Our pick of the best tried-and-tested coffee bags, for tasty filter coffee without the faff
The best coffee bags are a brilliantly simple solution for people who want a quality cup of joe without the hassle of a lengthy brewing process. If your usual methods involve a cafetière or a filter machine, coffee bags allow you to cut out the middleman and get a tasty cup quickly and easily, and without the risk of spreading loose coffee grounds over your kitchen worktop.
Below, you’ll find a shortlist of some of our favourite tried-and-tested coffee bags, alongside a short, concise buying guide advising you on what to consider before buying, as well as some information on how we’ve tested the coffee bags featured.
Best coffee bags: At a glance
|Best for everyday drinking||Paddy and Scott’s Craft Coffee Brew Bags (~£19)||Check price at Paddy & Scott’s|
|Best for a range of flavours||Artisan Coffee Co Coffee Bag Collection (~£23)||Check price at Artisan Coffee Co.|
|Best supermarket coffee bags||Taylors of Harrogate Rich Italian (From ~£3.15)||Check price at Waitrose|
How to choose the best coffee bags for you
What type of coffee can be brewed with a coffee bag?
If you’ve never heard of coffee bags before, it might be tempting to assume that they contain the freeze-dried instant coffee that dissolves into boiling water. In reality, it’s fresh ground coffee that’s extracted through a single-use filter bag via immersion brewing. As such, the resulting brew will have a similar flavour and consistency to filter coffee from a cafetière.
Much like tea bags, the strength of your coffee will depend on how long you leave the bag in (although it’s worth noting that coffee bags will almost always produce a weaker cup than ground coffee brewed in a cafetière).
Are single-use coffee bags bad for the environment?
There are lots of environmental factors affecting the coffee industry, from the footprint of coffee capsules and packaging to the farming of coffee itself. So, it’s difficult to say for certain where coffee bags stand in the grand scheme of things.
That said, if you’re concerned about the environmental impact your coffee bag consumption could pose, check the manufacturer’s specs to ensure the bags you’re buying can be discarded in your food waste bin for composting and that all other packaging is recyclable.
How much should I spend?
How much you spend on a box of coffee bags will depend to an extent on the roaster and manufacturer. For instance, a box of ten bags from a well-known brand such as Taylors of Harrogate will cost around £3, whereas you might have to fork out a little more for bags from an independent roaster.
Strictly speaking, buying single-use coffee bags may well be less economical than buying ground coffee. A 227g bag of Taylors ground coffee might cost a little bit more than a box of ten bags, but you’ll almost certainly get more cups of coffee from it. Ultimately, it’s a question of the price you put on convenience.
How we test coffee bags
While most brands offer their own instructions, we found that many of the suggested brewing times were too short to yield a strong enough flavour. Of course, this is a matter of taste that will vary for many but, for the purpose of this roundup, we let the coffee bags brew in hot water for around seven minutes each.
We also found that results improved when we used less water, so we used around 240ml for each of the coffee bags we tested.
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The best coffee bags you can buy in 2023
1. Paddy & Scott’s Craft Coffee Brew Bags: Best coffee bags for everyday drinking
Price when reviewed: £19 | Check price at Paddy & Scott’s
Like most of the brands we feature in this roundup, Ipswich-based coffee roasters Paddy & Scott’s sells its brew bags alongside a range of ground and whole bean coffees. According to the brand’s own brewing instructions, you should infuse the bag for three to four minutes, while stirring occasionally. However, as we mentioned above, we recommend doubling this, particularly if you prefer a stronger brew.
Though Paddy & Scott’s quotes tasting notes of chocolate, salted caramel and cherry, we didn’t find it to be very nuanced in its flavour but instead rather on the weak side. That said, if you leave it to brew in the mug for long enough, it makes for a nice everyday filter coffee if convenience is a priority.
Paddy & Scott’s Brew Bags come as a decaf roast, too. Though also lacking in nuanced flavour (this is somewhat more expected with decaf coffees), these are also pleasant.
