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Trader Joe’s is one of the best retailers around where you can get really good coffee for very cheap. They sell all types of coffee including roast bean, ground coffee, instant coffee, and decaf. You can get bottom-barrel dark roasts to high-end brews fit for the finest restaurants.
When finding the best Trader Joe’s coffee, we bought a representative of each coffee blend we could find. We took particular care to taste all kinds of roast they have to offer, and ranked the Trader Joe’s coffee based on quality factors like taste, aroma, aftertaste, and acidity.
Before you hit Trader Joe’s shelves for your next dose of coffee, you need to know what coffee tastes like a rainbow in your mouth and what is only slightly better than boiled cardboard.
Other features: caffeinated, medium-bodied floral aroma
Trader Joe’s shade-grown Ethiopian coffee may not be the best coffee recommended by baristas, but it is pretty close. For people who like light roasts and floral hints, this could be the cup of coffee you treat yourself to when you need a pick-me-up.
To be sure, this coffee has a sophisticated flavor profile that makes it a bit too rich for when you simply want a big shot of caffeine. It’s better suited for those who pause and enjoy certain moments in life, preferably in a posh place because this coffee is expensive! To be fair (and this coffee is fair trade), this coffee comes from one of the most acclaimed places for coffee and is shade-grown, which means 100% organic.
What stands out?
This Trader Joe’s Ethiopian coffee blend is perfectly blended with some flavor, and we could detect hints of caramel, plum, orange zest, and perhaps some cherry. On the finish, we particularly loved how smooth this blend is - one of those coffees that are even better as they go down. When we cold-brewed it, we were pleasantly surprised to find this Ethiopian blend even better than hot brew, perhaps because the flavor was amplified. Overall, these are the best Trader Joe’s coffee beans we reviewed.
What cons did we manage to find?
We did start by saying that Trader Joe’s shade-grown Ethiopian coffee may not be the best out there, and that’s because it is exceptionally light even for a medium roast. Everything is subtle about these beans, and we do think they would make a perfect coffee if they had more body. For those with a heavy palette, this coffee would taste almost bland. This is part of why it is better cold because it gains a bit more body, but it couldn’t get any more genuine.
Other features: caffeinated, medium-bodied, sweet caramel notes and floral overtones
If average was a coffee, this would be it. Trader Joe’s organic fair trade Breakfast Blend is exactly what you expect your morning coffee at home to taste like, except with a bit more complexity in flavor and a surprisingly mellow aftertaste.
Being exactly average, the Breakfast Blend should be perfect for the average person. It is a medium roast, but it does have a more throaty flavor with genuine caramel and fruity undertones. For those who like a pot of instantly good coffee, this makes a great option for pour-over coffee at any time of the day or night.
What stands out?
There is little we can rave about Trader Joe’s breakfast blend. It is mostly good by being not bad, but it's one big positive is that it is not acidic even on the swallow. This blend has a perfectly balanced profile, and it remains light enough for the subtle fruity flavors to shine through. We also loved that it has a very mellow, if only slightly tarty finish, and it is even better as a cold brew. In fact, we might take back our initial words for our Editor’s Pick and declare the Breakfast Blend as the best Trader Joe's coffee for cold brewing.
What cons did we manage to find?
There is not a lot we would have changed in Trader Joe’s Breakfast Blend. It is exactly the type of coffee you can wake up to every working day, but it is also not something you would miss terribly if you got rich and didn’t have to wake up to a big cup of coffee in the first place. Our only complaint - you should have to pay as much for such an average coffee. Check if the price at your local Trader Joe’s is more affordable.
The Trader Joe’s Colombia Supremo is one of Trader Joe’s most preferred coffee selection. It goes way back, but its packaging got a makeover recently. The label on the packaging is super-attractive as it is brightly colored and adorned with tropical flowers, toucans, and tree frogs.
