Best coffee bags
Love coffee but don't want to buy expensive equipment? Coffee bags could be the answer. Expert barista Celeste Wong has tried and tested more than a dozen to bring you the best
Want a super-quick and easy coffee in the morning? Coffee bags are a good solution. Read expert barista Celeste Wong's guide to the best coffee bags to buy, then check out her tried-and-tested list of the best coffee beans, eco-friendly coffee pods and best cafetières to buy.
Read our guide to the best coffee bags from coffee expert Celeste Wong below.
What are coffee bags?
Coffee bags follow the same principle as teabags – as with tea leaves, the ground coffee comes completely sealed inside a (sometimes recyclable) bag. They are a quick and no-fuss way to make an individual cup of coffee. Simply pour hot water over the coffee bag and leave to brew for 2-3 minutes.
Best coffee bags at a glance
- Best quality coffee bags: Raw Bean Coffee, £5.41 (10 bags)
- Best ethical coffee bags: Heaped Coffee, £9.50 (14 bags)
- Best versatile coffee bags: Taylors of Harrogate, £18.87 (80 bags)
- Best decaf coffee bags: Paddy & Scott's Brew Bags, £18.99 (31 bags)
- Best for fast steeping time: New Kings Coffee, £8.99 (10 bags)
- Best for a wide range: Whittard Coffee, £5 (10 bags)
- Best dark coffee bags: Farrer's Coffee, £6.40 (10 bags)
- Best coffee bags to gift: The Little Coffee Bag Co., £32.99 (100 bags)
- Best affordable coffee bags: Lyons Coffee, £2.20 (10 bags)
- Best for large coffee bags: Faff Coffee, £24 (30 bags)
- Best light coffee: Artisan Coffee, from £13.39 (18 bags)
How are coffee bags made?
One of the issues with both teabags and coffee bags is that microplastics are sometimes used in their production, meaning they won't be compostable or biodegradable. Environmentally friendly coffee bags usually use a mix of paper, cornstarch-based products and degradable spun-bound, non-woven, microweb fabric.
Most coffee bags come in their own sachet (to keep the coffee fresh) and, on the whole, recyclable sachets were harder to tear open than their non-recyclable counterparts – I had to use scissors in most cases. A small price to pay, though, for the sake of the environment.
What kind of coffee do coffee bags hold?
Any kind of coffee can be used in a coffee bag, and even the quantity of coffee can range from 7.5g to 15g. When deciding on which bags to buy, consider the source/origin of the beans and whether it's a dark or light roast.
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What are the benefits of coffee bags?
The main benefits of coffee bags is that they are quick and convenient. No grinding, weighing, pressing or extracting to worry about, and the whole process is usually done in no more than three minutes.
Decaf options are available (perfect for your evening cup), and coffee bags are ideal if you’re going away and only have a kettle to hand. The coffee in coffee bags is likely to be of a better quality than instant coffee.
What to look for when buying coffee bags
Flavour and quality are paramount, the former of which will come down to personal preference. If you like milk in your coffee, go for the darker roasted options. How a coffee brand sources its beans is important too, although unlikely to be detailed on the packaging.
The other factor to consider is whether the packaging is eco-friendly. Unlike teabags, each coffee bag usually comes in its own sachet, which may or may not be recyclable. There's also the bags themselves to consider, as well as the outer packaging.
If the coffee bags are not individually wrapped, it’s best to store them in an airtight container (if they don’t already come in a sealed bag that lets CO2 out).
How to use coffee bags
Coffee bags can be used just like teabags. Put a bag in a cup or mug, then fill to the top with boiling water. Use a teaspoon to squeeze or dunk it (this lets the water in and the air out), completely saturating all the coffee grounds. Let it steep for 2-3 minutes or as desired, then when you’re ready and it’s done, give the bag another squeeze to release any excess water. Add milk and sugar, or drink black.
Best coffee bags to buy in 2023
Raw Bean Bean Bags x 10 bags
Best quality coffee bags
I like the name of these – 'coffee bags' can be ambiguous – and the bags immediately feel fancy, because they're attached to a dunking string and are pyramid shaped (which seems to help with drainage). The fabric of the bag feels soft.
Each box holds 10 coffee bags (not individually wrapped), or you can buy larger boxes of 50 which are individually wrapped. I was pleased to see that the decaf bags use the certifiable Swiss Water® method.
