Finding the best coffee

Our taste test results reveal the best – and the rest - of 10 coffee chain beans.
 
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03.Coffee chains compared

We purchased coffee beans from chains with a presence in three or more states, with 20 or more outlets in total. The beans we bought are those used as standard in the chain’s coffee machines. Our tester, Peter Horvath, brews each coffee in the same way, using an ECM Giotto espresso machine.

Three experts score the espresso coffees for the colour and thickness of the crema (the tan-coloured foam on top of an espresso), aroma, flavour, mouthfeel (creaminess or wateriness) and aftertaste. The coffees are presented in random order identified only by numbers, so the experts don’t know which brands they’re tasting.

In addition to the taste test, surveys are sent to each of the coffee chains requesting information about their company, coffee (including prices) and policies (if any) regarding quality control and issues of sustainability and the environment.

table

Our experts David and Matthew Gee are from Barista Basics Coffee Academy in Sydney.
Fiona Mair is CHOICE’s home economist; she has extensive experience in food and beverage judging.

Using the table

Score See how we tested, above.
Certified FT = Fairtrade (www.fta.org.au), RA = Rainforest Alliance (www.rainforest-alliance.org), UTZ = UTZ Certified (www.utzcertified.org).
Price is for takeaway coffees taken from survey responses in April 2010. Espresso prices are for a single shot. Cappuccino prices are for smallest takeaway cup size, which ranges across chains from 225mL to 300mL and is called “small”, “8oz”, “regular”, “short”, “medium” or “mini”, depending on the chain. Some chains provide only a price guide to franchisees, so actual prices may vary from store to store. Where a price range was given, we’ve shown the lowest price.

(A) This coffee chain chose not to participate in our survey. Information about the chain has been taken from the company’s website and within stores.

 

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