Trader Joe's Coffee, Ranked Worst To Best

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Trader Joe's: the banner grocery store for unique snacks and fantastical dips, and a haven for broke college students. We'd all love to stock our pantry top-to-bottom with the best of TJ's, but it's hard to know whether to spend our money on the chocolate hummus or everything bagel seasoning. We're happy just to stick to a simple product that is in most people's pantries: coffee.

Like every other Trader Joe's product, the coffee selection is overwhelming. How can you know what coffee is good, and on top of that, pick one that suits your taste? Citrusy, earthy, chocolaty? How are you supposed to know what you're in for when all the label says is "flavorful medium roast"? And which ones are going to taste, we kid you not, like crusty cigarettes (whether or not you're into that)?

We're here to help. We have a list of Trader Joe's coffees ranked from worst to best — so the next time you're at TJ's, you'll be one step closer to getting top-tier caffeine from your favorite grocery store.

14. 100% Colombian Instant Coffee

Full transparency: The instant coffees are going on the bottom of the list. If you want a good coffee, instant coffee isn't where you'll get the best flavor. Instant coffee also has the least amount of caffeine out of all caffeinated drinks except decaf coffee, so you won't be getting hyped up with any of these.

However, with this 100% Colombian Instant Coffee from TJ's, there's no information about the roast quality. What we can deduce is with a Colombian bean, we'll get something that's less acidic and more sweet and nutty. In powder form, you're not likely to get as much flavor as you would in a cup of ground or whole bean coffee. Mix a spoonful of this instant coffee in with some hot water, and you'll get a chemical taste and a weak cup of coffee — in an instant.

Coffee Review gave this one a low score of 73, describing the taste as "boiled, or maybe burned, wood in the cup, rounded by caramel and the barest suggestion of dark chocolate ... sweet in the finish though quite astringent." If that's your flavor, then by all means, sip away.

13. Instant Cold Brew

This brew claims to shorten the cold brew process, making it possible to mix the powder in cold water and instantly get a fantastic cup of coffee. It's described as a 100% Arabica Coffee blend — the beans from India — and the extraction technique took the supplier two years to develop. We'd say an average joe could have accomplished more during their time in lockdown.

This instant cold brew doesn't match up with the expectation of how strong this kind of coffee can get. Weak and lacking the expected richness of a traditional cold brew, this one will have you missing the real thing. The Daily Waffle found it "had that flat instant taste and smell," and that it took way too many spoons to make it tasteful. The instructions only say to add "a heaping teaspoon" per 12 ounces of water, which is a bit vague and could be the reason for the unpredictable taste. This mix may be better suited for dalgona coffees or mixed drinks.

12. Instant Coffee, All Dressed with Creamer and Sugar

While coffee snobs might still judge you for picking instant coffee, if you have to do it, this is the top choice. However, hopefully you like your coffee sweet, as you have no choice in the matter with this instant blend! On the box, it says this coffee is ideal for travel — which shows how desperate you might have to be to buy this — and comes with 10 packets.

The coffee, creamer, and sugar come together in one packet. Open the packet, realize how demoralized you've become, mix it with hot water, and you have a cup of something. It's a decent fix for those who enjoy coffee with cream and sugar, but not a good one for those who truly enjoy a genuinely good cup of joe. Trader Joe's reviewer Eating at Joe's gave it just one star and advised, "Don't settle for something gross just because the packaging is cute."

11. Low Acid French Roast Coffee

The only benefit of this coffee might be its low acid, which could be helpful to those who have sensitive stomachs due to acidic foods and drinks and suffer from acid reflux. However, that's the only benefit we can think of — and we have strong stomachs.

Acid level aside, this coffee tastes pallid and woody (not in a good way), and multiple drinkers have described it as having a disappointing flavor profile. YouTuber MorganDrinksCoffee characterized the taste as "ashy" — a taste that unpleasantly reminds us of cigarettes — and assured their audience they would dump it in the trash ASAP. To save yourself from having to do the same, unless you have an especially sensitive stomach, you might want to steer clear of this one in the first place.

Stephen Keller reviewed this coffee and found that "once brewed and in the cup, the beans turned into a very bitter cup of coffee," despite it having a great aroma when ground. This coffee may only be salvageable with cream or whole milk — and a lot of it.

