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Putting top coffees to the taste test

February 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Americans love their coffee. In fact, they drink about 400 million cups a day. A recent test of the top-selling brands of Columbian coffee reveals you don't have to pay a lot to brew a great cup.There's nothing like a fresh cup of coffee to start your day. So who's got the best bean? Consumer Reports tested 19 ground coffees, from familiar names like Folgers and Maxwell House, to much pricier ones from companies like Starbucks and Caribou.

For regular coffee, testers used a machine to analyze just how much caffeine each brand contains. Turns out, some had almost four times as much as other coffees. Two boutique coffees - Caribou and Bucks County - had the most caffeine.

To check for taste, Consumer Reports' experts spent weeks brewing, smelling and sipping coffee to find the best. It turns out that buying 100 percent Colombian doesn't guarantee you'll get great taste.

For example, the 100 percent Colombian from Folgers Coffee House Series, the medium dark roast, prompted Ellen Klosz from Consumer Reports to describe it as tasting "like a popsicle stick and cardboard."

Buying pricier coffee doesn't always guarantee quality, either.

"Our tasters found some boutique coffees like Starbucks and Peet's tasted burnt and bitter," said Klosz.

Testers did find a very good coffee that was among the least expensive: it's the Eight O'Clock Coffee 100 Percent Colombian.

"It was even good enough to drink black," said Klosz.

At $6 dollars per pound, the money you can save may make a cup taste even better.