If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SPY.com may receive an affiliate commission.
Coffee may be the perennial global runner-up compared to tea, but it’s still one of the most consumed beverages in the world, especially in the Americas and Western Europe. And unlike its leafy competitor, there’s less obvious variety in coffee, which can make it more difficult to find the type and the form of coffee which you will enjoy the most. But have no fear, from the best coffee beans to the best coffee grounds, there’s something to appeal to every palate.
While the difference between a green tea and an Earl Grey would be immediately obvious to even the most unseasoned beverage drinker, varieties in coffee often come down to much subtler tasting notes — tasting notes that you might not even notice depending on your brewing method. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best ground coffees, which you can check out below. But in order to make an informed choice, it’s first important to see why you may prefer ground coffee over whole bean coffee and also clarify a few commonly used terms.
Whole Bean vs. Coffee Grounds
One of the first questions to put to bed is why you would want to buy the best coffee grounds instead of whole bean coffee. It’s worth noting that whole bean and ground coffee both have their own advantages, and the right choice for you will come down to your personal preference and needs at the time.
In terms of flavor, whole bean coffee is the winner. It’s that simple. For freshness and flavor, you can’t beat grinding your own beans and brewing your own cup of the good stuff. However, don’t write off ground coffee just yet. Ground coffee can still taste delicious. Plus, the coffee-making process using ground coffee is a lot simpler and less time-consuming, which can be a pretty big swaying factor if you don’t have time to lose in your morning routine. Another tick for coffee grounds is the wide variety of flavors available to drinkers. As you’ll see below, it’s not unusual to find vanilla, pumpkin spice, macadamia or caramel-flavored grounds, which is ideal if you like a little bit more going on in your cup.
Light Roast vs. Medium Roast vs. Dark Roast
The biggest deciding factor when shopping for coffee grounds is the roast. There are three main kinds: light, medium and dark. Before coffee gets ground and put in a bag, it starts off its life as a fruit, which looks a lot like a cherry. The coffee is processed and then roasted, and the amount of time spent roasting alters the flavor.
Dark roasted coffee grounds are strong and bold, while a light roast is milder but more complex. And a medium roast is, well, somewhere in the middle. Lighter roasts tend to be favored by specialty roasters, who want you to be able to taste the subtle differences between coffees that darker roasting can often neutralize. That’s not to say dark roasting doesn’t have its place. Espresso and French Press are prized for their boldness, and a darker roast helps achieve that strong flavor.
You can actually tell the difference between a lightly and darkly roasted bean just by looking at it; a dark roast will be almost black in color, and typically has something of a glossy sheen. A true light roast is more of a light brown, and sometimes even almost a tan color with nearly no shine. One big misconception in the light vs. dark roast debate is that there’s a big gap in caffeine content. The bold flavor of dark roasts leads many to assume that they’d have more caffeine, but the truth is a dark and light roast will have comparable caffeine content.
Which Region Is Best For Ground Coffee?
There are also growing regions to consider — coffee is grown in what’s called the coffee belt, which consists of countries that are roughly grouped along the equator. Asian, African, South American and Central American coffees all have their own profiles. But many of the options below are house blends, rather than single-origin, and are selected to create a widely palatable profile.
While buying whole bean coffee and grinding it at home will garner better results, a quality burr grinder is a substantial investment. This is another reason why many people favor the convenience of ground coffee. We’ve picked out some of the best ground coffees, which you can check out below. From standard morning coffee to options with a hint of flavor thrown in, there really is something for everyone.
1. Lavazza Classico
As far as widely available grocery store coffee goes, Lavazza hits the sweet spot between flavor and value. It’s often cheaper than comparable offerings from Starbucks, but it’s smoother and slightly sweeter than the often burnt flavor of the offerings from the most famous coffee chain. Lavazza was founded in Turin in 1895 and upholds the high standard of Italian coffee in a budget-friendly way that anyone can enjoy. Classico is Lavazza’s basic medium roast, and its smooth, non-bitter profile is great for your morning cup.
2. McCafé Premium Medium Roast Ground Coffee
Yes, you read that right, we’re talking McDonald’s coffee. When you hear “fast-food coffee,” you probably imagine some burnt swill that’s meant to be gulped as quickly as possible. McDonald’s is the exception. It’s as cheap as you’d expect but tastes a whole lot better than other budget canned coffees. No, the flavor profile isn’t going to be the most complex, but their medium roast is smooth, bold and not at all bitter. Plus, the 24-ounce canister will last you a long time.
