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11 best independent coffee brands that are worth getting up for

Supporting sustainable and Fairtrade roasteries with a tasty cuppa? We’ll drink to that

Millie West
Monday 10 October 2022 08:51 BST
<p>We tested a whole range of flavours, from rich to sweet, by using just-opened bags of whole beans that we ground electronically</p>

We tested a whole range of flavours, from rich to sweet, by using just-opened bags of whole beans that we ground electronically

No matter how you take your morning brew, if you’re serious about achieving a barista-worthy coffee at home, it’s crucial to start with quality whole beans. Why? We won’t bore you with the science but, put simply, whole beans don’t oxidise as quickly as ground coffee, ensuring your cup tastes as fresh as the roasters intended. If you’ve ever bought pre-ground coffee from the supermarket and found it lacking oomph, that’s likely why.

Luckily, there’s a whole host of indies who will deliver freshly roasted coffee directly to your doorstep. In doing so, you’ll be supporting both the growers and roasters at the source and enjoy a higher quality cup – sounds like a win-win to us.

But there’s no point investing in quality beans if you’re not going to treat them with the grind they deserve. As a rule, it’s always best to use beans within three weeks of roasting, and grind them just before brewing.

Much like another beloved, morale-boosting household staple, the potato, beans are best stored in a dark, dry place. We can’t get enough of the Airscape, which works by expelling oxygen and moisture from the beans to enable them to retain their freshness and flavour for longer. Plus, the sleek, black, stainless-steel canister looks way chicer on your kitchen side than that battered old coffee tin you’re holding on to. Trust us.

As with anything, it’s a matter of personal preference. The variety of beans, country of origin and the darkness of the roast will all have an impact on the final flavour, as well as how you brew it. Like your coffee dark, chocolatey and rich? Try South American beans. Prefer bright, floral and fruity? Chances are you’ll be a fan of African. And the added bonus of buying from an independent roaster is that they can help guide you through the selection process. If in doubt, give them a ring and chat about what you like before you click and buy online.

How we tested

We believe the best coffee comes from freshly ground beans, so we tested all the coffees below using just-opened bags of whole beans, ground electrically then brewed using an espresso machine. To begin with, we prepared each using the same ratio of grinds to water, to ensure an even playing field. Then, to choose our favourites, we adjusted the quantities until we reached the optimum brew.

The best independent coffee brands for 2022 are:

  • Best independent coffee brand overall – Batch coffee: £17.99,
  • Best for supporting coffee-growing communities – 92 Degrees coffee: £6.95,
  • Best afternoon pick-me-up independent coffee brand – Fireheart coffee: £10.95,
  • Best independent coffee brand for moka pot brewing – Gentleman Baristas coffee: £10,
  • Best Colombian coffee beans – Hermanos coffee: £12.50,
  • Best independent coffee brand for beginners – Union roasted coffee: £8,
  • Best independent coffee brand for dark-roast drinkers – Barista & Co coffee: £7.49,
  • Best independent coffee brand for espresso – Modern Standard Coffee momentum espresso: £6,
  • Best independent coffee brand for flat whites – Climpson & Sons the estate: £9,
  • Best independent coffee brand for light-roast fans – Nørlo coffee: £9.50,
  • Best Peruvian coffee beans – Hinba coffee: £9.25,

Batch coffee

Batch coffee.png
  • Best: Independent coffee brand overall
  • Bean type: Castillo, caturra
  • Size: 2 x 200g

Batch works a little differently from other roasteries on our list. Think of it as a curated platform for the best single-origin beans from roasters across the UK and Ireland, including Rounton, Caravan, and Olfactory. Each is expertly reviewed in-house, before selecting those to showcase. Essentially, it’s taken the guesswork out of trawling individual websites, and guarantees top-quality coffee via its convenient coffee-club model.

If you’re a creature of habit, you can rely on its seasonal blend (from £7.95, year-round, but its taster box – available in decaf and full strength – is a great place to start if you’re up for trying new brews. Our favourite of the selection was the Divino Nino from Oxford’s New Ground Coffee Roasters – a Colombian blend that resulted in the silkiest crema we’ve achieved at home, with a moreish, deep caramel flavour.

