Coffee Heaven at Home, Via your Grocery Store

As a coffee lover and a busy mom, I’m so happy that the selection of coffee at the grocery store has become top-notch. The popularity of specialty coffee shops has educated us all about coffee. Gone are the days of tubs of pre-ground coffee that essentially just tints your water brown (although you can still find those tubs).

In this article, I’ll discuss some tips for finding and brewing fantastic coffee at home, and review some of the best coffee brands you can find in many grocery stores. If you’re ready to brew a cup, feel free to click to my recommendations now to see the latest prices and reviews on Amazon.

Picture
Eight O'Clock Whole Bean Coffee, Colombian Peaks, 11 Ounce (Pack of 6)
Peet's Whole Bean Coffee, Major Dickason's Blend, Dark Roast 12-Ounce
Best Choice
Kicking Horse Coffee, Kick Ass, Dark Roast, Whole Bean, 2.2 Pound
Santo Domingo Roasted Whole Bean Coffee 1 Pound Bag
Rating
A-
A-
A
B+
Roast
Medium
Dark
Very Dark
Medium
Organic/Ethical?
No
No
Certified Organic and Fair Trade
No
Size/Number of Bags
Six 11 oz. bags
One 12 oz. bag
One 2.2 lb. bag
One 1 lb. bag
Picture
Eight O'Clock Whole Bean Coffee, Colombian Peaks, 11 Ounce (Pack of 6)
Rating
A-
Roast
Medium
Organic/Ethical?
No
Size/Number of Bags
Six 11 oz. bags
Picture
Peet's Whole Bean Coffee, Major Dickason's Blend, Dark Roast 12-Ounce
Rating
A-
Roast
Dark
Organic/Ethical?
No
Size/Number of Bags
One 12 oz. bag
Best Choice
Picture
Kicking Horse Coffee, Kick Ass, Dark Roast, Whole Bean, 2.2 Pound
Rating
A
Roast
Very Dark
Organic/Ethical?
Certified Organic and Fair Trade
Size/Number of Bags
One 2.2 lb. bag
Picture
Santo Domingo Roasted Whole Bean Coffee 1 Pound Bag
Rating
B+
Roast
Medium
Organic/Ethical?
No
Size/Number of Bags
One 1 lb. bag

Brewing Coffee at Home

Anyone who regularly drinks coffee at home seems to have a ritual. Maybe you fill up your grind and brew machine the night before and set a timer, or maybe you grind your beans by hand by hand while your water is coming to boil. No matter your method, the essential thing you need is good coffee.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a great coffee in your grocery store.

1. Ground vs. Whole Bean

A lot of the coffee at grocery stores is pre-ground, but I highly recommend buying whole beans and grinding your own (see our recommendations for hand grinders). The main exception to that rule is if you’re making espresso, which requires a very finely ground coffee that is difficult to grind on your own without an expensive, high-quality grinder.

Another good thing about buying beans and grinding them yourself is that you can customize the grind to your type of coffee maker. This explanation gives you a good idea of the different sizes of grounds you need depending on the type of brewing system you use. I love my French press, so I need a coarse ground to get the optimal flavour out of my coffee.

I also like it strong, and then I make a cafe au lait, which is like a latte but with a brewed coffee base:

2. Roast Variety & Country of Origin

These factors are really a matter of personal preference. I like a strong, dark roast with complex flavor. Others prefer lighter or medium roasts. Most coffee brands offer a variety of roast options.

Coffee is grown all over the world, and coffee, like wine, has characteristic flavors depending on the country of origin. You may develop a preference for a particular country’s coffee, or perhaps certain beans bring you back to a memorable vacation.

3. Organic vs. “Conventionally-grown”

Some claim they can detect major taste differences between organic and non-organic coffee, but you’ll have to judge that for yourself. What you’re really getting with organic coffee are beans that were grown without the use of pesticides. If you want organic coffee, look for the USDA Organic certification to be sure the claim is true and not just marketing.

4. Ethical Coffee Lingo

Coffee is a crop grown around the world. It is labor and resource intensive, so you might be concerned with the ethics of your coffee. “Shade-grown,” for example, ensures that your coffee is not contributing to deforestation. “Fair trade” ensures that the farmers and workers receive fair compensation for their coffee.

As with organic coffee, don’t just take the manufacturer’s word for it—a lot of this language is marketing. Look for government-backed certifications to ensure the ethics of your beans.

Best Grocery Store Coffees

Here’s a round-up of some of the best coffee brands you can get in most grocery stores (I say most because offerings vary depending on where you live, but all of these can be purchased on Amazon.) Do keep in mind: coffee is very much a subjective thing, but I’ll try my best to give you a good overview of some of the best grocery store coffee options.

1. 8 O’Clock Colombian Peaks Whole Bean

8 O’Clock Colombian Peaks Whole Bean Review

8 O’Clock Colombian Peaks Whole Bean – Available from Amazon.com

8 O’Clock coffee has a cult following and regularly gets recommended on discussion forums like Reddit and Chowhound. It has even beat out Starbucks beans in a Consumer Reports taste test.

