The 10 Best Ground Coffee
10. Koffee Kult Medium Roast
9. Kirkland Signature Colombian
8. Grizzly Claw's Kicking Horse
7. Death Wish
6. Dunkin' Donuts Original
5. Tim Hortons Original
4. Lavazza Crema e Gusto
3. Valhalla Java Odinforce
2. Peet's Major Dickason's
1. Gevalia House
The Grind: Choosing Your Best Ground Coffee
There is no right or wrong coffee out there, merely the bean and/or roast you like the most. For this simple reason, the marketplace can easily accommodate so many hundreds of different brands and blends. There are, however, many choices a person must consider when selecting his or her preferred coffee.
The first and most basic decision to be made is whether to buy whole bean or ground coffee. While many purists might insist that only whole bean coffee ground mere minutes before brewing makes truly great coffee, the difference in flavor -- if perceptible at all -- is too minimal for most coffee drinkers to mind. And when it comes to convenience, ground coffee wins over whole bean every time, both by saving you time and be eliminating the need for a separate grinder.
There are two major categories of coffee: arabica and robusta. The former is generally considered to be the more refined variety, while the latter is lower in cost and often higher in caffeine content, but is also often more bitter. Most bags of ground coffee you buy will be made using arabica beans. If you already know you prefer robusta variety, you will have to look harder to find brands offering coffee made purely from these beans, though blends of the two are common. Seek out coffees that pride themselves on their abundance of caffeine and you will be more likely to find the bitter robusta beans you seek.
Contrary to a common misconception, lighter coffee roasts are generally stronger than dark roasts if you consider the caffeine content of your coffee to be the metric by which you calculate strength. The longer, often hotter roasting period that gives darker coffees their deep coloring and bolder aroma and flavor also actually reduces some of the caffeine content of the beans. The effect on the final caffeine potency of the coffee is really quite minimal, though, so again one should choose their roast based on taste preference, not by the buzz they hope to get from the joe.
Once you know the type of bean and roast you prefer, also consider the actual type of grind that best serves your coffee brewing practices. Some brands offer an extra fine grind, for example, which might work ideally well in large drip machines with cone-shaped filters such as are common in an office or gas station. A medium grind is usually fine for smaller drip machines or for use with pour-over coffee pots. Coarse grinds are best when used in a perk pot, a French press, or in another brewing device in which the grinds are more likely to float freely in heater water.
A Primer On Coffee Makers
The most common device used to make coffee sends heated water dripping through a chamber filled with ground coffee that is held in place by a filter. These drip coffeemakers come in all shapes and sizes; some brew just a cup or two at a time, while others can prepare dozens of servings of coffee at once. Most homes or commercial locations that prepare coffee use some variety of a drip machine.
But as the global appreciation for fine coffee has grown in recent years, people are both re-discovering older methods of preparing the beverage and are pioneering new approaches.
One of the most popular ways to make small batches of coffee is also ostensibly the simplest. The French press is simply a tube in which coffee grinds and hot water can mingle, with the duration of the brewing process controlled by the user. When deemed ready to be served, the brewed coffee and grinds are separated by the careful lowering of a screen that traps the ground coffee at the bottom of the cylinder. While proper mechanical use of a French press may be simple, learning the subtleties of proper brew time, water heat, and proportions may take some time.
Espresso is a type of coffee made using extra hot water forced through packed ground coffee using high pressure. It extracts maximum flavor (and potency) in minimal time, and is a popular way to enjoy java. However, a good espresso machine usually costs more than most people are willing to spend, with high-end models priced into the many hundreds of dollars.
Pour over coffee makers have grown in popularity recently, and with good reason: they are basic, affordable, and can create great coffee. These devices consist of little more than a filter designed to hold ground coffee and perch over another vessel (often an integrated part of a set; sometimes just a mug) and through which hot water is poured. They effectively mingle the dripping process used in drip coffeemakers with the hands-on control of a French press.
A Brief History of Coffee
Coffee is indigenous to Africa, with both arabica and robusta beans likely indigenous to a region that is today part of Ethiopia. However it grew in native form around much of the African continent and the Indian Ocean, in locations including Madagascar and several other islands. Today, however, it is grown in dozens of countries around the globe, with major centers of production in South and Central America, the Middle East, and beyond.
According to a potentially apocryphal legend, coffee was first consumed by humans after a North African herdsmen realized that his sheep became filled with energy after eating the berries (and therefore the beans) of the coffee tree. Other tales tell of people observing the same energetic behavior in birds eating of the coffee berry.
While we will never know exactly what inspired the first consumption and subsequent cultivation of coffee, what is known for certain is that coffee has only been widely consumed for about 1,000 years at most, a relatively short period of time given the scope of history.
By the 1400s, coffee had become a popular beverage, though was still only drank in any great quantities in the north of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The flourishing trade of the Renaissance years would change that soon enough. Coffee gained immensely in popularity during the 1600s, soon enjoyed all across Europe and exported to the New World. The Americas proved a fertile land for the raising of the crop, and it was soon being grown in such vast quantities that its export began to head the other way.