My top 10 coffees of 2020

In 2020, I got to enjoy at least 73 different coffee blends or single origin coffees from 12 different countries and 33 companies. Now it’s time to wrap up the year by listing the very best products!

While I had the opportunity to try all kinds of coffees, all of the products that made my top 10 list were unflavored high-end coffees. That said, I included one flavored coffee and one grocery store blend into the ”Honorable Mentions” category.

Like last year, the products were so different from each other that it wouldn’t have been fair to compare them with each other. Therefore, instead of ranking the coffees, I organized them into three categories according to the approximate roast level (dark, medium, and light). Of course, the darkness of a roast is a subjective matter. It is also probably not the best way to categorize coffee products. Obviously, there are so many other factors that affect the flavors. However, I wasn’t able to come up with a better way to list the coffees. So, in each of the three categories, I presented the coffees in alphabetical order according to the company name. The resulting list can be thought of as a pool of excellent coffees. You can pick any product you want and end up enjoying a truly memorable experience.

I used two different brewing methods. Espresso coffees were brewed in my three cup Bialetti Moka pot. On the other hand, the coffees that were intended for other brewing methods I prepared in my AeroPress, with my favorite inverted method and a paper filter. I used no additives.

So, here we go. My top 10 coffees of 2020:

Dark roast:

Medium roast:

Light roast:

You could not go wrong with any of these coffees. Unfortunately, some of these products might already be out of stock. If that is the case, you could check out any product from these great roasteries. They really know what they do.

Lastly, there were three blends that did not make the top 10 list but still deserve to be mentioned.

Honorable mentions:

  • Hamwi Café Classic—the best flavored coffee (cardamom) (United Arab Emirates)
  • Loumidis Papagalos (ΛΟΥΜΙΔΗΣ ΠΑΠΑΓΑΛΟΣ)—the best Greek grocery store coffee (Greece)
  • Paulig Presidentti Gold Label—the best Finnish grocery store coffee (Finland)

Special thanks to everyone at Cafetoria Roastery, E’s World Coffee, Kahwe, Mokafina, Muki, and Rob Beans Coffee for making this possible!

Now it’s time for me to take a small break and enjoy some great blends I recently received from the USA. I’ll be back in early January to tell you about them!

Happy New Year!

Paulig ”Christmas Coffee”—semi-sweet cinnamon rolls!

The other day, as I went Christmas shopping, I got this: Christmas Coffee from Paulig, the Finnish coffee giant. Nice! I had never had it before.

On the bag, Paulig does not give away a lot of information about the product. The description is pretty concise:

A delicious coffee blend, flavoured with real cinnamon and cardamom. This secret recipe, particularly for Christmas, has been perfected by our years of experience.

Other than that, the company only reveals that the roast level is 3/5. Oh yes, the symbols on the bag do indicate that the (pre-ground) product is intended for filter coffee machines or French press. Of course, I decided to make it in my AeroPress. It worked really well with my trusty plastic tube!

The bag note was very pleasant and natural. There was absolutely nothing artificial to it. The aroma was reminiscent of traditional Scandinavian cinnamon rolls and gingerbread cookies.

I could be wrong (?), but to me, Christmas Coffee appeared to be made of 100% Arabica beans (from Latin America?). That’s the way it felt, anyway. Whereas many flavored coffee products seem to be quite mild, Christmas Coffee was medium-full in body.

The flavor was naturally sweet and slightly bitter. While there might have been some midrange nuttiness to it, I found myself mostly thinking of fresh baked semi-sweet cinnamon rolls, spiced up with a hint of black pepper. The whole thing was bready, bakery-like, and somewhat spicy. I found myself enjoying it in the morning, and multiple times during the day. It was really good!

Get a bag of Paulig Christmas Coffee from your local supermarket, and see if you like it too! Merry Christmas!

Margariti Coffee (ΚΑΦΕΣ ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ)—Another Good Introduction to Greek Coffee

Here’s another Greek coffee blend I got from Gran Delicato, my favorite Greek coffee shop in Helsinki: καφές ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ (Margariti Coffee).

On the bag, the manufacturer only states that this blend is made ”from the best varieties of BRAZILIAN coffees”, and that it delivers ”the best taste and the rich aroma.”