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92 Degrees coffee

92 degrees.png
  • Best: For supporting coffee-growing communities
  • Bean type: Colombia, Honduras
  • Size: 250g

92 Degrees has come a long way since its humble Hope Street roastery, opening outposts in Liverpool, Manchester, Southport, Leeds and London. Despite this, its namesake espresso remains the same (and for that, we are forever grateful).

Best suited to those who prefer a richer cup, it’s full of ripe, red berries and salted caramel flavours, with a decadent dark chocolate backbone. Bright and lively in a long black, or moreish topped with milk. Though we love the ritual of brewing our own coffee from scratch, this is also available in convenient Nespresso-compatible, compostable pods (£7.50, for those time-short mornings. Better yet, 10 per cent of all bagged coffee revenue goes to Project Waterfall, to support its work with coffee-growing communities across the globe.

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Fireheart coffee

Fireheart coffee adola.png
  • Best: Afternoon pick-me-up independent coffee brand
  • Bean type: Heirloom
  • Size: 250g

Roasted to order and delivered to our door within two days, Fireheart Coffee impressed from the off with its clear commitment to quality coffee. We tried three roasts, but found a firm favourite in Adola, a juicy Ethiopian blend with uplifting floral aromas and notes of honeycomb and vanilla.

The flavour profile is generous yet gentle, making it perfect for a mid-afternoon brew or for use in a cafetiere to appreciate the more nuanced aromas at play. Looking for something big and bold? Try the palace blend (£9.95,, which adds washed Colombian beans to the natural Adola base for a richer cup full of candied orange, dark chocolate and cherry flavour.

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Gentlemen Baristas coffee

The Gentleman Baristas.png
  • Best: Independent coffee brand for moka-pot brewing
  • Bean type: Acaia, bourbon
  • Size: 250g

With nine London sites (and counting), the Gentlemen Baristas is quickly converting the capital with its range of speciality coffees – all of which are named after old-school hats.

The most versatile of the lot is the deerstalker, using a 50/50 ratio of beans from Brazil and El Salvador. Flavour-wise, it offers malted milk chocolate, nougat and toasted hazelnut, which is why we recommend using a moka pot to enable each and every layer of flavour to shine through.

We were lucky enough to try the rest of the range: the floral-forward boater blend (£14, makes a stellar long black, while the bowler (£13,, with its bright acidity and rounded, butterscotchy mouthfeel, took the crown for straight-up espresso.

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Hermanos coffee

Hermanos coffee.png
  • Best: Colombian coffee beans
  • Bean type: Tabi
  • Size: 250g

The brainchild of brothers, Victor and Santiago Gamboa, Hermanos set out to create a stage for quality, single-origin Colombian coffee here in the UK. With a string of successful London coffee shops under its belt, we think it’s fair to say the brand has done just that.

Thankfully, you can now get your hands on its coffee outside the capital, via the convenient online store. Our front-runner from the 100 per cent Colombian line-up was hacienda el Calapo, which features an organic bean farmed on the eastern Andes. An excellent all-rounder, it’s sweet and balanced with tasting notes of malted milk chocolate, walnuts, and crisp apple.

The next time you find yourself killing time in Kings Cross, do yourself a favour and visit these guys.

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Union roasted coffee

Union roasted coffee.png
  • Best: Independent coffee brand for beginners
  • Bean type: Heirloom
  • Size: 200g

Choosing coffee based on brief tasting notes can be hit and miss, which is why we love Union’s helpful guide on picking the perfect beans for your palate. A brief questionnaire led us to this beauty: setamo, a washed Ethiopian coffee grown at 1,800m above sea level by a small cooperative in the Sidama region.

The higher elevation may sound inconsequential, but, in fact, it enables the coffee to ripen slower and develop more complexity in the process. In the cup, it has the same citrus lilt as earl grey, with a silky-smooth mouthfeel, light bergamot notes and mellow acidity. The perfect light roast for a mid-afternoon espresso.

