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Best Ground Coffee for 2021

There are some occasions when grinding your own coffee just isn’t practical. Perhaps it’s a busy morning or a visitor who wants a decaf. But buying pre-ground doesn’t have to mean missing out on quality coffee.

Here are some of the best ground coffee beans that will give whole bean coffee a run for its money.

Top Pick

Koa Coffee Estate Ground Coffee

Grown on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano in the Kona region.
Single-origin, hand-picked, 100% Arabica beans.
Subtle sweetness with bright acidity and hints of cocoa.

How to Choose the Best Ground Coffee

There are a few factors that will make all the difference between a well-extracted coffee and a watery mess when it comes to ground coffee. Our buying guide outlines all you need to know about the best ground coffee options in the market.

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Best Overall kona estate (1) Koa Estate Ground 100% Kona Coffee
  • Roast Level: Medium
  • Taste: Cocoa
  • Origin: Kona, Hawaii
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Budget Pick seatle Seattle’s Best Coffee Post Alley Blend
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Smoky
  • Origin: South American
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Best Decaf caribou Caribou Coffee Caribou Blend Decaf
  • Roast Level: Medium
  • Taste: Spice, berry, cocoa, cedar
  • Origins: Central and South America
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Best Dark Roast deathwish Death Wish Coffee
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Cherry, chocolate
  • Origins: Indian, Peru
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Best Organic kickinghorse Kicking Horse Coffee 454 HorsePower
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Earthy, tobacco, licorice
  • Origins: Central and South America, Indonesia
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Best Tasting Ground Coffee peetscoffee Peet’s Coffee French Roast
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Woodsmoke, burnt caramel
  • Origins: Central and South America
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Best Medium Roast starbucks Starbucks Medium Roast Ground Coffee Breakfast Blend
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Sweet orange, brown sugar
  • Origin: South America
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Best Ground Espresso lavaza Lavazza Crema e Gusto Blend
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Spice, chocolate
  • Origin: Africa, Brazil, Indonesia
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Koa Estate Ground 100% Kona Coffee
Best Overall kona estate (1)
  • Roast Level: Medium
  • Taste: Cocoa
  • Origin: Kona, Hawaii
Seattle’s Best Coffee Post Alley Blend
Budget Pick seatle
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Smoky
  • Origin: South American
Caribou Coffee Caribou Blend Decaf
Best Decaf caribou
  • Roast Level: Medium
  • Taste: Spice, berry, cocoa, cedar
  • Origins: Central and South America
Death Wish Coffee
Best Dark Roast deathwish
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Cherry, chocolate
  • Origins: Indian, Peru
Kicking Horse Coffee 454 HorsePower
Best Organic kickinghorse
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Earthy, tobacco, licorice
  • Origins: Central and South America, Indonesia
Peet’s Coffee French Roast
Best Tasting Ground Coffee peetscoffee
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Woodsmoke, burnt caramel
  • Origins: Central and South America
Starbucks Medium Roast Ground Coffee Breakfast Blend
Best Medium Roast starbucks
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Sweet orange, brown sugar
  • Origin: South America
Lavazza Crema e Gusto Blend
Best Ground Espresso lavaza
  • Roast Level: Dark
  • Taste: Spice, chocolate
  • Origin: Africa, Brazil, Indonesia

Packaging matters

We’re not talking about aesthetics here. What matters is the size and type of package your ground coffee comes in.

If you buy in small amounts and store the pre-ground coffee well, you could get a better cup of coffee than if you had ground the beans yourself.

Perfect Daily Grind

The downside to buying pre-ground coffee is that it’s not as fresh as grinding at home. One way to help combat this is by buying smaller packets of coffee. It might cost more than buying in bulk, but you’ll end up with a better cup of joe. 

The freshness of coffee is affected by two things: oxygen and light. Therefore, the package should be airtight, with a one-way valve that lets gases from the beans out but won’t let oxygen in (1).

Different grinds for different brewing methods

Not all pre-ground coffee brands give you options for grind size. When you grind beans at home, you have the opportunity to adjust the fineness for every cup, but with ground coffee, you need to choose carefully.

The brewing method you use will determine the grind size you need. Generally speaking, the longer the extraction time, the coarser the grind. For example, you use an extra coarse grind for cold brew, brewed for at least 12 hours.

At the other end of the scale, you need finely ground beans for espresso. The extraction time is a matter of seconds. If you use a grind that is too coarse in an espresso machine, your coffee will be under-extracted, with a sour taste.

The level of roast

How you roast the beans will determine the flavors that develop. The kinds of roasts you will come across are light, medium, medium-dark, and dark.

Light roasted beans have a subtle but complex taste in the cup. Flavors here are floral or fruity, with higher acidity levels. As the beans are roasted further, they begin to lose some of the acidity and develop stronger flavors and aromas. Medium roast beans have a good balance between acidity and flavor.

A medium-dark roast is where bold flavors begin to develop, and there is almost no acidity. Dark roasted coffees will have the strongest taste and aroma, with a pronounced bitterness and even charred or smoky flavors.

