Too much choice can be debilitating. I don’t know about you, but there have been plenty of times that I’ve been standing in front of, for example, a huge chalkboard in a bar – blankly staring at 18 different craft beers, completely overwhelmed by the options.
I often see that exact same vacant look in the coffee aisle of supermarkets and at specialist coffee stores – there is so much choice out there these days, who has the time to work out which ground coffee is best for you?
Well, we do.
Obviously we understand that everybody will have different tastes and preferences when it comes to coffee – with such variety and subtlety at the very heart of the drink, it would be downright wrong of us to arrogantly dictate to you which is the ‘best’ ground coffee available.
The purpose of this article, though, is to give you all the tools you’ll need to find your new favourite coffee. To give you a hit-list of some of the best coffees around for you to go and try – to take your time over each cup and really enjoy it.
Brown Bear have a wide range of exceptional ground coffee – all of which is available at incredibly competitive prices.
We have selected their super strong Black Mamba dark roast ground coffee as our top choice. With a rich and malty flavour, and with a ‘5’ on the strength rating, this Brazil Robusta coffee is as good as it gets.
They have light and medium roast coffees available too – and all of the coffee we tasted was of the highest quality. Heat sealed packs ensure you get maximum freshness.
How do you make your coffee?
Obviously this will have a huge bearing on the eventual taste of your coffee. While pod machines are becoming more and more popular, in this article we will be focusing on ground coffee – generally used with a filter coffee machine, an espresso machine or a cafetiere (also known as a French press).
While each method works best with slightly different types of coffee (taking into account grain size, strength etc), all of the coffees that we mention below are good ‘all-rounders’ and will be suitable for however you use your ground coffee.
A quick word on freshness
Before we get into it, we need to discuss how you store your coffee. Freshness is everything, and you need to take this into account.
At a minimum, make sure you have an airtight container for once the coffee has been opened, and keep it out of direct sunlight (even if it does look lovely on the windowsill), away from moisture. While the packet will often have a ‘best before’ date that is far in advance, the reality is that your coffee is at its absolute best the second you open it, and it slowly decreases in quality from that moment.
Personally, I tend to only have one type of ground coffee on the go at a time, just so I limit the amount of time a pack is open.
What strength of coffee is right for me?
My advice when it comes to strength of coffee is to ignore the numbers on the front of the packet, which refers to the roast, rather than the bean. They are great as a rough guide (and we may briefly refer to them in this article), but there is so much confusion about what they actually mean that these numbers can just end up confusing people. In short – if you absolutely love a coffee with a ‘3’ on the front, it does not necessarily mean that you won’t like a ‘5’ or a ‘1’.
Top 9 Ground Coffees
Okay, with that off my chest, let’s crack on with our top 9 ground coffees:
Brown Bear Black Mamba Ground Coffee
Brown Bear are fast becoming one of our all-round favourite coffee brands. Not only do they have one of the most wide ranging selections of flavours and strengths of ground coffee, they also have some of the most competitive prices.
They do of course sell whole beans as well as ground coffee, and you can purchase as a one off or save a further 10% on subscription once you’ve settled on your favourite. For us, this was difficult to choose.
But we’ve settled on their Black Mamba ground coffee made from Brazil Robusta beans. If you like strong coffee, then this is for you and it’s rated as a 5 for its roast strength – being a true dark roast.
If you prefer something lighter, then check out the rest of their options here.
But if the sound of rich, malty and low acidity coffee appeals to you and you want something to really give you a kick in the mornings, then Black Mamba is a top choice.
The ready ground option comes in 227g packs – ideal for locking in freshness. Talking of freshness, all Brown Bear coffee bags are heat sealed so it’s as fresh as it gets for a ready ground coffee pack.
You’ll also be helping the ‘Free The Bears’ UK charity when you buy from Brown Bear with 5% of all sales going to the charity. It tastes great and is good for your conscience.back to menu ↑
Taylors Of Harrogate Rich Italian Ground Coffee
Tasting notes: Dark Chocolate and Almond
This is a well rounded roast, made from 100% Arabica Beans. It’s an incredibly smooth taste, with a slightly stronger taste than a medium roast – perfect for those that just fancy a bit of an extra kick in their cup – a classic Italian roast.
