I Tried Nearly Every Kind of Coffee at Trader Joe’s — Here Are My 3 Favorites

updated Jul 22, 2020
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(Image credit: Dana McMahan)

Unlike a typical grocery store where you can be frozen with indecision at the 57 types of ketchup, shopping is easy at Trader Joe’s. Most items come in just one option, so you grab that one off the shelf and can go on your merry way. But do you want to know what’s not an option-free zone at Trader Joe’s? The coffee aisle.

While the grocer may give customers a tightly edited selection of most everything else, when it comes to java, Trader Joe’s packs an entire section with offerings. It’s practically dizzying — you’ve got roasts from light to dark, single-origin and batches, small lots and not, fair-trade, shade-grown, organic — the list goes on. Because I love so much other Trader Joe’s goodness that the store has to offer, it’s a no brainer that I’d also buy my coffee there too. The only question is, where to start?

(Image credit: Dana McMahan)

How I Selected and Tested the Trader Joe’s Coffee

There’s no subterfuge when you’re buying every single coffee in the joint, so I straight-up told the closest crew member what I was up to. He was nice enough to help me pick a selection of 10 that best represented what they had to offer from more than two-dozen choices.

Over the next few days I tried two or three different coffees a day, preparing each of just like I always make coffee, in a basic Hamilton Beach drip machine. I tried following package recommendations of two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water, but found that too bitter, so went with my usual ratio, which worked out to about 3/4 cup of ground beans for an eight-cup carafe. I put a teaspoon of regular sugar and a good splash of half-and-half in every cup. Judge not lest, well, you know the rest.

To rank them, I assigned scores of one to 10, with one being the worst styrofoam cup of auto-body garage coffee you’ve ever had, and 10 being worth getting out of bed for.

And, drumroll please, here are the results.

(Image credit: Dana McMahan)

1. Cameroon Mount Oku Small Lot Coffee, Medium Dark Roast, $9 for 12 ounces

In the bag (with the prettiest design, by the way), the beans promised notes of butterscotch and maple. And brewed, the promise carried through so well it almost tasted like a flavored coffee (except not, you know, fake). Mellow but with plenty of depth, this cup was a pleasure to drink and the clear winner. It’s the first one I drank just to drink when the experiment was over.

(Image credit: Dana McMahan)

2. “Red Honey Processed” El Salvador Coffee, medium roast, $9 for 12 ounces

This bag of beans smells amazing, kind of like you’d imagine a pipe in the room where they “go through” after dinner in Downton Abbey. (FYI: The bag description notes that there’s no honey involved in this process — it just refers to how sticky the beans are when they’re left with a “mucilage” layer.) Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, but there were some toffee notes and a nice creaminess once brewed. While I didn’t find the strawberry flavors described on the bag, it was an all-around pleasurable cup of coffee.

(Image credit: Dana McMahan)

3. Organic Fair Trade Breakfast Blend, medium roast, $8 for 14 ounces

This blend of South American beans doesn’t look all that tantalizing, with a dull brown appearance, but they smell exactly like what you want to wake up to. Once brewed it’s a nice fruity, juicy cuppa. The can says mellow and it follows through. It’s like a good version of what you’d want to have at a diner. I can kick off my day with this.

Do you buy your coffee at Trader Joe’s? What’s your favorite bag or can? Discuss in the comments below!