A darker roast might be stronger in flavor, but not in caffeine. The caffeine levels in coffee remain very stable during the roasting process (2).

best ground coffee roast levels

The type of beans and where they come from 

Another key factor that contributes to the flavor of your coffee is where the beans originate. 

No matter how a coffee is roasted or brewed, each region has its own unique flavor.

Al Woods, Flux Magazine

There are two main types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Yet, countless flavor profiles are depending on where and how the beans are grown.

The most significant coffee-producing regions are in Africa, Central America and South America, and Indonesia. However, you’ll see more exclusive coffee coming out of small growing areas such as Hawaii and Jamaica.

The Best Ground Coffee in 2021

Whether you like it light and fruity or dark and smoky, there’s a ground coffee out there for you. Here are eight of the best ground coffee beans that we like.

1. Koa Estate Ground 100% Kona Coffee – Best Overall

Specifications

  • Roast: Medium

  • Taste: Cocoa
  • Origin(s): Hawaii

It was a tough call, but this single estate is our pick of the best ground coffees. It makes a very smooth and rich coffee with no bitterness. The medium roast retains bright and sweet flavors with some acidity and notes of cocoa.

Koa Coffee specializes in Hawaiian coffees, including the exclusive Kona bean. This is only grown at a high elevation on two volcanoes slopes, which provide a unique microclimate perfect for Arabica coffee.

Estate Kona Coffee comes from a single farm, where all of the coffee beans are still picked by hand. It’s not cheap, but you will get the full experience of the rich aroma and flavor that the Kona region is known for.

2. Seattle’s Best Coffee Post Alley Blend – Budget Pick

Seattle's Best Coffee Post Alley Blend (Previously Signature Blend No. 5) Dark Roast Ground Coffee, 20 Ounce (Pack of 1)

Specifications

  • Roast: Dark

  • Taste: Smoky
  • Origin(s): South America

Seattle’s Best Coffee only do blends, so you could consider them experts in balancing flavors. They start with 100% Arabica beans sourced from Latin America, combined to create one of their ten signature coffee blends.

The Post Alley Blend (formerly known as Signature Blend No. 5) is one of their darker options. It’s been French roasted to bring out rich, smoky flavors. It’s bold but surprisingly smooth.

The company started as a small, family-run affair with just a peanut roaster. They’ve since expanded somewhat but retained their commitment to providing approachable, affordable coffees.

3. Caribou Coffee Caribou Blend Decaf – Best Decaf

“Caribou

Specifications

  • Roast: Medium

  • Taste: Spice, berry, cocoa, cedar
  • Origin(s): Central America and South America

Caribou Coffee uses an all-natural decaffeination process. This is not only preferable because it avoids the use of chemicals, but it also allows the company to retain more of the beans’ natural flavors. In this case, it’s a rich syrupy body with some spice, finishing with notes of cocoa and cedar.

A good decaf can be hard to find, so Caribou has made sure all coffee drinkers can get the grind they need. Choose from grinds for Turkish coffee, French press, percolator, gold filter, paper filter, or espresso.

Caribou is a small batch roaster, using Arabica beans from only the world’s top one percent. All its coffee is sustainably sourced and Rainforest Alliance Certified.

4. Death Wish Coffee – Best Dark Roast

“Death

Specifications

  • Roast: Dark

  • Taste: Cherry, chocolate
  • Origin(s): India, Peru

We did say that a dark roasted coffee doesn’t mean a higher caffeine content, but in this case, the two go hand in hand. Death Wish claims to make the world’s strongest coffee, even offering a money-back guarantee if this isn’t the strongest you’ve tasted.

It was founder Mike Brown’s goal to give his customers something that would really kickstart their day.

Death Wish ground coffee gets the high caffeine levels from the beans themselves. In contrast to increasing the strength at the brewing stage. Death Wish sources its USDA certified organic and fair-trade coffee mainly from Peru and India, with the exact region depending on which crops have the most caffeine that year.

While the “knock your socks off” strength might be what sets Death Wish coffee apart, no one is going to drink it if it doesn’t taste good. The darkness of the roast provides bold, rich flavors of cherry and chocolate. Despite the strength, it is a smooth blend, low in acid and bitterness.

5. Kicking Horse Coffee 454 HorsePower – Best Organic

“Kicking

Specifications

  • Roast: Dark

  • Taste: Earthy, tobacco, licorice
  • Origin(s): Central and South America, Indonesia

For its ground coffee selection, Kicking Horse favors a dark roast. 454 HorsePower sits between the sweeter Kick Ass blend and the rich Grizzle Claw blend. The aroma here is just as rich as the flavor, with scents of cacao nibs and spice. On the palate, you’ll get bold earthy flavors of sweet tobacco with a black licorice finish.

Try making the 454 HorsePower as a cold brew for a smoky twist on this method. The complex flavors and naturally low acidity stand up well to the long-brewing process.

Kicking Horse coffee doesn’t just taste good; you can also feel good about drinking it. The company has enough certifications to alleviate any concerns about where your coffee has come from. Since 2003 it has used exclusively certified organic coffee, and since 2017 it has purchased only certified fair-trade beans. It’s also Climate Pledge Friendly, shade-grown and kosher.