The chocolate, almost fruity, and nutty undertones help create a rich, but not bitter, aroma that will provide an excellent start to your day, or, as the packaging suggests, cap off an evening meal.
It’s a crowd pleaser. The perfect coffee to have in and serve to your guests, for that after-dinner drink – it may not blow people away, but it is an delightfully full-bodied coffee that will appeal to the majority of coffee drinkers.
Whether you use a filter coffee machine or a caffetia, you will find that you get a great, consistent cup of coffee every time, but we found that the flavour profile did change a bit after being let for a while – so maybe not one to leave on the heat plate of a filter machine all morning.
You would never call this a ‘specialty’ coffee, especially as it is widely available in most supermarkets, but whether you are a recently converted coffee drinker, or a bit of an expert, this is a coffee that won’t let you down. As one of the lowest priced coffees on this list, we’re struggling to think of a reason not to buy it.back to menu ↑
Spiller & Tait Signature Blend
Tasting notes: Almond and chocolate
From first sight, a quick glance at the packaging tells you that you are in for a treat with this coffee – a slick, simple and stylish all-black vacuum sealed bag. The second you open it, you are hit by the intensity of the smell. These guys are serious about their coffee.
As I mentioned in my introduction, how fresh your coffee is makes such a huge impact on the taste of your cup. It is so refreshing, therefore, to see that Spiller & Tait make their coffee in small, weekly, batches – which means they can almost make it to order and never overstock. Ultimately, you get incredibly fresh coffee from Spiller & Tait.
The result is an incredibly enjoyable, medium roast, full flavoured coffee. There is no bitter aftertaste, this produces a drink that is as smooth as silk and will satisfy any palate.
A blend of Arabica beans sourced from Columbia, Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia and India, this is another coffee with an initial chocolatey flavour, which again is quickly followed by a nutty aroma. It’s an easy-drinker.
Unsurprisingly, this coffee has already been recognised as one of the best around, winning the prestigious Great Taste Award in 2017.
They recommend use in a cafetiere, but we found it also works well in a filter coffee machine.
If you are looking to dip your toes into the water of premium coffee, this is a great place to start. It’s a wonderful coffee, but of course you pay a higher price for coffee of this stature.back to menu ↑
Café Saula Premium Original Ground Coffee
Tasting notes: Chocolate and cream
The first thing that we should mention is that it is organic. This means that the coffee beans are much harder to grow, but, on top of the environmental benefits, you can really tell the difference in the taste. To put it simply, when plants have been cared for organically, they retain more of their flavour – and they are even richer in antioxidants (unbelievably, more than green tea), so are actually much better for you.
On top of that, the family-owned Café Saula also care deeply about the freshness of their coffee. They only sell in quantities of 250g, and in airtight tubs, which trap in as much freshness as possible once they are opened – the coffee does not come into contact with oxygen until you get your hands on it.
With all this effort going into the coffee making process, you would be forgiven for thinking that we are talking about one of the most expensive coffees on the market – but you would be wrong. Café Saula have managed to keep the price quite modest in comparison to the other premium brands available today.
It should be noted that as an espresso blend, the grain is slightly finer than others on this list, but we found that it holds its own when used in a cafetiere or filter machine.
In terms of roast, it is another medium, but a slightly lighter blend than the previous two coffees. It’s an all-day drinker that you will keep wanting to go back to, and simply a fantastic all-round product.back to menu ↑
ATIKEM Organic Ground Ethiopian Coffee
Tasting notes: Apricot and cream
There’s a lot going on with this one – first of all we should mention that this is another organic coffee, the benefits of which, health, taste and environmental, we have discussed above.
Next, we should discuss the ethics behind the entire process. The Arabica beans that are used come from Ethiopia – considered by many to be the birthplace of coffee. Due to the close family ties of the ATIKEM to Ethiopia, they care deeply about where they source their coffee and every sale they make leads to a contribution towards the Oromia Corporative Farmers Union in Ethiopia to support the local community.