The bag note was very pleasant. Basically, it smelled like traditional Greek coffee: Arabicas, and some of that ”Greek” funk—I still can’t decide if it reminds me of mold or raw licorice. But there was more to it: a light aroma of unsweetened cocoa, nuts, and dried fruits. Nice!

Obviously, I made the coffee in my briki. It delivered an ample crema.

The flavor profile matched the bag note exactly. It was a very smooth combination of

  • medium mild ”Greek” Arabica flavor, with some of that ”licorice”
  • some cocoa-like undertones
  • a hint of dried fruits

Despite the fruity flavors, the overall vibe was semi-dry. There was no bitterness whatsoever.

OK, what’s the verdict? This blend will probably not surprise you in any way, but that’s not what it was created for. Instead, it is a pleasant, medium mild Greek coffee that you can enjoy all day. Along with Loumidis Papagalos, it could serve as a good introduction for anyone who wants to get into Greek blends. If you’re so inclined, get a bag of καφές ΜΑΡΓΑΡΙΤΗ and a briki. (In Finland, you can get both from Gran Delicato!) Then watch a couple of tutorial videos on how to make Greek coffee (how about this one?), and you’re good to go!

Bravo ο Κλασικος—The Greek Classic

Last week, as I happened to be in the neighborhood, I visited Gran Delicato, my favorite Greek coffee shop in Helsinki. In addition to their delicious sandwiches, they offer a variety of Greek groceries, including coffee. This time, I got two new (to me) blends. Here’s the first one: Bravo ο Κλασικός (”the Classic”).

Now, I’m not very good at modern Greek, but since I do study ancient Greek texts, I was able to get a grasp of the bag description. Basically, it only said this:

BRAVO Κλασικός is made from the finest varieties of coffee and roasted with taste, slowly and steadily, based on our knowledge from 1926 until today.

Other than that, they only mentioned the ”rich aroma and authentic taste” of the product.

As I opened the bag, I got the aroma of basic Arabica coffee, accompanied by some of that familiar Greek funk. Some people call it a moldy smell. Others think it is reminiscent of raw licorice. Whatever it is, I like it a lot. There was not a lot of it though. For instance, the Turkish classic, Sade Dibek Kahvesi from Artukbey is much more smelly in this sense.

Obviously, I used my briki for brewing this one.

Flavor-wise, the coffee was pretty much what I expected it to be: basic grocery store Arabica coffee, with some of that ”Greek thing”. While the coffee flavors were OK, they were somewhat sharper than the ones in Loumidis Papagalos, the other Greek classic. That said, in the Bravo, there was more of that raw licorice flavor.

Nice crema, don’t you think?

While I may not call Bravo ο Κλασικός anything spectacular—it is a grocery store blend, after all—, it surely is a nice middle-of-the-road Greek coffee that you can enjoy all day. I liked it! You should give it a try! In Finland, you can get it from the good folks at Gran Delicato, Helsinki.

Bellarom Colombia—mediocre at most

Here’s Bellarom Colombia, a 100% Arabica coffee from Lidl, the German supermarket chain.

On the bag, the company describes the product thus:

Cultivated exclusively at a high altitude in rich volcanic soils, these beans are harvested at their optimum ripeness. Medium roasted, with a rich, elegant aroma and a full-bodied finish.

They also tell us that the ”strength”—whatever that means—is 5 on the scale of 10.

Briefly, there is little positive I can say about this product.

Yes, the aroma of the beans—whole and ground—was quite OK. As you would expect from Colombian coffee, there were notes of nuts and chocolate.

In my humble opinion, however, Colombia did not taste good. Indeed, it was pretty full-bodied and flavorful. Curiously, though, I was unable to detect the actual flavors. Yes, the nuttiness and the chocolate might have been there in the background. Mostly, however, I got a harsh, mediocre Arabica flavor.

I will not buy this coffee again.

I’m not sure I can finish the bag.

If you want to enjoy good Colombian coffee, do not waste your money into this product. Get some Pascucci Colombia instead!

Bellarom Ethiopian Sidamo—Better than the others, but still…

QUESTION: What are the most read coffee reviews on this website?
ANSWER: The reviews on Bellarom and Italiamo coffees from Lidl, the German supermarket chain.