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Barista & Co coffee

Barista & Co coffee.png
  • Best: Independent coffee brand for dark-roast drinkers
  • Bean type: Arabigo, Colombia, costilla
  • Size: 200g

We’ll be honest, Barista & Co’s bright colour-pop packaging was almost sufficient to wake us from our slumber before we’d had our caffeine fix. But, of course, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, so we’re happy to report its house darker roast delivered flavour in spades.

Synonymous with superb arabica beans, this Colombian blend is rich, smooth, and supremely well-balanced. The flavour profile is dominated by bittersweet dark chocolate and baked vanilla, which made for a delicious long black (though it would work just as well with milk or a non-dairy alternative for a creamier cup).

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Modern Standard Coffee momentum espresso

Modern Standard coffee.png
  • Best: Independent coffee brand for espresso
  • Bean type: Bourbon, caturra
  • Size: 250g

When it comes to supporting the environment, Modern Standard Coffee puts its money where its mouth is. As a member of One Percent for the Planet, it donates a minimum of 1 per cent of its annual sales to environmental non-profit organisations. The Scottish roaster, which is also one of the few female-founded coffee businesses in the UK, also donates post-roast coffee chaff as a fertiliser to community gardens and aims to be CO2 neutral by next year.

Of course, all that wouldn’t matter much if the coffee wasn’t tasty but it is – intensely so. This is a blend of 70 per cent Brazil Santa Lucia and 30 per cent Colombian el Porvenir, it brings smooth-drinking chocolatey and sweet caramel notes to your morning sipping ritual.

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Climpson & Sons the estate

Climpson & Sons.png
  • Best: Independent coffee brand for flat whites
  • Bean type: Mixed heirloom
  • Size: 250g

Coffee geeks living in London are sure to have stumbled upon Climpson and Sons, because this Hackney-based brand is known for turning out some of the finest flat whites in the country. The secret is down to its exceptional coffee, sourced fresh throughout the year, blind-tasted to ensure quality and roasted on-site at Climpson’s Arch.

All this brand’s brews are pretty top-notch, but the estate, a single-origin espresso, is a winner in a flat white as the milkiness brings out its orange, toffee and chocolate notes. As you’d expect of a quality Ethiopian coffee, it’s bright, complex and crisp. The carefully sourced beans come from the Kilenso Mokonisa Cooperation, where super-small growers work together to combine their hand-picked coffee cherries.

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Nørlo coffee

Norlo coffee.png
  • Best: Independent coffee brand for light-roast fans
  • Bean type: Not specified
  • Size: 227g

While based in the UK, Nørlo takes a page out of the Nordic style book with its smooth, aromatic speciality coffee, lightly roasted to let the natural flavours of the beans shine.

With beans sourced from farms across Ethiopia, Central and South America, the coffee’s floral, fruity and light notes give way to a pleasant pop of acidity near the finish – we believe Nørlo when it says its beans are in the top 1 per cent of quality worldwide. Other things we love? It’s certified organic, Fairtrade and all the brand’s coffee husks, a byproduct of roasting, are used to create biodiesel.

  1. £9 from
Prices may vary
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Hinba coffee

Hinba coffee.png
  • Best: Peruvian coffee beans
  • Bean type: Red bourbon, Geisha
  • Size: 250g

Long gone are the days when great coffee could only be found in the cosmopolitan centres. If ever there was proof of that, it’s Hinba, an independent roastery tucked away on the rural Isle of Seil.

Proudly Scottish, its mantra is: “pure air, pure taste, pure Hebridean”, which rings true on tasting the Carranza blend. It’s berry-forward, with prominent aromas of honeyed strawberry and a light floral lift of jasmine. We found it delivered best results when brewed in our trusty office Aeropress.

  1. £9 from
Prices may vary
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The verdict: Independent coffee brands

The independent coffee scene has never been better, which is great news for your tastebuds, small coffee growers and the planet. Of course, the exact coffee you like will come down to personal preference, but for discovering new roasteries, Batch gets our vote. For a deep-dive into Colombian coffee, it’s got to be Hermanos, while Fireheart is our new go-to for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Caffeine addict? We’ve rounded up the best pod coffee machines and the best coffee grinders

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