10. Bay Blend

As we saw with the Low Acid French Roast, there are some coffees that can only recover with the addition of other ingredients — milk, sugar, creamer — and this might be one of them. The TJ's Bay Blend is a very (note "ultra" in the name) dark roast, made from a 100% Arabica bean blend. Since it's nitrogen-flushed, it's more able to retain its freshness, even after the can is opened. But if this is what it tastes like fresh, we want to know how it tastes when it's stale! (Maybe it tastes like Old Bay seasoning, because that's all we can think of with this name.)

One reviewer on Badger & Blade noted, "I may have gotten a batch outside their normal roast profile but I found it burnt and way over roasted." However, this dark roast does lack bitterness, and those who enjoy dark coffees might give this one a shot. Reviews go back and forth, however, with Ryan Gerard on Trader Joe's Reviews also saying, "Of all the coffees that I've tried at Trader Joe's, this one is by far the best flavor and the most body." Given these mixed reactions, it might just be up to personal taste.

9. Black Cold Brew Coffee

Sometimes, you just have to skip the Starbucks run. For those times, we've added a shelved cold brew to the list: the café-comparable Black Cold Brew in a can. TJ's has various cold brews in bottles, but this is the most simple and nice-tasting of anything you'll on the shelf. 

What's Good at Trader Joe's found that this variety "literally tastes like regular coffee ... except purposefully cold. Which isn't that wonderful." This cold brew isn't anything extraordinary — a cold brew should be more than just a rebranded, room-temp version of a hot-brewed coffee. Cold brew should have strong, bold notes and be way less acidic than a normal cup of coffee. When you're tempted by this quick grab, just remember not to settle for less.

We'll acknowledge that it's better than an energy drink (do you know how bad those are for you?) and it does come in a very portable can — but then again, you can get better grabbable cold brews from Starbucks. Or, better yet, make your own at home with your own beans!

8. Fair Trade Organic Sumatra Coffee

TJ's Fair Trade Organic Sumatra is a medium-dark roast with the fair trade stamp. Fair trade beans are purchased from farmers at a fair and sustainable price, which makes everyone happy — and that's before even discussing the flavor!

It sits at 84 on — not bad — and seems to be one of the more basic beans available at Trader Joe's. It has an "intense, roundly balanced aroma with mildly pungent roast character and orange, nut and cedary chocolate notes ... [It's] low in acidity, medium in body and agreeable but rather simple aromatically: bittersweet, woody, with only a hint of cedary, perhaps earthy, chocolate," Kenneth Davids on CoffeeReview notes, adding, "Not a long finish, but sweet and rich." If you're looking for something non-threatening and simple — or you're interested in trying a Sumatra coffee for the first time — this might be the bag of beans for you.

Fair Trade Organic Sumatra is a good coffee if you're looking for something new and more complex than your average diner cup or your despicable instant coffee. Is it the best coffee ever? No, and it might be a bit too much for those who won't appreciate those earthy, dark notes.

7. Organic Fair Trade Five Country Espresso Blend

We had high expectations for an espresso blend, which is traditionally a darker roast. The darkness is a product of longer roast times than other coffees. (It surprises some people to learn, then, that the darker the roast, the less caffeine there is in the cup.) A dark roast should also have a punch of flavor.

All this considered, we weren't sure what to expect when we saw that this is a coffee espresso blend — not meant to make shots of espresso, specifically, but a full cup of coffee instead. We can tolerate the identity crisis as long as it's good.

This blend contains beans from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, and Sumatra, and its aroma is reminiscent of tobacco. However, for a dark roast, it comes out a bit lackluster and doesn't have the punch it should. "It's an okay cup at best — better than gas station, cheaper than coffee shop, trustworthier than the company pot — but there's better out there on the TJ shelves," Russ Shelly from What's Good at Trader Joe's reviewed. "I'll finish up the can at work, but it's not a probable repurchase. Bonus points (as always) for being organic and fair trade, though." It seems the Five County espresso blend needs a little more growing up to do before it ever earns a top-five spot.

6. Organic Fair Trade Wake Up Blend

Want something that'll wake you up? Try the Wake Up Blend. This is a medium roast with a blend of beans from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru, but despite these disparate origins, it remains a traditional 100% Arabica blend. It's described on the back of the box as a coffee with "bright acidity and a touch of natural sweetness." Does it hold up to that description, or is it false advertising? (TJ's, please don't sue, we think it's a good coffee.)

This blend is best for a morning brew. Acidic and nutty, Brewed Daily found that "it was much better when brewed a little on the strong side, so that the flavor of the coffee could temper some of the slightly aggressive acidity. Once you get past the first few sips, more flavors seem to emerge and the coffee takes on a pleasantly nutty taste, reminiscent of hazelnuts with maybe a hint of nutmeg to it." 

