Coffee Recommendations?
December 15, 2012 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a great brand of coffee that will aid me in drinking my coffee black rather than with cream and sugar?

I want to start eliminating the majority of sugar from my diet. One of my chief culprits is that I love my coffee with cream and at least 3 teaspoons of sugar. I still want to drink coffee - but black, anyone have recommendations on a quality tasting brand that will make me forget the cream and sugar. I'm currently drinking Dunkin Donuts brand and its tough black, even if I make it weaker.
posted by incandissonance to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you located? In the Bay Area, I love Blue Bottle and Ritual Roasters, but you would need to get them shipped to you if you're not in the area. I would look for local roasters in your area, if possible - that's going to be the freshest.

Aside from that, I actually don't mind Starbucks black - they have various roasts (I like the blonde), so you could try a few to see what you like. The Kona from Trader Joes is also really good, though pricey.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:11 AM on December 15, 2012

Look for anything marked specifically as a "light roast" -- dark roasts (which are essentially the default these days) are pretty much designed to be drowned in cream and sugar.
posted by ook at 11:12 AM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd try a hazelnut cream blend. It's pretty mild, and what got me started on black coffee. Now it's too sweet and mild for me.

Also, as you eliminate sugar (within a couple weeks probably), your taste buds start to change and you pick up the natural sweetness in things much more.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:12 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Anywhere near you that does freshly roasted coffee? It tastes sweet to me, probably because all the volatile oils haven't oxidised and gone sour.
posted by scruss at 11:13 AM on December 15, 2012

It's not the coffee, it's what you're used to. Either try cold turkey for a few weeks, or cut down gradually - two teaspoons this week, one next. Or swap sugar for stevia or splenda. Give yourself time to adjust to the new taste.
posted by zippy at 11:14 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could try a different preparation. If you are adding cream and sugar because the bitterness bothers you, the Chemex and cold-brew methods both yield coffee that is much less bitter than normal drip coffee.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:17 AM on December 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

You need to search out a lighter roast, not ground. You need to buy it really fresh, as in, less than a week or so old. Invest in a good grinder, play around with the grind amount and ratios of water to coffee.

Grind only what you use that day, buy super fresh, buy light, look at Ethiopian roasts.
posted by roboton666 at 11:19 AM on December 15, 2012

Slightly off topic, since I can not recommend you a brand. But I drink my coffee with milk, no sugar. I really don't like black coffee. This being said, once I had a freshly brewed coffee on a farm in the hills of Colombia (the country). No milk available. This was not coffee, this thing was from a different world!
posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:28 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

You didn't mention if money was an object ... if it isn't, this was OMGTHEBEST coffee i've tasted black, and this coming from a person who takes gobs of cream and, since my dotage, a healthy tsp of turbinado in every tasty mug, of which there are 3-5 a day.

prepped 2/tbs per 1-3 cups in a pour over, wet paper filter, fresh ground per batch because i wanted the longevity of the whole bean. yum. good luck with the cutting out sugar thing!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 11:31 AM on December 15, 2012

I'm not a coffee fiend, but my roommate goes crazy for Peet's coffee, and I know she doesn't take sugar.

Also, I went on a sugar detox last year for a couple of months, and what DoubleLune says about tastebuds adapting is completely true. I was pretty much addicted to sugar before my detox, but when I tried chocolate a month or so into it, I couldn't stand the sweetness.
posted by littlegreen at 11:32 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Most of the higher end brands have mail subscription services you can try. Here's Blue Bottle, Stumptown, and Intelligentsia's mail subscription services. It's hard to go wrong with any of them.
posted by jourman2 at 11:44 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agreed with zippy -- it's not the coffee. I mean, if you're drinking nescafe or Folger's Crystals or the like, sure, you would probably enjoy it more if you started brewing real coffee. So just in case you're not, I'd recommend upgrading to a real ground coffee. You may even want to start buying beans and grinding at home, though I don't think that really makes much difference in terms of taking it black.

I do not think any particular brand of coffee or specific single origin is going to be a magic bullet, though.


Slowly wean yourself down. Starting tomorrow morning, only two spoons of sugar. Then a week from now, only one spoon. Then no sugar. Then (possibly after a break) see if you can cut down on the milk, or possibly downgrade from whole to 2% or the like. See how far you can push it on the dairy. Eventually, you may be able to get to black coffee.

