The best coffee: beans and ground coffee for everything from the French press to the Italian espresso

Beans, grounds or micro-grounds: whatever kind of coffee you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered

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You read that right: the best coffee. It’s a bold claim in the world of today, where it’s pretty much par for the course to have your single-estate drip coffee poured lovingly right in front of your eyes by a man with a serious moustache and Eddie the Eagle glasses.

But forget the faff, because we’re not here to signpost you to the hottest public-toilet-turned-coffee-shops in East London, or tell you the top tips for roasting your own beans to perfection (we hear it’s something to do with the full moon), but rather tip you off as to the best brews you can whip up at home.

Our list is a combination of ground coffee, whole coffee beans, and one rather rare appearance from an instant coffee (just trust us, Kenco it ain’t). If you’re a bit of a coffee nut, you’ll probably have more than enough ways of making a brew at your disposal, from the trust moka pot to the futuristic Aeropress, but it’s worth bearing in mind that some of the products in our round-up are better suited to one particular method over another.

Basically, it all comes down to the grind. If you’re lucky enough to have your own coffee bean grinder at home, you can go for a bag of whole beans, such as the Juan Valdez Colombian or Ethiopian Yirgacheffe below, and set the grind level for whatever kind of cup you fancy that day.

For espresso machines it should be very fine (usually between a one and a three if you have a multi-level grinder); for stovetop coffee pots or Aeropress, medium fine (three to five); for drip coffee, medium (five to seven); and for cafetiere, percolator or cold brew, a coarse grind (seven to nine).

Where we’ve included ground coffees, such as the espresso-friendly Illy Medium Roast or the coarser Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, we’ve mentioned the grind, where the same applies. And then there’s the Starbucks VIA instant, which you can just bung into a cup with some hot water, and therein lies its charm. As for the one expertly selected by indigenous Indonesian weasels, pooped out and recycled into what some say is the world’s best coffee? Well you’ll just have to read on for more on that...

The best coffee, in order

The best coffee

1. Indonesian Kopi Luwak

Arguably the world’s best coffee – and you won’t believe where it comes from

Specifications
Best for: No bitterness
Type: Beans
Roast: N/A
Origin: Indonesia
Reasons to buy
+No bitterness+Unique production
Reasons to avoid
-It’s been out of the business end of a civet

This Indonesian plantation utilises the services of the world’s most discerning foremen, the area’s indigenous wild civets, to test the ripeness of their beans. To put it as delicately as possible, the civets choose to eat only the very best berries, and after “processing” them, the “findings” are packed up and shipped off to coffee connoisseurs.

The official word on it is that the civets’ digestive juices process the berries near-perfectly to result in a bean with no bitterness whatsoever, leading to a taste that one master roaster described as "fermented plum and dark chocolate with hazelnuts".

Illy Espresso Medium Roast Ground Coffee

2. Illy Espresso Medium Roast Ground Coffee

These Italian-roasted beans are unbeatable for a fresh taste

Specifications
Best for: Espresso
Type: Ground
Roast: Medium
Origin: Mixed
Reasons to buy
+Loads of flavour+Fresh-tasting
Reasons to avoid
-Too fine for cafetiere

While many eschew Illy for less expensive and, let’s be honest, less good-looking packets, it’s well worth consideration if you’re after something special for your morning cup.

Critics found it to be flavour-packed and as close to that freshly-roasted taste as you can get from pre-ground coffee, and you can’t beat that WHOOSH of air when you first open the vacuum sealed canister.

While the aroma and rounded caramel-esque palate with light floral notes is pretty much universally lauded, some cafetiere users noted it was ground a little fine for their tastes – if you’re not going the espresso machine route, we advise taking more care than usual when plunging to avoid a silty situation.

