Coffee Buzz: The 10 Best Bags For Your Black Gold Coin
Photo: RossHelen (Getty Images)
Listen, Juan Valdez might have sold you a five-pound bag of Columbian coffee for seven bucks back in the 1980s, but here in 2019, there’s a new equation in town: Quality divided by cost equals value (eat your heart out, Einstein).
We coffee drinkers of today don’t want a canister of Maxwell House (sorry, Grandma), we want a quality-grown, ethically-sourced, custom-roasted, small-label bag for the best price possible. Is that too much to ask? We think not. For the budget-conscious coffee connoisseurs in us all, here are the ten best bags for your buck, or this case, your black gold coin.
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Portland is no stranger to great coffee. Every neighborhood boasts at least one distinct roaster. Case Study is one of those rare places that never makes a bad cup. Their hometown blend sells for $15 while their single origin stunner goes for $21. We recommend the exquisite Keramo from Ethiopia. A top-note tongue wash of green grape, rose, and watermelon candy, this bag will have you coming back for more.
Photo: Case Study Coffee
Santa Cruz is home to some of the chillest coffee shops on earth. It's no surprise, then, that they turn out top beans with ease. Verve started roasting in 2007 and recently expanded locations up and down the west coast and in cities as far flung as Tokyo. With a name denoting "the spirit and enthusiasm surrounding the creation of art," their full-bodied offerings range in price from $16-$21.75. We recommend their Sumava Natural from Costa Rica. It's like blackberry jam spread across a toasted caramel bun.
Photo: Verve Coffee
If you've stumbled upon a pop-up camper van serving coffee out of a back alley parking lot, chances are they're slinging Counter Culture. This North Carolina-based roaster has been chasing coffee perfection for years and their efforts have not been in vain. Truly clean and delicious, now you can buy a bag of their beans for as low as $15. Try the Incahuasi, one of the few varietals from southern Peru, this high-altitude Caturra will smooth your tongue with impressions of almond, vanilla, and golden raisin.
Photo: Counter Culture Coffee
By now everyone in the coffee-drinking world knows about Blue Bottle. What started as a hard to find coffee stand in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, Blue Bottle has grown into one of the giants of the craft coffee world. Partially acquired by Nestle in 2017, the beans average about $17 per bag. Blue Bottle may have lost a step during their corporate expansion, but they still roast a mean bean with craft coffee at their roots.
Photo: Blue Bottle Coffee
By far the biggest coffee cultivator and distributor out of PDX, Stumptown takes their work seriously. There is a passion springing from them that adds almost a sacred layer to the act of sipping java. And because they have the muscle to produce on a large scale, their single origin bean bags sell for only $18-$21. Try their Guatemala El Injerto Bourbon. It's a page ripped right out of the luxe coffee playbook with notes of biscuit butter, orange blossom, and honey.
Photo: Stumptown Coffee
Originally a Brooklyn-based operation, the team is now scattered across America. One landed in Baltimore with the sweet little Vent Coffee Roasters, another carried the Unity moniker out west and began roasting out of a little coffee shop in Highland Park on the northeastern edge of Los Angeles. Rigorously sourced, and lovingly roasted, Unity presents a supremely clean offering for about $15 per 8-oz bag. Their Caturra Natural is a testament to what good coffee should taste like.
Photo: Unity Coffee Sourcing and Roasting
Another product of Portland, this shop located in Ladd's Addition has been craft roasting their own beans since 2015. As it sits along one of the main bicycle lanes in town, pedalers from all over Portland stop in to get their caffeine fix. With a quality roaster rivaling the top beans on this list, Upper Left sells most of their bags for $16-$17 making them one of the best craft coffee deals around.
Photo: Upper Left Roasters
Boston lost one of their best roasters when Beacon moved to an office park in Ventura County a few years ago. The beans are sourced from highly sought after micro-lots, bringing you a quality bean that is reputedly among the top three percent in the world. Most of their bags hover around the $17-$20 mark with their La Matarredonda Geisha retailing for $34. Beacon is sure to steer you out of your early morning fog and into the safe-harbor of a golden cup.
Photo: Beacon Coffee
It's easy to forget the originators. More people know Skrillex than Kool Herc. But it's important to give credit where credit is due, and Intelligentsia out of Chicago deserve kudos for basically establishing the culture of craft coffee. Today they operate shops all over the place (even Target carries their product) and source beans from family-owned farms and small co-ops all around the world. The price ranges from $17-$30 but every bag is crafted with coffee smarts.
Okay, you may have noticed that this is not at all a craft coffee. In fact, you can get a one-pound bag of Kirkland's Columbian dark roast for about $7. However, the point we want to bring up is that even a semi-decent, run of the mill, bag of beans will taste pretty darn good if you follow these simple rules. Never freeze your beans; it will dry them out. Always grind fresh before use; it will impact the flavor. And be sure to use a burr grinder to grind your beans; otherwise, you will effectively reduce the flavor profile of your beans by about 50 percent.
If you follow these simple steps, even your B-grade beans will be hitting the spot. Go one step further by putting these rules to use on a real live bag of couture coffee, and every morning you will be transported to coffee heaven, where every gal and guy is too busy having mouth orgasms to be coffee snobs. Bon cafe!