Many people are afraid that drinking coffee black will mean sacrificing the pleasure of actually enjoying your coffee. Fear not! We went ahead and collected and reviewed plenty of options to show you which is the best coffee to drink black for any tastebuds.
Whether you are making the switch for the health benefits, the flavor, or simply convenience, there are plenty of reasons to choose to drink black coffee… and enjoy it! Read on for your recommendations on coffee brands to try and tip on how to make sure the taste is on point too.
What is “Black Coffee”?
While it may seem pretty straightforward, there is a bit of controversy over what exactly counts as black coffee. Most people would define black coffee as any coffee (from a standard drip to an espresso) that is brewed and served with no extras.
So that would mean no sugar, milk, creamer, etc. However, some people consider the addition of add-ins that don’t change the color of the drink (eg. sugar, cinnamon, cacao powder) to be fair game. We, however, prefer to stick to the standard definition for a few reasons.
First, many people who choose to drink black coffee do so specifically to avoid all the add-ins. Second, other people who choose to drink black coffee do so to make sure they get the maximum coffee flavor, which won’t happen if you start mixing in other stuff.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what brands of coffee are offering the best coffee beans to enjoy brewed all by themselves.
Roasty Ranked: Best Coffees to Drink Black
Volcanica Kenya AA (Best Overall)
Kenyan coffee, among several other African varieties, is known for its vibrant, flavorful brews. This particular offering from Volcanica is the best coffee to drink black overall, in our opinion. If you are new to the unaltered brew, this is a great place to start (and, honestly, you might never leave).
The Kenya AA Coffee is a medium roast with a crisply sweet flavor with overtones of berry and citrus followed by a savory, winy aftertaste. The mouthfeel is light and smooth, so you won’t need to rely on added milk for a pleasant sip.
Coffee Kult Colombian Huila (Runner Up)
Our runner up is Coffee Kult’s medium roasted, specialty-grade Colombian Huila coffee. It has a more chocolatey flavor profile, which is great for people who are looking for something a bit richer or bolder for their morning brew.
Coffee Kult uses organically sourced 100% arabica beans and small-batch roasts them, so you know you’re getting the utmost in quality. The brew isn’t bitter, thanks to the medium roast, and the medium acidity helps make it balanced and smooth– another great choice for drinking black.
Pilón Gourmet (Best Dark Roast)
Pilón Gourmet is one of our favorite brews to drink black. Despite being a dark roast, the richness of the flavors isn’t overpowered by the intensity of the roast level. It’s a freshly roasted, Cuban-style whole bean Arabica blend that is usually intended for espresso.
This type of blend and flavor profile is particularly popular in Florida, and the taste is strong and smooth. It’s even a popular choice at Latin restaurants across the US. If you are on the market to go dark with your black coffee, we’re pretty convinced this is the perfect choice for you, especially if you are brewing espressos.
Coffee Bean Direct Nicaraguan (Best Light Roast)
Now, if you are looking for something decidedly on the light side, we recommend checking out Coffee Bean Direct‘s Nicaraguan coffee. This light roasted Strictly High Grown (SHG) coffee showcases the excellent flavor profile that can be achieved with Nicaraguan coffee.
Plus, it skips the high acidity that is characteristic of other Central American coffees, making it a great choice for black coffee. The brew is well balanced with a mild body, light acidity, and excellent aroma. This Nicaraguan coffee is also fair trade and organic certified.
No Fun Jo Decaf (Best Decaf)
If you are caffeine sensitive, fear not. We have an option for you too. Jo Coffee‘s decaf is anything but “No fun.” With sweet blueberry overtones followed by notes of milk chocolate, you can enjoy the complex flavor and full body of this decaf coffee without any help from cream and sugar.
Their decaf is USDA Certified Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Swiss Water Process Certified, and Kosher Certified. It is made with high-quality arabica, so you won’t mind drinking black coffee if this is in your cup. Plus, this is one of the best ground coffee options out there.
Waka Coffee Indian Light Roast (Best Instant)
If you’ve puttered around our site for a bit, chances are you have noticed that Waka has become one of our favorite coffee brands. Surprising as that is considering they only offer instant, we promise they won’t disappoint. Their Indian light roast in particular shocked our tasting team with its excellent taste.
These coffee beans are 100% arabica, and Waka uses a freeze-drying process to preserve their natural flavor. With a low-acidity and rich notes of chocolate and hazelnut, this brew is perfect for people who don’t have time for a fussy coffee experience. Skip the brewing, skip the add-ins, just enjoy drinking black coffee wherever you are.
Benefits of Black Coffee
Just about any time you have heard of a coffee study with seemingly too-good-to-be-true results, the study was likely conducted using black coffee specifically. The added ingredients of non-black coffee could potentially skew results, so participants take their brews black.
Thus, any generalized “coffee benefits” you’ve heard about, apply mostly to black coffee benefits alone. So let’s take a look at some of the perks of this beverage:
While this one might seem a little obvious, you’d be surprised by how huge a difference this little fact makes. While some of us are pretty conservative with our little additions, many of us are combining syrups with creamers or throwing in some milk and honey together in our brews.