Brew method can help with this, too. I find drip coffee way too bitter to drink black, whereas espresso is easier. If you find it really difficult to drink coffee without sugar, you may want to switch to steamed milk, which releases some of the sugars in the milk and has a natural sweetness to it. It's possible to steam soy and nut milks, as well, so that might be an alternative if you find that you just can't eliminate the milk.

FWIW, I typically brew high quality single origin freshly roasted beans which I grind myself and then cold brew, and I still have never been able to go to black coffee on a regular basis. And I love coffee. Cut yourself some slack on this.
posted by Sara C. at 12:00 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

High end whole bean coffee prepared fresh via pour-over or french press is considerably less bitter and has natural fruity sweetness. The big "problem" for most people who are used to low end coffee is that it is also more acidic. This is actually considered desirable by people who are into coffee, but to many people it just tastes "sour" - you're going to pay over $10/lb for this kind of coffee and you might not like it anyway.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:12 PM on December 15, 2012

Have you tried doing a cold brew?

From Wikipedia: "Cold brewed coffee naturally seems sweeter due to its lower acidity. Because the coffee beans in cold-press coffee never come into contact with heated water, the process of leaching flavor from the beans produces a different chemical profile than conventional brewing methods."

I normally take a little half and half in my coffee, and find that a cold brew with the same amount of cream tastes like a coffee milkshake (i.e. it's freakin' delicious!). Without the cream it's very smooth and drinkable. Not the same as "iced coffee," by the way. :)
posted by ariela at 12:12 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could try Indian Malabar, also known as Monsooned Malabar:
Monsooned Malabar is a process applied to coffee beans. The harvested beans are exposed to the monsoon rain and winds for a period of about three to four months, causing the beans to swell and lose the original acidity, resulting in a smooth brew with a practically neutral pH balance.[1]
The origins of Monsooned Malabar date back to the times of the British Raj, when, during the months that the beans were transported by sea from India to Europe, the humidity and the sea winds combined to cause the coffee to ripen from the fresh green to a more aged pale yellow.[8] Legend has it that in those olden times, when wooden vessels carried raw coffee from India to Europe, during the monsoon months taking almost 6 months to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, the coffee beans, exposed to constant humid conditions, underwent characteristic changes. The beans changed in size, texture, looks and in cup - experienced a never before feel. A mellowness so unique, softness personified, smoothness to the core that became an instant hit with the Europeans paving way to the birth of a new coffee. When transportation was modernised, the length of this journey was dramatically reduced and the beans were much better protected from the fierce elements. However, the Europeans noticed that the coffee beans now arriving in their ports lacked the depth and character of the coffee beans received in days gone by.[9]

It was determined that in the past the coffee beans had been transformed by exposure to the sea air and monsoon winds and rain. An alternative process was implemented to replicate these conditions, so that these incredible coffee beans could be enjoyed once again.[10] It was observed that a typical ambience could be simulated along the coastal belt of southwest India during the monsoon months bringing about the same characteristic transformation to the ordinary cherry coffee beans. Thus was born the ritual called monsooning.
I drank this in rotation with about four other coffees for most of a decade until I developed an allergy to it. It is mild and smooth, but with a very heavy body. I miss it.
posted by jamjam at 12:21 PM on December 15, 2012

Kona beans are the smoothest I've tasted, but as others say: pricey. A light Panamanian might also do the trick. Try to get something locally, lightly, *recently* (2 weeks at most) roasted.
posted by starman at 12:28 PM on December 15, 2012

Kenya AA or Tanzanian Peaberry are both very mild beans that you will probably enjoy black. Kenya AA is fairly easy to find. The Peaberry is more difficult but worth the effort.
posted by COD at 12:54 PM on December 15, 2012

I buy affordable supermarket coffee because I dare not let too much blood build up in my caffeine system. I use a Keurig at home, and I get Newman's Own and Tully's brands most of the time, although I've been buying San Francisco Bay brand recently because they're a little cheaper.

I guess none of that really helps you though. However, I can tell you the method by which I started drinking black coffee.

When I started drinking coffee in my twenties I took it with cream and three sugars, just like you do. Then one day, there was no creamer in the office kitchen, so I had to just add sugar. A few weeks later there was no sugar, so it was black or nothing. I think you could use a similar method to ween yourself off the cream and sugar, except you could cut back little by little instead of being faced with having to drink it black or do without.

