If you are a coffee-lover who appreciates a good brew for more than just the caffeine hit that helps you out the door in the morning.
You might be willing to spend a little more for better quality beans or grounds.
Here’s our guide to the best gourmet coffee brands.
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What is “gourmet coffee”?
Before we look at the best gourmet coffee brands, let’s take a step back and think about exactly what that means. What is “gourmet” coffee?
Check out this video for a quick preview.
In fact, within the coffee industry, “gourmet coffee” has no established definition and there are no standards that a coffee needs to meet to be called “gourmet”.
A coffee is a gourmet coffee simply because the company that makes it decides to label it as such.
“Gourmet” is supposed to mean that a product is of a higher quality than regular versions (1). It means that it is a more refined version, something that is associated with luxury – and of course, a higher price tag.
When a company chooses to label their coffee as “gourmet”, they are making a claim that this is a superior coffee worth paying extra for.
They are saying the beans are of a higher quality and that the coffee tastes better.
This means that there is no difference between labeling coffee “gourmet”, “superior”, “luxury” or “premium” – they are simply claims by the company who make the coffee about the quality of their product.
The problem is, since there is no standard, any coffee can be labeled as “gourmet” and sold at a higher price, and you won’t know the quality until you take it home and brew it.
What is “specialty coffee”?
Specialty coffee, on the other hand, is something quite specific.
When coffee is harvested, it goes through a process known as “cupping”.
A small batch of beans is roasted, ground and brewed into coffee and the resulting brew is tasted and rated accordingly.
“Specialty coffee”, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) is a coffee that achieves a cupping score of above 80.
These are the very best coffees available.
Check out this video all about cupping.
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When you buy a specialty coffee, you are not just paying for a superior taste – although that is a big part of it.
With a specialty coffee, you would expect to know far more about how and where the coffee was produced.
You would want to know about the farm where it was grown (specialty coffees are usually single-origin coffees), you would want to know about the elevation, the processing method, the varietal of the plant and any other relevant information.
There is a close analogy with wine. No wine connoisseur would buy a bottle of wine simply labeled “France”.
They would expect to know a whole lot more about the wine, including the region where it was grown, the individual vineyard, the terroir, the grapes, the tasting notes and so on.
Can “gourmet” be “specialty” – and can “specialty” be “gourmet”?
These two terms are not mutually exclusive. A coffee labeled as “gourmet” can also be considered “specialty” as long as it receives a high enough score in cupping tests, and since specialty coffees are all high-quality luxury coffees, all specialty coffees can be considered gourmet coffees.
Let’s put it another way. All specialty coffees can be called gourmet, but not all gourmet coffees are specialty coffees.
This is because an expensive luxury coffee that has a great taste may still not have managed to achieve the requisite score of 80 in a cupping test.
This means that while the beans may be top-quality beans that were grown at high altitude and picked by hand, they cannot be sold as specialty coffee.
They may be expensive to produce, and they may warrant a higher price tag than regular beans – they just aren’t specialty beans.
These beans may taste great to an amateur coffee enthusiast, it just means they were unable to meet the very exacting standards of a professional cupper.
These beans could very well be your favorite beans – remember, tastes in coffee, as with wine, are subjective, and nobody can tell you what you should enjoy and what you shouldn’t.
In the end, the best guideline to follow is that if you like a coffee, then it’s a good coffee.
If you are willing to pay extra for a gourmet coffee, it doesn’t matter if a professional cupper gave it a high score or not – because you’re the one who’s going to be drinking it!
Should you buy gourmet or specialty?
We can extend our analogy further.
A regular coffee from the supermarket shelf is the equivalent of a basic table wine and a gourmet coffee is a decent, more expensive wine you might serve at a dinner party.
A specialty coffee is a fine wine to be appreciated by the true connoisseur.
If you just want a superior-tasting brew in your cup, gourmet coffees will suffice.
If you want to take your passion for coffee to another level and immerse yourself in the world of cuppings, varietals, and single-origins, you might consider tracking down some more exclusive specialty coffees.
The best gourmet coffee brands of 2019
Since we are talking about gourmet coffee brands rather than specialty coffees, here, we present you with a list of some of the best superior-tasting coffees that are not necessarily specialty coffees.
1. Bean Box - Gourmet Coffee Sampler
If you are interested in tasting and comparing coffees from around the world, this sampler set could be a perfect idea.
It includes coffees from famous producing countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, Brazil and Hawaii’s Kona.
Bean Box pays attention to selecting some of the best coffees from around the world before bringing them to Seattle where they are roasted to perfection by local artisanal roasters.
This sampler set is a great way to broaden your coffee horizons – it would also make the ideal gift for a coffee lover.
2. Whiskey & Rum Barrel Aged Coffee Whole Bean (Our Top Recommended)
This is another gourmet coffee with a difference.
This box set features top-quality coffee beans that have been aged in three different types of oak barrel – stout whiskey, rye whiskey and rum – to produce coffees with a whole extra layer of flavor.
The beans themselves are top grade single-origin beans that are roasted in small batches by this artisanal roaster.
The combination of high-quality beans and barrels used to age superior whiskeys and rums gives an intriguing result that any coffee or whiskey lover will enjoy.
3. Ground Coffee 4 Bag Gift Box Set, Single Origin Gourmet Coffee
This is another sampler set that would make an ideal gift – either for the coffee lover in your life or just for you when you feel like treating yourself.
It includes four different gourmet coffees – from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
These coffees are sold as pre-ground, and each is of the highest quality.
This sampler will allow you to appreciate and compare the differences between the dark roast Sumatra, bold roast Ethiopia, medium-dark roast Kenya and medium roast Rwanda – each delicious in different ways.
4. COLOMBIA JO Organic Ground Colombian Coffee
This gourmet Colombian 100% Arabica coffee from Jo Coffee is certified Fair Trade, USDA-certified organic and is free of GMOs.
Jo Coffee sources the top 2% of coffee beans to ensure their customers receive a truly gourmet experience in every cup.
Tasting notes describe a medium roast coffee with notes of caramel and toasted almond. It offers hints of cane sugar and has a silky smooth body.
If you want a delicious gourmet coffee that is grown naturally, this could be worth a look.
5. Kahlua Gourmet Ground Coffee
This is a gourmet coffee with a twist – it includes extra flavorings to make it taste like everyone’s favorite coffee liqueur, Kahlua.
Being a flavored coffee, this is probably not one for the purists, but if you are looking for a luxurious and delicious flavored coffee, this could be a top pick, especially if you love Kahlua.
Even better, as a special treat, you can brew up a cup of this coffee and then add a shot of real Kahlua for a moment of pure indulgence.
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So many choices for gourmet coffee
When it comes to gourmet coffee – as opposed to specialty coffee – there is a huge range of excellent products to choose from, far too many for us to include in our list here. We have simply tried to bring you a range of the best gourmet coffee brands that we feel are worth trying.
We particularly like the idea of sampler box sets, especially for coffee novices who are just beginning to expand their knowledge and experience of coffees from around the world. These box sets let you appreciate and compare gourmet coffees, allowing you to decide which are your favorites.
Which coffees do you drink? Do you prefer to save money and buy regular supermarket coffee or are you willing to spend more for extra quality and better flavor? If you have anything to add, please leave us a comment – and if you enjoyed our article, why not give us a share?
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari food blog. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.