OK, I’ll give you some more! This review is on Bellarom Ethiopian Sidamo. On the bag it says:

This coffee comes mainly from the southern province of Sidamo in Ethiopia – from the origin of coffee. This coffee from high-altitudes convinces with its intensive flavour, low acidity and spicy, fruity and floral aroma.

They also describe the aroma and flavor thus: ”Fruity, Spicy Aroma with a Flowery Flavour”. Furthermore, the ”strength”—whatever that means (flavor? caffeine? darkness of roast?)—is said to be 6 on the scale of 10.

For an inexpensive coffee like this (9,98 € / kg), the bag note was surprisingly good. It was exactly what the company promised: fruity, spicy, and floral.

As I brewed the coffee in my Bialetti Moka pot, I noticed that in addition to the features mentioned above, the bouquet was dominated by a sweet, caramelly aroma. (Can an aroma be sweet? Well, you probably see what I mean.)

The flavor profile, however, was a little disappointing. The main notes were caramel, baking spices, and baking cocoa. There might have been a tiny hint of fruitiness as well, but it was really hard to detect. The floral notes were absent altogether. That said, the finish was nice. It reminded me of the rich nuttiness of American burley pipe tobacco. The mouthfeel was semi-creamy and pleasant as well.

Like other Bellarom blends, Ethiopian Sidamo left me with mixed feelings. Yes, it was relatively flavorful. At the same time, the flavors were kind of nondescript, resulting in a flavor profile that was a little… meh. I’m not saying it was bad, but in my opinion, it wasn’t particularly interesting, either. It really didn’t highlight the fruity and floral qualities of Sidamo beans. Maybe that’s the price you’ll have to pay for inexpensive coffee.

I will say one thing, though: Ethiopian Sidamo was better than the other Bellarom blends I’ve had in the past. But if your local Lidl happens to be carrying their Italiamo coffees (made in Italy!), I would opt for those instead. Their quality is considerably higher.

Paulig Presidentti Gold Label—Finnish grocery store coffee at its best

A while ago, I was asked to write reviews of two blends by Paulig, Presidentti kahvi and Presidentti Gold Label. As you can tell from my first review, I was positively surprised by the regular Presidentti. This time, I’ll say a couple of words about the Gold Label version.

First, the packaging is pretty classy. One gets the impression that Gold Label is the high-end version of the traditional Presidentti. Whether or not this is a correct interpretation, the coffee itself is pretty good.

On the package, it says that this is an ”aromatic coffee blend, finalized with best beans of the season [sic] from East Africa. Fruity flavoured Ethiopian beans together with lighter roast bring out the nuanced taste of this 100 % Arabica coffee in its full glory.” The company has also added the familiar graph, which can be interpreted as follows:

  • Body: 2/5
  • Acidity: 4/5
  • Flavor: 4/5

The bag note was rich and pleasant: dried fruits, medium dark milk chocolate, and some nuttiness. The aroma reminded me of the regular Presidentti, but it was a little darker. That said, it didn’t smell ”darker” in the way that a darker roast would. Granted, Gold Label is roasted slightly darker (2/5 on the Paulig scale) than the original Presidentti (1/5). Here, however, the ”darkness” made me think of dried fruits as opposed to fresh ones.

I decided to brew it in my AeroPress, using the inverted method I know best.

The flavor profile was predictable but pleasant. It was a harmonious mélange of both fresh and dried fruits, medium dark milk chocolate, and nuttiness. It was full flavored, but medium-mild in strength. It had a rich, natural sweetness to it, and yet it was robust enough to work in any situation. Moreover, there was a substantial amount of acidity. Even so, it did not feel sharp or harsh in the mouth. Instead, the acidity was quite soft and pleasant.

Presidentti Gold Label might be one of the best Finnish coffees I’ve purchased in a supermarket. In my opinion, it encapsulates everything that most Finns seem to like about their coffee, and makes it even better. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it became one of my favorite blends, it certainly was enjoyable. If you want to experience Finnish grocery store coffee at its best, get some Presidentti Gold Label from Paulig!

