Delicious Non-oily Trader Joe's Coffee?
September 29, 2010 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Delicious Non-oily Trader Joe's Coffee? We use a superautomatic machine and "dry" or at least non-oily beans work best. We use and love Stumptown Hair Bender but think maybe we should at least try something else from time to time. Trader Joe's seems to have a wide variety of whole bean options at reasonable prices, but I can't see into the cans to determine which ones might be appropriate for our use. Can anyone recommend one of the TJ options for being both tasty and relatively "dry" of bean?
posted by cairnish to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Personally I haven't found a tolerable roast from Trader Joe's, though maybe that's changed in the past year or so.

I buy from a local roaster (Ristretto Roasters, if you're in Portland). I used to be a big fan of the Breakfast Blend at Whole Foods. It's light, non-oily roast and they post the date that it was roasted, so if you time it right you can pick up the beans just a few hours after they've been roasted.
posted by bhamrick at 9:55 AM on September 29, 2010

I have no specific brand opinions.. but consider a lighter roast. The more the beans are roasted.. the darker they become and more of the bean's oil is extracted.
posted by royalsong at 9:55 AM on September 29, 2010

I think I've tried all of the Trader Joe's beans that come in the larger cans. And I can say without a doubt that the Bay Blend and French Roast beans look really oily when you first unseal the can, and then appear markedly less so after a few days open.

That said, I also think that the French Roast beans are the tastiest.
posted by rachelpapers at 10:03 AM on September 29, 2010

No french roast! Too dark!
The Costa Rica Tarrazu is a lighter roast, and I think Diner Blend is too. Oiliness is directly related to roast level. You want something that says medium roast to get a drier bean.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:20 AM on September 29, 2010

You need medium or light roast. I haven't bought Trader Joe's coffee in a long time, but look for a non-blend that's marked as a light roast. You'll also be getting lots of caffeine if you drink light roast coffee, and lots of acidity. If that's what you like, enjoy!
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:55 AM on September 29, 2010

The Smooth and Mellow beans look pretty dry, but I am a huge wimp, YMMV.
posted by wens at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2010

I would highly reccomend, regardless of who you buy the beans from, to double check your roast dates. Coffee generally starts to lose it's edge about 10 days out from it's roast date. Oily beans are usually a sign of a coffee being over-roasted to the point of blurring out all the tastes and flavors that make coffees unique. Coffee in cans is generally a sign that you're not going to get coffee within that 10 day window.

If you're in Portland, don't go to Trader Joes. You've got some of the best coffee in the United States (and possibly the world) being roasted in your town right now.

Here is a terribly incomplete list off the top of my head:
Water Avenue Coffee*
Ristretto Roasters
Heart Roasters
Coava Coffee
Spella Caffe
Courier Coffee
Sterling Coffee Roasters
Back Porch Coffee (Bend, OR)
Lone Pine Coffee (Bend Oregon, but still amaaaaazing)*

Buying TJ's coffee in Portland, Oregon would be like drinking Charles Shaw in Burgundy, France. I mean, yeah, it will get the job done,'s PORTLAND!

*Full disclosure, I currently work for Water Avenue and did Lone Pine's branding/design work. Formerly employed by Stumptown coffee.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:19 PM on September 29, 2010

I guess my thought was that we'd probably lost the benefits of superfresh local coffee by using it as we do, so why not just get something more bulk? We long ago accepted the trade-offs involved in moving to a superauto, so the beans do sit in the hopper for several days before we work through a batch (a bag lasts about a week at our consumption rate). Freshness is a relative term for our use model.

I'm indeed in Portland so will just keep on with the Stumptown and maybe try a few of the suggested alternatives. I already buy Hair Bender which I love and I'm the guy turning over the bags to check the roast date so I get the most recent one, so at least the going-stale process has as fresh a starting point as possible.
posted by cairnish at 1:52 PM on September 29, 2010

Don't let a guy who worked for Stumptown guilt you into buying more of their beans. I, on the other hand, roast my own, so of course I am the voice of authority here :P

You may notice better beans in the superauto, you may not. Certainly freshness is key no matter what; if there is no date on TJs beans, you don't want them. So-so beans that are really fresh will beat the pants off of two-week-old Stumptown, but its hard to find cheaper beans that were actually roasted less than a week ago.

What will be a bigger issue with the TJs beans is finding something suitable for espresso; sometimes a single origin like the Costa Rica I mentioned will work, sometimes it will taste really unbalanced. I think TJs only offers one kind specifically marked as espresso blend and even then you probably don't want it; it will be overroasted most likely. But hey, no one said it has to say espresso on the can, and their beans are cheap enough to experiment with, so try some next to the fancier beans and see what you think. I would still say that no matter your setup your beans will make more difference than any piece of your equipment, but I also resent coffee snobbery that says there is only one way to do things, and that is a heat-exchanging, solenoid-valve machine next to a $1K grinder on your counter. If you find something from TJs you like, power to you, but if not, you have a whole city full of good bean sources at your disposal.
posted by slow graffiti at 6:55 AM on September 30, 2010

Hahaha, yeah, not TOO much guilt meant...

There's a couple more advantages than 'fresh coffee' by going to your local roaster(s)...

The sign of a good shop will be able to help you get some coffee YOU enjoy that will work well on YOUR setup. They can often recommend something that will work very well for your brewing method. If they insist that their way is better, they might not be the shop for you.

Also, if keeping dollars in the local economy is your bag, you should most certainly check these buddies out, even if you don't make it part of your weekly routine. I myself shop at TJ's for a many great things, but buying a 12oz bag of coffee has quite an impact on the local economy and provides some fairly livable wages.

I'm just a huuuuuge fan of coffee, quality, and supporting a local economy that isn't doing as well as most people think. And to top all that off, you really do get to try some of the best coffee coming out of the nation right now! That's gotta be exciting, right?
posted by furnace.heart at 10:40 AM on September 30, 2010

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