6. Peet’s Coffee Ground Coffee – Best Tasting Ground Coffee

Peet's Coffee French Roast, Dark Roast Ground Coffee, 20 oz

Specifications

  • Roast: Dark

  • Taste: Woodsmoke, burnt caramel
  • Origin(s): Central and South America

This Peet’s Coffee variant is a French roast, which is at the darker end of dark roast, and is done to bring out smokey or charred flavors and reduce acidity (3).

Not all beans can be roasted to this point, which makes selection very important. These beans have been sourced from high-altitude farms in South America. At this level, beans grow slower and end up denser and harder, making them capable of withstanding the French roast (4).

The flavor is typical of the roast style: a bold and intense cup with sweet, smoky overtones.

It’s the right choice for those that like to add cream and sugar, but can also be enjoyed black by less timid coffee drinkers. Peet’s recommend these beans for French press  or drip machine, to get the most out of this blend. And if you like what you try, Peet’s offers a subscription service with a customizable grind.

7. Starbucks Medium Roast Ground Coffee Breakfast Blend – Best Medium Roast

“Starbucks

Specifications

  • Roast: Medium

  • Taste: Sweet orange, brown sugar
  • Origin(s): South America

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the impact Starbucks has had on coffee culture. After dominating mainstream hot drinks, it now offers its signature blend ground coffee to get their favorites at home. Of course, they make flavored coffee, but try this for an everyday brew.

Some critics say that, in general, Starbucks coffee is too strong. But if you’re a regular at your local outlet, this will be a familiar taste and strength for you. It is less intense as a medium roast than other Starbucks coffees – ideal for those who want to wake up a little more slowly. On the flavor side, expect a sweet, citrus tang up front and a clean finish.

The downside to the Breakfast Blend is that it’s only available in a 20-ounce bag. If you want it to stay fresh as possible, this is better suited to a household or office rather than a solo coffee drinker.

8. Lavazza Crema e Gusto Blend – Best Ground Espresso

“Lavazza

Specifications

  • Roast: Dark

  • Taste: Spice, chocolate
  • Origin(s): Africa, Brazil, Indonesia

Even if you’re new to coffee, you’ve no doubt heard of Lavazza. The Italian coffee brand has been roasting and blending since 1895. So, it’s safe to say they’ve mastered the art of the espresso coffee blend, perfect for the Moka pot, present in every Italian home.

Lavazza has created Crema e Gusto blend to provide an intense but full-bodied coffee with a rich aroma. Expect to taste spices, with hints of chocolate at the finish. Lavazza has always explored the benefits that combining beans from different regions can produce. In this case, they’ve brought together Arabica from Brazil with Robusta from Indonesia and Africa.

Despite being such a massive brand, Lavazza remains family-owned and is committed to sustainable practices. The Fondazione Lavazza works with coffee growers in 17 countries to support reforestation, provide training for best practices, and promote crop diversification.

The Verdict

If you’re looking for high-quality coffee that won’t be a step down from whole beans, you can’t go wrong with anything on this list of best ground coffees.

We highly recommend the Koa Coffee Estate Medium Roast for a unique aroma and flavor and excellent quality. With 100% Kona coffee beans (not a blend), it offers a rich, sweet cup with cocoa flavors.

FAQs

The best way to store ground coffee is in an airtight container out of direct light. Ideally, this would be a container with a vacuum seal, but even a jar left in a dark cupboard will work. Extreme temperatures will affect the flavor, so avoid storing your coffee in the fridge (5).

The clue here is in the name. Instant coffee is coffee that has been brewed, then dried. This means it only needs the addition of hot or cold water to rehydrate it. Ground coffee is the roasted beans that have been ground and packaged. It still needs to be brewed before drinking (6).

Your taste will determine the best ground coffee for drip coffee. This method enhances the subtle, natural flavors of the bean so it’s well suited to a light roasted single-origin coffee. But don’t be afraid to experiment with dark roasted coffee if you like earthier flavors.

References
  1. Simmons, M. (2017, November 05). Proper Ways of Choosing Best Ground Coffee. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@diligentchef/proper-ways-of-choosing-best-ground-coffee-e4ee6daceca
  2. Caffeine Myths: Dark vs. Light. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2020 from https://www.kickinghorsecoffee.com/en/blog/caffeine-myths-dark-vs-light
  3. Goodwin, L. (2019, October 03). What Is French Roast Coffee? Retrieved from https://www.thespruceeats.com/french-roast-coffee-765178
  4. French Roast. (n.d.). Retrieved December 06, 2020, Retrieved from https://www.peets.com/coffee/dark-roast/french-roast
  5. Is Pre-Ground Coffee Ever Better Than Freshly Ground? (Updated 2018, December 17). Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/12/is-pre-ground-coffee-ever-better-than-freshly-ground/
  6. Difference Between Ground Coffee and Instant Coffee. (2019, June 20). Retrieved from https://victorallen.com/blogs/coffee-101/difference-between-ground-coffee-and-instant-coffee

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