Now, almost 20 years later, I can tolerate even terrible coffee black.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:20 PM on December 15, 2012

Get a burr grinder. Set to course or medium (NOT expresso), and then make coffee with the grounds. It's kind of impressive how different the same coffee beans taste like when ground at different settings.

The finer the grounds, the more bitter the coffee.
posted by Neekee at 1:49 PM on December 15, 2012

Easy to try: more grounds. I quit wanting sugar when I upped my grounds by about a half a tablespoon a cup - it seems less bitter, probably because there's more delicious coffee flavor.
posted by momus_window at 2:02 PM on December 15, 2012

posted by Fig at 2:38 PM on December 15, 2012

Café Volio

From costa Rica. Tried, tested. Smooth and not a note of harshness. Awesome flavor. You can order it online.
posted by Kruger5 at 2:55 PM on December 15, 2012

If you're not specifically looking to give up the cream, I recently had a drink that (I think) was basically a cappuccino made with cream rather than milk that was kind of naturally sweet-tasting. I usually add sugar but felt no need to add any to this.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:06 PM on December 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great advice and ideas!
posted by incandissonance at 3:07 PM on December 15, 2012

Flying Goat Coffee. It's better than Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia, etc.. It is, hands down, THE BEST coffee I've ever had in my life, anywhere, ever. It's Amaaaaazing - I don't drink my coffee black, but drinking this any way OTHER than black was a crime. My husband, long dedicated to mochas (OK caffeinated hot chocolate!), even drank it black. Once you work through a bag or two of this and you're kinda used to black coffee, *then* go for Blue Bottle or one of the other roasters mentioned above.

Really truly - it's out of this world. ...and no - I don't work for them.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:55 PM on December 15, 2012

OK their website is cr*p; but that's cause their busy with the coffee, not paying web designers. Anyway, google "Flying Goat Coffee" and you can get their contact info via Yelp or Trip Advisor.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:58 PM on December 15, 2012

2nding Peet's...
I particularly like their Tanzanian Peaberry and Sumatra.
posted by drhydro at 3:59 PM on December 15, 2012

Someone beat me to it, but I was gonna suggest trying the cold brew method. I haven't actually tried it myself, but a few months ago I tried this La Colombe bottled cold brew coffee and I really liked it. I normally drink any coffee, hot or iced, with half & half, but this stuff I thought was quite nice black.

Also perhaps look for a local roaster. I bought some from a new small local coffee roaster here in Chicago recently (Bowtruss) and the flavors were a lot more complex than commercial packaged products. I didn't drink it black, but I think I could have and still enjoyed it.
posted by dnash at 5:25 PM on December 15, 2012

My bf is a coffee nut in San Francisco — so I've had a lot of coffee. A light roast done with a vac pot is the smoothest; better than Chemex or pour over even. Also a tiny bit of salt can cut bitterness, though not needed with a vac pot.
posted by dame at 6:26 PM on December 15, 2012

Not specifically on point to which kind of coffee, but I shifted to drinking my coffee black by first decreasing and then dropping the sugar while keeping the cream, then starting to decrease the amount of cream I used.

At this point, coffee with sugar doesn't taste good to me anymore. (Which my husband appreciates because it makes me unlikely to mooch a sip from his cup.)
posted by Lexica at 7:51 PM on December 15, 2012

I’m going to disagree about the light roast, and the idea that weaker is better. Few things are worse than weak, light, crappy coffee. But that’s just opinion.

I like black coffee strong and dark. The cheaper the coffee, the stronger it needs to be. If you don’t already, learn to appreciate espresso. Black coffee will be mild in comparison.