Jacobs Krönung—the middle-of-the-road grocery store blend

The other day, I had to get some coffee to brew in my hotel room. I only had my AeroPress with me, so it had to be a pre-ground blend. Jacobs products seemed to be available in every supermarket. Since I’d never had their coffees (!), I decided to get a pack of Krönung.

On the bag, there was virtually no information on the ingredients.

At first, I didn’t think much of this blend. It was… just coffee. After a couple of cups, however, I started to detect different nuances. The flavor profile was dominated by a nice nuttiness and accompanied by a pleasant bitterness. There was some acidity as well, but not much. Overall, the coffee was pretty well-rounded. It was on the dry side, but it had just enough natural sweetness to make it work in any situation.

Just as I expected, Jacobs Krönung was little more than a middle-of-the-road grocery store blend. But if you only need a pick-me-up in the morning, it does the trick reasonably well. I probably will not buy it again, but I’m happy I tried it!

Paulig Classic—a nice morning cup

How to make better coffee when traveling? My suggestion: Try to avoid the coffee makers you find in hotel rooms. Instead, throw your AeroPress in the bag, and you’re good to go!

On my trips, I like to buy whatever coffee is available in supermarkets. It’s kind of fun to see what the locals drink.

Last week, I spent some time in the beautiful city of Riga, Latvia. At one supermarket, the shelves were filled with regular Swedish and Finnish blends—you know, brands like Löfbergs and Paulig. Especially, Paulig Classic seemed to be everywhere in Latvia. I could be wrong, but I’m assuming this blend is not available in Finland (?), the home country of Paulig. At least I had never even seen it before. So, I immediately wanted to try it!

The bag description was quite short:

Paulig Classic is a sophisticated coffee blend, roasted from the finest Latin American coffee qualities. The taste is long and harmonious and you can find a round and nutty aroma from it.

This seems like a pretty accurate description!

While there was no further information on the ingredients (other than ”100% Arabica”), Classic felt like a blend of (mostly?) Colombian coffees. It was very nutty and slightly bitter. I don’t mean that it was harsh in any way. Quite the contrary, the acidity was low, and the flavor profile was well-balanced. In my opinion, the combination of nuttiness and bitterness made Classic a good choice for the morning cup. In this sense, it reminded me of another Scandinavian grocery store blend that I’ve liked in the past, Gran Dia from Arvid Nordquist.

I liked Classic more than many other Paulig products. Obviously, it is not a super high quality blend, but perfectly enjoyable nonetheless!

Italiamo Espresso Magnifico—an honest Italian espresso

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Like Caffè Tradizionale 100% Arabica, which I reviewed (and enjoyed) last year, Espresso Magnifico is part of the Italiamo line of Italian products marketed by Lidl, the German grocery store chain.

On the bag it says ”Arabica & Robusta”, ”Produced in Italy”. Other than that, there is little information on the contents. But that’s fine. Let the product speak for itself.

As you open the bag, you can instantly tell that there is Robusta in it: the bag aroma is  sweet, but earthy and pungent at the same time. The roast seems to be medium dark, around 3/5.

The aroma of the ground beans is naturally sweet and very chocolatey. Many of the classic Robusta elements are there as well—earth, flowers, and vanilla. However, dark chocolate is definitely the main feature. You get the impression that this is going to be a very full-flavored blend.

How does it taste, then? Well, it is quite flavorful indeed. Surprisingly, though, the dry earthiness takes center stage, while the chocolatey sweetness takes the supporting role. Overall, the flavor is not as full-bodied as one might expect. But then, this is not a high-end espresso blend anyway—it costs one third of the price of my beloved Pascucci Golden Sack.

So, is Espresso Magnifico ”magnifico”? Well, not exactly, but it’s definitely not bad, either. In my opinion, it is a reasonably fine grocery store espresso blend, made the Italian way. Quality-wise, it doesn’t seem to be far from classic espressos by companies like Lavazza or Segafredo Zanetti. I actually liked it better than many Scandinavian made ”espresso” blends. For me, it worked well as a dessert coffee after a big and spicy meal.

To be sure, I would prefer a full-bodied Pascucci blend over this, something like Mono Origine GuatemalaCaffè Bio, or (you guessed it!) Golden Sack. But considering the low price, Espresso Magnifico is definitely worth checking out.