More than a few people have asked me what are my favorite brands of coffee. I list off a few of my favorite roasters from all over the country, then they almost always ask me, “but what can I buy down the street at the grocery store?”
I warn them that buying coffee at the grocery store can end in disaster. Grocery stores often treat their coffee like a commodity, focusing on quantity rather than quality. I tell them that I would much rather buy my coffee at a local roaster or online, but there’s not always a nearby roaster and those shipping charges can add up. That’s why I’m sharing some of my tips for buying non-disaster coffee at the grocery store.
Rule Number 1
Avoid ground coffee! Coffee goes stale within fifteen minutes of being ground. It loses it’s flavor and will taste state literally in a matter of minutes. Can you imagine how long it’s been sitting on that shelf at the grocery store? So, buy whole bean coffee and grind it yourself at home.
Rule Number 2
Check for a “roasted on date.” Even bags of whole bean coffee can go stale, so you want to try to find one that is preferably less than two weeks old. However, the majority of coffee doesn’t have a “roasted on date,” instead they have a “best before date.” Those “best before dates” are generally a year from the time the beans were roasted. I don’t know about you, but I would definitely avoid coffee that is a year old. However, if you look at it the other way, look for a coffee that has recent “best before date” minus a year. In other words, if it says 10/15/11 and today’s date is 10/21/10, it should still be reasonably fresh. If doesn’t have any roasted date at all, purchase at your own risk.
Rule Number 3
Check out the organic section. There I’ve found organic and fair trade coffees from reputable brands like Jim’s Organic Coffee and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. However, be careful. I’ve noticed that sometimes the bags of coffee have been sitting there for a long time, long enough to start collecting dust.
Avoid the coffee grinders at the store. Who knows what kind of coffee was ground before in it and who knows when the last time they were cleaned. Make the investment to buy a coffee grinder.
That’s my tips, do you have any other tips for getting good coffee at the grocery store?
Photo bywilliam couch.