3. Eight O’Clock Coffee
BEST FLAVOR RANGE
This Eight O’Clock Coffee proves that delicious, flavor-filled coffee definitely doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. At under $5 for an 11-ounce pack and with over 11,000 five-star ratings to back it up, you can be confident that any one of the wide range of available flavors is going to hit the right spot. Each option in the range, which includes flavors like hazelnut, French vanilla, chocolate mint and original, is made up of 100% Arabica beans, kosher certified and also flavored and roasted in the USA.
4. Maxwell House The Original Roast Ground Coffee
BEST FOR DRIP BREWING
Maxwell House The Original Roast Ground Coffee ticks a number of boxes. First, it has received five-star ratings from over 85% of Amazon users who purchased it. Second, such a well-reviewed coffee for under $7 is a steal. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this coffee tastes great. The medium, original roast preparation delivers a robust, yet classic coffee taste which is ideal for your everyday pick-me-up. It’s also a great option for coffee drinkers who love to add a little cream or sugar to their cup. Furthermore, if you’re looking for a coffee well suited to automatic drip brewers, this is definitely worth a try.
5. Kauai Hawaiian Ground Coffee
With options including coconut caramel crunch, mocha macadamia nut and vanilla macadamia nut, it’s little wonder that Kauai Hawaiian Ground Coffee is one of the most popular ground coffee choices. And if flavored beans aren’t your cup of coffee, Kauai also offers both original flavored medium and dark roast ground coffee, ensuring there’s something for every coffee palate. Each 10-ounce bag contains 100% ground gourmet Arabica beans which are responsibly and sustainably produced by Hawaii’s largest coffee producer. You can’t go wrong with a little bit of this central Pacific paradise in a cup.
6. Kicking Horse Coffee Grizzly Claw
BEST SPECIALTY ROASTER
Kicking Horse may be based in the Great White North, but the brand trades Canada’s signature politeness for a little rudeness, with a variety of slightly surly blends like “Smart Ass”, “Half Ass” and their signature “Kick-Ass” blend. This option is “Grizzly Claw,” which is a good option if you’re looking for a flavorful dark roast with notes of dark chocolate and roasted hazelnuts. It’s sourced from Central and South American, and all of Kicking Horse coffees are Fair-Trade certified and USDA certified organic.
7. Peet’s Big Bang
BEST MEDIUM ROAST
Peet’s may be the first big coffee chain, but the Bay Area brand approaches coffee with as much care as specialty roasters. For example, every bag of Peet’s is stamped with the roasting date and “freshest by” date, so you can ensure you get the most flavorful possible cup. Big Bang is one of the brand’s medium roasts, and it’s described as a “blast of tropical fruit,” which helps balance Peet’s typically stronger and slightly acidic flavors.
8. Fire Department Coffee. Original Medium Roast Coffee
BEST FOR VETERAN SUPPORT
In addition to receiving a bag of delicious tasting coffee, anytime you order from Fire Department Coffee you can feel good in the knowledge that 10% of all net profit made by the company goes towards helping firefighters and other first responders who have been injured in the line of duty. But don’t be fooled into thinking their coffee isn’t up to standard, each offering is well-reviewed by the thousands of coffee drinkers who choose Fire Department Coffee before anything else. You’ll also find an impressive range of coffee and subscription options to choose from, including a number of bean roasts, different bag sizes and delivery frequencies. Plus, military and first responders get a 15% discount.
9. Starbucks Breakfast Blend Medium Roast Ground Coffee
We’re willing to bet that a good number of people reading this article right now are currently holding a cup of Starbucks coffee. It’s perhaps unsurprising then, that this Starbucks Breakfast Blend Medium Roast Ground Coffee is one of the most popular coffee choices on our list. There’s a range of flavors and bag sizes to choose from, but in this medium roast coffee, drinkers will find a lighter roast to enjoy with a lighter, crisp finish. If you’re a regular Starbucks visitor, the ability to enjoy the delights of the World’s most popular coffee company in the comfort of your own home can’t be underestimated.
