If saving money is at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions, then kicking your daily takeaway coffee habit, or switching to a cheaper supermarket coffee brand, is a great way of squirrelling away some pocket change.
You don’t have to go straight to the instant coffee aisle though – ground coffee can help you get close to the taste of your favourite coffee shop from the comfort of your kitchen. All you need is a french press or cafetiere, which you can pick up from around £5, and the inside track on the best supermarket ground coffees.
Our consumer taste test of 12 Italian-style ground coffees, including brands such as Taylors of Harrogate, Illy and Lavazza as well as supermarket offerings from Aldi, Tesco and more reveals the coffees to seek out.
We uncovered some top supermarket options, including cheap and cheerful coffees from Asda and Lidl, as well as which big brand is worth plumping for. Read on to see our top picks and the best cheap options.
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Best Italian-style ground coffee
M&S was our tasters’ favourite, but two other coffees also impressed them enough to gain a Best Buy: one branded and one supermarket option.
If you want the best value, Lidl’s ground coffee is our Great Value pick.
Best Buy: M&S Fairtrade Italian Coffee – 71%
£3.10 for 227g (£1.37 per 100g)
M&S’s coffee led the pack in our taste test, winning our panel over with its enticing aroma that’s (almost) worth getting out of bed for in the morning.
Our tasters were also impressed by its strength of flavour, with most finding it just right. It’s not the cheapest we’ve tested, but it’s not wildly expensive and is a great buy if you want a top coffee to start your day.
Available from Ocado.
Best Buy: Taylors of Harrogate Rich Italian Ground Coffee – 68%
£3.50 for 227g (£1.54 per 100g)
The best of the branded options, Taylors isn’t as expensive as you might expect from a big name (especially if you buy it from Asda, where it’s currently cheapest thanks to a price rollback).
It scored well across the board, and is best suited to those who don’t want the punchiest coffee first thing, as four in 10 tasters found it a little weak for their palette.
Available from Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Best Buy: Asda Italian Style Roast & Ground Coffee – 68%
£2.50 for 227g (£1.10 per 100g)
Asda’s coffee is the third cheapest on test, and one of the best, so it’s a great option if you’re shopping on a budget and don’t live near an Aldi or Lidl, or just want a good balance of price vs quality.
Several tasters commented on its ‘smooth’ feel, though just over a third thought it veered towards too bitter.
Available from Asda.
Lidl Italian Ground Coffee – 67%
£1.79 for 227g (79p per 100g)
This coffee is the best on a budget, costing nearly three times less than the priciest brand on test.
Besides M&S, it was the only brand to really wow our tasters with the smell of a freshly brewed pot. The only downside is that it didn’t have quite enough of a bitter edge for nearly half the panel.
Available from Lidl.
Enjoy homemade coffee on the go with our pick of the best reusable coffee cups and travel mugs
How Aldi, Tesco, Illy, Lavazza and other supermarket ground coffees compare
There wasn’t a great deal to separate the rest from each other, though pricier big brands came surprisingly far down the rankings.
Wherever you shop, it’s worth trying the own-brand option to see if you can save money.
- Aldi Alcafé Italian Style Arabica Ground Coffee – 66%. Some would have preferred a stronger taste, but if you want the very cheapest it could be worth picking up. 70p per 100g. Available from Aldi.
- Tesco Italian Inspired Blend Ground Coffee – 66%. Most tasters rated the level of bitterness as just right for their taste but a third found the strength of flavour lacking. £1.17 per 100g. Available from Tesco.
- Sainsbury’s Fairtrade Italian Style Coffee – 66%. Scored high marks for appearance, but otherwise our tasters didn’t find much to shout about. £1.23 per 100g. Available from Sainsbury’s.
- Waitrose Italian Style Ground Coffee – 66%. This coffee was too bitter and too strong for some so it’s best suited to those who like a punchier coffee. £1.37 per 100g. Available from Waitrose.
