The best organic coffee
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks on the planet, and many of us can't go a day without it. While caffeine is the active ingredient we care about most when it comes to coffee, it's worth considering what else is in your daily java.
Coffee plants are one of the most pesticide-treated plants on earth. These chemicals are not only harmful to your health, but also to the environment. Fortunately, many companies offer organic coffees that haven't been exposed to agrochemicals. Read our buying guide to learn more about organic coffees, including our top recommendation. Our favorite comes from Death Wish Coffee Company; it's an expertly roasted, low-acid coffee that provides a strong shot of caffeine.
Considerations when choosing organic coffees
Why choose organic
Conventional coffee is highly treated with chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, synthetic fertilizers, and fungicides. Some pesticides, like glyphosate, have been strongly linked to cancer. Furthermore, when the coffee plant is sprayed with pesticides, those chemicals can leach into the environment and affect the air and water supply of local communities. Workers who spray and tend the crops are directly exposed to these toxins.
To avoid all this, select a coffee that has been USDA certified organic. This means the coffee crop is grown following strict standards that limit exposure to pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Whole bean vs. ground
You can purchase organic coffee either pre-ground or in whole bean form. Whole beans must be ground at home using a coffee grinder but offer a fresher taste. Grinding beans yourself also gives you control over the grind size. Ground coffee is ready to brew. However, it oxidizes faster and loses its fresh flavor more quickly.
Arabica vs. robusta
There are actually two different species of the coffee plant: one that produces arabica beans (Coffea arabica) and the other that produces robusta beans (Coffea canephora). Arabica beans are often better-tasting but are more expensive. Robusta beans taste bitter but have a higher caffeine content, and they're less expensive.
Roast determines the flavor of the coffee and not its caffeine level, contrary to popular belief. Light roasts are from lighter-colored beans with non-oily surfaces. They have the highest acidity of all the roasts. Medium and medium-dark roasts are more flavorful, darker in color, and semi-oily. Dark roasts have the boldest, richest flavor and are low in acidity. They're also the oiliest bean.
Although all organic coffees are non-GMO, not all are Fair Trade. A coffee labeled "Fair Trade" means farmers and harvesters were paid a living wage and no unfair labor practices were used, like child labor. Often, sustainable farming methods were employed as well.
Rainforest Alliance certified
Coffee farms are often grown in clear-cut forests, meaning local ecosystems were destroyed. Alternatively, coffee that is grown in the shade of existing trees is much better for the environment. Select a coffee labeled either "shade-grown" or Rainforest Alliance certified if conservation is important to you.
While most organic coffees come packaged in bags that end up in a landfill, some companies are making efforts to use recycled or biodegradable packaging, as is the case with some one-cup pods that can be composted after use.
Organic products have a reputation for being more expensive than non-organic, though that price gap is narrowing as demand for organic increases. Expect to pay between $0.50 to $1.25 per ounce of organic coffee.
Q. Is there such a thing as instant organic coffee?
A. Yes. Instant organic coffees are a great option for camping and traveling, or if you have busy mornings and need to get out the door without foregoing your coffee fix.
Q. Is coffee good for you?
A. There are quite a few benefits to drinking coffee, besides the obvious perk of making you more alert. Coffee contains antioxidants, including polyphenols that fight free radical damage. Coffee is good for the liver because it increases circulation in the organ. Coffee may also protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. Be sure to select an organic coffee so you don't compromise these health benefits with a cup full of chemicals.
Organic coffees we recommend
Best of the best: Death Wish Coffee Company's Ground Coffee
Our take: A bold, dark roast that delivers a serious jolt of caffeine.
What we like: Certified organic and Fair Trade. High caffeine levels. Intense flavor and aroma. Low acid. Expertly roasted.
What we dislike: This seriously strong brew isn't for the faint of heart.
Best bang for your buck: Cafe Don Pablo's Subtle Earth Organic Gourmet Coffee
Our take: A good-sized bag of organic Arabica coffee beans for a good price.
What we like: Generous 2-pound bag. Medium-dark roast boasts a full flavor and low acidity. Certified organic. Rich, smooth flavor has a hint of cocoa.
What we dislike: Some consumers find the beans have a burnt, ashy taste.
Our take: An eco-conscious, organic ground coffee blend designed for cold brewing.
What we like: Shade-grown Arabica coffee. Some fruit and floral notes. Company donates to reforestation efforts in Ecuador to neutralize the carbon footprint of the product.
What we dislike: On the pricier side.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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