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Taste Test: The Best Coffees

We taste-tested dozens of coffees from the grocery store and online to get to the bottom of which are our favorites.
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BEST INSTANT

Maxwell House Instant Coffee

Forget everything you think you know (and don't like) about instant coffee. Our tasters described this dark-colored quickie as full, smooth and nutty. "It tastes like coffee!" enthused one surprised cynic; another called its vanilla zing "heavenly." A third said she'd stash it in her luggage for caffeine emergencies. Not bad for a one-minute quaff. ($5.99 for 8 ounces or $8.49 for 12 ounces, at grocery stores)

BEST ORGANIC/FAIR-TRADE

Allegro Coffee Company Rwanda Karaba Whole Bean

The smell of this earthy blend fills a room long before it hits your cup. This is a "full, serious coffee -- not for wimps," warned one panelist. The beans, produced by the Koakaka cooperative outside the village of Karaba, yield a panorama of flavors (brown sugar, lemon, cardamom, dark chocolate and butter) that would pair irresistibly with any doughnut. ($10.99 for 12 ounces, at Whole Foods Markets)

BEST FLAVORED

Community Coffee & Chicory New Orleans Blend

"Well, good morning to you, too," said one taster of this chirpy NOLA favorite. In a fiercely competitive category, the deep Arabica beans and bittersweet chicory nudged out the french vanillas and chocolate truffles. Testers especially liked its "smooth finish"; one said it would "drink well black," while another thought it was "bold, rich and classy." ($5.49 for 13 ounces, communitycoffee.com)

BEST DECAF

Dunkin' Donuts Dunkin' Decaf

This hearty roast won't leave you tossing at night, but it might have you turning up for seconds. Tasters commented on its "nutty, round" and even "cake-ish" flavor, calling it a "sweetie-pie pick-me-up" and the "perfect sip." From now on, this will be our go-to for a post-dinner jitter-free java. ($7.99 for 12 ounces, at grocery stores)

BEST CLASSIC

Starbucks French Roast

Our panelists would brew this blend anytime of day, claiming it's a "solid wake-me-up coffee," perfect for "some midday oomph" or a "delightful nightcap." The smoky, robust flavor contains a hint of sweetness, making this one a delicious "kick in the pants" -- equally perfect for cozy Sundays or Christmas at Grandma's house. ($8.99 for 12 ounces, at grocery stores)

*Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in March 2010.

 

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