This link is for their whole bean Colombian roast, which is most people’s favourite, it seems. It’s billed as a medium roast, but people note it’s a bit darker than typical medium roasts. 8 O’Clock does make other varieties, including pre-ground bags.

People find it’s smooth and not bitter, and even reheats well in the microwave (useful if you brew a big pot and drink throughout the day). Devotees have been drinking this coffee for years and find it’s very consistent in its flavor and quality.

PROSCONS
–    Inexpensive
–    Consistent, smooth taste
–    Reheats well
–    Not “ethical choice”
–    Less complex flavor

2. Peet’s Whole Bean Major Dickason’s Blend

Peet’s Whole Bean Major Dickason’s Blend Review

Peet’s Whole Bean Major Dickason’s Blend – Available from Amazon.com

Peet’s is another brand frequently recommended in discussions of the best grocery brand coffee. Peet’s is a craft California company that started in the 1960’s—it’s really the original gourmet coffee in America. They have shops in a number of states around the country and the coffee can be found in many national chains such as Shoprite, and on Amazon.

The Major Dickason’s blend is their most popular, and combines beans from around the world including Africa, South America, and Asia. They prioritize fresh coffee, and roast dates are printed on the bag. (click here for a pre-ground bag)

It’s a dark roast, though many tasters find it has a sweet flavor to it. I like a sweet note in my coffee, especially for a strong brew like espresso. It’s also recommended for making a nice iced coffee.

Some people note that the bag is difficult to reseal, making it hard to keep fresh after opening. I store my coffee in an air-tight canister, like this one. Make sure it’s opaque, as light affects your beans!

PROSCONS
–    Consistent, smooth taste
–    Good for iced coffee
–    Not “ethical choice”
–    Pricier
–    Poor packaging

3. Kicking Horse ''Kick Ass'' Whole Bean Coffee

Kicking Horse ''Kick Ass'' Whole Bean Coffee Review

Kicking Horse ”Kick Ass” Whole Bean Coffee – Available from Amazon.com

Where I live, I can find this in pretty much any grocery store, but luckily it’s also available online. This is my go-to (especially when I find it on sale).
This Canadian roaster offers beans that are certified organic and fair trade. It also claims to be shade grown and bird-friendly, though it doesn’t have any designated certifications to back up those claims.

I’m partial to the “Kick Ass” variety for good wake-up in the morning. The beans themselves are very dark and oily, and that richness translates to the brewed cup. Kicking Horse makes a number of other roasts, including half-caffeine and decaf varieties, and pre-ground bags.

Some reviewers note inconsistencies in bags they’ve received—one bag excellent, another bag not as good. I will say in general consistency seems to be an issue with smaller roasters.

PROSCONS
–    Certified Organic
–    Certified Fair Trade
–    High-end taste
–    Suits a wide variety of brew methods
–    Quality control issues
–    Pricier
–    Not certified shade grown or bird-friendly

4. Santo Domingo Whole Bean Coffee

anto Domingo Whole Bean Coffee Review

anto Domingo Whole Bean Coffee – Available from Amazon.com

This coffee is ubiquitous in the Dominican Republic, and it is beloved. I once saw a tourist fill up his entire cart in the grocery store with this coffee, ready to bring it back to wherever home was. I’ve now seen it popping up in some of my local grocery stores (hallelujah!).

This coffee is unique. It’s a lighter, medium roast, but the flavor is just so good—nutty, a bit sweet, delicate but still interesting. It’s smooth and not too acidic. It makes great iced coffee, as well.

Dominicans typically brew their coffee on the stovetop in an espresso pot, but I find this works well in my French press, too. I imagine it would work for a range of brew methods. They do offer an espresso blend if you prefer a darker roast, and pre-ground bags.

In the Dominican, this coffee is cheap. You’ll pay more for it outside of the country, but if you want to reminisce about your tropical vacation, a cup of this coffee will take you back for less than the price of a flight!

PROSCONS
–    Unique flavor
–    Smooth and low-acid
–    Suits a wide variety of brew methods
–    Makes good iced coffee
–    Pricy
–    Not certified shade grown or bird-friendly

Picking a Coffee

It’s a great time in history to love coffee—the options are endless, even at your grocery store, and especially because the Internet is like having a grocery store in your own home…

If you’re looking for a budget choice that is still delicious, pick up an iconic bag of 8 O’Clock coffee’s Columbian roast. If you’re concerned about where your beans come from, how they’re grown and how the company treats its growers, Kicking Horse makes a rich, delicious cup that’s also an ethical choice.

If you want to try something a bit exotic, Santo Domingo is pretty much my favorite coffee ever. Who knew the Dominican Republic was an ideal place to grow coffee?!

What is your favorite coffee? How do you like to brew yours at home?

Leave a Reply