To break it down for you here are some general caloric values of your standard coffee add-ins (per tablespoon):
- Cream: 52
- Half-and-half: 20
- Whole milk: 9
- Fat-free milk: 5
- Sugar: 48
- Honey: 64
- Flavored syrup: 48
- Plain nondairy creamer (powder): 33
- Flavored non-dairy creamer (powder): 45
- Plain nondairy creamer (liquid): 20
- Flavored non-dairy creamer (liquid): 35
So even though coffee itself is essentially a zero-calorie beverage, you can pretty easily break 100 calories per cup if you aren’t careful. Plus, if you are drinking more than one loaded-up coffee a day, those numbers start adding up, even if you have a light pour.
Antioxidants and Caffeine
Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the modern diet, outdoing fruits and vegetables combined and several times over. Without the added sugars and such, the antioxidant-packed black coffee can get to work helping to improve your health.
Several studies have indicated the drinking coffee each day can contribute to improved cardiovascular, liver, and gastrointestinal health.
Additionally, black coffee has been shown to improve your memory and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. Also, the anti-inflammatory nature of coffee consumption has been linked to cancer prevention.
Tricks to the Taste
The reason many people are hesitant to switch to black coffee is the fear they won’t be able to enjoy the drink. Seriously, who wants to pretend to delight in a blatantly bitter cup of plain Joe? However, we promise it is, in fact, possible to brew coffee that tastes good without being loaded up with sugar and milk.
Aside from buying the right brand, here are a few tips to help you get the best brew possible:
Fresh roast, fresh grind, fresh brew– Freshness matters, and fresh coffee is the way to go. If you are going to be tasting the unadulterated flavors of your brew, you are going to want those flavors to be spot-on. Look for whole beans that are packaged with a roasting date clearly marked on the bag.
Local roasteries are a fantastic choice if you are having trouble finding a good option online or at your nearest supermarket! For example, a local favorite from my home town is Railway Coffee.
Pick lighter roasts
Industry trends and masculine-centered marketing have convinced many of us that darker roasts are inherently superior. However, a dark roast may pair well with cream and sugar, the truth is you probably aren’t going to enjoy something labeled as a “kick you in the gut and slap you for good measure” type of coffee without any extras to soften the blow.
While it may shock you, dark roasts aren’t the only way to achieve a flavorful coffee. The flavor might be “bold and intense,” if you’re new to the no-frills brew, it is probably going to taste like someone miraculously managed to burn a cup of dirty water.
Alternatively, consider going for a medium or even light roast. Those tasty-sounding flavor notes tend to be more obvious in these brews, and they’ll feel way less abrasive. This will ease your transition into black coffee brewing, and you can venture darker as you see fit (though many people stick to a medium roast).
Experiment with the brew method
While drip coffee is usually the go-to, there are plenty of different brewing methods that you can use to get your favorite version of black coffee.
As a general rule, remember that methods that use finer grinds typically produce stronger coffee, and because there is more surface area for extraction, there is a higher chance of getting bitter coffee.
If you don’t care about the acidity of your lighter roast, a french press is probably the perfect go-to for black coffee. The maintenance of the oils gives it a rich feel while the immersion brewing keeps things from taking a bitter turn. However, for those of you who are concerned about that acidity, try a nice cold brew.
Drip coffee (both machine drippers and pour-overs), are perfect if you are looking for something that will help maintain the more delicate flavors of your coffee. Pour overs especially are perfect for this purpose. But a high-quality drip brewer with a medium grind won’t do a bad job either.
Lastly, you can try an espresso machine or Aeropress. Both of these are pressure-based brewers that use finer grind sizes. This might not be the best method to try first, but if you start dabbling in black coffee and find you want something a bit stronger, try one of these methods.
Tips to avoid
There are a few tips we’ve seen floating around that we want to warn you against: salt and bulletproof coffee.
First, many sites will tell you to add salt to your finished brew to cut the bitterness. In general, we recommend against this method as you either won’t be able to tell the difference or you’ll taste the salt. As we’ve discussed before, you can add salt to the grounds of sub-par beans to achieve the desired effect to some extent.
However, if you plan on drinking your coffee black, you shouldn’t be getting sub-par beans. The salt is not going to add flavor to mediocre brews, it will just take away the burnt or bitter edge of old or overroasted beans.
Next, bulletproof coffee is another popular recommendation for people who have trouble enjoying black coffee, and we have a few bones to pick on that front. First, this brew has added butter and oil, so it isn’t black coffee by any stretch of the imagination.
Second, bulletproof coffee does boast a couple of health benefits of its own that sound similar to those of black coffee, including weight loss, mood boosts, and increased metabolism. However, this brew is more for dieters and active individuals rather than your average joe drinker. It is alarmingly high in saturated fats and has a relatively low nutritional value.
So basically, neither salted coffee nor bulletproof coffee is likely to make a good switch to a high-quality black coffee for most people.
So there you have it! If you’re new to the black coffee game, go ahead and try Volcanica’s Kenya AA. You seriously can’t go wrong with that brew. For those of you who know you need something darker, try Pilón’s whole bean Gourmet coffee.
Want to brew on the lighter side? Check out Coffee Bean direct. Decaf and instant people can check out Jo’s Decaf and Waka’a Indian coffee respectively. No matter what your coffee needs are, we have you covered.