As a decently picky coffee snob, here’s my take of the small coffee roasters I’ve tried from my St Louis base. These are variously available from Whole Foods, Schnucks and Dierbergs (the last being my best recommendation for price and availability). Before I discuss the beans, remember that these are just my personal tastes that lean toward a medium roast with tasty acidic notes, good acidity that is — memories of fruits, berries, etc — not especially bitter, so-called chocolate flavours being good too.
As much as I love coffee my caffeine tolerance is limited to one cup of caffeinated coffee at best so there’s a mix of decaf in here. My natural inclination is to dismiss them altogether for lacking flavour, smell certainly, but I’ve discovered a good decaf can more than compete with the caffeinated ones (shocking, I know). On to the coffees!
Culinaria: My personal favourite from around here is the Costa Rica medium roast, but the decaf Sumatra beans are among the best decaf beans available here. Culinaria coffee is roasted in St Louis and distributed by Schnucks.
Metropolis: I have to highlight their Xeno’s Decaf that makes me think exclamations like “I can’t believe it’s not …” caffeinated. Really, this decaf is amazing and brewed nearby in Chicago (where other great coffees come from, though don’t make our regular rotation). I’ve only tried their Redline Espresso which is pretty good, but I’ll be looking for a good medium roast to try from them before I go.
Papa Nicolas Coffee: We keep getting more of Papa Nicolas decaf not because it is especially phenomenal, but for the price (around half the cost of the others), it’s amazing value. This workhorse decaf is for the half-caf days (that unfortunately must happen sometimes) because it manages to cut the best caffeinated beans without changing their flavour much. Their special reserve peaks from the background: I don’t recommend.
Goshen Coffee Company: Roasted in nearby Edwardsville, IL, I’ve only tried their Moka Java Blend and it fulfills the promise of “classic full flavor with delicate chocolate notes” beautifully. This coffee probably comes in a close second among the caffeinated beans for me. I’d like to try their Old-School Tattoo which looks closer to my favourite medium roasts.
Caribou is everywhere around here. Hailing from Minneapolis, MN, I can’t recommend them, especially given the premium coffee price attached.
We’ve probably tried others, but they were forgettable. For the price (sub-$10) I definitely recommend the Culinaria’s Costa Rica: you can’t do much better for more. None of the coffees I’ve tried around here really compare to the beans I got based in Cambridge, MA (the local Barismo that introduced me to a whole different tier of good coffee, and the nearby Gimme! coffee in Ithica, NY — holy good coffee), but they come close enough.