- Morrisons Italian Roast & Ground Coffee – 65%. It wasn’t our tasters’ favourite, though the majority did find the level of bitterness spot on. £1.17 per 100g. Available from Morrisons.
- Illy Espresso Medium Roast Ground Coffee – 64%. The most expensive coffee we tested may not be worth it, with four in 10 testers finding it too weak. £2.20 per 100g. Available from Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
- Coop Italian Blend Fairtrade Roast & Ground Coffee – 64%. Coop’s coffee had a decent aroma and flavour but it’s appearance disappointed. £1.23 per 100g. Available from Coop.
- Lavazza Qualita Rossa Ground Coffee – 63%. This bottom-of-the-table brand was not bitter enough for a third of our panel. Nearly half wanted a stronger brew too. £1.52 per 100g. Available from Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
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How to buy sustainable coffee
If you want some reassurance that your coffee is grown sustainably and has an ethical supply chain, a starting point is to look for a certification sticker on the bag.
All of the coffees we tested besides Illy and Lavazza are either Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certified, which both cover environmental, economic and social standards.
- Fairtrade – Ensures fair working conditions on farms, bans forced and child labour, requires responsible waste management, water use and minimal use of pesticides and sets minimum market prices for farmers and producers.
- Rainforest Alliance – Protects biodiversity on farms (reducing pesticides, deforestation and soil erosion), bans child labour and is a part of the Global Living Wage Coalition – though it doesn’t require a minimum price for people in the supply chain.
None of the ground coffee we’ve tested comes in recyclable packaging, so you’ll need to dispose of it in your kitchen bin. Taylors of Harrogate says it’s working on making its coffee packaging recyclable though, and its coffee is also Certified Carbon Neutral.
For more, see our guide on decoding food labels.
How to make the best homemade coffee
Pre-ground coffee of this type can be used in a filter coffee machine or French press. Always check the packaging when you buy ground coffee as there are different grind levels, some of which are designed for espresso coffee machines, but this should be clear on the pack.
To make great coffee at home:
- Use hot, not boiling, water. Around 60-80°C is ideal to heat the ground coffee without spoiling its flavour.
- Don’t over-brew. If you’re using a French press, then around four minutes should be enough for a strong coffee that’s not too bitter. If you prefer it weaker, leave it to brew for less time.
- Froth your milk. Once brewed, adding well-frothed milk will help you achieve a coffee shop level creamy texture. Pick from one of the best milk frothers we’ve tested to take your coffee up a level.
Head to our best cafetieres and French presses guide to see which ones we recommend, and how to get the most out of your new gadget.
How much can homemade coffee save you?
You might be surprised just how much buying coffee to make at home can save, versus buying it in a café or using a coffee pod machine, especially if it’s a daily habit.
We compared the cost of drinking 9g (the recommended serving size) of our cheapest Best Buy ground coffee (Asda Italian Style Roast & Ground Coffee), made in a Bodum French press every day with the cost of a Lavazza A Moda Mio Voicy coffee pod machine (with daily pods) and the price of a Costa Coffee Americano.
By the end of your first year, you will already have saved hundreds of pounds, even if you only buy coffee from a store on weekdays.
How we tested Italian style ground coffee
The coffees were taste tested in December 2022 by a large panel of regular coffee drinkers.
The make-up of the panel broadly represents the demographic profile of adults in the UK. Each brand of Italian-style ground coffee was assessed by 74 people.
The panellists rated the appearance, aroma, taste and mouthfeel of each product and told us what they liked and disliked about each one.
The taste test was blind, so the panellists didn’t know which brand they were trying. Coffee was prepared in accordance with pack instructions and panellists added milk and sugar if they take them; the amount of each was measured to ensure it was the same for each coffee they tasted.
The order they sampled the coffee was fully rotated to avoid any bias. Each panellist had a private booth so they couldn’t discuss what they were tasting or be influenced by others.
The overall score is based on:
- 50% taste
- 30% aroma
- 10% mouthfeel
- 10% appearance.
These weightings are based on consumer rankings of the importance of coffee attributes.
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