Coffee Review – A Look Ahead to 2024

Every year in December, Coffee Review’s editorial team hustles to choose the topics for the following year’s editorial calendar. This, our January report, shares some thoughts on the topics we chose and how we chose them.  See our full 2024 Editorial Calendar.

In November, as Coffee Review compiles its annual Top 30 Coffees list, we carefully consider the factors that made the coffees we tasted in 2023 so exciting. We contemplate the thousands of samples cupped over the course of the year and the nearly 600 reviews we published. The Top-30 list is primarily designed to recognize and reward the farmers and roasters who produce these fine top-scoring coffees, but it also serves as a buying guide for coffee lovers.

In addition, the process serves to inform and inspire Coffee Review’s choice of report topics for the upcoming year’s editorial calendar. We inevitably discover exciting new coffees and trends, new roasters and roast styles, emerging origins, new varieties and processing methods, as well as old favorites that spur our ideas for exploration in the coming year.

Our list of potential topics always exceeds our ability to cover them. This is even more true in 2024, as we’ve decided to trim the number of scheduled reports from 10 to 5. Normally, we begin our cuppings in January and wrap up the year with our final report in November. In the coming year, to establish a more sustainable pace and better serve our readers, we have decided to publish reports every other month rather than every month. It will give us a little more breathing room, and it will open the door to adding a couple of impromptu reports on exciting topics that pop up during the year.

So, how do we choose topics?

From the point of view of sourcing samples, we strive for a topic that will generate a sweet spot of between 30 and 100 coffees. If we choose too narrow a topic (or a poorly timed one), we may not be able to source enough quality samples for a meaningful cupping and report. If we choose too broad a topic, we will be inundated with samples, and testing too many coffees limits our time for researching and writing the report and reviews.

Remember that Coffee Review also accepts both roasted and green samples for blind review throughout the year as part of our fee-based services. Not surprisingly, roasters and farmers usually try to put their best foot forward, which means we typically receive high-end coffees from popular origins that often earn deservedly high scores. That’s fine with Coffee Review, as our mission is to help consumers find superior quality coffees. However, because we already receive many coffees from such high-profile origins, we tend not to feature those popular origins as report topics. We try to choose topics that will tease out exciting coffees that we might not otherwise have an opportunity to review.

Roasters often don’t submit many decafs, dark roasts, or coffees from lesser-known origins for standalone review because they may not garner attention-grabbing high scores. And because our mission is to help consumers find and enjoy superior quality coffees — not “out” coffees, roasters or farmers that don’t earn a high score — one tends to see only the cream of the crop reviewed on our website. We cup a lot of unremarkable coffees over the course of the year to uncover the 500-plus coffees that merit 90 points or higher. If one casually reads Coffee Review, one might incorrectly think every coffee gets a 90-plus score, when in fact, only 10 to 15 percent of coffees we cup earn a score of 90 points or higher.

For each report, we test anywhere from 30 to more than 100 coffees that relate to the report topic. Based on our tasting, descriptions and ratings, we choose 10 or more coffees that we review in detail, and that provide the descriptive backbone for each report.

These are the report topics we have chosen for 2024, based in large part on what we are excited to explore in the coming year.


We often start the year with a regional report, exploring what local roasters are up to in a particular area of the United States. Last year, the topic was “10 Ski Country Coffees.” This year, in sharp contrast, we will report on coffees roasted in Hawaii.

Hawaii, in general, and the renowned growing region of Kona, in particular, are famous for growing excellent coffees. Many of the farmers who grow coffees in Hawaii also roast their own coffees for sale at their local tasting rooms and online. Many of these producers are well known to Coffee Review readers, as several have regularly appeared on our Top 30 Coffees list each year. However, not all coffee roasted in Hawaii is grown in Hawaii. There are many quality roasters on the islands who put out fantastic coffees from other great origins, as well.

Coffee Review cups and scores coffees on a blind basis. We evaluate coffees. We don’t endorse companies. We don’t play favorites. However, it would be disingenuous to suggest that we don’t have friends in the coffee industry. After the tragic wildfires on the island of Maui in August 2023, we’ve heard directly from our friends that it has been tougher than usual to operate a business in Hawaii, both emotionally and financially.

So Hawaii is a great topic any time, but it is a particularly timely topic now. We’re excited to evaluate the coffees that roasters in Hawaii are currently producing for locals, tourists and coffee lovers on the mainland and around the world.


Coffee Review regularly evaluates espressos for standalone review that do not appear in our tasting reports. Roughly 20 percent of the reviews we’ve published over the years have been for coffees designed for espresso brewing. Of late, however, it seems like we receive fewer requests for espresso reviews. This decrease may go back to changes in the coffee marketplace during the peak of Covid. Competitions and events that featured espresso brewing were canceled, and there was a dramatic drop in espresso consumption at cafes and coffee shops. Consumers drank more coffee at home, where fewer people have espresso machines.

For our part, as a possible indicator of excitement levels, half as many espressos appeared on our Top 30 Coffees lists over the past four years compared to previous years. From 2020 to 2023, the average number of espressos on the list was just 2.25, down from 5 in 2019 and 4 in 2018, an average of 4.5.

Evaluating espressos at Coffee Review is more complex and time-consuming than evaluating non-espressos, so we have to gear up physically and mentally for tasting reports that require espresso brewing. One of the benefits of Coffee Review’s revised editorial calendar is that we have more time to conduct an espresso-focused cupping and publish a report on coffees designed for espresso brewing.

