“a consumer reports for the cheap” — the new york times

Flavored Coffee, Decaf Coffee Tasting

Coffee has withstood the addition of whiskey (Irish coffee), chocolate (mocha), and flavored syrups such as caramel or vanilla. Many coffee brands create holiday blends using spices such as cloves.

Purists might denounce the practice, but plenty of consumers savor the taste of flavored coffee. Some of the most popular varieties are hazelnut, vanilla, amaretto, and cinnamon. Coffeehouses usually create their flavored coffees with syrup. But for store-bought brew, the grounds or beans themselves are mixed or treated with natural or artificial flavoring. This lends an aroma to the coffee that's even stronger than the taste. Flavored coffees are usually light to medium on the roasting scale, because the strong coffee taste that comes from deep roasting would nullify any added flavoring.

Starbucks makes its Natural Fusions Vanilla flavored coffee (starting at $17.76 for two 11-ounce bags) by mixing in vanilla beans as the coffee is ground, so the flavor comes through in a subtle way that doesn't mask the coffee taste. In fact, many consumers posting reviews on Amazon are struck by the distinct lack of an overpowering vanilla aroma coming from the bag. The blogger behind CaffiNation was surprised to find a flavored coffee he enjoyed, particularly when brewed cold. He calls the coffee smooth, full-bodied, and balanced.

Coffee shops often provide a little jar of cinnamon so customers can sprinkle some spice onto their cappuccinos. Folgers builds this flavor into its Folgers Flavors Cinnamon Swirl (starting at $5.18 for an 11.5-ounce can). This is a medium-roasted coffee with just a hint of cinnamon. According to consumers posting reviews at Walmart, there's enough to flavor the coffee but not enough to overpower it.

Other popular blends marry nuts and coffee. Maxwell House Hazelnut (starting at $5.49 for 11 ounces) counts consumers posting reviews on Amazon among its fans. They find this flavored coffee smooth and rich, with plenty of flavor and no unpleasant aftertaste. Another cheap flavored coffee that incorporates hazelnuts is Melitta Cafe Collection Hazelnut Creme Brulee (starting at $6.99 for an 11-ounce bag). Although it fills the kitchen with a wonderful aroma, all that flavoring can overpower the coffee, according to consumer reviews on Amazon. Many reviewers report that it tastes more like creme brulee than it does coffee, and some detect a distinctly artificial tinge to the flavoring. Overall, however, most reviews are positive.

Decaf Coffee.

Decaffeinated coffee isn't technically caffeine-free. According to Mayo Clinic, an 8-ounce cup contains up to 12 mg of caffeine. However, that compares with up to 200 mg in a regular cup, which appeals to those who generally abstain from caffeine for health reasons or who want the taste of coffee but not the jittery feeling. Most decaf coffees are not as flavorful as their buzzy counterparts, because common methods of removing the caffeine from coffee beans tend to remove some of the flavor as well. That means high-quality decaf coffee must start out with extremely high-quality beans. Even subpar decaf coffee is often more expensive than regular coffee, because of the additional processing involved. One coffee roaster told home cooking blog The Kitchn that the best decaf is made from blends of beans from different regions, rather than a single source. The decaffeination process affects all varieties differently, so their individual profiles help cover up others' deficiencies.

It's difficult to find a dark-roasted decaf from a mass-market brand. Several Amazon reviewers who were fans of Starbucks French roast find Jeremiah's Pick Decaf French Roast (starting at $20.99 for three 10-ounce bags) a more-than-acceptable substitute. They compliment its bold, robust flavor and aroma.

Review continues below

For those who prefer a medium roast, Melitta Classic Decaf (starting at $22.86 for four 10.5-ounce cans) is declared just as satisfying as regular coffee by consumers posting reviews on Amazon. They say it has a stronger, richer flavor than decaf coffee usually does.

Consumers loyal to Maxwell House and Folgers seem to favor those brands' decaf coffees based on price. Maxwell House Original Decaffeinated starts at $10.99 for a 33-ounce can, while Folgers Classic Roast Decaf starts at $14.49 for 22.6 ounces. However, experts give both decaf coffees weak ratings in blind taste tests, based on a general lack of aroma, body, and flavor.

email Sign up for our
Free Newsletter
Cheapism.com on Facebook