I’m a Barista and These Are the 6 Coffees I Always Have in My Kitchen
You may think that working as a barista means that I get my fill of coffee at work, but coffee is a passion I take home with me. I’m the type of coffee enthusiast who keeps a variety of brands and roasts on hand, starting my days with a Chemex pot brewed rich and black, followed by a sampling of lattes, cappuccinos, cortados, and other sippable drinks throughout my days behind the espresso bar.
As a barista of more than five years in Seattle, aka the cloudy coffee capital of the country, I’ve spent hundreds of hours slinging espresso for some of the most particular coffee people in the country, so I know what makes up the perfect cup of Joe. Whether you’re a fan of whole bean, instant, refrigerated lattes, or beyond, I’ve compiled a list of six of my favorite coffee brands I keep on hand, so you can start building your own home-brew setup. Let’s take a look.
For some of the best coffee that is easily available in most grocery stores (and even Staples!), Peet’s is my go-to bag of beans. You can now find several varieties of this famous Bay Area brand’s beans in the coffee section, including more tart and highly caffeinated light roasts and richer-flavored, but less strong dark roasts. The one I strongly recommend is Major Dickason’s Blend.
It’s my preferred blend for its full-bodied flavor with notes of chocolate and walnut. Just look on in awe at the shiny beans slicked with oil when you open the bag and you can tell this stuff is high-quality. This makes a great pot of coffee in my Chemex, but also works just as well in a classic coffee maker.
If you’re a beginner coffee enthusiast looking to take your home brew up a notch, then Blue Bottle is a worthy next step. The specialty brand started from a small coffee cart in Oakland, California, before expanding into an international brand with cafe locations in LA, San Francisco, New York City, and even Osaka. Today, its wide array of blends and roasts are sold at several major retailers (Target, Kroger, Whole Foods, among others).
The Bold Medium Roast Coffee offers a deeper flavor from the longer roast time compared to light roasts. Its big flavors of chocolate, marshmallow, and caramel still come through with added cream and sugar, but it’s just as delicious black. It has a hefty kick of caffeine, so it’s the perfect pick-me-up to start your day either in a drip setup or a French press.
Nguyen is America’s first specialty Vietnamese coffee roasting company committed to bringing the traditions of Vietnamese-style coffee brewing to your home coffee setup. The beans are imported directly from small farms in Vietnam to the roastery in Brooklyn, and the founders are big promoters of using Robusta beans, which are less popular than the popular Arabica beans, but come with nearly twice the caffeine and are more adaptable to climate change.
The Hanoi blend is a great introduction to the brand, a dark roast bean that tastes rich whether brewed in drip, pour-over, espresso, or percolator formats. With tasting notes of smokey tobacco, sun-dried prunes, and sweet graham crackers, this makes for a strong pot of regular brewed coffee, but is versatile enough for any brew style.
Pro tip: If you’re on the hunt for a new coffee brewer, the Phin coffee filter can make single mug servings to entire pots in minutes with its unique pour-over style filter.
For the dedicated cold coffee drinkers no matter how chilly the weather gets, Philadelphia-based La Colombe Coffee Roasters has a growing line of canned coffees. The Double Oat Milk Latte, made with beans sourced from Brazil, and smooth and creamy nitro-infused oatmilk, is my drink of choice; even though I usually take my coffee black, it has a strong coffee flavor with notes of bittersweet chocolate and vanilla, and is just lightly sweetened to bring out the nuttiness of the oatmilk.
These plant-based lattes are ready to go whenever you are — just pop open and sip. I typically have one as a midday refresher when I don’t have the time to brew a pot.
Coava Coffee Roasters S.O. Blend
Instant coffee has a bad rap in most uses (one exception: that whipped coffee trend). But! Coava Coffee Roasters may just be the brand that’ll make people take instant coffee seriously. The Portland, Oregon, roasters (in a town with no shortage of great coffee) have made me an instant coffee believer with its powdered coffee crystals in a variety of blends and roast levels. The best, in my opinion, is the Instant S.O. Blend.
Each pack comes with six envelopes of instant coffee ready to be stirred directly into hot water or shaken with cold milk for a latte on-the-spot whenever you need it. The S.O. Blend is rich and full of flavors like chocolate, sweet honeycrisp apple, and burnt caramel for a complex flavor profile that coats your tongue while waking you up. Although it’s more expensive than other instant brands, coming out to around $3 a serving, per cup it’s still cheaper and faster than going to a cafe.
Buy: Coava Coffee Roasters S.O. Blend, $16 for 1.06 ounces at Coava Coffee Roasters
Zabar’s Vienna Roast Coffee
I would be remiss to not gush about my absolute favorite coffee from the legendary New York deli and specialty food wonderland Zabar’s: the house Vienna Roast. With a plethora of coffees to choose from (and entire aisles of hoppers full of beans!), Vienna Roast is the lightest of the dark roast options, but is still bold with sweet and smoky flavors. It makes a great drip or a light espresso that goes great with sweet milk in cappuccinos. I personally love it as a mellow, slow-steeped cold brew that’s bold flavored, but not as acidic as your typical hot-brewed coffee.
It is, unfortunately, only available in-store at the Upper West Side location and a few select markets in the area. Those of us who don’t live within a subway ride can find it on the store’s webstore and have it shipped anywhere in the country. I get it shipped to me in Seattle regularly, so I can attest that it’s worth the effort. Get a pack of black and white cookies for the full experience.
Buy: Zabar’s Vienna Roast Coffee, $15.98 for 16 ounces at Zabar’s
Don’t see your favorite on the list? Tell us about it in the comments.