Yeah, that’s all very lovely and noble – but none of this would matter at all if they didn’t make good coffee, right? Well, I am delighted to reveal that this coffee is utterly delicious.
What hits you first is the aroma as soon as you open the pack – it fills the room instantly. Then the first sip, the sweetness of which will take you by surprise. As a medium roast coffee, you would expect an easy-drinker, but this is on another level. With hints of apricot, it is delightful creamy and not in any way bitter – the smoothest of finishes.
Of course, all of this comes at a cost. This is one of the most expensive coffees on the market. However, if you want the best, you absolutely get what you pay for here, and with all the extra health, social and economic benefits, I will simply say that if money is no object, you should be drinking this coffee.back to menu ↑
Crazy Cat Colombian Ground Coffee
Tasting notes: Chocolate
Immediately, just from glancing at the packet, you know that there is something a bit different about this brand. No pastel illustrations of faraway farms, or medditerranean cobbled streets here – nope, a crude drawing of a ‘crazy’ cat.
When you think of the money that gets spent on creating a ‘brand image’ and how important it is to so many companies worldwide, well, you have to wonder how on earth these guys expect to sell much with this carefree attitude to promoting themselves.
Well, it’s because their coffee is tremendous.
Such a rich, deep, bold flavour, but without any bitterness at all. First the fruity aroma, and then the chocolate undertones, all with the creamiest of textures. It is quite simply, in every sense, a delicious coffee. It says so much that so many people that try this coffee end up buying it again and again.
We would recommend that you invest in a container that can keep this fresh for longer, because unlike many of the other options on our list, the original packaging isn’t great once it’s open – and trust us, you will want to keep this coffee in the best condition possible.
They have built themselves a reputation for making brilliant coffee, and you have to admire them for it. For a product towards the higher end of the price scale, you need to be really confident in your product to pull this off – and they absolutely nail it.back to menu ↑
Black Donkey Coffee Roasters – Decaffeinated
Tasting notes: Fruit
I don’t know about you, but it is sometimes difficult for me to get excited about the prospect of a decaffeinated coffee. Perhaps I am revealing too much about myself here, but I often find myself wanting (craving?) the full hit of caffeine in order to really appreciate my drink.
It says an awful lot, then, that this decaffeinated offering from Black Donkey Coffee Roasters has made our list of the best ground coffee available.
Maybe it’s a subconscious reaction to drinking decaf, but the first thing that hit me about this coffee is how strong it was. As a dark roast, the beans have been roasted slightly longer, which gives off a much more intense flavour. That’s not to say that it’s bitter though – there is a wonderfully smooth finish.
To create their unique flavour, they use beans from Columbia, Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia and India and blend them together, and they roast in small batches to make sure they get a consistent flavour. The result is a wonderfully smooth and richly flavoured coffee.
Obviously, a decaffeinated coffee will not be for everyone, and to be honest, I didn’t think it would be for me – but I have taken to having a bag of this in my cupboard for those late afternoons where I really fancy another delicious coffee, but have already had far too many cups already!
If you’re going to have a decaf in the house, then this is the one for you.back to menu ↑
Marley Coffee – Buffalo Soldier Dark Roast Organic Ground Coffee
Tasting notes: Dark Chocolate and Citrus
It’s another premium product, as one of the more pricey options we’ve discussed. Again, though, you absolutely get what you pay for.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the links to Bob Marley are a bit ‘gimmicky’, but this is a company that really promotes the ethos behind much of Marley’s work – aiming to make the world a better place.
Of course it’s organic – free from chemicals and unnatural fertilisers, and of course portions of the profits are donated to good causes – this time to One Tree Planted.
Again though, that would count for nothing (at least in terms of this list) if the coffee wasn’t up to scratch.
A darker roast than many of our others, the intense flavour has a bit of bitterness to it, but crucially no harshness, making it incredibly drinkable. You get the rich flavours of dark chocolate, with smoky undertones. The organic production means that the flavour is so crisp and clean – the flavours have nowhere to hide!
