The Top 30 Coffees of 2013

by Ron

View list of Top 30 Coffees of 2013

Coffee Review introduced 100-point reviews to the specialty coffee industry in 1997.  Over the years since then we’ve cupped tens of thousands of samples and produced reviews for nearly 3,500 coffees.

We are often asked, “What is the best coffee?”  To which we give the obvious answer: “There is no single ‘best’ coffee.”  Of course, visitors to our website can sort through the reviews to draw their own conclusions about which coffees are best, or at least best for them.  Nevertheless, we’ve concluded that it’s reasonable for readers to expect us to identify coffees we’ve tasted over the past year that we’ve found particularly exciting and worthy of note.

So, with a nod to publications like Wine Spectator, which issues a top 100 wines list annually, we are pleased to introduce our first effort to rank the top coffees we reviewed over the past year in the “Coffee Review’s Top 30 Coffees of 2013.”

More than Rating Alone

Of course anyone can search our site for the top-rated coffees, but in compiling our Top 30 list we decided to apply a more holistic approach that combined quality (represented by overall rating), value (reflected by most affordable price per pound), and a ranking of other factors that include distinctiveness of style, uniqueness of origin or tree variety, sustainable certification, and general rarity.

Why did we choose to limit our list to thirty coffees?  There is no magic to the number.  It just seemed about right.  In 2013 we will publish reviews of about four hundred coffees.  Roughly sixty of these will score 94 points or higher.  Obviously all of these 94+ point coffees are exceptional. But some are more unusual or noteworthy in one way or another than others. We are very fond of Ethiopian coffees, for example, but nearly two dozen coffees from this extraordinary, seminal origin earned 94 points or higher. We couldn’t include them all on the list. Our final list of top thirty coffees includes about half of all those coffees that scored 94 points or higher over the past year.  Obviously some outstanding coffees were left off the list; on the other hand, every coffee on the list is remarkable or exciting in some way.

Some Top-30 Statistics

Regular Coffee Review readers will recognize many of the roasters and origins on the Top 30 list.  Eleven of the coffees were roasted by Coffee Review advertisers, though that played no role in their original scoring or in their selection to the list.  The average overall rating of the coffees on the Top 30 list is 94.4.  The average price is $35.00 per pound, although many coffees high on the list cost considerably less.

Not surprisingly, the most frequently-appearing origin on the list is Ethiopia, with six appearances.  Other origins with multiple coffees on the list are Kenya (4), El Salvador (3), Hawaii (3), Sumatra (2), and Panama (2).  Coffees from Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Rwanda also made the list, along with four blends.

Roasters from only two countries appeared on the list: United States (28) and Taiwan (2).  Canada was noticeably absent.  We reviewed many fine coffees from Canadian roasters, most notably Fratello Coffee Roasters, but no single Canada-roasted coffee cracked the Top 30.  The same could be said of excellent coffees we’ve reviewed that were roasted in Thailand, Hong Kong and Korea.

Roasters from California and Washington State dominated the rankings, with six and five appearances respectively.  Other states with multiple roasters on the list were Hawaii (3), Massachusetts (2) and Wisconsin (2).  Ten other states placed one roaster on the list.

The Cost Factor

The average price of $35.00 per pound for coffees on the list is certainly not cheap compared to other unrated specialty coffees on the market.  However, keep in mind that one of the selection criteria for the Top 30 coffees was value, or affordability, measured by price per pound.  Many of the coffees on the list are priced in line with other specialty coffees, including a dozen at $20 per pound or less. Given that a pound of coffee produces the liquid equivalent of close to one case of wine, this means some of the best coffees in the world are priced less per serving than the famous (or infamous) Charles Shaw “Two Buck Chuck” wine.

Higher scoring coffees tended to cost more:

  • 96-point coffees = $65.19/pound
  • 95-point coffees = $29.71/pound
  • 94-point coffees = $28.90/pound
  • 93-point-or-less coffees = $23.42/pound

The three most affordable coffees on the list are the 94-point Tony’s Ganesha Espresso ($13.99/16 ounces), the 94-point Mr. Espresso Ethiopia ($12.10/12 ounces) and the 95-point Velton’s Holiday Blend ($17.00/16 ounces).

