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Release Date: 08/02/2011

Consumer Reports Taste Tests The Best Cups of Joe

Hours of Testing Finds New Champs Among Colombian and Ethiopian Varietals; America’s Best-Selling Brands, Folgers and Maxwell House, Score Only Fair

September 2011 CoverYONKERS, NY — Consumer Reports brewed over 1,000 cups of coffee to deem two new champs among Colombian varietals in the latest issue available on newsstands today. Gloria Jean’s Colombian Supremo Medium Roast and Newman’s Own Organics Colombian Especial Medium Roast beat Consumer Reports top pick from the March 2009 report, Eight O’Clock Coffee. The former champ delivered less flavor than in past tests even though their slogan claims, “New Look, Same Great Taste.” While America’s best-selling brands, Folgers and Maxwell House, scored only Fair far from perfect taste profiles.

“The new Colombian champs offered fairly complex, well-balanced flavors that our experts found stronger and fruitier than the flavors of most others we tasted,” said Gayle Williams, deputy health editor of Consumer Reports. “Overall, the Colombian coffees we identified as the tastiest aren’t the highest priced per serving. It’s important for shoppers to know their taste preference and check our Ratings before purchasing.”

The 23 coffees Consumer Reports tested included three Colombian K-Cup products. Those products require a coffeemaker that can accommodate a K-Cup container, a type of single-serving coffee packaging. K-Cups were found to be more expensive per 6 fluid ounce serving than traditional packaged coffee and were only Good in tests — and may be best enjoyed with milk and sugar to mask the off-notes.

Consumer Reports also tested four Ethiopian whole-bean coffees, which have a taste that someone accustomed to standard blends might find unusual. Consumer Reports two picks from that group, Caribou Ethiopia Finjal Organic Medium and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Light Roast, a CR Best Buy, had very complex, well-balanced flavors.

How to Choose

If the cost of morning java matters more than getting the ultimate taste, there’s good news. Walmart’s Great Value 100% Colombian Medium scored on par with the Starbucks Colombia Medium for a fraction of the price. It also had, for the same price per serving, a stronger, fruitier aromatic character than the Folgers and Maxwell House 100% Colombian coffees.

  • Consider your taste. Colombian, the most common varietal of coffee sold, can be fairly strong in flavor and intensity of aroma, with moderate complexity. Ethiopian tends to be more complex overall, with a fair amount of bitterness, though not enough to detract from enjoyment. The K-Cups tested, all Colombian, were generally not very complex and included more off-notes than the coffees judged Very Good.
  • Weigh freshness against convenience. Grinding coffee at home is less convenient but results in a fresher cup. K-Cups are convenient and easy to store, but Consumer Reports judged those unimpressive.
  • Choose a good coffeemaker. The Cooks CM4221, sold at JCPenny, was among the models from Consumer Reports December 2010 report that reached the 195º F to 205º F required to get the best from coffee beans and avoid a weak or bitter brew. At $40, it was a CR Best Buy.
  • Keep up the maintenance. The taste will suffer, if the coffee machine is not routinely cleaned, no matter what kinds of beans are used.

The full report on coffees appears in the September issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

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