The Colombia Supremo is a medium roast, thus can appeal to virtually all kinds of coffee drinkers. Compared to many other Colombian beans, Colombia Supremo’s beans are larger and more flavorful. You will enjoy its cocoa background flavor and smokiness. Moreover, the coffee is a bit on the light side of the medium roast spectrum. This means it is a tasty black but you may want to brew it a little stronger if you want it to be dark enough for using with plenty of creamer.
What’s more, Colombia Supremo is competitively priced and offers excellent value for money for the amount you get. If you love to make your coffee in different ways or you make coffee for several people with different tastes, the Colombia Supremo is your prime choice because of its versatility.
What do we love it for?
Can appeal to different coffee drinkers
Offers excellent value for money
What were we disappointed with?
Cannot stand up to a lot of cream unless brewed stronger
This coffee couldn’t be more appropriately named. Trader Joe’s Wake Up blend hits like a wet slap on the face, the kind that drives out sleep with the first three sips. Luckily, it is also very smooth and flavorful, not like the liquid abomination served in styrofoam cups in every auto dealership ever.
If you enjoy good coffee and have friends who enjoy good coffee, you can enjoy the Wake Up blend together. Alternatively, you can have this in your office to keep everyone alert, even though we may not guarantee the “friendly part.”
What makes it stand out?
These comments shouldn’t make you think that we didn’t like this Trader Joe’s Wake Up blend. On the contrary, we found it full-bodied with a bold chocolate flavor, something a skillful barista could really go to town with. It is one of Trader Joe's less acidic coffees despite being a dark roast, so that’s something. Of course, it also goes without saying that this is a wholly organic and fair trade coffee (like most of the premium listings here), so it helps to know that this is a coffee to enjoy without reservations.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Trader Joe’s usually carries several variants of the same coffee, but in this case, it is only available as roasted beans and not pre-ground. If you don’t have a grinder, you just have to buy one. We also found that it is very easy to go wrong with this coffee, hence the part about the skillful barista. One wrong move or two could make this coffee bitter and harsh, but that’s no reason not to buy some now.
The Joe Medium is a true medium roast, with no hints or charring or overly bitter aftertaste. The only word for the Joe Medium coffee is “decent.”
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys instant coffee, this is a treat. If you are accustomed to grinding your own Rwandan Isimbi or Kenyan AA, you will find it dark and uncharacteristic. For us average folks who take pleasure in simple, affordable coffee, it is just right.
Why are we impressed?
One of the reasons why the Joe Medium is a staple and one of the best-selling is because it is a straight-up cup of coffee with no pretentious. Brewed right, it makes a classic cup of coffee with no sophisticated notes of anything. We can confirm that it can be exceptionally smooth, but the wrong brewing process can quickly change that. Overall, you can really taste the Arabica in this coffee, and Trader Joe keeps the quality very consistent.
What negatives must you be aware of?
While we think Joe Medium is one of the decent budget coffees here, it is not unique. In fact, it is not even fair-trade certified, which could account for its cheap pricing. You actually get two canisters for the price of one more expensive version, but the resultant dip in quality should make you question your choices. Even for a daily drinker, you really could do better.
Joe’s Dark coffee blend is a generic coffee blend roasted and blended by Trader Joe. It is one of the bottom-barrel choices, but that’s what makes it affordable and popular. This coffee is a hit with some people, but many of our colleagues thought it was appalling. That could be due to the after-effects of drinking so much good coffee previously.
Anybody who enjoys dark coffee and thinks that subtle flavors are for sissies will feel right at home with this coffee. It is especially generous with its dark tones, but it is exactly the kind of coffee broke students and cheap employers stock up on by the canister. For those who prefer a bold, earthy coffee, this is likely the best Trader Joe’s coffee for French press.
What makes it special?
We will say a lot of bad things about this coffee, so let’s say some good stuff first. Joe’s Dark coffee blend is a dark, punch coffee that’s not that much more earthy than a French roast. It makes a mean cuppa packed with caffeine, and it is not half bad when going down. You can do something right with this coffee if you grind and brew it yourself, which should not be a problem when you have it in your workplace.