We haven’t published an espresso report since Darker-Roasted Espresso Blends in August 2021, so we’re looking forward to evaluating the current offerings from roasters who are producing single-origin espressos in 2024.


When the heat of summer starts to kick in, overall coffee consumption tends to wane. This is when refreshing iced coffees and chilled ready-to-drink (RTD) canned and bottled black coffees take off. So, summer is the perfect time to test RTD coffees.

The availability and popularity of RTD coffees has exploded since Coffee Review first reviewed them in our July 2014 report titled Bottled Iced Coffees. Almost all the submissions for that first report were not only blends, but blends of mostly unnamed components and, frankly, generic in profile.

At the time, Coffee Review Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Davids observed:

“The best of these bottled cold coffees seemed to us to deliver a product worthy of the North American specialty industry: less distinctive and less pronounced in character than analogous hot-brewed coffees, but smoother, more refreshing, yet still distinctive enough to surprise and engage.”

Indeed, five RTD coffees earned scores of 90 points or higher, including the 94-point Cold Brew by Slingshot Coffee in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In our 2018 report — Cold-Brewed Black Coffees: Quality in a Can? — we were impressed by the complexity of the handful of top-scoring cold-brewed coffees we tested, but were left wondering if the RTD trend was just a passing fancy.

At the time, we noted:

“Specialty coffee companies small and large are intensely at work trying to bring some of the sensory refinement and differentiation available in whole-bean coffee to the arena of ready-to-drink cold black coffee in cans and bottles.”

The 24 RTD coffees we tested for that 2018 report averaged 89 points, from a low of 75 to a high of 94, and for the first time, an RTD coffee — the 94-point Reserve Cold Brew from States Coffee & Mercantile — appeared on our Top 30 Coffees list, appearing at #21.


So, why did we dip into this category again in 2020, despite a lack of overall enthusiasm about the genre in 2018? Well, it wasn’t lost on us that the growth of the cold brew segment is much more than a passing fancy. RTD black coffee is here to stay, and quality 1s on the rise. Of the 37 RTDs we tested in July 2020’s RTD Rising: Single-Origin Cold Coffees Elevate the Game, 11 scored 92 points or higher, including Corvus Coffee ‘s 94-point Guji Uraga Nitro Cold Brew, which earned the #21 spot on our list of the Top 30 Coffees of 2020.

With Cold Black Coffee: Simplicity Rules the Post-Pandemic RTD Landscape in July 2021, we revisited cold-brewed bottled coffees in the context of a changing, post-Covid marketplace. The pandemic brought into focus what is basic and fundamental, and the 10 RTD cold-brewed coffees we reviewed in that report, rated 92 to 94, displayed the common denominator of simplicity, in the best sense of that word: classic and direct.

In our June/July 2024 report, we will once again test the variety and quality of RTD coffees as they march on into the summertime coffee mainstream.


The rule of thumb is that about 10 percent of consumers drink decaffeinated coffee. So, why are only 2 percent of reviews on decafs?

Part of the reason is obvious. Ninety percent of coffee drinkers don’t drink decaffeinated coffee, so they tend to be overlooked by the vast majority of coffee drinkers. Furthermore, because decaffeinated coffees generally don’t match the quality of their caffeinated counterparts, many roasters consider them only as a necessary evil generated for a small fraction of their customer base. In relationship to Coffee Review, most roasters don’t submit decaffeinated coffees for review because they generally don’t earn eye-popping scores that might help drive sales.

Coffee Review certainly isn’t biased against decaffeinated coffees. We simply evaluate what we find in the cup. Unfortunately, when decaf is in the cup, it often just doesn’t excel. That said, Coffee Review certainly appreciates a quality decaf. In fact, decafs have appeared on our annual Top 30 Coffees list five times since 2013.

In our most recent report about decafs, in 2015, Kenneth Davids made two broad observations that may still fairly describe the reputation and trends regarding decafs in 2024:

Observation one: Most decaffeinated coffees continue to be bad, in some cases close to foul.”

Observation two: On the other hand, great coffees clearly can survive and transcend the rigors of decaffeination. Four decafs from this [report’s] cupping attracted ratings ranging from 89 to an impressive 93.”

With our August/September 2024 report, we will revisit these observations as we seek to help decaf drinkers find and enjoy superior-quality decaffeinated coffees.


People walking in the main street of Antigua with the Agua volcano in the background.

In 1997, when Coffee Review was founded, Guatemala was a coffee heavyweight. In our first large-group “calibration cupping” in July 1997, we selected Guatemala Coffees for the topic. It was just our fifth tasting report and our first ever report dedicated to a single country of origin. It was sandwiched between Supermarket Coffees in June and Decaffeinated Coffees in August. Davids described Guatemala as “one of the world’s classic coffee origins.”

Two years later, in our July 1999 report — New Crop Guatemalas — he opened with:

“Guatemala is rivaled only by Kenya as coffee insiders’ favorite origin.”

Guatemala is still a classic origin and an insiders’ favorite, but not to the extent it was 25 years ago. We still cup coffees from Guatemala regularly, and they generally score well to very well. Since 1997, we’ve published more than 600 reviews of coffees that were solely from Guatemala or featured Guatemala as a named component in blends. As such, Guatemala coffees have been involved in 8 percent of all the coffees we have ever reviewed.

Why choose Guatemala as a report topic in 2024? In short, it’s overdue. We haven’t featured Guatemala coffees as the topic of a tasting report since Suave and Idiosyncratic: Coffee of Guatemala in September 2013.


We’re looking forward to an exciting year of tasting and reporting.  See our full 2024 Editorial Calendar.

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