Looking Ahead

We hope you will find our list of top coffees interesting, informative and provocative. We welcome your observations and opinions about the Top 30 Coffees of 2013.  Please tweet us or post your comments on our blog or Facebook page.

You will find outstanding coffees, great values, emerging origins, and outstanding farmers and roasters that deserve to be recognized and rewarded for their efforts.  Use the list as a guide for purchasing the coffees that remain available for sale in the market this season and to seek out the origins, farmers, and roasters that deserve a first look in 2014.

Top 30 Coffees of 2013:


#30 – Topeca Coffee (Tulsa, Oklahoma), Finca El Manzano Bourbon Natural El Salvador – 93 points.

#29 – Seattle Coffee Works (Seattle, Washington), Our Best Decaf – 91 points.

#28 – Simon Hsieh’s Aroma Roast Coffees (Taoyuan City, Taiwan), Neo Mocha-Java – 93 points.

#27 – Klatch Coffee (Los Angeles, California), Nicaragua Adeprofoca Maragogype – 93 points.

#26 – Hula Daddy (Holualoa, Hawaii), 100% Kona Hign Mountain Io Extra Fancy – 94 points.

#25 – Equator Coffees & Teas (San Rafael, California), Ecuador El Batan Fair Trade Organic – 93 points.

#24 – Mr. Espresso (Oakland, California), Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere Aricha – 94 points.

#23 – ChacolaTAY (Taichung City, Taiwan), Ethiopia Dry Process Grade 1 Aricha Yirgacheffe – 95 points.

#22 – Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (La Jolla, California), Lennette Kenya – 94 points.

#21 – Bard Coffee (Portland, Maine), Sumatra Wahana Natural – 94 points.

#20 – Cafe Del Mundo (Anchorage, Alaska), Kemgin Ethiopia – 94 points.

#19 – Big Island Coffee Roasters (Mountain View, Hawaii), Honeyed Yellow Caturra – 94 points.

#18 – Rusty’s Hawaiian Coffee (Pahala, Hawaii), Maragogype Honey Process – 94 points.

#17 – Tony’s Coffees & Teas (Bellingham, Washington), Ganesha Espresso – 94 points.

#16 – Kean Coffee (Newport Beach, California), Kenya Ruira Mchana Estate – 94 points.

#15 – Kickapoo Coffee Roasters (Driftless, Wisconsin), Organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Idido – 94 points.

#14 – Olympia Coffee Roasting (Olympia, Washington), El Agulia Pacamara El Salvador – 94 points.

#13 – Lexington Coffee Roasters (Lexington, Virginia), Kikai Kenya – 95 points.

#12 – Revel Coffee (Billings, Montana), Guatemala Acatenango Gesha – 95 points.

#11 – Paradise Roasters (Ramsey, Minnesota), El Salvador Santa Marta Honey – 94 points.

#10 – Papa Lin’s Coffee Roasting (Yorktown Heights, New York), Ethiopia Ninety Plus Kemgin – 96 points.

#9 – George Howell Coffee Company (Acton, Massachusetts), La Esmeralda Mario Carnaval 2012 Panama – 96 points.

#8 – Victrola Coffee Roasters (Seattle, Washington), Colombia Valle del Cauca Cerro Azul Geisha AAA – 96 points.

#7 – Velton’s Coffee (Everett, Washington), Holiday Blend – 95 points.

#6 – Ceremony Coffee Roasters (Annapolis, Maryland), Mexico Santa Teresa BCS 02: Cabernet Franc Barrel – 95 points.

#5 – CQ Coffee Roasters (Bedford, New Hampshire), Kenya Kirinyaga Karimikui Peaberry – 95 points.

#4 – Johnson Brothers Coffee Roasters (Madison, Wisconsin), Ulos Batak Sumatra Peaberry – 95 points.

#3 – Barrington Coffee Roasting (Lee, Massachusetts), Panama Gesha Perci Red – 96 points.

