8 Coffee Brands That Use the Lowest Quality Ingredients
Some people see coffee as an absolute necessity, a liquid that must be consumed within minutes of waking. Others see it as a treat to be enjoyed at leisure, whether over a weekend paper at home or with a coffee shop scone or croissant and a side of good conversation.
So too do coffee producers fall into different categories? You have those brands that truly care about the quality of their product—that are careful about the sourcing of the beans, keep tight control over roasts and grinding, and do everything they can to ensure that the coffee in a consumer's cup is great stuff. Then you have the coffee brands that see their product merely as a commodity and do everything they can to cut costs.
The unfortunate thing is that sometimes you'll find brands that operate like the latter acting like the former. Spot any like that on our rundown here? Here are the familiar coffee brands that use the lowest quality ingredients. Plus, don't miss: 14 Side Effects of Drinking Coffee Every Day, According to Dietitians.
For years, Yuban was considered a brand that made good coffee for a great price. It was almost exotic, even, proudly made with 100% Colombian coffee beans. Then, recently, the recipe changed, according to Coffee Detective. And not for the better. Yuban is no longer 100% Colombian—and based on consumer response, it's no longer good. In some of its advertising online, the company tries to hedge its way around this change, saying: "Made with Robusta and Arabica beans from Latin America and other tropical regions." This actually means: "We sourced the cheapest beans we could get from wherever we could find them."
Green Mountain Coffee
Once hailed as one of America's best independent coffee companies, Vermont's Green Mountain Coffee went the way of many brands: it went full-on corporate. According to CNN, by the late years of the 20th century, the brand had grown so big it bought up Keurig, the name with which Green Mountain Coffee pods are now synonymous in the minds of many, only to be bought out by private equity juggernaut JAB Holding in late 2015. Today, with a focus on costs instead of coffee, those little Green Mountain Coffee pods often contain inferior blends of coffee, according to Serious Eats.
Maxwell House is a storied American brand that has been in the kitchen of many a family for many a generation. But that's a testament to customer inertia, not product quality. Made with a blend of Arabica and cheaper, more bitter Robusta beans, according to The Old Coffee Pot, Maxwell House's "Original Roast" coffee is cheap stuff, plain and simple. And in other cheap news, Kraft Heinz, the brand's parent company, lost a suit last year that claimed they overstated how many cups of coffee a can of the stuff would brew, according to Bloomberg Law.
Not much of a surprise that a cheap instant coffee brand uses cheap ingredients, really. Nescafé coffee was never very good but got an ingredient change about five years back that made things even worse, according to Manchester Evening News. Customers compare the flavor of the new recipe to dishwater and called it "vile" and "awful."
Brewed with care, Folgers can make a decent cup of coffee. Not great, but decent. But that's not because of any premium level of ingredients. Their Classic Roast blends Robusta and Arabica beans claimed to be "mountain grown" which implies higher altitude but does not actually ensure it, according to Leaf. Coffee grown at higher altitudes tend to be more complex and tasty, but it's harder and more expensive to grow—remember that mountains start at low altitudes, so something can be "mountain grown" while in fact having grown quite near sea level.
Dunkin' at Home K-Cups
Dunkin', formerly known as Dunkin' Donuts, of course, actually has some pretty good coffee, especially for the price. And especially when accompanied by a donut. Now Dunkin' at Home K-Cups, the quick-brew single cups you can make in a Keurig machine, on the other hand? That's cheap joe best skipped. What's the disconnect? A complete one: Dunkin' at Home is made under license by the J.M Smucker company; it's literally a different coffee.
McCafé at Home
Like Dunkin', McDonald's has surprisingly decent (though often dangerously hot) coffee in its stores and yet offers very low-quality coffee when you buy the stuff to brew it at home. According to Mashed, the McCafé coffee you can buy at stores tastes burnt and bitter even when brewed properly.
Though they take pains not to share this fact, Seattle's Best coffee brand is owned by Starbucks, and it has been since 2003, via Business Insider. But rather than being primarily a brand with its own retail locations, it's a cheaper coffee pushed out at places like gas stations and fast-food chains that don't have their own proprietary coffees.
A previous version of this article was originally published on June 9, 2022
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