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Which Are the Best and Worst Coffee Beans at Trader Joe's?

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Wouldn't it be great to be able to afford a perfectly pulled espresso from Handsome Roasters on the daily? Sadly that caffeinated fantasy is somewhat unattainable for a writer, considering said espressos go for $4, plus tip. But darn it, we love coffee, so brewing our own Joe at home is the next best thing. Usually we opt for whole beans from LA Mill, Verve, or Handsome, but that's not to say we're not tempted by the coffee aisle at Trader Joe's.

In the past 10 years, the Monrovia-based chain has multiplied its locations nationally, and most major cities have access to goodies like Speculoos cookie butter and 2 Buck Chuck. Heck, even food editor Russ Parsons chooses to shop regularly at TJ's over other fancy markets.

But for all of its sample-giving glory, Trader Joe's does indeed carry a dizzying array of coffee roasts that come with some seriously nebulous descriptions. The coffee section -- like the wine aisles -- can be somewhat hard to decipher.

Serious Eats took on the task of taste testing all of them, selecting the best and worst of the bunch. The worst, writer Liz Clayton points out, is Trader Joe's Joe. The $4.99 price tag is indeed a little bit scary, considering that's how much we spend when grabbing a cuppa from LA Mill. The winning roasts went to the Costa Rican Terrazu or the Columbian Supremo. Clayton says that the level of oily roastiness that they seem to favor might have her needing to buy her coffee grinder an apology bouquet sometime soon, but she did find some decent beans, like the Supremo:

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"Straight down the middle! Sturdy and drinkable, mild in every way, neither burnt nor bright. No nuances or fruity-tooty notes stand out, but nothing disagreeable occurs either. It's almost like nothing even happened here. One might even say it tastes like...coffee."

So if you're ever in a jam with guests on the way, just stuff some of that Terrazzu in an old LA Mill bag. Only the real coffee snobs will know the difference.