Jamaican Blue Mountain

3. Jamaican Blue Mountain

A French press-ready grind from one of the world’s finest regions

Specifications
Best for: Smooth taste
Type: Ground
Roast: Mild
Origin: Jamaica
Reasons to buy
+Guaranteed single origin+Delicate-tasting cup
Reasons to avoid
-Won’t be strong enough for some

With its coarser grind, this Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is one for the cafetiere, rather than the espresso or filter machine, but what a cafetiere it’ll be! The authentic burlap packaging makes this close to the Illy canister in terms of satisfying opening ceremonies, followed up by a dazzling in-cup experience, from the forward aroma to the surprisingly delicate taste that follows.

Reviewers found, true to its reputation as the Champagne of coffees, that this coffee was smooth and mellow without a hint of bitterness, so it may be a good first foray into grown-up coffee for those who don’t like a really full-on brew.

Yauco Selecto

4. Yauco Selecto

For a rollercoaster of aroma and taste, give this Puerto Rican powerhouse a try

Specifications
Best for: Complex flavour profile
Type: Ground
Roast: Medium
Origin: Puerto Rico
Reasons to buy
+Rich, sweet flavours+Ideal for espresso
Reasons to avoid
- Grind is quite fine 

While perhaps not as renowned as Colombia or Ethiopia, it’s easy to see why Puerto Rico’s Yauco district is so highly regarded as a growing region. Tasters found Yauco Selecto’s espresso grind to boast some beautifully complex notes, from semi-sweet chocolate to cedar, with an underlying mustiness to combat the sweetness, a combo that will probably appeal to lovers of typical Sumatran coffee. The grind is fine and powdery, so it’s ideally suited to an espresso – all the better for savouring those flavours.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee

5. Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee

No time to queue? No problem.

Specifications
Best for: On the go
Type: Instant
Roast: Mild
Origin: Colombia
Reasons to buy
+Super quick to make+Lovely aroma
Reasons to avoid
-Still suffers from some drawbacks of instant

When it absolutely has to be instant for the sake of speed, but you can’t quite bring yourself to reach for the dusty jar of Maxwell House at the back of the cupboard, this is about as good as it gets.

While testers found that it didn’t quite live up to the taste experience offered by Starbucks’ Colombian whole beans – although admittedly that’s to be expected – what they did find was that it was considerably more palatable than most of the instant offerings on the market, using Millicano-like ‘microgrounds’ rather than great big boulders of freeze-dried coffee, and producing a surprising amount of aroma.

Juan Valdez Premium Volcan coffee

6. Juan Valdez Premium Volcan coffee

The logical choice for those in search of a good, strong cup

Specifications
Best for: Strong coffee
Type: Beans
Roast: Dark
Origin: Colombia
Reasons to buy
+Very strong+Deep, dark, sweet notes
Reasons to avoid
-May be a bit full-on for some

That they were described by one reviewer as ‘ridiculously good’ tells you much of what you need to know about Juan Valdez’ Colombian coffee beans. Making for a strong cup with oodles of pronounced aroma, with its rich, sweet notes of salted toffee and dark chocolate, the producers say it’s perfect for espresso lovers. It’s not just rocket fuel though: the dark roast goes big on body and cuts back on acidity for a deliciously full, never acrid, taste.

Equal Exchange Organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

7. Equal Exchange Organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

Responsibly farmed, beautifully balanced

Specifications
Best for: Organic
Type: Beans
Roast: Medium
Origin: Ethiopia
Reasons to buy
+Organic beans+Complex, balanced taste
Reasons to avoid
-Quite unusual

A far cry from our previous pick’s flavour profile, but no less delightful, these Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans make for a beautifully bright-tasting cup. With thanks, we suspect, to that medium roast, Equal Exchange’s tasting notes portray a complex coffee that’s bursting with floral and citrus notes at the top end, with a surprisingly dark heart of spicy, wine-like tones.

“Unusual, fresh taste” is how one reviewer described it, and here, for once, “unusual” doesn’t seem like a politely British way of saying “shockingly awful”, but rather a pretty good summing up of a coffee that’s hard to pin down, but delightful to drink.

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