QUESTION: Why is Folgers coffee so good? They sell it everywhere and I think it’s way better than the other brands in the grocery store. – Olivia J
ANSWER: Folgers is the number one selling brand of pre-ground coffee in the United States, and has been for decades. Folgers found early success by being one of the first companies to offer ready-to-brew ground coffee at a very affordable price. Their flashy red canister quickly became a mainstay in kitchens across America.
With an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign that dates back to the late 1800’s, expanding in the 1960’s when the company was purchased by Procter & Gamble, Folgers became America’s go-to coffee. In 1963, Folgers became the top-selling coffee brand in America, and they have held that position ever since. The iconic Folgers TV commercial jingle is a tune which nearly every American can recite on demand, boasting that their coffee is, “the best part of waking up.”
Folgers has done a lot of things right when it comes to marketing and branding, but does their product stand up to all the hype? Well, millions of Americans seem to think that it does, as Folgers coffee has long dominated the U.S. coffee market. In recent years, there has been a coffee awakening in America, however, and westerners have started to become enlightened to tasting higher quality coffees. From espressos and lattes, to pour overs and french presses, the coffee world has changed dramatically since the turn of the century. More and more people are drinking fancy coffee. And yet, Folgers still holds the crown. So, why is Folgers coffee so good?
The simple answer is, it’s really not very good. In terms of quality, the Folgers blend is mediocre. Obviously it’s at least passable, as millions of people drink it regularly. However, in general, any coffee that’s pre-ground, especially with a blend consisting of a 60/40 robusta to arabica coffee beans, is gonna be less than spectacular, even if you brew it using a pour over and excellent technique. So, why is America so invested in drinking bad quality brew? There are two equally important answers to this query. Branding and low prices.
First and foremost, branding is everything, especially in America. When you need a tissue, you say pass me the Kleenex. Why? Because the brand Kleenex has become synonymous with the product. It doesn’t matter if the tissue you are asking for is not a Kleenex brand, the person you asked still knows exactly what you mean, right? Well, in America, Folgers is synonymous with coffee, hence the towering sales record. Folgers has even changed their recipe, offering a more robusta heavy blend to keep prices low and customers could tell the difference in quality. Yet, even with lots of negative customer reviews and some negative press, Folgers is still beating out the competition due in large part to branding success.
Secondly, you can’t beat the prices of Folgers coffee, can you? If you go to the grocery store and you see a new coffee that you are interested in, but Folgers is sitting right next to it for five dollars less, you may be hesitant to spend the extra money on the one that first caught your eye. Well, brands like Folgers are keenly aware of that, and that’s why they now use a blend of cheap robusta beans with some arabica beans thrown in to keep the flavor from being too bitter. Though arabica beans are far superior in taste and quality, robusta beans are used by most mass-market brands in order to keep their prices so low that you never second guess the decision.
For those who have only experienced drinking below average coffee, Folgers coffee can seem like a gourmet treat. But for those with experienced coffee palates, Folgers will only disappoint.
If you are ready to branch out from budget coffees like Folgers and expand your palate, stay away from pre-ground blends. Invest in a burr grinder and purchase fresh, aromatic, whole beans. Look for single-origin roasts instead of blends, and select coffees made from 100% arabica beans. Grind your coffee beans right before brewing and only grind enough for what you need at the moment. Buy small batches so that you always have the freshest beans possible. Buying your coffee in small batches will also allow you to try lots of different roasts so you can really learn which coffees you prefer.
If you’ve been drinking Folgers all of your life and you feel strongly about your loyalty to the brand, knock yourself out. But if you try a well brewed cup made from freshly-ground, mountain-grown, single-origin coffee beans, you will most likely re-evaluate where Folgers ranks on your coffee list.