What cons did we find?
This is the dark roast version of the Joe Medium, only worse. Really, as coffee lovers, we regret ever tasting this blend in the first place. We’re not sure, but there may have been a hint of ash in the flavor. This coffee is also sourced from different areas such as Vietnam and Papua New Guinea, so quality isn’t always consistent. It is also not fair-trade certified, but it is very cheap.
Other features: caramel-like aroma, Kosher certified
We normally wouldn’t give an “Instant Cold Brew” coffee the time of day on an illustrious list like this one, but the Trader Joe’s Instant cold brew coffee is bold enough that we did. For one, why would an instant coffee claim the rights to the term “cold-brew”?
This coffee is not special by any stretch of the imagination. It is meant for those mornings when you simply cannot summon the patience or energy to make something better. As far as instant coffee goes, however, it tastes just fine.
Why is it special?
If you try to look on the sunny side of this instant coffee, you will find it a necessary addition to the home of every hard-working American. It only takes a few minutes to brew, and you can really make it strong. Plus, there’s something to be said for any coffee that tastes better than office coffee. Even better, we found this coffee to be quite flavorful if you give it enough time to brew properly. One thing you might want to do is ensure that you put more coffee than indicated on the package (about 2 or 3 times more.)
What are the flaws?
As one user described it, this coffee is not “remotely pleasurable” and is only fit for “everyday, uninspired, unextraordinary sustenance.” Like medicine, this is the kind of coffee you take because you have to. We wish Trader Joe’s was more accurate with the language on this coffee; honestly, it should just be “instant coffee.” We also noted that the coffee is a little less concentrated than the usual instant coffee.
Trader Joe’s has a good number of premium, small lot coffees for the really discerning coffee lover. Big names like Rwandan Isimbi aren’t even on generic lists like this one, the Cafe Pajaro is right up there with these speciality coffees.
For those days when you just want something extra, this is your coffee. Frab this Cafe Pajaro from Trader Joe’s. That goes for everyone, not just dark coffee lovers.
What makes it special?
Given how perfectly balanced and smooth the Cafe Pajaro is, it is the coffee we would choose to drink when we have had only three hours of sleep and a long day of boring meetings ahead. What’s not to like about it? This is a balanced, non-acidic dark-roast coffee that packs a heavy caffeine punch but is very affordable. It has a rich, bold, but not overwhelmingly dark flavor that is accentuated with some brown spice and dried fruit flavors. Overall, this is a rich, delicious coffee for the occasion.
What cons did we find?
Not everybody loves that rich taste when it is speckled with molasses-like sweetness. The smoky finish on this blend is a bit too aggressive, and we really think it would do better with a bit of spicing up. Yes, this is a dark roast that shouts like it needs to, but wouldn’t you want a more sophisticated flavor in a coffee you will likely drink more than you want to?
Things to Consider
In many cases, Trader Joe’s is the place you go to when you don’t want to have to deal with a dozen possible choices. Coffee is not one of these things, so you really have to know what you are looking for before you go shopping.
Why go for Trader Joe’s Coffee?
Why go to Trader Joe’s for coffee in the first place? While the chain has its share of good and bad coffee, most of it is actually very good. It has some of the most acclaimed small-lot coffees around, but these tend to come and go. However, Trader Joe’s has a robust department that makes in-house brands, including coffee.
Many of these coffee blends are actually really good, besides being affordable. If you don’t buy your coffee from Trader Joe’s for the quality, do it for the experience.
How to Choose the Best Coffee by Trader Joe’s
Buying your coffee from Trader Joe’s is very similar to buying from any other place. You want to make sure you get the right roast, type of beans, blend, etc.
Type of Coffee
You could have whole beans coffee like the most products on our list, pre-ground coffee, instant coffee, coffee concentrate, among others. Trader Joe’s has a wide variety of all these, so knowing what you want will help to narrow the pool significantly.