Anything from a coffee shop, Starbucks on up, is going to be better than what you’re used to. You’re in ABQ? I like Satellite Coffee when I’m there. Do you mean something you can get at the grocery store to make at home? Peet’s is good.
posted by bongo_x at 7:54 PM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

For me, it's not so much the brand, but the strength. Most people make coffee far too weak for my taste, and it has that "church coffee" taste, like dishwater. Bitter, almost vinegary. So I have to put a lot of cream and sugar in it just to mask the taste. Even crappy Folgers is passable, if it's made strong enough. At work I use one level coffee scoop for every two cups (so, six scoops for a 12-cup pot). And even the office Costco coffee is at least passable, black, at that strength. If someone else makes it and only puts in 3 or 4 scoops for a full pot, forget it. Blech!
posted by xedrik at 10:57 PM on December 15, 2012

Pachamama coffee is the best coffee ever. It's organic, shade-grown, and farmer-owned. Admittedly, I worked for them for several years, but even so, people were always telling me how great it was. We did use a lot of coffee grounds to make a cup of coffee, and I think some people were attracted to that, but the flavor itself really was great as well. I'm in New Zealand now, and nothing here compares so far.

Another thing you can do to make you coffee taste better is to cold brew it. All you have to do is let the ground coffee sit in water overnight on the counter or in the fridge before straining. Voila! It comes out sweeter and far less acidic this way. SO TASTY.
posted by aniola at 11:45 PM on December 15, 2012

Somewhat coarsely ground Italian roast from a decent roaster, Starbucks, Peets, Costco (the Costcos with in-house roasting) are all good. Drip that you make by pouring hot water over is a good way to go. A pinch of kosher salt on the grounds will reduce the perception of bitterness.

Slate's recent article How To Make a Truly Spectacular Cup of Coffee is a great reference.

I notice Peaberry coffee is mentioned upthread. Trader Joes sells it but I find it not to my liking--flavor is ... too pencil-shaving to me. I do quite like TJ's Mexican Piñon coffee and that might be something you'd like as an easy introduction to coffee black.
posted by bz at 11:52 PM on December 15, 2012

Find a local roaster, get yourself a burr grinder, an Aeropress and an instant read thermometer. With the burr grinder Aeropress you are now a scientist and can start experimenting with the size and amount of grind, the amount of water and the temperature of the water, until you find the perfect flavor. That's how I got off milk/sugar. Now I can drink ANY coffee black and instead of all of the coffee I drink having some homogenous coffee flavored milk taste each cup has the nuance of a glass of wine. Caution - you need to be committed to this, all that sugar and cream has surely turned your palate dull, it may take many months for it to begin to appreciate the wonderfully bitter taste of unadulterated coffee.
posted by any major dude at 7:00 AM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing peets.
others have suggested that you go light roast ... but I would take a different tact try a getting really dark Ethiopian fancy and brewing it strong. it should smell like really good dark chocolate. Take litle sips. it should taste like really good dark chocolate
posted by Calicatt at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2012

Look for local roasters. Stop into a nearby independent coffee shop and ask about this sort of thing. You could ask to do a tasting, too. If you still can't handle black coffee, even the good stuff, then fuck it, just drink lattes.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:30 AM on December 16, 2012

I recommend having the coffee slinger put steamed milk in your coffee. I find I can completely go without sugar in such cases, whereas normally I have to have sugar in coffee or it tastes like crap.

And don't forget to clean your coffee-making devices if you brew at home! That will exponentially decrease the bitterness.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 10:26 AM on December 16, 2012

I’m going to disagree about the light roast, and the idea that weaker is better. Few things are worse than weak, light, crappy coffee. But that’s just opinion.

Light roast does not mean light taste or weak coffee.
posted by kdar at 11:02 AM on December 16, 2012

Light roast does not mean light taste or weak coffee.

No, I meant it as different things.
posted by bongo_x at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2012

That said, as a black coffee hater I find lighter roasts no easier to drink than dark ones. I also find Ethiopian single origins to be specifically not my thing at all and nothing I could ever drink black. Too citrusy/acidic.

The upshot of all this is that it really depends on your palate and what kinds of flavors you like. Some people (my mom) can drink Maxwell House black*. For other people, all it takes is freshly roasted and ground beans. Some people enjoy cuppings (i.e. the coffee version of wine tastings) and learning to tell the difference between different single-origins and roasting profiles.

Then you have people like me, who just don't fricking like black coffee, OK?

You will have to figure out where you are on that spectrum -- there's unfortunately no magic bullet on this.

*She also likes her coffee crazy weak, which I don't think improves anything, but clearly my mother is insane and it's shocking that I have 50% of her genetic material.
posted by Sara C. at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2012

« Older How do non-believing parents find a church for...   |   Accordiong to this... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.