10. Stone Street Coffee Cold Brew Reserve
BEST FOR COLD BREW AND FRENCH PRESS
Middle to top-shelf ground coffee tends to be really fine, while the cheaper canned stuff is usually a coarser grind. But that doesn’t mean that finely ground coffee is objectively better. If you use a French Press, then it’s very important to use coarsely ground coffee. The metal mesh filter doesn’t catch smaller granules, which means that using a fine grind will result in overly bitter and chalky coffee. That’s what makes Brooklyn-based Stone Street so great. They coarsely grind their coffee, making it ideal for cold brewing or French Press. This option is a Colombian coffee that is dark roasted while maintaining sweetness and smoothness.
11. Cafe Du Monde Coffee Chicory
The story of New Orleans coffee is as interesting as the flavor. The story goes that New Orleans, having been placed under siege by Union troops, stretched the lifespan of their coffee supply by adding chicory. This was inspired by French troops, who had done the same during the Napoleonic wars. The legendary Cafe du Monde, in operation in the French Quarter since 1862, has kept this tradition alive by canning coffee with chicory and making it widely available outside Louisiana. Serve it cafe au lait-style with some hot milk.
12. Death Wish Coffee Ground Coffee
If your top priority in your coffee choice is the strongest taste possible, this Death Wish Coffee Ground Coffee was made for you. As stated on the bag, Death Wish Coffee is proud to be the World’s strongest, ensuring every cup is filled with a delicious yet dark and bold cup of the good stuff. Flavor-wise, you can expect a surprisingly smooth, subtle flavor, which also includes never-bitter cherry and chocolate in the flavor profile. In addition to bringing you a hard-to-beat strength of flavor, Death Wish Coffee is also Fair Trade and USDA certified organic to complete an all-around coffee experience we’re confident you’ll love.
13. Starbucks Flavored Ground Coffee Fall Variety Pack
PUMPKIN SPICE PICK
You’re either a pumpkin spice drinker or you’re not. And if you are, there’s not much more to be said than inside this Starbucks Flavored Ground Coffee Fall Variety Pack you’ll have an 11-ounce pack of everything you need to create your very own pumpkin spice beverages. If the promise of those pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg flavors isn’t enough to convince you that this is the right option for you, perhaps the additional Maple Pecan and Fall Blend packs will seal the deal. The Fall Blend beautifully combines citrus with a hint of spice while the Maple Pecan delivers toasty pecan with sweet maple. Furthermore, this limited-edition set is backed by over 8,500 five-star ratings from Amazon users.
14. Tim Hortons Original Blend
If you use reviews as your compass when it comes to finding the right coffee for you, Canada’s favorite coffee may be your answer. Tim Hortons Original Blend is an impressively reviewed coffee with over 5,000 five-star ratings from more than 85% of Amazon users who purchased the coffee. It also comes supplied in a handy 48-ounce canister which is ideal for daily coffee brewing. The blend is made up of 100% Arabica beans from only the best regions of both South and Central America. Handily, this versatile coffee can also be prepared in a range of different ways, including French press, automatic coffee maker, cold brew and pour-over.
15. Grounds & Hounds Three Blend Starter Kit
DOG LOVER PICK
What would you say if we told you that with every cup of coffee you drink, you could be helping out dogs in need? If your response is “Where do I sign?” All you need to do is start buying your coffee from Grounds & Hounds, like this Grounds & Hounds Three Blend Starter Kit. Grounds & Hounds help to supply microchips, neutering, vaccines and a range of other aids to pups in need of the help. Coffee-wise, this kit is made up of three six-ounce bags of Grounds & Hounds’ most popular coffee offerings, including Morning Walk and Paper & Slippers. Additionally, all beans used in the grounds are 100% certified organic and roasted using a traditional European style.
16. illy Classico
Most people associate canned coffee with bargain brands like Chock Full O’Nuts and Don Francisco’s, but illy, which also comes in cans, is often at the higher end of the price spectrum for grocery store coffees. The almost 90-year old Italian brand was founded in Trieste, and it’s such a standard-bearer for quality that many bakeries and cafes will proudly advertise illy’s distinctive lower-case logo. Classico is robust and rich and is roasted with espresso in mind. However, it works well with other preparation methods, too.
17. Bean Box World Coffee Tour Box
If you don’t really know your Kenyan from your Guatemalan, this Bean Box World Coffee Tour Box gives you the ideal chance to taste your way around the world. From Columbian Del Campo to Honolulu Blend, you’ll stop by in 16 different locations across the world to try coffee from that region. There’s also no need to worry if you’re not familiar with the process of coffee tasting, as this kit comes with brewing tips and tasting notes included, helping you make the most of each pack. This is a fun gift idea for new and experienced coffee drinkers alike.