How to choose

Last reviewed: September 2011

If the cost of your morning java matters more than getting the ultimate taste, there's good news. Walmart's Great Value 100% Colombian Medium scored on a par with the Starbucks Colombia Medium for a fraction of the price. It also had, for the same price per serving, a stronger, fruitier aromatic character than the Folgers and Maxwell House 100% Colombian coffees, which we judged only Fair. Here's some advice to keep in mind:

Consider your tastes

Colombian, the most common varietal of coffee sold, can be fairly strong in flavor and intensity of aroma, with moderate complexity. Ethiopian tends to be more complex overall, with a fair amount of bitterness, though not enough to detract from enjoyment. The K-Cups we tested, all Colombian, were generally not very complex and included more off-notes than the coffees we judged Very Good.

Weigh freshness against convenience

Grinding your own is less convenient but results in a fresher cup. K-Cups are convenient and easy to store, but we judged those we tested unimpressive—more enjoyable if you take sugar and milk with your coffee.

Choose a good coffeemaker

The Cooks CM4221, sold at JCPenney, was among models from our December 2010 report (available to subscribers) that reached the 195° F to 205° F required to get the best from coffee beans and avoid a weak or bitter brew. At $40, it was a CR Best Buy

Keep up the maintenance

Your coffee's taste will suffer if you don't routinely clean the machine, no matter what kind of beans you brew.