Friday, July 30, 2010

The Wall of Coffee: Navigating Superstore Coffee Selection


Is this a familiar view? The "Wall of Coffee" is intimidating with the many brands, varieties, ground, whole bean, cans, vacuum bags, plastic dispensers, varying sizes...etc.

It can overwhelm any person new to coffee, wondering how something so simple as coffee can be so confusing. In this post, I want to guide Metro Espresso readers through navigating the superstore selection of coffee.

Pictured left is the coffee selection at the Arlington Whole Foods. They offer a better selection of coffee than Safeway, Giant, and Shoppers.

Tip 1: To get better supermarket coffee, go to Whole Foods or Harris Teeter, they will offer better coffee and a likelihood of semi-local coffee. Giant and Safeway tend to offer Starbucks, Peets...while o.k., we coffee lovers demand better.

Tip 2: While tempting, skip the plastic dispensers full of coffee. (Pictured top left) You don't
know how long those coffee beans have been sitting there interacting with the oxygen muting the coffee's wonderful flavors.

Tip 3: Buy whole bean coffee, on the bag it should say whole bean or ground, but it is quicker to feel the bag. Whole bean is fresher, and if you are reading this blog and haven't bought a burr grinder. What's stopping you? This is the single most important thing to buy if you want fresh coffee.

Tip 4: Look to see if the coffee has a roast date on it. If it does, that means the roaster takes pride in its freshness. Out of all the coffee at Whole Foods, only one had a roast date on it. If it does, its most likely a keeper.
Tip 5: Look for local or semi-local roasters, they may not have a roast date on them, but will probably be fresher than DD, Starbucks, and Peets. M.E. Swings is a local roaster in DC, while it didn't have a roast date on it, its probably better than the national brands.

Tip 6: Most vacuum bags have a small valve. To get a sense of the aroma and the bean, one can squeeze bag while smelling near the valve. This lets you preview the goods without buying it! I often do this, while the Girlfriend shops for groceries.

Tip 7: Grab from the back, the stackers put the new products in the back behind the old stuff first. For example, the coffee I bought with the roast date on it 7-15 was behind the coffee with roast date 6-30.

Using these few tips, one should be able to navigate the "Wall of Coffee" and get decent coffee. One shouldn't really have to pay over ~$10-11 unless it has a roast date on it or its a 1 lb of coffee rather than 12 oz.



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