We recommend that you get whole-bean coffee whenever you can. That way, you can preserve its freshness and flavor for much longer. The best coffees at Trader Joe’s like Shade Grown Ethiopian Coffee, Trader Joe’s Dark Coffee and many more are available as whole beans that you can grind at home.
The type of roast really comes down to a matter of personal preference.
Light and medium roasts are the smoothest, and they typically also come with delicious flavors such as chocolate and nuts.
Medium-dark roasts are also called Full City or Vienna Roasts, and they are usually dark brown with an oily exterior. They often have a full, chocolate or walnut taste with a bit of bitterness
Dark roast coffee is also known as French roast or Full City, sometimes as Italian Roast as well. It is dark brown or black, with the roasted “burnt” tasting overpowering any other flavors infused into it. If you are a fan of dark roast, we recommend you try rich and flavorful Trader Joe’s Dark Coffee or a full-bodied Trader Joe’s Cafe Pajaro Blend.
Again, the taste profile you choose is down to personal preference. You can have coffee with bright floral accents, coffee with warm nutty flavors, all the way to straight classic coffee. Our only recommendation here is: be adventurous and don’t be afraid to try new Trader Joe’s coffee blends.
For many people, the type of coffee you can actually buy is limited by the type of brewing you can do. For those with drip machines, this expands your options significantly. Other options include French Press coffee, cold brew bottles, pour-over stand, among others.
Organic vs. Non-Organic
For the sake of your health, always insist on organic coffee. This is coffee that is grown with no synthetic chemicals and fertilizers, which means the farmers have to adopt natural means of pest control and fertilization.
Some regions are well known for the high quality of their coffee. Ethiopia, Kenya, Costa Rica, Colombia, and countries in the Arabian Peninsula are well respected in this regard.
In addition to organic certification, it is important for many coffee aficionados to only purchase Fair Trade coffee. This means that is has been produced and sourced responsibly, and that all workers and farmers along the value are adequately compensated and protected.
Fair-Trade certified coffee should be traceable all the way to the source, even though many Trader Joe’s blends are opaque on details.
You can go for decaffeinated coffee if that’s your thing, and Trader Joe’s has a very good selection of this. For conventional coffee, though, caffeine quantity will vary.
Drip coffee can have anywhere between 8mg and 15mg per 8 fluid ounces.
Cold-brew coffee steeps for longer, so it has more caffeine at about 12.5 mg per 16 fluid ounces.
Robusta beans have more caffeine (about twice as much), but they don’t give as smooth and delicious a taste.
While both light and dark roasts have about the same caffeine content, dark roasts tend to have more caffeine because they are denser. Thus, you brew more coffee when you measure by volume.
Trader Joe’s coffee is quite pricey, especially the premium types. Most of the packs will indicate how heavy the weight of coffee beans or ground is, so you can measure by weight and determine how many cups you can get out of the pack.
Trader Joe’s sources coffee from all over the world. Countries like Ethiopia, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Jamaica, and Guatemala feature often, which is why buying your coffee at Trader Joe’s is always interesting.
Like any other retailer, Trader Joe’s has its share of good and bad coffee. However, the brand does have a higher ratio of good coffee, especially if you know what you are looking for. There are even some really good exotic brands as well.
Trader Joe’s instant coffee tries to be fresher and more flavorful, which makes it better than many grocery store versions. Do try the Colombian Instant coffee and your faith might just be restored.
Trader Joe’s is one of the best places you can reliably buy premium coffee, whether online or in-store. Our own review process took us through tens of different types of coffee, ending up with this fine selection.
The Trader Joe’s Colombia Supremo was a special one in every way, but there are other premium coffee brands you can find as well. Even after all this exhaustive review, our only advice is: be adventurous and try new things. You will be surprised at the quality of coffee to be found at Trader Joe’s.