The freshness dates were short, which is good news in terms of coffee quality. The roast level was even, as were the coffee grounds, and the weight of ground coffee per bag was slightly heavier than most other options. There were some fines at the bottom of the cup, but this was the case for almost every coffee bag I tried.
I enjoyed the Deliciously Dark blend of Brazilian and Nicaraguan coffee, while the Breakfast Blend was pleasant and sweet. The El Salvador bean bags were noticeably different – lighter, with fruity characteristics.
Heaped coffee bags x 14 bags
- Available from Drink Heaped (£9.50)
Best ethical coffee bags
Heaped sources its coffee from indigenous small holders and donates 50% of all profits to charity. The roaster Tom Haigh and his partner Shoair Mavlian have many years of coffee roasting experience between them, and Tom is also responsible for the Tate’s Gender Equality Coffee Project, which aims to source coffee equally between female and male coffee producers.
The coffee is roasted medium and the grind is not too coarse. Individual coffee bags are compostable, plus the sachet each bag comes in and the outer packaging can be recycled. The sachets were a little hard to rip open, just as with most recyclable sachets.
Not only is the aroma great, but the taste is as close to fresh filtered coffee as you can get – just without any mess or equipment. These bags produce an easy-to-drink, pleasant and clean cup. The coffee has chocolate notes, strong, rich and smooth but not overpowering. For black coffee drinkers, this would be my pick of the bunch.
Drink Heaped (£9.50)
Taylors of Harrogate x 80 bags
Best versatile coffee bags
The range as a whole (there are three different blends to choose from, plus a decaf option) is very tidy, cute and stackable. Each coffee bag comes in its own sachet, which, with its distinctive corrugated edge, is easier to open than most other coffee bag sachets. That said, I did rip the actual coffee bag on first try – so try flicking your sachet first, to make sure it doesn't happen to you!
The decaf bag I tried was smooth, mild and pleasant to drink. My favourite out of the Taylors range was the Rich Italian Roast 4 bags. The Hot Lava Java Roast 6 was quite strong, so if you like something heavier with milk, this is the coffee bag for you.
Paddy & Scott's Brew Bags x 31 bags
- Available from Paddy & Scott's (£18.99)
Best decaf coffee bag
'Brew Bags' is, I think, the best way to describe such a product. The Paddy and Scott's monochrome packaging has a fun vibe and both the caffeinated and decaffeinated bags are sold in a box of 31. It would be nice to have more information on the 'craft blend' used, though – I couldn't find any details on the box. The bags themselves are fully compostable.
The dry aroma of both the caffeinated and decaffeinated coffees was pleasant and strong. The roast level is medium and it’s coarsely ground – definitely not as evenly ground as other brands, but that makes more of a difference in espressos or pour-overs. Out of the two options, I particularly liked their decaf brew bag. It was smooth and rich.
Paddy & Scott's (£18.99)
New Kings Coffee x 10 bags
Best for fast steeping time
Choose from dark roast, medium roast, light roast or decaf. All coffees are 100% Arabica, Fairtrade and organic. The square-shaped bags are made with biodegradable bioweb (an eco-friendly and plastic-free material). The sachet is recyclable, as is the brightly coloured cardboard box.
The origins of each coffee are clearly stated and there's a distinct difference between their roast levels. If you like a very strong and rich-tasting coffee with a touch of bitterness, the Dark Roast from Sumatra, Indonesia is for you. The Medium Roast from Guatemala is milder, smooth and sweet (my favourite of the range) and the decaf bags are decaffeinated using the Swiss Water® process. In every case, the coffee is ground very fine – so expect a faster steeping time than average.
New Kings Coffee also donates to the Grounds For Health charity, which focuses on cervical cancer prevention in the developing world.
Whittard x 10 bags
- Available from Whittard (£5)
Best for a wide range
Whittard's coffee bags are 100% compostable and their individual sachets (which have a pleasant, tangible feel) are also recyclable. There are four kinds of Arabica coffees to choose from: two dark blends, medium-dark and medium. The website is really clear and has good descriptions of the coffee bean origins, as well as taste notes.
I found their Monsoon Malabar Dark Roast too dark-roasted for my preference, but there is demand for that strong, full on, bitter coffee taste – especially first thing in the morning. Both the Bourbon Espresso and San Augustin Colombian blends boasted delicate flavours, and would be my personal preference.