Key features – Number of bags: 31; Price per bag: Around 60p; Compostable bags? Yes; Recyclable packaging? Yes
Also consider: Rave Compostable Coffee Bags
Much like the Paddy & Scott’s Brew Bags above, Rave’s coffee bags are a great choice if you’re after a tasty everyday coffee that you can brew quickly (and with minimal mess). We tested the brand’s Signature Blend, which we also found to be a nice and mellow everyday coffee when we tasted it in pod form. Boxed up in recyclable packaging, the bags themselves are compostable and (at just under £5 for a box of ten) cost around 50p per bag.
2. Artisan Coffee Co. Coffee Bag Collection: Best for a range of flavours
Price when reviewed: £23 | Check price at Artisan Coffee Co.
We’re already familiar with the Artisan Coffee Co., having tested and featured the brand’s Nespresso compatible capsules in our roundup of the best coffee pods. With the same roasts as the pod taster pack that we reviewed, Artisan’s Ultimate Coffee Bag Collection features 48 bags in a wide range of flavours – from light decaf “The Dreamer”, to the punchier, dark roast “The Big Shot”. The flavours here aren’t as obvious or nuanced as they are in the capsules, which is only to be expected, and Artisan’s accompanying tasting notes may feel like a bit of a stretch at times. But there is some variety to be enjoyed. Our favourite is “The Enigma”, which we felt had a good amount of depth, body and character.
What’s more, with Artisan’s coffees, you get a little accompanying tasting chocolate with each roast. There’s just one chocolate for each, but it’s a very nice touch.
Key features – Number of bags: 48; Price per bag: Around 40p; Compostable bags? Yes; Recyclable packaging? Not specified
3. Taylors of Harrogate Rich Italian Coffee Bags: Best supermarket coffee bags
Price when reviewed: From £3.15 | Check price at Waitrose
Widely recognisable and available from most supermarkets, Taylors of Harrogate is a popular choice when it comes to ground coffee on a budget. But if you’re tired of constantly cleaning out your cafetière or sweeping up spilled grounds, the brand’s coffee bags are a viable alternative.
We tested Taylors’ Rich Italian roast (roast number four), which offers an unoffensive and mellow flavour – much like Paddy & Scott’s or Rave, though on the weaker side for our tastes. If you want something stronger, we would recommend giving the darker Hot Java Lava roast a try.
Crucially, Taylors of Harrogate’s coffee bags are cheap: among the most affordable in our roundup at around 32p per bag, depending on where you buy. If you’re considering making the move to coffee bags as a quick and hassle-free option, they’re a decent place to start.
Key features – Number of bags: 10, 30, 80; Price per bag: Around 32p; Compostable bags? Yes; Recyclable packaging? Box only
4. Little Coffee Bag Co bags: Best for bulk buying
Price when reviewed: From £6 | Check price at The Little Coffee Bag Co
Having appeared on Dragons Den back in 2014, the Little Coffee Bag Company now distributes to hotels, events and airlines, as well as selling bags directly on its website and on Amazon. We were sent the brand’s taster box to test, featuring the Original, Organic and Decaf blends. As with the other bags on this roundup, we largely ignored the brand’s own brewing advice (two to three minutes) and instead steeped the bags for seven minutes in 240ml of hot water. Although there’s not a great deal of nuance when it comes to flavour, which is often the case with coffee bags, we did find them to be a pleasant and convenient cafetiere alternative.
What’s more, if you’re looking to bulk buy, the Little Coffee Bag Co sells its bags in boxes of up to 600, as well as offering repeat subscription options. It makes for good value too: for instance, a box of 100 bags will cost you £30, making it just 30p per bag and, by a margin, one of the cheaper options on our roundup.
Key features – Number of bags: 10, 50, 100, 200, 400, 600; Price per bag: Around 30p; Compostable bags? Yes; Recyclable packaging? Yes