/ Food & Drink

A good cuppa coffee doesn’t have to cost the earth

How do you drink yours? Whether it’s strong and dark or long and milky, the quality of coffee can vary a lot, as our tests prove. So will you believe us when we say a budget supermarket beat the big brands on taste?

A daily cappuccino or latte has become a way of life for many of us, but at over £2 a time this can add up over the month. If you’re trying to save money by making more coffee at home we have good news for you – the most expensive coffee isn’t always the best.

When we taste-tested 16 premium fresh ground coffees earlier this month our results showed the most expensive aren’t the best.

We asked supermarkets and brands to nominate an after-dinner coffee for a dinner party and got three coffee experts to blind taste them.

The experts rated Asda Extra Special Fairtrade Colombian Roast and Ground Coffee (£2.78) and Taylors of Harrogate Guatemala Cloud Forests Ground Coffee (£3.59) as the best tasting, scoring them both 81%.

Expensive isn’t necessarily the best

The most expensive coffee was Rombouts Brazil Sul De Minas Brazilian Ground. At £5.25 it’s nearly double the cost of the Asda brew and yet it only scored 60% and came joint 11th. And Starbucks House Blend (£3.79) came a sorry 15th.

The popularity of coffee shops has made us all a bit more adventurous and we seem to be moving away from instant coffee. Data shows that demands for fresh coffee are growing and last year we spent £222 million on it in the UK.

But with so many varieties and blends on supermarket shelves what should you go for? Our expert, Giles Hilton, recommends a medium roast if you like a smooth but full-bodied coffee. A full/dark roast is more suitable if you prefer an espresso style coffee with a kick, or if you drink your coffee with a lot of milk so that the flavour comes through.

Have you started to make more coffee at home? Or will you sacrifice other things before giving up your daily Costa or Starbucks?


Hi everyone,
If you’re also a take-away coffee drinker then you may like to join in the new discussion about what to do with your used coffee cups, which can be found here:

Stuart says:
3 November 2011

I’m not a coffee buff but enjoy columbioan coffee from M&S. On the packet it says keep in the fridge after opening. The article in Which-October says ‘not necessary to keep in the fridge’. Is this food labelling overdoing it again?


Duncan says:
20 September 2012

What strikes me about this matter is how completely subjective it is. I actually only stumbled upon this page in Google because I am looking for somewhere to buy Rombouts Sul de Minas coffee. I bought it in Sainsburys recently and thought it the best coffee I have ever drunk, but it has disappeared form their shelves for some reason, at least locally.

Now I read it in this article that it the writer considers it mediocre and expensive. Well I don’t agree, and wonder why someone should presume to tell me what coffee to like! Fridges and vacuum cleaners maybe, but this is a matter of personal taste, and I have to question the point of articles like this. Also, I’m sure I didn’t pay £5.74 for it!


No-one has told you which coffee you should like, Duncan. Shefalee is reporting the findings of taste tests carried out by coffee experts in a blind test. These people are likely to have a wider experience of tasting different coffees than most of us.

Obviously tastes differ but experts’ views can be useful. Many people make use of experts’ views on wines, in particular.

Price is something that is not subjective so saying that a pack of the Rombouts coffee is expensive at £5.25 is true, and I’m not sure where you got your price from. You can ask Sainsburys why they stopped stocking it, but poor sales, lack of availability, or rotating product choice are the most likely reasons.

Duncan says:
20 September 2012

ok wavechange, it might help if I know what makes someone a coffee expert, for example by reading the original article and test mentioned here, to which there does not appear to be a link.


Anyone who tastes coffee as a job could be regarded as an expert. I believe that there are professional qualifications. I assume that there must be reasonable agreement between tasters or there would be nothing worth publishing.

The Which? website has information that is freely available and other information that is only available to subscribers to their magazine or who have paid for access to an article.


Hello Duncan, if you’re a Which? member you can read a PDF of the taste test here: http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/p62-63_coffee-266375.pdf

Alternatively you could join a more recent Conversation on coffee here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/best-coffee-machine-makers-cost-buying-or-making-coffee/

Duncan says:
20 September 2012

Sort of gets more and more interesting. If they taste coffee for a job, then one would want to know, for example, what the job is so as to be sure they are not biased. Plus, it seems odd for a reputable organisation such as Which? to publish a commentary on the results of a test such as this, which may very well push the casual reader such as myself in a certain direction (despite what you say about no one telling anyone to do anything), while not allowing them freely to study the original test so they could evaluate it (and the testers) for themselves, and form their own opinion.

Still, it’s only coffee, and I won’t lose any sleep over it! Cheers!


With blind taste tests, the tasters don’t know what they are sampling, so there is little opportunity for bias.

With fairly inexpensive products like ground coffee and coffee beans, I tend to explore the different varieties on offer, rejecting anything that I have disliked in the past and highly priced products. (The Rombouts coffee costs more than I’m prepared to pay.) I am happy to pay a little more for Fairtrade products. If it was more expensive, I might pay attention to the experts’ recommendations.

Cheers. 🙂