8 Coffee Brands to Avoid

There are so many coffee brands on the market not only in retail stores but also online. How does one possibly choose which one to buy?

Most people have just a couple qualifiers when purchasing their coffee, such as:

  • Price
  • Taste

However, when buying coffee more than just price and taste should be considered.

There are some “dirty” coffee brands out there and they may be doing harm to not only your body but also our planet.

For this list, we’re using factors such as how the coffee is picked, sustainability practices, the quality of the coffee used, the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals, and the ethical practices of the company that’s producing it.

Coffee Brands to Avoid


Ground coffee, instant, and pods

folgers brand
This is a huge brand of coffees and is an iconic American brand. Although Folgers (J.M. Smucker) states on their website that they are concerned about sustainability and ethical working conditions, they reject all the common certifications to ensure this is happening.

The coffee supply chain used is not pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide free. They do not offer an organic variety and all their coffee is pre-ground and not fresh.

Although this brand is cheap and convenient, you are getting a poor quality coffee.

Instead choose:

Cafe Don Pablo organic
It’s USDA certified with stunning reviews.

Maxwell House

Ground coffee, instant, and pods

maxwell house
This is another iconic American brand owned by Kraft. Again this brand rejects sustainability certification, fair trade certifications, and does not offer an organic product.

Therefore, their coffee may have chemicals and molds present. All their coffee is pre-ground and freshness is an issue.

Instead choose:

Tiny Footprint organic coffee
Carbon negative, with a bold, intense flavor.


Instant and Ground coffee

nescafe coffee
Nescafe is a huge multinational brand of coffee owned by Nestle.

We commend Nescafe partnering with for the Rainforest Alliance, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), and the Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C), but they do not offer organic certified coffees. Therefore, their coffee may contain chemicals and mold.

They only offer instant coffees, ground coffee, or pods so again, freshness is a concern.

Instead choose:

Mount Hagen organic fair trade instant coffee.
This highland grown coffee is USDA certified.

Dunkin Donuts

Store brand

dunkin donuts brand coffee
Dunkin Donuts is a popular coffee shop chain serving whole bean and ground coffee at retail locations and online. All of Dunkin’s restaurant-made espresso beverages are now Rainforest Alliance certified and about 30% of their dark roast coffee beans. As for the rest of their coffee, it seems like it could be sourced from anywhere.

They do not offer organic varieties so their coffee may contain chemicals and molds. The grocery store Dunkin Donuts coffee is produced by J.M. Smucker which is the same as Folgers.

Instead Choose:

Ethical Bean Coffee – Exotic blend
This coffee is not only USDA organic and Fairtrade, but you can scan the package and learn exactly where your coffee beans came from.

Cafe Bustelo

Ground, Instant, Whole beans and Pods

cafe bustelo
This Latin American brand is popular in the Americas. Bustelo is yet another coffee brand both owned and distributed by J.M Smucker and doesn’t have any certifications regarding the ethical and environmentally friendly sourcing of their coffee beans.

It also looks like they don’t have any organic varieties.

Instead Choose:

Illy Caffe
Illy was the world’s first company to receive Responsible Supply Chain certification.

Keurig K-Cups

Disposable pods

k cups
This isn’t a particular brand of coffee apart from their parent company Green Mountain (which, by the way, is a good coffee according to the brand qualifiers we used here) but a brewing method.

While convenient for the consumer, this method has created a huge amount of waste sent to landfills each year. The plastic pods cannot be recycled easily by most cities and therefore have to be disposed of. Here’s a good video that further explores the issue. The traditional way to make coffee produces very little waste since coffee grounds are compostable and readily biodegradable.

If you do use a Keurig please consider using the reusable pods that you have to fill with your own ground coffee.

Instead choose:

Nespresso Capsules
If you’re going to use capsules, use only Nespresso branded. They offer a complete recycling chain and have thousands of collection depots worldwide.

Seattle’s Best

Whole bean, Ground, Instant, and Pods

seattle's best

This brand should be called Starbucks’ “dirty little secret”.

Although Starbucks prides itself on ensuring ethical and environmentally friendly practices are used in their coffee production and even offers organic varieties, their Seattle’s Best brand doesn’t hold to the same standards.

It is basically Starbucks’ way of competing with cheap brands like Folgers and Maxwell House. They do offer a couple of organic varieties.

Instead choose:

Peet’s Coffee
Peet’s is among the most sustainable coffee businesses in the US.

Store Brands

Whole bean, Ground, Instant, and Pods

store brand coffee
People often turn to store brand coffees because they are more affordable.

Before you purchase a store brand make sure it has some sustainability certifications printed on the bag and also look for types that are certified organic.

How To Choose a Great Coffee

Luckily, there are hundreds of great coffee brands out there to choose from. When shopping for coffee here’s a few things to look for.

  1. Make sure the coffee is grown in a sustainable and ethical manner.
    Look for Fair Trade and Rain Forest Alliance certifications. There are many of these types of certifications around the world and they should be listed on the bag or on the company’s website.
  2. Choose organic coffee when possible.
    This helps assure the beans are free from pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Purity Coffee is a brand that’s certified free from pesticides, mycotoxins, and fungus.
  3. Choose light to medium roasted beans.
    The lighter the roast, the more health-promoting phenols the beans will retain. Roasting coffee darkly destroys some of the healthy aspects of the bean.
  4. Taste: choose a coffee you enjoy drinking and don’t buy a bulk amount of a brand before you know how it tastes.
  5. Grind coffee on your own:
    There is something intimate and magical when you grind coffee beans. The flavor you feel, the feeling of grinder in your hands — it’s a great aesthetic pleasure and if you want to try it, make sure to choose a good manual grinder.


  • Josiane Alessandra Vignoli, Marcelo Caldeira Viegas, Denisley Gentil Bassoli, Marta de Toledo Benassi, Roasting process affects differently the bioactive compounds and the antioxidant activity of arabica and robusta coffees, Food Research International, Volume 61, 2014, Pages 279-285, ISSN 0963-9969, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2013.06.006


Written by Ted Kallmyer, last updated on January 7, 2021