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Taste test: Pumpkin spice coffees you can brew at home

We tried some seasonal coffee flavors.
[Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/TNS]

While I’m not a big coffee drinker, I love the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. I sometimes make a cup just for the comforting smell and the warmth it brings to the kitchen. This week, our panelists tasted five brands of pumpkin spice coffee, with mixed feelings on the flavor. But they all agreed the subtle pumpkin bouquet gave the room a cozy tone they wished could linger all day. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of tasters buy these coffees just to get into the spirit of the fall season. We purchased K-cups of the brands when available and used a K-cup insert to brew the grounds of the brands that did not come in single-serving pods. All scores are out of 100.

The Fresh Market

Panelists appreciated a slightly nutty flavor in this coffee. “It really complements the pumpkin,” said one judge. One said he would definitely brew this over a campfire during a winter hike. “Ultimately this is very warming and a coffee I could certainly embrace,” said another. The self-proclaimed coffee aficionado on our panel said this was the best option, hands down. “It has the most fragrant smell and taste,” she said. “It even looks deeper, darker and more caramel-y than the others. You can smell the pumpkin as soon as you bring this to your nose. It’s nice!”

Score: 63

Would they buy? All four judges said yes.

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories: 0

Fat/fiber: 0g / 0g

Sugars/sodium: 0g / 0mg

Carbs/protein: 0g / 0mg

Great Value

Walmart’s store brand of coffee was a bit weak for a couple of judges, but all of the panelists liked the slight pumpkin punch from each sip. “The spiced flavor really comes through and almost reminds me of tea,” said one of the tasters. “I would like to see how this coffee fares with steamed half-and-half or some whole milk,” said one panelist who would buy the brand. Another said the pumpkin taste was totally discernible. “It doesn’t just smell like fall spices — it tastes like them,” he said.

Score: 53

Would they buy? Two of the four judges said yes.

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories: 0

Fat/fiber: 0g / 0g

Sugars/sodium: 0g / 0mg

Carbs/protein: 0g / 0mg

Green Mountain

Judges said this brand would be perfect for coffee drinkers who want a little hint of flavor but prefer to add their own spices. “It’s decent coffee but it’s hard to taste much pumpkin,” said one taster. “There are hints but nothing that jumps out.” Another said she would top off her cup with a flavored whipped cream or even some caramel syrup. The coffee had a pleasant, rich color that appealed to panelists as well.

Score: 52

Would they buy? One of the four judges said yes.

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories: 2

Fat/fiber: 0g / 0g

Sugars/sodium: 0g / 4mg

Carbs/protein: 0g / 0mg


Shopping information

Fresh Market

$11.99 for a 16-ounce bag of coffee grounds.

Great Value

$3.92 for a 3.9-ounce box of 12 K-cups from Walmart.

Green Mountain

$12.94 for a 7.9-ounce box of 24 K-cups from Walmart.

Also sampled: Dunkin’ Donuts ($9.49 for a 3.7-ounce box of 10 K-cups from Publix, 42 points) and Trader Joe’s ($4.99 for a 5-ounce box of 12 K-cups, 37 points).


Panelists

Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; and Michelle Stark, Times food and lifestyle editor. All coffees were tasted blind.

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