5. Shade Grown Ethiopian

Lucky number five kicks off the coffees that you should look out for on Trader Joe's shelves. TJ's Shade Grown Ethiopian blend has hints of caramel, plum, and citrus, retaining a complex flavor profile despite being a light roast. This means it is a rich cup of coffee — perhaps not the best choice if you want a quick cup, but a better selection to sit and really enjoy. That means: Don't chug it down before you're off to work, you animal.

Great as a cold brew or hot, Shade Grown Ethiopian works as an afternoon pick-me-up or a morning delight. It was the top choice for Coffee Statistics' Trader Joe's coffee list, where reviewers noted, "On the finish, we particularly loved how smooth this blend is — one of those coffees that are even better as they go down. When we cold-brewed it, we were pleasantly surprised to find this Ethiopian blend even better than hot brew, perhaps because the flavor was amplified. Overall, these are the best Trader Joe's coffee beans we reviewed."

4. Joe's Decaf Coffee Medium Roast

We put decaf on the list for those who want to have a caffeine-free cup of Trader Joe — which one might typically get roasted for, but honestly, this coffee is pretty good! A well-balanced cup that boasts a smooth taste, this decaf blend gives the impression of a lighter coffee roast. Made of 100% Arabica beans, this is a coffee that doesn't have any complications, caffeine, or complexities, but still tastes robust and smooth. (We know we just said it doesn't have caffeine, but we should note that's technically not true: It does have a lingering 2 milligrams of caffeine per cup, compared to 95 mg in a caffeinated cup of coffee.)

A reviewer by the name of Hannah V. wrote on Influenster that this coffee "[smells] absolutely amazing and tastes so fresh! Grinding coffee beans has always been a great way to get a nice fresh cup of coffee, but Trader Joe's Decaf Coffee Medium Roast Beans makes this ordeal even more special! These beans make the best cup of coffee I've ever had!" And best of all, it's fairly traded.

3. Barista Espresso Coffee Blend

This bag of beans is sleek and looks like it could have come right out of an independent coffee shop, so you can easily trick your guests into thinking you're a hipster coffee brewer. This bag specifically states that it is meant for espresso or a regular cup of coffee, so you're free to select your caffeine weapon of choice. This is a mix of Southern and Central American Arabica beans and Indian Cherry-A Robusta, which Trader Joe's claims to make for an "intensely creamy, nicely nutty, medium-bodied brew."

The actual taste is reminiscent of dark chocolate. It's bitter, which pairs well with the chocolate flavor, and Pressino on Home Barista raved, "It tastes as good as what I found in Northcentral Italy. It should appeal to those who like traditional Italian espresso, and it certainly is tasty in cappuccinos and lattes." Although it makes a good espresso, since it can be used for a morning cup of joe as well, it's a good choice for those who have all the coffee gadgets at home.

2. Wintry Blend

We've featured the Wintry Blend before, and regardless of its seasonal status, this coffee is undeniably popular. With additional spices added to the beans, it's the kind of cup you'd have by the fire or after you steal one or two of Santa's cookies. A blend of South American coffee beans with a Vienna Roast (a medium-dark roast level), it's combined with peppercorns, whole cloves, and sweet cinnamon. It's not something that sounds appetizing to everyone at first glance, but with so many rave reviews, there's no doubt this hits the #2 spot.

MyRecipes sings its praises, noting, "When the sun starts setting early, and you wake up the sound of geese migrating south, you know it's time for the kind of coffee that gives you that coziness on the inside that plaid gives you on the outside. This is stuff you want to drink while listening to Bon Iver under many more blankets than you need."

1. Organic Fair Trade Honduran Whole Bean Coffee

For the No. 1 spot, we chose a coffee that is perfect for a daily coffee drinker. The Honduran Coffee from Trader Joe's does not have a complex profile, but it is a wonderful cup for anyone who wants something they can buy again and again: nothing fancy, but something you can either sit and enjoy or drink on the go (or right before you head out the door). The beans are dark and oily, and YouTuber Brian Noel mentioned that they ground up wonderfully and gave off a beautiful aroma. He even drank the whole can in three days!

"Flavor is smooth, earthy, aromatic, and no acidity," Mayan5, a verified reviewer on Amazon noted. These notes signify the sort of coffee that anyone can drink without any harsh acidity (which comes with a particular taste not everyone can get used to). The words on the can fulfill their promise with a well-balanced and smooth coffee from the cup.