Recently, I reviewed some instant coffees that I unfortunately didn’t enjoy too much. So when I took on the task of a grocery store coffee taste test, I was a little apprehensive. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the three I tried each had something great to offer.
For this grocery store coffee taste test, I tested coffees from Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Gevalia. The first two brands came as whole beans (though grounds are available in store) and I was able to use my Krups Burr Mill Grinder GVX2 to get them to my ideal consistency, which is medium-fine. The Gevalia coffee came pre-ground. Read on for my thoughts on which coffee would be right for you.
Starbucks Medium House Blend, score TBD, $11.95 for 1 lb.
Described as lively and balanced, I found this coffee to be the strongest of the three. It’s 100 percent Arabica, which means it comes from a specific plant and typically has less caffeine than Robusta coffee. Arabica coffee is also more acidic and less oily than Robusta, meaning it is less likely to produce crema. Still, Arabica is more expensive than Robusta coffee and, in many cases, considered to be superior.
Knowing all this, I was surprised to find that this blend had a burnt taste similar to the one I found the Starbucks Via French Roast coffee to have. The packaging promises “notes of nut and cocoa and a touch of sweetness from the roast” that I couldn’t find, no matter how hard I tried. That said, this brew has a solid caffeine content that perked me up better than the others. If you have a sensitive palate, this may not be the drip coffee for you.
Dunkin Donuts Original Blend, 88/100, $8.99 for 1 lb.
Like the Starbucks blend, this Dunkin Donuts coffee is also 100 percent Arabica. Due to its proprietary (and apparently secret) blend and level of roasting, this coffee is gentler. It lacks bitterness and is lighter than the Gevalia and Starbucks brews overall. True to brand, this coffee is low-fuss, with a taste that is well rounded without being complicated — or complex, for that matter.
As a result of that simplicity, some drinkers may find this blend boring. It may not be the sort of blend you’d serve to guests (unless they’re low key, in which case you are a lucky host!) but it could certainly fit into a daily routine in which you don’t need to think too much about your caffeine choice. Just brew a cup and get on with the rest of your day.
Gevalia Traditional Roast, 88/100, $6 for 12 oz.
Everyone’s seen the Gevalia commercials in which a handsome, blonde Swede woos women away from a cup of joe and toward a cup of Johan. Naturally, I’ve been curious about what makes a cup of coffee a Johan rather than a joe. And now, having tasted Gevalia, I think I have a better idea of what that is.
This blend is a medium roast, which is indicated as 3.5/5 on the intensity scale and 3/5 on the body scale. I haven’t tried any other Gevalia blends, but I would venture to guess that the body rating on the packaging is unforgiving. I found the drink to be full and multi-dimensional, and I didn’t think that it sacrificed body despite being a lighter roast. In fact, there were a multitude of flavors mingling with the 100 percent Arabica, which made it more interesting than the Dunkin Donuts and less bracing than the Starbucks blend.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the Gevalia coffee and would probably buy it again. Dunkin Donuts is my usual day-to-day brew, and I also like the brand’s flavored varieties (such as the hazelnut and French vanilla) so I will definitely go back to that as well. As in the instant coffee taste test, though, the Starbucks failed to impress me. For approximately the same price, I’d choose one of the other two.