sharp flavor."

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Consumer Reports has slightly better news for decaf drinkers. Although none of the 13 decaf blends tested scored higher than "good," several performed at least as well as their caffeinated brand mates, which is quite a feat, because the decaffeination process can harm flavor.


Allegro Organic Decaf Blend Medium Dark, Peet's Decaf House Blend, Caribou Daybreak Coffee Morning Blend Decaf, and Bucks County Decaf Breakfast Blend were among the better-scoring varieties.


Blends, the best-selling type of ground coffee, contain beans from at least two regions or countries. Most coffees consist of arabica or robusta beans, or a combination. Arabica beans are more expensive and tend to make better coffee. So perhaps it's not surprising that blended coffees scored lower than several 100% Colombian arabica caffeinated brands tested by CR in last March.


Consumer Reports' advice

Coffee drinkers should look for the best combination of taste and price. Don't count on familiar brand names or expensive price tags. Some coffees from revered companies like Maxwell House and Folgers languish near the bottom of CR's ratings.


The package price doesn't accurately reflect the cost per cup because the density of the grind varies and manufacturers recommend using different amounts of coffee for a given amount of water.


Consumer Reports calculated that caffeinated Green Mountain Signature Nantucket Blend Medium Roast ($11.21 a pound) costs 23 cents per cup, while the Archer Farms Breakfast Blend Decaf ($9.05 a pound) costs 34 cents per cup. The average coffee drinker consumes 3.3 cups a day, or about 1,200 cups a year, so those pennies can add up.


For coffee drinkers on a budget looking for a "good" cup, CR recommends Melitta Classic Blend Road (11 cents per cup) and Seattle's Best Breakfast Blend (15 cents per cup). Decaf drinkers on a budget should consider Seattle's Best Blend Decaf Light Roast (15 cents per cup) or Sam's Choice Organic Blend Decaffeinated Medium Roast (18 cents per cup).


For those who feel guilty about the amount of coffee they drink, here's something to offset that. Recent research suggests healthful benefits in downing that cup of morning joe.


Related reading at

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