This is another coffee that, unfortunately, you are going to have to think about how you are going to store, as it just comes in a bag, but this coffee deserves the effort to keep it fresh.back to menu ↑
Exhale Ground Coffee
When you go to a restaurant that has hundreds of options to choose from you are always suspicious of the quality of the food. It’s probably lacking in freshness, pre-prepared and cooked with very little skill. The same can be said for coffee retailers, and so it comes as no surprise that Exhale Coffee only produce three different types of coffee.
Offering an Organic House Roast, a Dark(ish) Roast and a Decaf variant, their organic coffee is the best we have tasted. No seriously – it is!
Not only does their coffee taste incredible (their Darkish Roast is our favourite) but it’s also packed full of antioxidants – the equivalent to 1.8kg of blueberries in a single cup to be precise!
Each of their three varieties is available as whole bean, medium ground or finely ground coffee so you can choose what’s best for your needs. They are also one of the most ecologically friendly and sustainable coffee companies we know of – with all their packaging being plastic free and fully recyclable (or compostable). They are also part of a number of initiatives and give 2% from all orders to environmental charities across the globe.
You have never had coffee that tastes so good and has such little impact on your conscience.
But what does it taste like? The House Roast is a great all-rounder with fruity orange and apricot notes, a smooth finish and a chocolate taste. Their Dark-ish Roast is a little more complex with a more subtle chocolate taste that is underpinned by raspberry, apricot and toffee notes with a delicate touch of cinnamon – it really is something to savour. Their decaf ground coffee is also incredible and you can read about that on our decaf page.
Exhale are fast becoming our go-to company for coffee and you can trial them for just £5 here.
Quick Ground Coffee Summary
So, Is There A Best Brand Of Ground Coffee?
The simple answer to this question is ‘no’.
You will have noticed, however, that of all the different coffees that we have featured above, most of the ‘big hitters’ in the coffee world weren’t included.
There is a simple reason for this – if you want the best coffee, you need to look at the companies that produce it in smaller batches. This gives them much more control over their flavour, and makes it much more consistent.
In order to achieve consistency, the larger companies that mass produce their coffee have to roast their beans within an inch of their lives. That’s the only way that they can guarantee to get the same flavour, which is what their customers expect.
The small batch roasters can have a lot more fun when it comes to experimenting with flavour, and therefore tend to be able to offer much more interesting and exciting flavours (or, some would say, any flavour at all!)
So while there isn’t one particular brand that is best, I would argue that there are plenty out there that you should avoid. The nice thing is, I think you know which ones they are already…
Ground Coffee Vs. Instant Coffee
Ground coffee is much more expensive than instant coffee, and, obviously, the process of making a cup takes much longer. So is it worth it?
Sorry to shout, but it absolutely is.
I’ve mentioned a few times above the importance of freshness when it comes to coffee. Well the production of instant coffee generally involves dehydrating and freeze-drying over a period of months, which obviously leads to a lot of that ‘freshness’ being removed.
I suppose it’s a bit like the difference between a freshly baked pizza from an artisan restaurant, or a frozen oven-pizza from Iceland. Both can serve a function, but as an experience, they are not really comparable.
Why Grind Your Own Coffee?
Grinding your own coffee is another option that you may not have considered yet. It can seem a bit of a daunting prospect, but it might be worth giving it serious thought.
You obviously have a passion for good coffee, and as you may have noticed that I value freshness as a critical factor from the fact that I keep banging on about it.
Well, freshness is lost when oxygen gets in contact with the coffee – it’s why so much care is taken to package every product that we’ve listed above. Ground coffee will be affected more than coffee beans, as there is much more surface area to be got at.
Therefore, in order to get the absolute freshest coffee, you need to grind the beans just before you put them in your cafetiere/filter machine or however you make your coffee, so all the freshness is retained.
You can also grind your coffee to the size that you prefer the most, and to suit your equipment – espresso machines work best with a fine grind, whereas a cafetiere prefers a coarser grind.
There is a therapeutic nature to the process as well – measuring out the beans, the whizz of the grinder – it’s a very pleasing way to start your day!
It’s not for everyone though, and some people just want good coffee in the most convenient way, so buy their coffee ready-ground. For those people, I hope you have found the right coffee for you in this article.