#2 – BeanFruit Coffee Company (Jackson, Mississippi), Rwanda Nyamasheke – 95 points.

#1 – Temple Coffee and Tea (Sacramento, California), Ethiopia Yirgacheffe ECX – 96 points.

This entry was written by:Ron and posted on Friday, December 13th, 2013 at 7:13 pm and is filed under Coffee Business: Roasting and Retailing, Industry Issues and News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “The Top 30 Coffees of 2013”

  1. [...] Bird Rock Coffee Roaster’s Kenya Lennette named in Coffee Review’s Top 30 Coffees of 201… [...]

  2. Ron says:

    Deb, That’s a tough one. There are so many variables to consider that it would be hard for someone not seeing and tasting the coffee to answer your questions. But, I’ll try. First, “weaker” is a term generally associated with brew strength. By that I mean the amount of ground coffee dissolved in your water. This is something you largely control by your grind size and proportion of ground coffee to water. Did you grind your own beans or buy pre-ground? If you bought pre-ground coffee, it’s possible that Cafe Bustello increased the coarseness of their grind but I doubt it. Assuming you used the same amount of ground coffee you always do, the coffee probably wasn’t weaker.

    When you say it tasted far inferior, I assume that means not just due to the “weaker” taste but also some type of bad or off taste? Many things could cause that. It’s possible that Cafe Bustello is trying to cut corners but, frankly, I doubt. The cost of green (unroasted) coffee beans are very low right now so I doubt they need to “cut the real thing” right now.

    I might suggest that you check the freshness date on the packages. Make sure they haven’t expired. Coffee is a fresh product that goes stale, like bread. Pre-ground coffee goes stale quickly. If they haven’t expired, open another bag and try it. If it tastes OK, you probably just got a bad bag. If the second bag tastes bad, return the coffee.

    Good luck.

  3. deb says:

    Hi, I’ve being drinking café bustello ever since I can remember, but I bought 10 packets at walmart about a month ago and it does not taste the same, a lot weaker and the taste is far inferior than what I am used to, did they cut the real thing with a lower grade coffee to make up volume or was this bad batch over looked. I hope the other 9 bags does not taste the same.

  4. Ron says:

    You make a great point. No roaster appeared on the list twice. But, to be clear, the list is NOT the top 30 coffee roasters of 2013. If that were the case, Johnson Brothers may well have topped the list. They produced numerous 94+ point coffees at affordable price points, several of which could have reasonably made the Top 30 Coffees list. However, on a list already packed with superb Kenyas and Ethiopias, we thought the Ulos Batak Sumatra Peaberry was most remarkable. While we didn’t preclude a roaster from appearing on the list more than once, there were numerous outstanding 94+ point coffees to be considered. And, yes, we did have a hard time.

  5. Sam says:

    Carol: It’s pretty clear that this is really a “Top 30 Coffee Roasters of 2013″ list, with each roaster being represented by a single coffee. The Nyala is wonderful, of course, but Mike Johnson has a very deep bench this year, with 7(!) 94+ coffee roasts, and the CR folks must have had a hard time deciding which one to use for the list.

  6. [...] Wine Spectator of specialty coffee – has evaluated roasted beans since 1997. The criteria for its Top 30 Coffees of 2013: quality, value and “a ranking of other factors that include distinctiveness of style, uniqueness [...]

  7. Carol says:

    I feel strongly that Johnson Brothers Coffee Roasters- Nyala Kenyan Peaberry should have made the top 30 (if it is not on your top 3 choices). This company consistently offers exceptional coffees at the best prices.

  8. Ron says:

    Hey Ben,

    Yes, as of Sunday, we’ve only posted #30 through #10. As we mentioned in the intro, we started posting the Top 30 Coffees at a rate of three per day on Monday, December 2. The list will be complete when we reveal the top three coffees on Wednesday, December 11.


  9. Ben says:

    Is it just me, or does this list only show 30 – 10?

  10. Fred says:

    Papa Lin’s Ethiopian Kemgin

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