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Costco's Kirkland Coffee Pods, Ranked Worst To Best

selection of Kirkland coffee pods
selection of Kirkland coffee pods - Steven Luna/Mashed

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With the lasting popularity of the Keurig home coffee pod movement, having Kirkland coffee pods as an affordable private-label substitute makes enjoying single-serving coffee a more cost-effective prospect. The warehouse warhorse provides a four-set of light, medium, bold, and decaf coffees, a straightforward selection the makes it easy to hone in on the roast you favor and pick up a 120-pod pack to work your way through.

For the curious coffee fan looking to sample the whole line, there are even multi-packs on Amazon that toss together all but decaf (which is available separately online) so you can turn your kitchen into a coffee shop brimming with brewing possibilities. And the coffee in every pod is high-quality organic, Kosher, fair-trade certified, and 100% Arabica grounds.

Whether you use them as intended or execute clever Keurig hacks to get even more flavor from them, you should know if each pod offers a coffee worth celebrating or junked-up java you're better off avoiding. I fired up our hissing Keurig coffee robot and popped the pods in one at a time to see how they rank. After sampling their aroma, tasting them directly out of the machine, and softening them up with a little almond milk and sugar, I determined a hierarchy for this bold yet tasteful collection of Costco coffee pods.

Read more: Popular K-Cups, Ranked Worst To Best

4. Summit Roast

Kirkland Summit Roast coffee pod
Kirkland Summit Roast coffee pod - Steven Luna/Mashed

Summit Roast is very standard, workable coffee, the sort you might find in an office breakroom that everyone has worked around in favor of better brew. It's the essence of average coffee that will never set your taste buds dancing, though it's also unlikely to send them into a tailspin. Consider it a recognizable cup that you wouldn't pay premium prices for, the "meh" of the Kirkland coffee pod collection. Luckily, with 120-count boxes priced around $38.00 depending on where your Costco is located, each cup ends up being about .31. Sure, this is true for the other flavors in the line, which means you can get a much more exciting cup of coffee for the same amount as you'd be paying for this totally on-par coffee.

How average is Summit Roast? I would describe the flavor as distinctly nutty and tart — a medium roast with bold-roast aspirations that just can't get off the ground. Despite the name suggesting a pinnacle coffee experience, these ground-level grounds aren't able to rise above their own mediocrity. If it's all that's on the counter, I would happily aim to improve it with generous doses of Coffee Mate or International Delight. But I'd rather have a more balanced coffee in my cup, one that doesn't require as much enhancing to enjoy. To sum it up: Summit Roast doesn't rise to the occasion.

3. House Decaf

Kirkland House Decaf coffee pod
Kirkland House Decaf coffee pod - Steven Luna/Mashed

When decaf coffee is the preferred order, fans of super-charged regular can usually be heard groaning and sarcastic comments about the pointlessness of drinking coffee that's low in caffeine. But for fans of coffee flavor who don't like the jet-fuel jump that comes with the full octane options, a pod like House Decaf is a pleasant version of defanged brew that's thoroughly enjoyable. Is it distinctive enough to rise above the rest of the pack? No, it isn't. But it's also not the least favorable pod you can pop when you have a coffee itch that needs scratching.

House Decaf is a medium roast boasting a bold, robust flavor and an equally pleasing aroma. Regardless of the reduced caffeine content, this coffee is very strong when undiluted. When doctored with almond milk and a little natural cane sugar, it reminded me of hotel breakfast room coffee. This isn't an insult; though it doesn't taste exactly like a shot of gourmet brew, it's a pleasantly passable pod, pleasing for people who want soothing taste and warmth without sipping their way to jangled nerves. It may not be the superstar of the Kirkland selection, but it's a nice one to have on hand if your morning is vibrant enough without an added caffeine blast.

2. Breakfast Blend

Kirkland Breakfast Blend coffee pod
Kirkland Breakfast Blend coffee pod - Steven Luna/Mashed

When your brain needs a morning jolt, you want the most caffeinated pod you can find. Kirkland's light roast Breakfast Blend is just such a pod. Light-roast beans retain more caffeine than darker roast, with a flavor that's usually a bit less pronounced than beans that stay in the roaster for longer periods. But with this jumping java, the tasting notes step forward despite the reduced roasting for an unexpected complexity that lets through as much morning juice as possible.

Breakfast Blend brings a dark chocolate spirit to the coffee counter. There's a drop of bitterness that comes across as sophisticated more than displeasing, helping compose a more intricate flavor than we're used to in a light roast. On its own, it's a rich reserve that would do well over ice, or even heat-brewed and left in the fridge as a makeshift cold brew. Sugar and almond milk brought the sharpness down to just the proper level and gave us a sense of our second-best coffee among the Kirkland contenders. It gave the first-place pod a real run for its money, inspiring a two-cup taste-off just to make sure I had the beans lined up just right.

1. Pacific Bold

Kirkland Pacific Bold coffee pod
Kirkland Pacific Bold coffee pod - Steven Luna/Mashed

Pacific Bold takes the center-lane of Coffee Highway straight into the heart of Flavorville. This is the Goldilocks of Kirkland coffee pods; it's confident without being forceful and restrained without being weak. The aroma was spot-on, like the perfume of a gourmet café wafting from the Keurig coffee robot, and the flavor was the most balanced of the collection, an earthy, caramel-like essence that didn't present as bitter or obnoxious when tasted without enhancement. And when the contents of the cup were complimented with almond milk and sugar, it rose up to become the epitome of coffee, rich and hearty and this writer's favorite pod in the pack.

You can certainly enjoy Pacific Bold as a stand-alone, though it's also perfect for incorporating into fun at-home coffee recipes that require a solid base to start with before working their way into the Zone of Total Indulgence. Imagine a macchiato or a caramel frappe with a dependably tasteful core coffee to decorate with your syrups and whips. But even with minimal flavor manipulation, I would gladly have an extra cup wherever I found these pods. Luckily, I can find them at Costco, so knowing where to get a refill won't be difficult.

How I Determined My Kirkland Coffee Pod Ranking

stack of Kirkland coffee pods
stack of Kirkland coffee pods - Steven Luna/Mashed

To keep the coffee corralling fair and square among the flavors, I stuck to the middle setting on my Keurig, the 8-ounce serving, which is a fair amount of coffee for sampling the taste and body while leaving room for add-ins like creamer or half-and-half. I did a deep inhale of the aroma before taking a sip of the raw bean juice, undiluted by milk or sweeteners. This gave me a base for what the pure coffee itself tastes like straight out of the pod.

But everyone jazzes up their mugs a little differently, and adding your favorite mixers can change the character and personality of the cup dramatically. So after the initial taste, I added a bit of almond milk and a teaspoon of sugar to see how each roast withstood a little tinkering. It was enough to soften the flavors without covering them up completely and gave a solid sense of what the average coffee drinker would experience. Once the brew was customized, I enjoyed the rest of my cup to understand how the flavor might change as the coffee cooled and the add-ins assimilated.

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