Farrer's x 15 bags
- Available from Farrer's Coffee (£6.40)
Best dark coffee bags
Farrer's offer two coffee bag varieties: caffeinated from Colombia and decaffeinated. There was sufficient information on their website to order the bags; but I couldn’t find the origin of the coffee beans used in the decaf option.
The coffee in these bags was the finest ground of the bunch and I found it both pleasant and sweet. They're probably best drunk black, or with just a dash of milk, and are available in boxes of 15 bags or 100.
Farrer's Coffee (£6.40)
The Little Coffee Bag Co. x 10
- Available from The Little Coffee Bag Co. (£5.40)
Best coffee bags to gift
This is a beautifully packaged product, which comes in gift boxes and a wide range of volumes compared to other coffee bags. It felt like a treat to have at home. You can try small taster boxes, which make them slightly more expensive than the others. The bags are biodegradable and the foiled sachets are recyclable.
They have three blends of coffee bags available. Blend 1 (their signature blend, from El Salvador, Rwanda and Sumatra) was a dark roast, strong and rich. I detected fruity, blackberry notes. Blend 3, from Papua New Guinea, Peru and Colombia, was smooth and sweet – my favourite. The final option, a decaf bag, is Peruvian and mild.
The Little Coffee Bag Co. (£5.40)
Lyons Coffee x 10 bags
Best affordable coffee bags
Lyons Coffee, founded in 1904, has designed eye-catching packaging for its coffee bags, which come in four distinct colours to represent the different varieties. Expect a theme for each one, such as the ‘dark and lively’ Rockadero – named as such because Lyons Coffee founder, Sir Joseph Lyons, built London Trocadero. The bags look similar to teabags: they’re circular and on the large side, admittedly a little clunky.
The coffee itself is medium to dark roasted and coarsely ground, which may (along with the tightly woven bag) have explained the welcome lack of sediment at the bottom of my cup. Everything from the bag to the sachet and outer box is either recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.
All four varieties have a tea-like mildness, although the Perkadilly was definitely the most intense and bitter option. These coffee bags are by far the least expensive option and would work well with milk.
Faff Coffee bags x 30 bags
- Available from Faff Coffee (£24)
Best for large coffee bags
These 'no-faff' bags are sold in a resealable pouch that's designed to look like a pack of fresh coffee beans. The bags are compostable, but not individually wrapped, so less convenient if you want to take one or two away with you. The bags themselves hold twice as much coffee (15 grams) as the other bags recommended in this list, making them double the size. So your coffee will either be stronger or larger, depending on your preference.
I was impressed by the strong taste and full flavour of the Guatemalan blend – definitely a good option for the coffee lover who wants strong, fresh coffee in the morning. Faff Coffee is currently working with Ecologi to plant a tree for every order made.
Faff Coffee (£24)
Artisan Coffee x 20 bags
- Available from Artisan Coffee (from £6.50)
Best light coffee
Artisan Coffee has a classy range of coffee bags that all have bold and evocative names (The Genius, The Smart Cookie and The Big Shot, for example) that refer to their taste profiles. The bags are filled with about 7.5g of ground coffee, making them a similar size to a teabag. They are priced similarly to fresh ground coffee at around £7-8 per box of 20.
I found the taste to be similar in strength to tea – mild and pleasant. So it’s not a heavy cup of coffee which you might need in the morning, but a perfect light afternoon or evening cuppa. There is an extensive tasting collection if you want to try all the flavours, and they come individually wrapped, which makes them a convenient option to take on trips away.
Artisan Coffee (from £6.50)
How Celeste tested the coffee bags
Five key factors were considered:
- Smell/aroma – dry and wet, was it appealing?
- Flavour – fruity, sour, bitter
- Taste – aftertaste, mouthfeel
- Bag material – is it eco-friendly? Easy to use?
- Grind size and roast level – how coarse or fine was the grind?
Want to learn more about becoming an expert at-home barista? Read our guides here:
Celeste Wong's guide to becoming an overnight coffee expert
Celeste Wong's guide on how to make iced coffee
Celeste Wong's best moka pots
Celeste Wong's best coffee grinders
Celeste Wong's best gooseneck kettles to try
Celeste Wong's best decaf coffee to try
Celeste Wong's best reusable and compostable espresso pods
Celeste Wong's best coffee beans to try
Celeste Wong's best cafetières to buy
Celeste Wong's best coffee bags
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